Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Malaysian Indian Drama!

The Indian diaspora has critical masses in a number of countries and yet remaining a minority except maybe in Fiji. Uganda, South Africa, Barbados, Surinam, United Arab Emirates, Singapore as well as Malaysia, all have significant Indian populations. By critical masses I mean to say that the Indian population on its own may be economically self-sufficient so that a larger number of the Indian ecomomy thrives on trade and work between and within the community itself while a not so insignificant number would represent a significant position in the economy and commerce of the country itself. The Diaspora extends to a number of Western countries as well where it mostly has to depend on the local community for its commerce and industry. Generally speaking, the Indian diaspora is spoken of in endearing and commendable terms for their wit, work ethic and industry and for their fortitude in establishing a significant economic presence in the country. The Indian diaspora has basically done well for itself. Except for the diaspora that today finds itself in Malaysia.

After all these years, since the begining of the diaspora, if the Malaysian Indians alone cannot show for themselves as having successfully economically become self-sufficient and independent there becomes a dire need to look at what it is that has caused this.

To digress a little, in Malaysia, as Malaysians when we look at ourselves and each other, the Indians are accepted as being economically and politically the most deprived and much can be said about all the assumptions that have been absorbed into explaining why this is so. These assumptions may not be spoken of as they are just not politically correct and also we just do not want the attention of the Malaysian Indian Congress and its President, the formidable Samy Velu. If not for all the foreign workers, the identification of the Indian race with particular vocations would probably place a stronger shackle around its ankles that will not so easily be shaken off. The explanations for the Malaysian Indian condition, and therefore, the suggested solutions from which ever source, almost always gravitate around the experience of these Indians within Malaysia itself.

However, I have very purposely begun this missive introducing the term diaspora. This allows me to look at the Indian diaspora that has found itself everywhere else. Generally speaking everywhere else where their presence provides for them a critical mass, it would seem they might very much be in control of the economy itself. To newer destinations that they have moved into, like the United Kingdom, USA, Australia and New Zealand it would seem like they have prospered very well.

So what has happened to the Malaysian Indians? If you were a Malaysian Chinese or a Malay reading this, do you suddenly find that maybe the assumptions you have used to define for yourself, the Indian, may not after all hold true? You may have allowed these assumptions to have guided your dealings with the Indians after all, and maybe now you wonder if you might have been wrong after all. Or maybe you are a bigot and it does not matter whether your assumptions were right or wrong as long as the beneficiary of your bigotry was not an Indian. But this is not about what your position on Malayisan Indians is all about. I hope we might be able to determine the real problem and maybe find a solution somewhere.

There is one glaring truth that sets the Malaysian Indians apart from the rest of the Indian diaspora. The Malayisan Indians alone in the diaspora are uniquely the only ones who are politically represented within the political system of the country. The next truth is that it is only the Malaysian Indians within that diaspora that have failed economically as well as socially. Another truth is Indians of the diaspora who were left to fend for themselves with no political representation have succeeded beyond expectations economically and socially while still retaining very much of their culture, language and religion. Has the Malaysian Indian been let down by the political representation, and hence, any promise associated with that representation? I have always said so to my friends and I say so now once again. The Malaysian Indians have failed because we allowed ourselves to be represented politically. I don't just blame MIC, I also blame all other political movements and leaders who held themselves out to attempt to represent Malaysian Indians. All you Malaysian Indian politicians, just bloody well leave the Malaysian Indians alone.

The Past To The Present

There is ofcourse the fault that goes back to the time when a large number of Indians were brought to Malaya by the British to provide the manpower in the rubber estates. These were the poorest of the poor for whom there was no home nor food available to them in India. Just waiting to board the boat that was to take them to Malaya would have meant an extra meal for the day that they would not have otherwise had. But joining the British then just meant that they had signed on to a life of servitude for themselves and the generations to come without them realsing it.

Terms of compensation was principally decided without any thought given to human dignity. Hence, they got paid for what they delivered. And if nature intervened and they could not deliver, they got nothing. What has become criminal is that until today this is how it still is.

Damn it. There was an occassion about 10 years ago when compensation for rubber tappers was on the table and the Minister of Agriculture then, Lim Keng Yaik made a bloody bigoted rude remark when he said," we don't know what you do behind the rubber tree"!

