Anwar’s cabinet reshuffle has ruffled the Indian community

Letter to editor

EVEN before his installation as the 17th Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) on Jan 31 next year, Johor ruler HRH Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar has fired a few warning shots at the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional (PH-BN) administration for its lackadaisical and performance for the past one year since winning the mandate.

Earlier, Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Idris had fired the initial salvo some time back by berating Anwar for his indecisiveness and procrastination which has disappointed the people who had placed high hopes on the unity government to deliver its promise of reforms and even dole out new measures to rejuvenate Malaysia’s stagnant economy.

Perhaps realising severity of the warning, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim quickly arranged for a cabinet reshuffle – an urgent yet long delayed move.

However, the Cabinet reshuffle has not been up to expectations and has in fact ruffled the situation somewhat.

This is possibly because Anwar does not have a large pool of experts and technocrats to begin with. Very frankly, the community that has been ruffled the most by the cabinet reshuffle is none other than the Indian community who has since launched severe criticisms of the PM’s choices.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim unveiling his cabinet reshuffle on Dec 12, 2023

Indians sidelined under Anwar

It has long been an unwritten convention that at least one of the Cabinet members must be a Tamil. This has been a practice since Merdeka when the MIC continued to be one of the main pillars of the Alliance and BN governments.

In fact, there was a time when there were only two Indian MPs – Tun V.T. Sambanthan and Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam – and both were selected as Cabinet members. Both were Tamils.

This tradition continued until 2018 when the PH government under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad chose four Indian ministers – the highest ever number and probably may not be another repeat.

The Land, Water and Natural resources Ministry was helmed by Xavier Jayakumar, a Tamil Christian; the Multimedia Ministry was out under Gobind Singh Deo, a Sikh, while M. Kula Segaran and P. Waytha Moorthy, both Tamil Hindus, headed the Manpower and National Unity Ministries respectively.

In all fairness, it was a good communal arrangement by the much-maligned Dr Mahathir considering that his Cabinet was efficient and not bloated. Dr Mahathir appeared to have read well the sentiments of the Indian community despite being often criticised by Indians due to his government’s Malay-focus and the sidelining of Indians.

However, only disappointments and disillusionments are in store for Indians from Anwar and his PH government over the past one year. His cabinet reshuffle has confirmed that he has nothing new to offer the major Indian ethnic community – the Tamils who made up about 70%-80% of Malaysian Indians.

Only one minister post was reserved for ‘Indians’ in the Dec 12 cabinet reshuffle whereby Gobind Singh (left) was made the Digital Minister

Anwar knows only too well about the ethnic make-up of local Indians and as such should have opted for two so-called ‘Indian’ cabinet ministers by including a Tamil.

Gobind Singh Deo was a capable minister who has proven himself to be an efficient administrator during his short-term under Dr Mahathir’s premiership. But some are criticising Gobind saying that he is not an ‘Indian’. This is totally foolish.

The Sikh community is as Indian as others whereby in the last few decades, Punjabis together with the Malayalees – mostly Hindus and Christians – have made rapid progress and are an asset to the country.

Why spotlight falls on Tamils

It is regrettable that Gobind’s elder sibling Ramkarpal Singh had to leave his deputy minister’s post in the PM’s department. Even the Indian Muslims have progressed – some leveraging the various government incentives reserved for Bumiputera.

Another Indian community, the Jaffna Tamils a.k.a. Ceylonese had a major influence decades ago but is now a spent force after its heydays are over but nevertheless is still a well-to-do society.

The two Indian communities that need help and upliftment urgently are the majority Tamils and the Telegus. A substantial percentage of these communities have lagged behind, hence they need better political representation for government assistance schemes.

This is the reason why there is a need for Tamil cabinet ministers. If Anwar cannot get capable and competent Tamils from the political parties, then he should source for them from the corporate sector. We need a dedicated and talented minister to spearhead the plans and programmes for the wealth-deprived Indian.

It was Anwar’s mistake as he knows only too well about the ethnic composition of Indians. Anwar should have chosen two ‘Indian’ ministers – Gobind and one Tamil candidate.

Tun V.T. Sambanthan
Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam

He should have done away with or reduced the number of Indian deputy ministers. There was a time from the 1960s onwards when there were only two Indian MPs and both were ministers!

The Indian community has every right to demand two or more ministers. In fact, the minimum of two ministers has been the norm since Merdeka.

Anwar has created a problem for himself by making the Indian community felt disappointed and let down again and again despite overwhelmingly supporting him.

There is a lot of harsh criticism of Anwar in the Tamil on the social media unlike before. If Indians desert him en masse, this will spell trouble for PH as the coalition cannot sustain itself on Chinese support alone.

Surely, Anwar cannot rely on the Malays other than those in the PKR although East Malaysians are seemingly willing to work with both PH and Perikatan Nasional (PN).

Kingmakers as they are known, Indians do play a crucial electoral role in many multi-racial seats in the West Coast states. In essence, it will be suicidal to ignore or belittle the Indians. – Dec 20, 2023

V. Thomas
Sungai Buloh

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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