The Human spirit is larger than any of us can imagine. Left to its
own design, in the natural state of human affairs, its evolutionary
trajectory is always towards progress, prosperity and preservation.
Culture is the product of the adventure of the human spirit.
The decimation of some ancient cultures like the Mayas, Aztecs, and
other indigenous cultures in many parts of the world in the past are
the unfortunate outcome of brute adventurism of materialistic and technologically
superior cultures on innocent spiritualistic cultures. Fortunately that
phase of human cultural cannibalism will probably not be seen for a
long time notwithstanding the recent cultural genocides the world witnessed
in recent years in Africa, Europe and even Asia. We are fortunate in
Malaysia. The cultural cross-currents from the five major religious
civilizations have had free interaction. The free flowing cultural crosscurrents,
notwithstanding the NEP and some religious restrictions have benefited
the nation immensely.
What hinders the onward march of a community is its culturally determined
attitudes and socio-economic hurdles. Over a period of time the two
may ostensibly influence each other until the actual cause becomes clouded.
It is however clear that more money without a proper mind set will not
give the individual better times. What will set them on a right course
is a positive culture that imbues self-respect, self-pride, self-esteem
and self-confidence. This can only be done through education, formal
and informal and cultural interaction and cultural engagements.
The spirit of the working class Indian community gets dampened by its
own negative unprogressive culture and not by the exclusivity of external
factors like indifferent Government policies or perceived racial biases.
While a community in the gutters needs external assistance to as a push
or pull factor, I do not believe that Malaysian Indian community at
the present time is in that state.
The community is poorer in attitude and action than in material resources.
The latter can be rectified easily but the former is often high nigh
If we are make progress we have to change our mind sets. We cannot
be playing the old tunes. We have to fabricate bold new innovative programmes
if we are to bridge the socioeconomic gaps. Confrontational politics,
crying foul at everything perceived as racially biased and anti-government
sentiments is not going to take us far.
What has prevented our community to have helped to improve the standard
of Tamil schools and in the process ensure that generations of children
received quality education? That investment in human capital would have
benefited the community and won the respect of the nation? It is our
culture of shameless dependency and lack of self-pride that has cost
us dearly. Are we to believe that there are not enough well to do Indian
individuals, businesses and establishments (temples) that could have
provided the funds to complement and supplement government support in
improving the Tamil school performance? Or should we take the stand
that education being a National issue it is exclusively the governments
responsibility and if the government does not do more we should rather
let the children go down the drain rather than help? As a concerned
community should we not everything possible to complement ongoing Government
efforts and improve the Tamil school performance. But we would rather
lobby for the closure of Tamil schools for whatever reasons. Some of
us are indifferent, some ignorant, some convinced that Tamil schools
should be closed and many others could care a less what happened to
the children in Tamil schools: blaming the parents for their emotional
folly in sending their children to Tamil schools. If we as a community
cannot have consensus on the important issue of Tamil schools, what
great things are we going to achieve deliberating on many other issues?
Where is the Indian middle class? What is its share and its role? Can
it take the stand that because it does not send its children to Tamil
schools it is free of its moral responsibility to help? If the middle
class had played the role of the Good Samaritan by helping to improve
the Tamil schools it would have enhanced its image and that of the community
in the eyes of the nation.
How poor are we that we cannot afford to donate RM 50-100 per month
to a Tamil school development? There must be at least 300 to 400 hundred
thousand Indian households that have a per capita income of 5 -10 thousand
RM/ per month. Even if half of them donate RM 50 per month the Tamil
school fund will receive 12 million per year. That can be used to as
incentives for the teachers to upgrade their teaching skills and offer
additional teaching sessions.
A question we have to ask is what proportion of the Indian students
have the various NGOS helped to improve their lot returned in the spirit
of the Good Samaritan to help the community on their own or through
any of the NGOS. Talking to many of NGOS the number is paltry. Is it
not strange that hardly a few candidates return to help the community
once they have grown wings? Where have failed? Or is yet another one
of the negative manifestations of our unprogressive survivalist Indian
culture? Or have we as agents of change in our earnestness to help forgot
to sow the seed of love thy neighbor as thy self. We must have a new
focus for the millennium. We have to change our mindset.