Yes, they drank the toddy and samsu that you made available to them. They took with them only those tools and equipment you provided them. They battered their wives and they procreated like rats, and each time the woman takes off your companies are not able to maximise their yields.

But tell me, was there any one time when your companies failed to make a profit? The British had seepishly introduced a reward system which worked for them and which the workers never understood. For the last 50 years nothing happend to change this.

Fact of the matter is, all these companies don't work out their profits by the buckets of latex delivered. Profits are computed on a periodical basis. Profits are reported annually when the sum total of everything that happened in the year is summed up in a single page showing the Profit and Loss Accounts and another page the Balance Sheets. These pages never showed red even when rubber prices fell to their lowest.

All you owners of rubber estates, and now palm oil, remember one thing, your turnover figures that you show at the end of the year is basically the total quantity, which is determined by your efforts, multiplied by the price. You shameless liars and thieves, this price is something that you do not control and have no control over. Its a matter of supply and demand and the prices are fixed in Chicago and London as they always have. And the guys who fix the price could not care less if the rubber came off a tree or was the piss of a drunken Malaysian Indian tapper! Whether it rained or shined, whether your produce was low or large, fact is your periodical reports would not reflect these as, on average, production down, prices up and production up, prices down. Turnover averages out to be the same.

And yet you base their compensation on the lowest common denominator which is probably pegged to the lowest rubber prices in the last 50 years! And you don't pay them anything when it rains. And what happens when your profits rise as the price of rubber goes up? These Indian rubber tappers don't even know anything of it and they get nothing while you pay the bosses fat bonuses and yourselves handsome dividends.

Ah, enough digressing. Maybe I am adding a new thorn into the already volatile situation with the Malaysian Indians who now want to demonstrate tomorrow. Who knows, maybe the powers that be might even think what I am saying here is seditious as it might just have the propensity of quelling a lot of unrest and frustration. I could even be accused of economic subotage if this has the potential of radically changing the way rubber tappers are compensated. But I guess it needed to be said.

Anger & Frustration

Maybe all of you who read this may not even recognise what or why it is that the Indians should be so upset. I certainly don't represent those people Uthayakumar speaks to and speaks for. The Indians who you encounter and who you have taken for your friends are probably all affluent socially and economically may not be anything like the people who you might see joining in the demonstration in front of the British High Commission. But they define for the powers that be the treatment metted out to the average Indian on the street.

I remember the time when even I would not go to ATMs located in certain places at night lest I be targeted for shooting practice by the cops. Its really hard when you have toiled over the din of the 40 watt light bulb to study and gotten your As and Bs in your STPM and yet you are denied the course you want to study because the system believes that a less qualified Malay deserves the seat more just because he is Malay. do you remeber the time when the majority of your teachers were either Indian or Chinese? Now as an Indian you can't even get to Teachers Training. And if you do get into one, then you'll teach English!

Believe what you want, but the Malaysian Indian will tell you that the CLP exams that Law graduates have to sit for before they can be admitted to the bar is basically for the benefit of Malaysian Indians. Yes, so that they do not monopolise the legal profession. Damned, after denying places in the Universities , when the only option open that was reasonably relatively affordable, the University of London's LLB Degree, suddenly is not a sure way into the legal profession anymore. The most popular of vocations for smart Malaysian Indians, Medicine, has now been made almost beyond reach.

Home has always been a man's own castle, whatever the shack. Yes, after over three generations of a family having lived in just one estate, there would have been some amount of certainty of a home, a job and a place of worship. But times are a changing. Development has moved into your abode. Property development is more profitable and the land is allocated for development. You have to move. Your temples have to move. But you say, the temples have been there for over a 100 years. But it was never your land and the temple was built on land on the okay of the General Manager of 100 years ago with nothing documented and nothing done to allocate the land permanently. Whose fault really when the land is needed for development and the owners, who might have been the same company that previously operated the rubber estate, want what is theirs. What is worse is when new owners come in and have no sympathy for the occupiers of the land. But fact is there is history here. But that somehow does not matter. Has this problem been necessarily been identified and agreed to by both parties and the government? Maybe then a necessary solution can be found. But then again who cares? Indians, they are not a problem.

The 25 November Rally

This is what I wrote in a commentary in

If they really wanted the Sunday rally stopped, Uthayakumar and the others would not have been granted bail in the notion that their incarceration would, without leaderhip, halt the rally. But at least two have been let out and the other remains in custody in protest.

