In the last three parts I have discussed the meaning of the term ‘Marginalization’, gave a concrete example in the life of Mariappan, discussed the basic historical events and the…
In the last three parts I have discussed the meaning of the term ‘Marginalization’, gave a concrete example in the life of Mariappan, discussed the basic historical events and the different ways in which unequal rights and unequal opportunities lead to economic marginalization.
In this part I am going to show how it is the specific policies of and conscious neglect ,wrapped up in a package of deceit, by the UMNO led Government that is at the root of this endemic and chronic economic marginalization of the Indians.
The UMNO strategies that created the problem.
This whole saga started with the UMNO led Alliance Government policy in the 1960s, promoting the fragmentation of the rubber estates. Various studies had shown the deleterious effects of this policy on the plantation workers, but the UMNO Government refused to accept the conclusions of these studies and went ahead and even promoted fragmentation of the estates. The first such study was conducted in 1963 by Royal Prof Ungku Aziz who refuted the notion that fragmentation of the estates was good for the national economy. This policy instead of creating a sturdy new breed of Malayan smallholders which was the stated purpose, created a class of absentee landlords and urban investors who had no concerns whatsoever for the Indian estate workers. The UMNO led Alliance government chose to reject the conclusions and recommendations of the report.
The UMNO policy that promoted fragmentation was the first of several strategies that drove the Indian workers out of their livelihoods and their descent into destitution. That was the first salvo by UMNO in collusion with the many Chinese and few Indian capitalists of those days.
The next of UMNO’s strategies that added on to the pressure to push the Indians out of the estates was the taking over of the Plantation companies by Government owned Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) in the 1980s - to name a few well known ones - Sime Darby, Guthries, Boustead, Golden Hope, Petaling, and London Asiatic. This was also accompanied by a move away from rubber to oil palm by these plantation companies as returns in oil palm were much higher. Then as need for residential, commercial and industrial properties zoomed these plantation companies used their plantation land as land banks and turned to property development. The result of this push by these UMNO policies can be seen in the data (repeated from Part One) in the table below:
Indian Population distribution
% 1970 2004
Urban 25.5 81.2
Rural 74.5 18.8
The third strategy that impacted the Indian workers in the estates adversely, that was in support of the other strategies was the importation of a large number of Indonesian workers to man the oil palm estates. The number of jobs available were reduced to the Indian workers and their wages were held down because of this cheap foreign labour.
As the Indian poor left the estates for the towns, another indirect but major impact was the higher cost of living environment in the urban areas – rents, transport, electricity and water, child care, no self supply of any vegetables or other food items. This pushed them further into poverty. All these occurred progressively and the situation of the Indian poor went from bad to worse with each of these strategies of UMNO. The Indian poor were impoverished directly by all these UMNO policies.
So, the first conclusion from all of this, is that the economic marginalization of the Indian poor was set in motion by UMNO policies.
UMNO deliberately neglects the impact of their policies on the Indian poor.
That these UMNO policies were having this effect was not unknown to the UMNO policy makers all along. Nothing I am writing here is original. Many studies have been done and reported to the Government, as I have said earlier. To name two organizations that were significantly involved and which were close to the UMNO establishment – Yayasan Sosial Strategic (the research arm of the impotent MIC) and Centre for Public Policy Studies, CPPS (research arm of ASLI- a major think-tank organization of the elite) . In fact this analysis of mine has borrowed significantly from the research done by CPPS in 2005.
Since Tunku’s time there have been 9 Five Year Malaysia Plans. These plans are basically about how the funds of the government are to be used for the various social and economic development programs of the nation. The first of these plans was during Tunku’s time from 1966 -1970. We are now at the tail end of the Ninth Malaysia Plan. The Tenth Malaysia Plan is about to start in 2011. The total development expenditure from 1966 up to 2005 was 253 Billion Ringgits - not a small amount by any measure.
The priority of these Five Year Development plans has been to develop a Malay elite in the Industrial, Commercial and recently Agricultural sectors of the economy, while allowing enough space for the Chinese businesses to operate and grow so as to avoid the political tensions and economic stagnation that potentially could occur.
At the beginning of every one of the Malaysia Plans the planners knew very well about the deteriorating position of the Indian working poor, but in every one of these Plans they chose to ignore it, because The Indians were not national priority. The problem has just multiplied as the number of Indian poor households has increased over the last 4 decades. Without appropriate intervention in the form of targeted development effort the vast majority of the Indian workers are doomed to be trapped in this vicious cycle of poverty.
