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Realising People’s Potential Inclusion, opportunity and social capital Presentation by Prof. Lim Teck Ghee, UCSI University 5th DIVERSITY MATTERS a Commonwealth.

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Presentation on theme: "Realising People’s Potential Inclusion, opportunity and social capital Presentation by Prof. Lim Teck Ghee, UCSI University 5th DIVERSITY MATTERS a Commonwealth."— Presentation transcript:

1 Realising People’s Potential Inclusion, opportunity and social capital Presentation by Prof. Lim Teck Ghee, UCSI University 5th DIVERSITY MATTERS a Commonwealth forum on cultural diversity, Nov 2008

2 Focus of Presentation Larger theme: understanding, working with and managing diasporas in the Commonwealth What happens when communities are excluded or mismanaged or misunderstood? Case of excluded diasporas in parts of Commonwealth needs to be part of discourse Case study of marginalized Indians in Malaysia

3 Malaysian Indians: A Heterogenous Community Have been in Malaysia since 1786 with establishment of Penang Indian labour migration continued until 1930s and was mainly South Indian, predominantly, Tamil Non-labour migrants (literate) brought in from Ceylon and North India to man colonial adm and technical services Also a class of free migrants – merchants, petty traders, lawyers, doctors, money lenders

4 Indians in Malaysia The situation is muddled further by a lack of transparency in disclosure of data justified on grounds of ethnic sensitivity. Nevertheless, as Thillainathan (2008, 324) points out, even an analysis of the limited data available shows that the relative performance of the Indian community has deteriorated across a number of key indicators over a 35-year period from 1970 to 2005

5 Table 1: Distribution of Indian Labour, 1966 EmploymentNumber of workers Percentage Plantations Mines Rural total Government and quasi- government Transport Manufacturing Urban total 137,150 5, ,440 59, ,850 7,360 3, Total number of Indians employed 202, Source: Ponniah 1970, 59.

6 Economic Marginalization of Indians In 2006, 7.2% of Malaysians were employed in government services. Only 2.8% of Malaysian Indians of total MI employed are to be now found in govt services. In 2007, there were an estimated 3 million foreign workers or about 15 % of total work force

7 WHO ARE HINDRAF The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) is an ad hoc coalition of 30 Indian Malaysian-based non- governmental organizations (NGO) formed in December 2005 following the controversial burial of soldier M. Moorthy as a Muslim despite his widow’s protest that her husband was a practicing Hindu till the time of his death. Later, Hindraf began to articulate on various issues affecting the Indian Malaysian community and drew support largely from working class and under class Tamils, who are increasing frustrated over their socio- economic backwardness and government neglect.

8 Key Points on HINDRAF Focused in long experience of neglect and marginalization of Malaysian Indians Unresponsive political system despite participation in ruling party Blocked avenues of communication and expression Religious catalyst

9 HINDRAF Campaign for Justice According to Uthayakumar, the movement’s Legal Adviser, HINDRAF had “written over 1,000 letters over the past 10 years to the PM, chief ministers, mayors, the attorney-general, IGP (about) all the atrocities (done) to Indians (but) they just don’t (give) a damn. They don’t even bother replying save for a few letters acknowledging they have received our letters, thank you very much, full stop. That’s the first and last we hear from them.” See “Uthayakumar: I am no racist”, Malaysiakini, 5 December 2007.

10 HINDRAF Campaign: Chronology On 31 August movement filed a civil suit against the Sec of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs claiming compensation for alleged “pain, suffering, humiliation, discrimination and continuous colonialism” suffered by the Indian community in Malaysia as a result of the colonial government’s failure to protect the rights of the minority community during the independence negotiations. On 11 Nov HINDRA memo pointed to state sponsored “atrocities” perpetrated against the Indian community of Tamil origin and other forms of “state-sponsored direct discrimination against the Indians in public university intakes, Indian (Tamil) schools, skill training institutes, civil service and private sector job opportunities, business and license opportunities and in almost all other aspects of daily life”. On 25 November, HINDRAF organized a rally to deliver a memorandum to Queen Elizabeth II. The memorandum which the organizers sought to convey through the British High Commission related on a class action suit brought by HINDRAF against the British Government for bringing in Indians into Malaysia as indentured labor.