We have to rekindle the spirit in the community. It is the spirit embodying
our minds that must be changed first if we are to succeed.
TS Elliot defines culture as a way of life (SLIDE 2). It is that unconscious
factor that influences our thoughts, words and deeds determining our
overall behaviour and attitude to life. Culture is a time related phenomenon,
changing to the needs of the individual with time. We cannot stop the
relentless march of culture nor guide in any particular direction.
The three pillars of culture are mother tongue, religion and traditions.
Mother tongue occupies a pivotal role among the three as its nuances
give culture its true flavour.
The captivating beauty of a tree resides in its majestic poise and
sway and the magnificent display of its leaves, flowers and fruits.
Seldom do our minds wonder what guarantees the tree its beauty. We know
for a fact that the tree cannot manifest its external beauty if not
for the strength and vitality of its anchoring roots. The roots being
below the earth's surface they are not visible to our eyes and remain
outside our consciousness. Culture is analogous to the roots, it is
that factor that is outside our consciousness but gives shape, colour
and character to our attitude, appearance and behaviour. (SLIDE 4)
The height and the radius of the flight path of the kite depend on
the resilience of the kite, the strength of the winds, the length of
the string, and the skills of the operator. If the kite represents the
individual, the wind education, the operator parents, the string is
culture. Just as the kite, will not be able to take full advantage of
the strong winds and enjoy the wide open skies without the string, the
individual will not be able to exhibit his talents fully if he is not
anchored to his mother culture. If the string snaps while the kite is
in mid-air the kite will be blown away and snared by the branches of
trees or simply be grounded. Similarly deculturalisation of the individual
can cause considerable harm him.
No one can stop the relentless march of culture in any particular direction.
Its direction is set by the sum total of the attitudes, perception,
religious practices, fears, anxieties, concerns, emotions, expectations
and materialistic needs of the community in the context of its own past
traditions. In a situation where the culture of a migrant community
is constantly changing and interacting with other dominant cultures
in the nation, how should the minority migrant community adjust? Should
the community capitulate as the African Americans did and adopt the
host culture? If that is the scenario what are consequences of deculturalisation?
Would cultural substitution be a better option?
In the process of adaptation there have been some untoward consequences,
some serious enough to impede or obstruct the realisation of the full
potential of the community.
Education should not be the cause of cultural alienation but rather
the basis to understand, appreciate, respect and promote cultural diversity.
Education has succeeded only if the child is proud of his roots, his
mother culture and his identity. A child with good scholastic achievements
but not rooted strongly in his mother culture or an effective substitute
culture may not have the strength of character to withstand the pressures
of life and excel. He will be like a well-equipped ship without an anchor,
drifting in the uncharted waters of the high seas, vulnerable to the
vagaries of the natural elements! The child must know himself, what
he is and who he is. He must have respect for himself, his mother language,
his mother culture, and mother religion if he is to respect these values
in others and live in harmony with them.
Have we, as community lost confidence in our culture that has been
contributing to world civilisation incessantly for more than five millenniums?
As one of the oldest surviving cultures, there is an argument that it
has outlived itself and is outdated. Our loss of confidence (if it is
so) in our culture is tempting us into uncharted waters. We must bear
in mind that deculturalisation and cultural capitulation both come with
heavy prices. We have to tread very carefully and rediscover ourselves.
Fortunately for us the IT revolution seems to vindicate the depth, strength
and resilience of the Indian culture. We have once again underestimated
the resilience of the Indian culture. In this paper I wish to take you
through the following areas first to show and remind the richness, depth
versatility, resilience and most importantly the creativeness of our
In discussing culture in the development of the community there are
several separate but interrelated areas for consideration:
1. The Creativity of the Indian culture
2. The dichotomy and divisiveness of the Indian culture
3. The culture of want and the culture of excesses
4. Deculturisation/ cultural capitulation
5. The three pillars of culture: mother tongue, mother religion and
6. Cultural diversity (identity) and self-respect
7. National integration and cultural identity
8. The culture of self-help
The Creativity of Indian Culture (Slide 4a)
David Frawley, an American archaeologist, in the 1991 edition of his
book, Gods Sages and Kings took the bold contentious stand that India
is the cradle of world civilisation. Ten years down the line his stand
has gained some merit by the accidental but fascinating discoveries
of submerged cities off the coasts of Mahaballipuram and Gujarat, in
2002. Preliminary data suggest that these cities are at least six to
eight thousand years BC making them the oldest organised urban living
in the world.