My own estimation is that, maybe not 10,000, but it could be less, maybe more, will somehow make it to the British High Commission on Sunday. If they are dressed in their orange attire, then I would also assume that it would be a statement like the one they make when they carry kavadis during Thaipusam. It simply says, that they are ready for sacrifice.

The result of any assault by the police and FRU, whether by chemically laced water canons or tear gas, or worse still, batons, guns and live bullets can contibute towards the first ever massacre on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. I can only imagine a passive congregation of people only too willing to end it all right there.

After all what is there to run to? For many their homes have been ravished and destroyed. The life that they knew once, whether in the estates or in the urban squatters, are decimated and their only hope, their cherished Gods and dieties, trampled and destroyed with no thought for human decency and sensitivity.

Reading what happened at the Giant, Shah Alam, this attitude towards Indians, who probably have to have a certain look about them, has obviosly transcended into the private sector as well.
The police have prevailed on all residents of the Klang Valley and all travelling towards the Klang Valley that the cause of their few hours of misery trapped in long traffic jams is all due to “some Indians” wanting to protest. My good Chinese friends have asked me why give all these problems. I tell them they sound no different from how many Germans would have sounded one time allowing in the mean time Hitler to rise to the heights he did. As they say, when good men do nothing, evil prevails.

Maybe some who actively participated and promoted the BERSHI 10/11 March might think that maybe HINDRAF should have joined forces with 10/11. But then again HINDRAF is driven more by a religious as well as a socio-economic motive that is uniquely prevalent in just that one community. Even among the Indians the experience that HINDRAF supporters would have had living their lives in Malaysia would not have been the same as those Indians from Urbania, affluent Indians of Christian, Muslim as well as many Hindu extracts. As much as I sympathise with HINDRAF’s motives and the drivers that have pushed them to this, I surely have never experienced everything that they have or would have. Yet, in many a conversation with someone of another race, I have many a time encountered the same ignorance, bigotry, prejudice and bias which I brush aside as attributing to idiots I sometimes have to deal with. Fortunatly for me I have the luxury to be able to. I know that for a large majority this luxury does not exist and they have no choice but to suffer the consequence.

The Malaysian Indian very quickly finds out that any respect he gets from other Malaysians has to be earned. I come out of my condo and the Nepalese guard asks if I came to do some work. I drive into a hotel driveway to pick up a resident staying there, the doorman opens the back door for the resident to sit. Whats worse, the door man is an Indian himself, and he thinks I must be the driver. Well these are my experiences and I can get bloody furious about it. Of course for places like GIANT I suppose, the SOP for their security might be that all Indians who come in must be a potential thief. I cannot but laugh the day when very shortly after I went into one complex alone I soon realised that I was targeted for close scrutiny and was being tailed. I enjoyed taking these guys for a nice long walk for more than an hour, then took a cheap shirt or whatever, and paid for it with my Platinum card! But why target me? I had the look was it? Fitted the profile?

Come off it. We all know HINDRAF is not getting anywhere with its suit against the BRITISH Government. Neither are they going to go anywhere with their petition to the Queen. It is all about embarassing the Malaysian Government. Isn’t CHOGM on in Uganda? Will Abdullah Badawi be there? Nice time to embarrass him isn’t it? What more, everyone attending CHOGM will know exactly what its all about without needing to be briefed on whats really happening. Now, I didn’t know that embarrasing the Malaysian Government is suppsed to be a crime. But I shall stand corrected if anyone tells me so. But then again, we just have to leave it to our idiotic UMNO leaders to put Malaysia on a permanent state of embarrassment every time they open their mouths. So I guess HINDRAF would have a good defence here.

I hope nothing untoward happens on Sunday. But something needs to happen. Not necessarily on Sunday. More than the UMNO led government I would say that it would be Samy Velu and MIC that would not want HINDRAF to succeed. Indeed HINDRAF’s headlines grabbing position in the last few days must surely give Samy Velu nightmares he has not had in a long time. How can any other Malaysian Indian or organisation outshine Samy Velu and MIC respectively? It would be in Samy Velu’s interest to see that this rally becomes unrully and becomes violent so that HINDRAF can be neutered and banned and its leaders incarcerated. How cna this rally be peaceful when MIC and MAIKA AGM's are trail blazing chair throwing events that Samy Velu presides over in person or in spirit. I will not be surprised to see many faces that appear at the rally and who might, if any, be the cause of any untoward incident, be the same ones that popped up at the MAIKA AGM. I hope there will be enough cameras out there to take pictures of these guys to be posted on the net so that we can compare them to those at the MAIKA AGM.