11 Zaid Ibrahim on HINDRAF He told some 50 professionals in a public discussion on election issues that “in leadership I think, hubris and arrogance have no place. This is the government of the people. We have to listen, even to the most ridiculous demands”.[1] He further argued that, although he did not agree fully with HINDRAF’s demands, the government had indeed failed to address issues such as the series of religion-related controversies involving converts, demolition of temples and the perceived Islamisation policy. Pointing to what has been one of the main lines of attack used by the Government in demonizing HINDRAF – the movement’s use of extreme language in the memorandum to describe the plight of the Indians – Zaid pointed out that “(Y)ou have exaggerations like ‘ethnic cleansing’ (being made) - they perhaps don’t know what they are talking about when they say this, but in terms of ethnicity and religious marginalization, yes, they do feel that”. He concluded that if the HINDRAF protest was viewed only as “ethnic- driven”, then the real causes would not be acknowledged.[1] [1] “Zaid: Protests are the Malayan Way”, Malaysiakini, 5 December [1]

12 “Discrimination from Womb to Tomb” : S. Paranjothy S. Paranjothy – the Gerakan Youth Deputy Chief - criticized the Government for its policies towards the Indian community.[1] Disputing media reports which had put the number of HINDRAF rally participants at 4,000, Paranjothy stated that 30,000 Indians took part to express their “frustrations and anger” because the community has been “marginalised, oppressed and ignored”. Pointing out that Indians form the most neglected group in economic terms, he lambasted the Government for treating them “as fourth-class citizens” and pointedly stated that “(w)here the Indians predominate over their fellow Malaysians is mostly in prison, violent crimes, gangsterism, suicide and social ills [as]Government policies have failed to improve (their situation).”[1] [1] See “Gerskan rep: UMNO incites racial sentiments”, Malaysiakini, 23 December [1]

13 Paranjothy (continued) National unity would be elusive as long as political parties and politicians continue their communal approach towards politics. “Politicians always feel (they) must fight for (their) own party. Since we have mostly ethnic parties, they are fighting for their ethnic group. It is difficult to achieve any kind of consensus.” He stressed that the 14 BN component parties must consolidate into a single party in order to “end racial manipulation in politics”. “In a multiracial party, if a politician wants to succeed, he would need to prove his ability and win support from all races, not just his own,” he explained.

14 HINDRAF Aftermath: Opinion in early Jan 2008 The larger ripple effects will probably not be discernible until the results of the country’s elections – expected as early as March are tallied and its impact on Indian and other voters in the country assessed. The political ramifications of the BN losing the Indian vote in the coming elections are not likely to be calamitous in view of the BN’s stranglehold on most Malay majority areas and the nature of rural-urban weighting in the national electoral system which guarantees a disproportionate importance to rural voters compared with their urban counterpart. At the same time, the opposition parties are well aware that although there is no single parliamentary or state assembly constituency in Malaysia where the Indian voters constitute the majority of the electorate and could singly decide the MP or State Assembly representative, Indian voters represent over ten per cent of the electorate in 62 Parliamentary constituencies and 138 State Assembly constituencies and they will play an important factor in determining the electoral outcome in these areas.

15 Integrated Diasporas: What are the Stumbling Blocks? Narrow nation building perspective: national language, national culture, national costume, etc State policies based on differentiation between “immigrants” and Malays/Bumiputras UMNO focus on “Bangsa, agama dan negara” Growth of ethnic group markers and ethnic consciousness arising from Barisan Nasional policies and politics

16 Lessons from HINDRAF Need for policy formulation based on independent and neutral analysis and empirical data Need for participation, transparency and accountability in public policy implementation Need for free and independent media Need for higher standards of governance and greater tolerance of dissent

17 World Bank/IDA Findings Resilient and Competitive Economies are marked by high social cohesion and low conflict inclusion of all social groups access and equality of opportunity rule of law and vibrant democratic institutions Neutral and race blind bureaucracies open societies

18 Less Competitive and Resilient Societies are marked by exclusion of groups and communities oppressive and authoritarian systems inequity/inequality partisan, corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy closed society

19 Conflict Avoidance Learn from lessons of past but do not be imprisoned by paradigms of past Social rights should not be delayed/reduced because of perceived economic disparities Need to match rhetoric with action in practicing tolerance and fairness Engage in positive tolerance Practice/ internalize fairness as a prerequisite to development of a modern pluralistic society


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