The UMNO policy makers did not care about the accelerating Indian problem because the Indians had no effective political power to change UMNO’s priorities. The party representing the Indians, the MIC depended on UMNO for their representation in Government, they had no independent clout.
MIC’s role to UMNO was to just deliver the Indian votes in the mixed constituencies for UMNO and other partners at the General Elections, for which the leaders were rewarded with one Ministerial position, a couple of Deputy Minister positions and a few other positions in the government at various levels and all the little crumbs that they were thrown, lands, licences, shares preferential loans, permits, and such other handouts.
The MIC was supposed, in theory, to be the organization in Government to take care of Indian interests. Instead the leaders of MIC only took care of their own personal interest in the name of the Indians. This also fit in well with UMNO’s scheme of things. For this purpose further, the MIC leaders used the NLFCS scheme, the NESA scheme, the MIC Unit Trust Scheme, the Koperasi Pekerja Jaya company, the Maju Jaya Cooperative, the MAIKA Scheme, The AIMST and MIED funds etc.
To make matters worse they engaged in hoodwinking the Indians to cover their impotence. They created and presented a picture to the Indians, that the problems faced by the Indians were primarily due to internal factors within the community. They controlled the Indian media companies. Through them and through the mainstream media they have misled and continue to mislead the Indian poor.
What greater treachery can MIC have committed to the Indian community than that. In the name of being leaders, they have sold out the interest of the entire community for petty personal gains.
The True Culprit However Was UMNO And This Is How UMNO Operated.
Here are several specific situations that will clearly illustrate how UMNO pulled wool over the Indians’ eyes even as the situation with the community deteriorated over the last 50 odd years. Much of what I present here is excerpted from the CPPS study titled “Ensuring effective targeting of ethnic minorities: the case of low income Malaysian Indians” released sometime around 2005. This first excerpt however is directly from the Third Malaysia Plan 1976 – 80:
175. Marked shifts in the structure of the estate sector over the last decade arising from the conversion of rubber acreage into oil palm has reduced estate employment. These reductions have affected Indian workers on rubber estates most severely and Chinese workers to a lesser extent. Greater geographic and occupational mobility on their part is needed so as to reduce redundancy of estate labour. To this end, the settlement of redundant estate workers on public land schemes will be implemented. Improvement of educational facilities on estates and greater access to technical and vocational training will receive special attention from the Government as an important means for stimulating future out migration by the younger generation.
176. Together with measures to reduce underemployment in estates, the Government working in conjunction with estate management will endeavor to promote greater home ownership as well as provide basic amenities such as electricity and water supply to improve the quality of life among estate workers.
• Pursuant to this Plan declaration, there was never any settlement program of estate workers on public land scheme, like Felda or Felcra. This is an established fact.
• Educational facilities has only deteriorated over the years including the Third Malaysia Plan years, inspite of what the plan declared. This is a significant bone of contention between the Indians and the UMNO led government till today.
• There was never any increase to vocational or skills training facilities for the Indians in any year during or after the Third Malaysia Plan. This also is a well known fact.
• As for home ownership read this: in the Third MP (1976 -1980),the Government allocated RM10 million in revolving fund to provide low interest loans for plantation workers to buy houses under the scheme.
The Housing and Local Government Ministry, which managed the fund, had stopped disbursing the loans since 1980 but no details were available about the decision. In 1999, the Human Resources Ministry acknowledged that the scheme had failed and only 78 plantations had built and sold 8,171 lowcost houses to its workers. So, even the piddly amount of 10 million was only an illusion. (CPPS Study 2005)
This was obvious from comments by then Human Resources Minister Lim Ah Lek after inspecting the dilapidated wooden houses in St Andrew Estate in Batang Berjuntai in July 1991. He remarked: “The living conditions here are so pathetic that I feel guilty asking the workers to continue staying” (Malay Mail, July 24, 1991). The workers were only advised to move to another plantation, but the law was not enforced. Then Director General of Labour, Tengku Omar Tengku Bot, justified the lack of enforcement of the law in the plantations by pointing out that the department has “to be sensitive to the employer’s feelings and limitations…. We are not dealing with criminals or criminal law… . we are enforcing social law here”(Sunday Star, July 28, 1991).
The Administration worked hand in glove with UMNO the political party to carry out this ongoing deceit.
