My name is Lingswaran Singh; I am a Malaysian of Indian origin. Note that I said I am of Indian origin, not Indian. I am a Malaysian, and I denounce any connections with India; I am a loyal subject of my king the Yang DiPertuan Agong of Malaysia. The Indian anthem Jana Gana Mana is nothing but an inspirational composition to me. The Malaysian Negaraku is a composition that is so powerful it not only draws tears to my eyes, it invokes within me the sense of belonging—my precious identity as a Malaysian and my deepest love for Malaysia, and the Malaysian people.
I take pride in the history of Kadaram (Kedah Tua), and Ilangosagam (Langkasuka) during the rule of the Malay-Sri Vijaya and Tamil-Chola kingdoms. These are histories that build my legitimacy as a Malaysian, my rightful identity as person of Indian origin in Malaysia. I may disappoint many of the so called Indian Malaysians who watch a lot of Tamil and Hindi movies, listen to bald old politicians, and feel like second class Malaysians, but I have to speak the truth for the interest of our beloved Malaysia.
When I was asked to write about the issues and prospects affecting the Indian community in Malaysia, I vowed that I would use this chance to call for all Malaysians of Indian origin to give up their racially orientated struggle. I wanted Malaysian Indians to realize that it is not just the Indians who are facing social economic woes, but all Malaysians, regardless of their race or faith. It is not a race struggle, it is a class struggle. It is a struggle between the oppressing powerful and the average Malaysian. If we are serious about a better tomorrow, then we must first realize that these problems are not uniquely faced by a certain ethnic group, but by all of us.
I would first like to take a swipe at the Hindraf movement—Hindu Rights Action Force, a movement committed to the preservation of Hindu community rights and heritage in a multiracial Malaysia. Hindu community rights? I believe in Malaysia, Hinduism is the second most practiced religion. Hindu community rights and heritage are very much alive and Hindus have rarely faced any oppression in Malaysia. You would probably find more Hindu shrines and temples all across Malaysia than mosques or churches.
I would like to remind all Hindus that Krishna said to Arjuna, “When devoted men sacrifice to other deities with faith, they sacrifice to me, Arjuna, however aberrant the rites“. The Bhagavad Gita’s knowledge applies to all human beings and does not postulate any sectarian ideology or secular view. Hinduism conceives the whole world as a single family that deifies the one truth, and therefore accepts all forms of belief and dismisses labels of distinct religions which would imply a division of identity.
Having said that, I am of the opinion that the politically motivated struggle of Hindraf is not only an abuse of the Hindu dharma but also contrary to the teachings of Krishna. The political perversion of their struggle is exactly why we continue to suffer economic hardships. If we want to be acknowledged as Malaysians, then we should start acting like it. Instead of viewing the Indian community as being sidelined, they should realize that our Malay and Chinese Malaysians also face the exact same problems.
Recently they organized a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur protesting the government’s decision to include the Malay language novel Interlok in the school curriculum as compulsory reading for the Malay literature subject. They alleged that Interlok contained disparaging remarks against Malaysian Indians and is deemed racist. This again is another political perversion that weakens us as Malaysians. The book itself is an effort to keep us thinking in a racial mindset, which is a strategy to divide and conquer.
Indians are a very political bunch—in 1936, the Malayan-born Indian community asked the British High Commissioner, Sir Shenton Thomas, to grant them a share of administrative appointments. Thomas rejected the request, stating, “I do not know of any country in which what I might call a foreigner has ever been appointed to an administrative post“. That was in 1936. Today we are no longer foreigners. Today we must realize that our economic woes are due to acute economic and political mismanagement, not racial discrimination.
For over 50 years, the racial card has only made things worse in Malaysia. Must we still return to race-based politics? It is time we put a stop to racial politics, and we should start with ourselves. Stop being told that we are different; stop behaving like second class citizens; speak against injustice, not only against our own ethnic group, but against anybody anywhere. Stop victimizing ourselves; the reason why we are facing social economic woes is because we allowed it to happen. We are the ones responsible for who we vote into the Dewan Rakyat.
It took us 50 years to realize that we have been doing things wrong—let us not start again by heading towards the same direction. This time around, let us unite not on racial terms but for a cause much greater than that: for a better tomorrow, for a better Malaysia, for our collective future. Pakatan Rakyat’s promise to reinstate democracy, good governance and restore justice constitutionally is currently the best solution to all our social economic woes.
When Pakatan Rakyat took over Selangor in 2008, their policies were aimed at resolving the issues faced by all Malaysians. I believe that is still the case, and they will do well as long as they stick to that. Generally things are getting better; however the lack of quality in the opposition bench of the Dewan Undangan Negeri is worrying. We need better a opposition to ensure that the Pakatan Rakyat is well behaved.