To all those who manage to get there to Jalan Ampang in the vicinity of the British High Commisssion on Sunday, my prayers are with you. Not that I condone whatever it is you might do. But I shall try to understand and not dismiss it. Please remeber, the cops and the FRU are only doing their jobs. They are ordered to as you can see them taking instructions over their hand-phones. It is they who give the orders and instructions to those on the ground that are the real culprits. In any case obey their orders if you must be there. My best wishes.


At November 25, 2007 at 7:25 AM, Blogger dan-yel said...

I appreciate your unique analysis of the whole affair, from the viewpoint of Indian diaspora. I have linked this passage to my blog entry, "The morning before the Hindraf Rally". Hope you don't mind.

Anyway, applause from me, outstanding article I must say.

At November 25, 2007 at 2:39 PM, Blogger KLConfidential said...

Very good article, Old fart.

Although I felt that I understood my Indian bros and sis quite well, this gives me more insight into the psyche.

My heart bleeds for them.

I'm malay and I have many indian friends. And i notice that they are discriminatory towards their own race too. I even have to reprimand them sometimes. True, some of us laugh it off when they do this, but there is a deeper implication here.

My late father was one who used to say "Must be an indian." when there was a bad driver on the road or something. I used to fight with him about this, ending up in tears of frustration when he laughed it off.

Don't get me wrong, my late father was an exceptional man. Had many indian friends and was like by many. But I couldn't accept his comment.

Then i went out with an indian man who i hope to marry. My parents so strongly against it, they tried to stop us using every means possible.

I wanted to change my father's mind. And on his death bed, he gave us his blessings and even had a special meeting with my siblings telling them to accept my indian boyfriend without discrimination and to treat him with every respect. (He didn't have to do this, my siblings accepted my boyf) But the fact that he wholeheartedly approved and in a way admitted that he was wrong, was a weight lifted off my shoulders.

I know i'm going off tangent here. But i just wanted to share this with you.

I also want to say, that the discrimination that you experienced is felt not just by indians but also by other races. We are all discriminating each other. I know things won't change overnight, but we must at least try.

Also, I think the discrimination against the indians happens so blatantly in the education system and even employments. The government says it wants to help the poor malays. What the other races who are equally as poor? Why special rights for malays? Indians and chinese are equally citizens of this country.

This is not only detrimental to the indians and chinese, but even more detrimental to the malays. The NEP is making the malays more complacent. I hate this.

At December 7, 2007 at 9:56 PM, Blogger KLConfidential said...

By the way, Paul. I think we've met before. At some function or another while I was a PR at some bank. Hmm..

Hopefully we'll meet again. Cheers.

At December 9, 2007 at 11:11 PM, Blogger Old Fart said...

Hi KL Confidential

Surely could not have if the meeting had been because you were carrying out your PR duties. I don't thing I have ever earned the attention of one so important of any bank before.

At December 13, 2007 at 5:12 PM, Blogger 20 Cent said...

Oldfart50, I'm so angry!

Police said they have detained all five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) under Section 8 (1) of the Internal Security Act.

The five are P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, R. Kenghadharan, V. Ganabatirau and Vasantha Kumar. They were picked up at various locations in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Seremban.

They will be detained for two years.

How could the ruling coalition do this? With no legal recourse, how could they have moved forward with an act as obscene as the ISA merely do justify arrogance?

I though I was hopping mad on Tuesday, today I feel like kicking in the shins (and teeth) of a few politicians.

At December 16, 2007 at 8:23 PM, Blogger Old Fart said...

20 Cent Uthayakumar and co are big boys. They know what they were in for.

But does their action not speak much of all that they have got? Somehow, I see the political situation descending the way of the Malaysian Football Team. And that, if you are old enough to remember, is exactly what happened to Burma, now Myanmar. Once they were more promising than us and their soccer team was the most formidable in South East Asia. Then their soccer team receded into obscurity followed by ofcourse what they have today for a nation. Are we slipping down the same slippery path?


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