Inspite of the specific declarations and statements in the Third Malaysia Plan (1976- 1980) nothing ever materialized on any count.
• In the 6th and 7th Malaysia Plan spanning 1991-2000 the plan continued to acknowledge the severity of the problems facing segments of the Indian community.
• In 1991, the National Economic Consultative Council (NECC) expressed that the Indian community had not benefited much under the NEP. The council recommended to the Government that affirmative action policies be initiated for Indians during the National Development Plan period (1991 - 2000).
• Its recommendations included:
1. monthly wages for estate workers
2. opening kindergartens in plantations
3. converting all partially aided Tamil primary schools to fully aided ones
4. providing training programmes for youths and workers in the plantations to improve their earning capacities
5. enabling the Indians to set up a commercial bank, a finance institution and an insurance company
6. setting up a trust fund to provide credit facilities for Indians to invest in the share market
7. creating a special scholarship fund for Indian students to attain tertiary education abroad
8. introducing affirmative action measures similar to those used to assist the bumiputera community.
The NECC report is also particularly important as it was the outcome of protracted negotiations by a large representative group of Malaysians, with Indians in a small minority. The fact that this report by a predominantly non-Indian group of leaders found it necessary to draw special attention to the developmental problems of the Indian poor shows clearly the magnitude of the problem and its significance in the overall context of national development. Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz, Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Dato’ Seri Sharizat Jalil, Dato’ Seri Dr. Jamaluddin Jarjis, Dato’ Seri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Ting. Other members included Tan Sri Dr.Koh Tsu Koon, Dato’ Seri Kerk Choo Ting, Dato’ Chua Jui Meng, Dato’ Ong Tee Keat, Datin Paduka Dr. Tan Yee Kew, Dato’ Fu Ah Kiow were some of the noteable non Indian figures in the NECC.
Now it is 18 years after these recommendations were made – do you see if any one of their recommendations, even one, that has been implemented. What bloody nonsense!
Do I need say more? This is nothing short of a huge deceit of an entire community. This deceit was perpetuated by the UMNO government with the connivance of its racist Government administrative machinery and the bloody mandores in the MIC. Can one be faulted for being angry and disillusioned with them for this scale of deception .
None of the problems which the Indian community faces today is not solvable with appropriate strategies. The problems are all clearly actionable – meaning it did not need to have mushroomed at all if there had been timely and appropriate intervention.
In summary what UMNO did these 52 years was this:
• Come out with grand sounding policies to address the problems of the Indians
o in the five year Malaysia Plans
o before every one of the last 12 General elections and the various by- elections in between
o during the annual MIC General Assemblies.
• Then after that,
o forget what was said or written or committed
o do nothing about it all because UMNO need not account to anybody, for they are the Tuan, the Mandores dare not open their mouths lest they lose their privileges
o do something small for the purpose of showcasing and then make a very big deal about it
o MIC for its part as the “Jaalra” as we say in Tamil, amplifies the crumbs as thought these were major interventions or major efforts.
o Throw a few crumbs at the MIC leaders.
So, there you have it, the story of the deception over the last 52 years.
The second conclusion from all of this, is that the UMNO government knew about the Indian problem but it chose to ignore the problem and in connivance with MIC deceived the Indians with illusions of attention and of things to come.
What do we now have:
1) A serious problem created by the UMNO government on the Indians and
2) Total abdication by UMNO of any responsibility towards resolving the problem they created.
We are not even saying this problem should be solved by UMNO because the Indians are citizens of the country, but because UMNO created this problem in the first place, they should take ownership for solving this problem. The ones who create the problem must take responsibility for finding the solution is a basic norm of our society.
Any and all of what I have written can be challenged. Everything I have quoted has been obtained from the public domain. If you do not agree with my conclusions, it will only be because you do not want to come to the conclusions I have come to because you do not like those conclusions. If you are objective about the situation you will have no difficulty concurring with my conclusions.
UMNO created the Indian problem, UMNO should now take responsibility for solving it or UMNO should be kicked out from the seat of power and the Indian poor in particular and the Indians in general, do have within them the ability to kick UMNO out of its seat of power.
Creating this awareness is one of the necessary steps to achieving this. So please circulate these analyses as widely as possible. There is more positive action that is being planned from us at Hindraf/HRP in the months ahead . Support all of those initiatives and together we will get there. we will get there!