CARETAKER prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob boasted recently that the Government always has an eye on the Indian community.
The allocation of RM100 mil for the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (MITRA), RM25 mil for the development of Indian entrepreneurs and a further allocation for the MIC-owned AIMST University were adduced as instances of the Government’s assistance to the Indian community.
However, just like the appearance of a swallow does not make summer, the allocation of over RM100 mil cannot be considered to be a major assistance to the Indian community.
After all, when comparing the financial allocations to the Indian community to the assistance towards the Malay community, the former pales in significance; billions are allocated for the Malay community in various areas.
Whether the Malays really benefit from these colossal allocations remains to be seen. Just like in the case of Indians, allocations to Malays are often hijacked by rich and powerful Malays, all in the name of community assistance.
While such assistance has been rendered to the Malays consistently over the last few decades, assistance to the Indian community is considered a shameless pittance.
The majority of the members of the Indian community are placed in the bottom 40 income group (B40) category.
Besides that, given the overt and covert racial and religious discrimination under the hegemony of UMNO, Indians face innumerable problems in getting decent jobs, licences to operate businesses and fully participating in the economy.
Whatever financial assistance given to the community has been hijacked by others, mainly from individuals and groups from Indian organisations.
For instance, the allocations to MITRA ended up being siphoned by organisations that had nothing to do with the welfare and webbing of the industry community.
By focusing too much on MITRA, the Government failed miserably to allocate financial assistance to areas much needed by the Indian community.
“No different to other private universities”
AIMST University, on the other hand, which is owned by a MIC-related company, was incorporated to assist the Indian community in the field of higher education.
Before the university was established, funds were gathered from the Indian community by the MIC leaders.
Today it exists as a private university, no different from other private universities in the country.
Whatever happened to the special assistance education for the Indian community?
Indian students making it to AMIST University also pay fees similar to other non-Indian students. So, why call it an Indian university?
And what about all the fanfare and publicity saying that AMIST University was meant as a special educational vehicle for Indian educational upliftment?
Whether the MIC owns AMIST University or not, it is better to call it a private university. There is no need to create a false impression.
It can be safely said that Government assistance in the past and present have not impacted favourably on the Indian community: either the funds were misused for other purposes or hijacked by well-connected individuals in the Indian community.
The lack of transparency in ensuring that allocations reach the target groups has been a major failure of funds allocated for the Indian community.
What Indians in the country really need is the dismantling of the nefarious practice of institutional racism.
This form of racism, predicated on the notion of ketuanan Melayu (Malay hegemony) is so deeply embedded in society that the non-Malays have been systematically ostracised from effective participation as citizens.
Such a system might give the appearance that the Malays are the beneficiaries but this is not true. The real beneficiaries are the Malay political and bureaucratic elite who have effectively camouflaged their extraction of resources in the name of extreme Malay nationalism.
I don’t think that Ismail is prepared to confront and lay bare the presence of the pernicious institutional racism that stands in the way of the effective participation of citizens, both non-Malays and Malays as well.
It is of no use to sing the old and outdated song of financial assistance to the Indian community; giving them pittances is the greatest disservice to the Indian community. – Oct 17, 2022
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main photo credit: Bernama