| Putrajaya, Malaysia | 20 May 2017 | Asia Samachar |
By Sarjit S. Gill
- Inclusive policy – This is the first time the Malaysian Federal ruling Government is taking seriously the Indian communities affairs in Malaysia. Under his policy, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said: “National development would not only be enjoyed by the urban residents but also raised the standard of living of the rural community especially those in the lower income group. We adopt a balanced and inclusive policy and I will not budge from this principle” (Bernama, 20 March 2017).
2. Representation issue – The Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB) is supposed to be an inclusive policy as indicated by the Prime Minister, nevertheless it lacks the inclusive approach – only a handful Sikh leaders were involved in the MIB consultations – no Sikh academics were consulted for feedback on their current research on the Sikh community in Malaysia.
3. Community concentration is misrepresented. The Tamil ethnic as a majority community among the Indians was the main attention of the MIB – other sub-Indians community’s such as the Sikhs, Telegus, Malayalees, Gujeratis and Sindhis have been overlooked. These pocket of sub-ethnic minorities also face various issues and challenges in Malaysia.
4. Sikh historical contributions were missing. No historical acknowledgment was recorded on the Sikh community (p. 10-13). They had served in the police force under the British colonial in Malaya since 1870s and made significant contributions in maintaining law and order. Some had even served as a Commandants and wardens in the prisons in Malaya, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah). Presently, Sikhs are still proud of their legacy and serve in the Malaysian Royal Police, Malaysian Armed Forces and Malaysian Prison Department. I came across only a brief introduction on various Indians communities (p. 10). Maybe some Sikh leaders who were involved in the MIB consultations have overlooked the Sikh history and their contributions in Malaysia. It should also be noted that Sardar Budh Singh, a Sikh himself, was the second Malaysian Indian Congress President (1947-1950). See here.
5. MIB photographs – not even a single photo of the Sikh community and the Gurdwara institution is to be found in the MIB (168 pages). This contradicts the Blueprint targets to improve perceptions of the Malaysian Indian community by those within and outside the community (p. 134). Hopefully the launch of a ‘Community Pride’ campaign, as stated in this Blueprint, will change the perception and mind set among the Indians communities. This campaign aims to create a national level awareness of Malaysian Indian achievement stories across different sectors, working hand in hand with other Malaysian ethnicities, by promoting outstanding individuals and teams, such as writers, educators, entrepreneurs, scientists, philanthropists, sports personalities, artists and young achievers (p. 134). I sincerely hope this ‘Community Pride’ campaign will be more comprehensive and not merely rhetoric in nature.
6. Tamil schools – as a main focus (p. 18-20). There was no information on the issues and challenges of the Punjabi schools faced by Punjabi Education Trust Malaysia (PETM), the education wing of the Khalsa Diwan Malaysia (KDM). Punjabi language is also facing some similar challenges like the Tamil language. PETM is running some 50 weekend schools, called Punjabi Education Centres (PECs), nationwide, serving 2,312 students. They comprise of 210 teachers, 10 teacher trainers and 23 school inspectors, according to the most recent numbers obtained from PETM.
7. Social issues among the Indians is well covered such as domestic violence, divorce and marriage breakdown, alcohol or drug abuse, criminal activities and suicide (p. 21-22). My recent study on the socio-economy status and social issues among the Sikhs in Malaysia has reported similar issues such as divorce, conversions and mixed-marriages (Sarjit S. Gill et. al. 2015). The issue was also picked up by Asia Samachar, an online media portal for Sikhs in Southeast Asia. See: ‘Social Issues and Identity Threat of the Sikh Minority Community in Malaysia’ (Asia Samachar, 28 Dec 2015) and ‘Malaysian Sikhs worry most about economy, divorce and conversion, reveals new ground breaking research’ (Asia Samachar, 24 Sept 2015).
8. IB40 as a main focus– Indian B40 (IB40) has been given a significant priority in the MIB. What about the M40 groups? Are those Indians in the middle 40 groups are not trapped in various socio-economic issues? They probably might fall into the B40 groups if they cannot sustain with the current economy conditions.
9. Technical Committee needs to be more inclusive (p. 163-164) – No Sikh representative was appointed in the technical committee which comprises of 34 members. Well-known Sikh organisations such as Khalsa Diwan Malaysia (KDM), Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) and Malaysia Gurdwaras Council (MGC) should have been invited to sit in the Technical Committee.
10. Lop-sided treatment between the Indian communities must be addressed by the Government without marginalising any sub-ethnic minority groups, thus achieving a holistic and sustainable development in Malaysia.
11. Comprehensive database is needed – to record and monitor various information on the Indian communities’ contributions, issues and challenges in Malaysia.
Sarjit S. Gill, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at Faculty of Human Ecology of University Putra Malaysia (UPM). His original paper was entitled ‘Review of Malaysian Indian Blueprint (2017-2026)’, was presented a paper at the Focus Group Discussion: An Independent Review & Appraisal of the Malaysian Indian Blueprint programme organised by Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, on 8 May 2017. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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