DAP calls for Royal Commission of Inquiry into the problem of the marginalisation of the Malaysian Indians as an underclass and to propose a blueprint to reinstate them in the mainstream of Malaysian development

- Selangor DAP's 68th birthday celebrations for V. David
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday): Recently, TIME magazine carried an article about the Malaysian Indians, describing them as a "disgruntled underclass" with many of them feeling like "third-class citizens" in the country and the "real losers" since the introduction of the New Economic Policy 30 years ago.

The 1.8 million people of Indian descent, representing eight per cent of the 22 million  Malaysian population, have the lowest share of the nation's corporate wealth: 1.5%, compared to 19.4% for the Malays and 38.5% for the Chinese.

The Time article continued:

DAP had over the years persistently highlighted the marginalised plight of the Malaysians Indians, in and out of Parliament, and demanded government action and remedy.

During the Royal Address debate in Parliament in April 1992, for instance, I called on the Barisan Nasional government to "hear the cry of despair and hopelessness of the Malaysian Indians" as a result of increasing sense of alienation because of the following reasons:

The Malaysian Indians:-

  1. Constitutes the smallest of the large minorities.
  2. Has not gained as much as the Malays and Malaysian Chinese from Malaysia's rapid economic growth.
  3. Is losing out relatively to the other races in terms of poverty alleviation, incomes, social status, equity ownership, education and future opportunities to advance.
  4. Feels relatively neglected by the government, as compared to government's assistance to rural Malays, while the Malaysian Chinese have gained indirectly from rapid economic development and government contracts through the use of their longer experience and enterprise in business and their connections.
  5. Considers that their sense of deprivation is more serious since the Malaysian Indian leadership has been too occupied with its own internal problems and personal preoccupations. Consequently the Malaysian Indian leadership has not been able to do much to improve especially the unfortunate plight of the Malaysian Indian estate worker in particular and the Malaysian Indian in general.
  6. Accepts the objectives of Vision 2020 and appreciates the vigorous efforts being undertaken by government to modernise and industralise the country, but fears that Malaysian Indians will be forgotten in the modernisation process and would drift down the national socio-economic ladder.
  7. Feels a sense of hopelessness in the estates and has no alternative if he moves out, but to engage himself in low productivity jobs in the urban areas.
  8. Expects their depressed lives and low standards of living in the estates to continue indefinitely from generation to generation, in a resigned and fatalistic way.

This call  was more than eight years ago. Have the position of the Malaysian Indians improved appreciably or has it worsened further.  Unfortunately, the latter is the answer as the Barisan Nasional government and Cabinet have not yet  heeded  or heard the cry of despair and hopelessness of the Malaysian Indians at their alienation and marginalisation from the mainstream of the  development process.

The socio-economic, educational,  cultural and political marginalisation of the Malaysian Indians, threatening to turn  them into into an underclass in the country, is not just an Indian problem but must be regarded as a national problem and the responsibility of all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, to grapple and resolve.

As a first step to break the back of the problem of the marginalisation of the Malaysian Indians in the country, a Royal Commission of Inquiry comprising multi-ethnic representation of eminent and respected Malaysians should be established to ensure that they do not end up as an underclass, proposing a blueprint to reinstate them in the mainstream of Malaysian development.

The battle for the Malaysian Indians to take their rightful place in the mainstream of development is an integral part of the battle for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance - a  cause which  V. David had dedicated his entire life struggle of over  four decades in his  political and trade union battle  for the downtrodden, whether the workers, the Indian community or the oppressed regardless of race or religion in Malaysia.

The best way to pay tribute to V. David, who belongs to the ranks  of the nation's freedom fighters way back to pre-Merdeka, is for Malaysians to commit and rededicate  themselves to bring about fundamental reforms in the Malaysian political system where justice, freedom, democracy and good governance occupy topmost priority in the national agenda.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman