Ex-envoy Santha’s subservience prevents him from speaking well of Indian Tamils

RETIRED diplomat and civil servant Datuk M. Santhanaban (Santha) has advised Indians against possessing sycophantic tantrums over the non-appointment of Indian Tamil minister in the Nov 12 cabinet reshuffle unveiled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PMX).

Tamils who constitute more than 85% of the Indian population in Malaysia have a legitimate expectation that PMX – despite his “Indian drama” – would appoint an Indian Tamil as a cabinet minister.

As Indian Tamils, we don’t question whether PMX appoints other representatives from minority communities as ministers or deputy ministers. But Indian Tamils do have a legitimate share in the cabinet.

How then can the legitimate quest for an Indian Tamil to be a minister be discarded as a Tamil tantrum?

If the Chinese and Malays can have their representatives in the cabinet, why should justice be denied to Indian Tamils?

By the way, Tamils are not a sub-ethnic group, assuming other sub-ethnic groups can counter-balance the strength of Tamils.

Santha might be former diplomat with years of administrative experience. However, such an experience does not give him the right to say whatever he wants about Indian Tamils to the extent of pleasing and apple polishing the power that be.

Class of his own

Basically, he has insulted the Tamil community by arguing that their demands verge on primitive tribalism.

Indian plantation workers in Malaya in the 1920s (Pic credit: Varnam.my)


If the legitimate demands of the Tamils are tribalistic, what about the Chinese wanting their own kind in the cabinet or the Malays wanting to dominate the cabinet with their own representatives anchored in race and religion?

In other words, is Santha saying that the demands of the Chinese and Malays are logical and rational compared to the Indian Tamils?

Santha might be of Tamil origins but his thinking suggests that his consciousness is anything but Tamil. His long years of in the government is no qualification to speak derogatorily about the legitimate demands of the Indian Tamils.

Santha in his eagerness to belittle the demands of the Indian Tamil community conveniently forgot about the sacrifices of his own ancestors to the country.

It doesn’t matter if Tamils who have served long years in the government have maintained their aloofness with the Indian Tamil community. There is tendency in the past and present for certain segment of educated and professional Indians not to identify with the poor and discriminated working class Tamils.

While the majority of the segment are indifferent to the plight of Tamil subalterns, there are some who openly criticise the Indian Tamils for not improving their lives, for demanding their rights and for standing up to those who bully them.

Santha belongs to the category of a small segment of Indians with a different class and professional status. It is this class difference that separates people like Santha from ordinary Tamils – the poor and the marginalised.

Not qualified to comment

By disassociating from the working-class Tamils, those in the middle and upper class seek to ingratiate themselves with the established powers.

Satees Muniandy

Santha recent extolling the virtues of Anwar is an example of how educated and professional Indians seek to ingratiate themselves to those in power.

Whether he will be rewarded for his loyalty bordering on subservience remains to be seen. If those Indian Tamils who are demanding justice are described as relics, isn’t Santha himself a relic of the past?

A former diplomat and civil servant who is not sensitive to the demands of the Indian Tamils cannot be considered as an individual attuned to the societal needs of the contemporary period.

The very fact Santha rose to be diplomat apart from having the right credentials was also recognition that he was member of the Indian Tamil community, the third largest in Peninsula Malaysia. Santha might not want to factor this but it is undeniable truth.

For a non-Malay civil servant to rise up to the rank of diplomat is no easy task. Merit might not be the sole consideration. There are other considerations that Santha might be aware from his own experience.

I understand that despite the “other” considerations, Santha left the civil service as an unhappy man.

Maybe next time around, he should narrate his own civil service experience, particularly about the discrimination of the non-Malays and what it takes to rise up the ladders.

This might be worthwhile academic exercise for him rather than going into areas that he is not qualified or sensitive enough, particularly in talking about the plight of the Indian Tamils. – Dec 25, 2023


Former DAP state assemblyman of Bagan Dalam in mainland Penang, Satees Muniandy is currently the leadership council member of Urimail ((United Rights of Malaysian Party).

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

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