LAST Sunday’s (Nov 26) pre-launch of the new Indian political party called United for Rights of Malaysian Party or Urimai in Kuala Lumpur has elicited support and criticisms.
The rank-and-file Indians who bear the brunt of ethnic, religious and class discrimination have welcomed the formation of Urimai which simply means “rights” in Tamil.
The party has not been officially registered but ordinary Indians have welcomed the new party. At this stage, the party will function as a political movement pending registration. Judging from the calls we have received thus far, enthusiasm is undeniably there.
However, the support from middle and upper middle-class Indians are pretty much mixed. Some have welcomed the new party with reservations, doubtful whether the party can be successful or not.
Some segments of this class of Indians have rejected the new party saying that (i) there are already too many Indian parties; (ii) that I want to be an instant president; (iii) that the new party is my personal set up, (iv) that the party has no future, among others.
While I accept constructive criticisms, those bordering on personal attacks are not accepted. Such kind of attacks I can do without.
Interestingly, the more they attack the party, the more I think that my friends and I are on the right path. I understand that the formation of the party is one thing but to make it relevant to the Indian community is a long and arduous journey.
The criticisms that there are too many Indian political parties seem not to take account whether these parties are effective and whether they provide the much-needed leadership for the Indian community.
The party might be Indian-based by primarily focusing on the subaltern sections of the Indian community, especially those who are considered powerless.
However, once the party is registered, membership will be open to all Malaysians irrespective of race or religion. This opening provides an opportunity for us to take up the plight of the non-Indians in the country.
This new party might not fall into the category of being multi-racial. While there is nothing wrong to be multi-racial, the existing political parties that run along multi-racial lines have clearly failed to represent the Indian community.
Indian leaders in these political parties who are part of the present ruling coalition have failed to represent the Indians. It is nice to hear about these political parties as being multi-racial but in reality, they hardly pay attention to the plight of the Indian community.
Interests of the dominant groups, family connections and the imperative to subordinate particular interests to larger hegemonic politics have undermined the representation of Indians.
Whether a new political party will succeed or not is a different question. The real test is whether there is popular support for the new political formation.
The hard work begins not with the formation of the party but in getting the support of Indians in the country. Whether the new party will engage in coalition building will be decided at the appropriate time.
The success of the party for Indians will depend on numerous factors such as the struggle to end the discrimination of Indians; asking the government to open up employment in the public and private sectors; the eradication of the quota system of entry to public universities and the matriculation programme; provision of decent public funds to the community as opposed to the miserable RM130 mil for the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (MITRA) and various entrepreneurial activities.
Indians to determine Urimai’s success
In the realm of the economy, the discrimination of permits, licenses and others against the Indian community must be stopped and reviewed. These are some of the steps that the new party will take to address the Indian question.
There might be other Indian political parties around. The question is whether they are providing the effective leadership and representation to the Indian community.
Attempts to portray the new party as no different from the other existing political parties lack insight and understanding. There are diametrically different views from the rank-and-file Indians and those from middle and upper echelons of the Indian community.
While the former seems to welcome the formation of the new party, the latter is hesitant with some elements going to the extent of saying nasty things about the party. Even if there are existing Indian political parties, their presence in no way invalidates the formation of a new one.
The right to form a new organisation is a fundamental right of human beings that is consonant with the Federal Constitution. Furthermore, the right to form and the possibility of failure are two sides of the same coin.
Unlike the existing ethnic Indian political parties and the pretentious multiracial ones, Urimai wants to provide a form of political representation and leadership that will go beyond other forms of political representation. In short, Urimai wants to be the Voice of the Voiceless!
Finally, I cannot take it for granted that the new party, Urimai, will succeed. It will be up to the Indian community to render it as effective or not. As I have said before, let history judge the formation of Urimai. – Nov 29, 2023
Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai Interim Council.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: David Marshel’s Facebook