Barisan Nasional MPs are just not good enough. Perhaps in the next state elections, we should consider candidates from the alternatives like the new Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (KITA) or the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM). Maybe they would make better oppositions in comparison to the Barisan National. Somehow I trust we should give the newcomers a chance; the Barisan Nasional has been hogging the scene for too long. They are obsolete, boring, unattractive and irrelevant.
The Selangor Pakatan Rakyat focuses on policies that are aimed at clean, green, sustainable and liveable environments for its citizens, as they recognise that any economic growth and development will require comfortable urban living, which would in turn attract investment. This would be beneficial not just to the Indian communities in Selangor but to all those who reside in Selangor, regardless of their race or religion.
Selangor has been handling crime and public transport, although it is not necessarily the responsibility of a state government. Because it is of great concern to the people, Selangor has taken the initiative to improve in those areas. Selangor has also introduced the Freedom of Information Enactment, which will ensure greater transparency and accountability in the awarding of state government contracts.
Selangor also has policies aimed at assisting the elderly, the disabled, vernacular schools, religious schools, and mosques. Selangor has some additional welfare benefits for victims of domestic abuse, estate workers’ children, a fund for all children born in the state, and a policy of free water for the first 20m3 used per household.
If you have noticed, the last three paragraphs contain nothing with regards to Indians in particular. This is because there is something larger going on. All Malaysians regardless of race and religion are working together for a better tomorrow. The Selangor state government does not discriminate any of its citizens; their policies are aimed at helping all Malaysians. We can only bring about change if we sincerely work together, and not play obsolete racial cards like the Selangor opposition.
The Pakatan Government’s policies have so far been beneficial towards the Indian community, and the Chinese community, and the Malay community, and the Orang Asal community… Get the picture? We need to unite people, because the struggle is not unique to the Indian community alone—it is a struggle for all of us.
Even the community rights and heritage of the Malays are under threat right now. Just look at the amount of lies they are being fed by the popular Malay dailies. The Malays used to be able to freely demonstrate whenever they liked, wherever they liked, for whatever they liked. Anybody remembers all the hartals in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, such as the All-Malaya hartal of 1947 and the Penang hartal of 1967?
Come—let us revisit history and learn from our past. Dato’ Onn bin Ja’afar on March 1, 1946, led the opposition against the Malayan Union. Malays wore white bands around their songkoks, mourning the loss of their Sultans’ political rights. They used civil disobedience as means of protest by refusing to attend the installation ceremony of the British governors.
They refused to participate in the Advisory Councils, and Malay participation in the government bureaucracy had completely stopped. That was then. Today, the Malays cant even assemble peacefully, forget about civil disobedience. If the Malays cannot assembly peacefully, then what better rights can we hope for by being exclusively Indians?
Speaking of heritage, both the Indians and Malays do not recognise that they have shared a culturally rich heritage for hundreds of years. Today that shared heritage is in demise due to the race-based politics of the UMNO, MIC and MCA. Remember how similar we used to be? Can’t you still see the remnants of the Indian influence on Malay heritage? Now who is going to protect this culturally rich, near extinct, geographically unique shared heritage of the Indians and Malays?
Perhaps there are too many Indian nationalistic Bollywood flicks on television? Doesn’t anybody care about the truth? Mohandas Ghandi once said that an error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. We are Malaysian: we face social economic woes; our community rights, heritage and identity are under threat by racial politics and corruption.
It is time we move forward together as Malaysians. As Indians we swung a lot of change in 2008, but unfortunately that swing was not enough. Now we need to act as Malaysians to throw the corrupted rascals out for good. As for Selangor, I believe we made significant change and now we just need to engineer a credible opposition front for Selangor—not as Indians, but as Malaysians, and definitely not with Barisan Nasional.
It would be good if that opposition front consists of young visionary Malaysians from various ethnic origins. I hope Malaysian Indians can do more for Malaysia, because we play a very significant political role in this country. I also believe that we are bright enough to realise that racialism weakens us as a society in the long run.
If we can unite Tamils, Malayam, Telenggu, and Punjabis as Indians in Malaysia, then what is stopping us from uniting Malays, Chinese and Indians as Malaysians? We have done it many times in the past, as Langkasukans, as Srivijayans, as Malaccans, as Malayans, and now we have to do it as Malaysians.
We will only see change if we unite as Malaysians. All of us want a better life, and all of us want a better tomorrow; we can make that happen and we know exactly how, and it is definitely not by being exclusively Indians. We have to stop racial politics for our own good—it is time we stand up together as Malaysians. As an old Indian proverb goes, “You can only lean against that which resists“.
Lingswaran Singh is a Malaysian. He has been a loyarburok since he was 5. He likes flying kites and building sand castles, he also travels between alternate universes daily at 4.00 p.m. He coined the term “Madians” as to refer to Malaysians of Indian ancestry, because he thinks the term “Indian” is not politically correct. A shorter version of the above was first published in The Selangor Times issue of 11th March 2011.