Monday, October 20, 2008

Hindraf Can't Solve Community Problems

Hindraf Can't Solve Community Problems

THE growing voice of ethnic Indians indicates the complexity of their social problems. Most of the grievances merit attention but they should be addressed within the law and must not provoke racial hostility, writes MOHD SALLEH ISMAIL.

Hindraf comprises 30 Hindu non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It came to the spotlight when its leaders took the startling action of filing a suit against the British Government at the Royal Courts of Justice.

It sued the British government for bringing Indian workers into Malaysia as indentured labour without ensuring that after independence the Federal Constitution provided adequate protection for their rights.

The lengthy document it presented to the British Court focused on the failure of the Reid Commission to clearly define freedom of worship and religion in a multiracial society, to consider the employment of Indians in the Malayan Civil Service, and to "formulate effective economic policies to uplift the socioeconomic position of the minority Indians".

As a result of these omissions, "all 523 Tamil schools in Malaysia have not been made fully-aided government schools with equal and same facilities granted to national schools"; Indian children did not enjoy "equal opportunities for higher education", and Indians were disadvantaged in business ventures and in appointments to senior positions in the public sector.

These discriminations, the legal document asserted, had condemned the Indians in Malaysia to an inferior position.

It is undeniable that the Indians in Malaysia, though initially mainly working as hard labour in the plantations and in road and rail construction, helped lay a solid foundation for the country's economy, especially in infrastructural development and the rubber and oil palm industries.

Similar grievances have also been voiced by ethnic Chinese citizens since independence.

One major Chinese complaint concerns the New Economic Policy. The goal of NEP is to eliminate racial bias through poverty eradication and social restructuring, but deviations in implementation made them suffer discrimination and deprived them of development opportunities.

They complain that the government seeks to achieve social restructuring through discriminatory quotas against Chinese in higher education, professional and vocational training, employment and job promotion.

They point out that in poverty eradication, resources are being mainly channelled towards raising incomes and productivity in rural areas predominantly inhabited by other ethnic groups, while the urban poor Chinese have been largely neglected.

Some observers have been tempted to link the fortunes of ethnic Chinese and Indians to China and India. Some allege that the overseas Chinese were the "Fifth Column" of the People's Republic of China engaged in infiltration, subversion and armed insurrection to overthrow the governments of their countries of residence.

This is inevitable on two counts.

source: Hindraf Can't Solve Community Problems (press release), OR

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