Einstein, the greatest mind of the century was exuberant in his praise
of Indian contributions to the world in the fields of mathematics and
science. He has credited the Indians for their discovery of the decimal
system of numbers, one to ten. The Indians have the unique distinction
of having contributed continuously in one form or another to world civilisation
for the last five thousand years.
In recent times the world has been taken by surprise by Indian creativity
in computer software technology. Indian engineers have been proclaimed
the hidden geniuses of the tech revolution (SLIDE 4c) Why India? Is
not India best known for its poverty and squalor? Why are Indians on
the forefront in software technology? What is the secret behind the
IT revolution erupting in India that promises India a quantum leap from
an agrarian to an IT service economy?
Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft when asked why Indians are particularly
good at software programming, replied that the Hindu heritage of abstract
thinking gave them the advantage. More recently, Restall addressed the
same issue in the Wall street journal but offered a different reason.
He argues it is cultural, an atmosphere of freedom where individual
achievement is encouraged. (SLIDE 4d)
The Malaysian Indian community is from the same gene pool that gave
the world all the great discoveries. Does it not have the right ingredients
to scale greater heights? But it remains a pale of shadow of its rich
The Malaysian Indian community then and now
The Indian community has undergone considerable changes. Undoubtedly
there is a noticeable upward mobility of the community in absolute terms
in almost all sectors, the general quality of life, educational achievements,
family income, longevity and infant and maternal mortality rates. However,
compared to the other major communities, it is lagging behind in almost
The socio-cultural and economic improvement in some segments of the
community has come with a price. The old problems of the community are
being substituted with new ones. The pitiful state of abject poverty,
under nutrition and alcoholism of the green ghettoes is being replaced
with problems pertaining to rapid rural - urban migration, cultural
dislocation, low educational achievements, and the breakdown in social
values pertaining to the family, the school, temples and other community
based organizations. More importantly, there are warning signals that
the dreaded phenomenon of identity crisis is beginning to rear its ugly
head. The community has to grapple with these socio-cultural issues
and come to terms with them for its immediate vibrancy and long-term
growth and development.
While our rate of material progress may be slower the same cannot be
said of our happiness index. In the Asian pacific region Indians (in
India) have the highest happiness index and Chinese (in China) the lowest,
but the rates of growth (GDP) are the reverse. There appears to be an
inverse relationship between the index of happiness and the rates of
economic growth. Whether it is peculiar to these two countries or a
universal phenomenon is not certain. Is it possible that a high happiness
index is commensurate with satisfaction, resignation or acceptance of
the status quo and is the antithesis of material progress? The difference
between the Hindu and Confucian rates of economic growth has a bearing
on the differences in the cultural attitudes and level of basic education
between the two regions.
The reason I have raised this matter is because it illustrates that
culture and education are the very foundations of our quality of life,
our attitudes to life, our functionality and our performance. The difference
between us, as successful Indian professionals, and the Indian working
class as less successful, is one of culture.
The dichotomy and divisiveness of the Indian culture (SLIDE 5)
Why is the working class Indian community what it is? Why dose it not
tick the way the rest of the nation does? Why has it been left behind
while the rest of the nation has progressed? The reasons are many but
the most telling is the culture of the working class. The culture is
a dependent culture of living for the day. It does not imbue self-pride,
self-respect and self-confidence. It does not encourage expectations.
The middle class culture gives the highest weight age to education but
not the working class culture. The uneducated individual remains a walking
corpse lacking in vision and drive. This is compounded by the lack of
co-operation, cohesion and collaboration between the various sub-groups
within the community. The leadership at all levels has not only been
weak, uninspiring and ineffective without vision or mission, in many
instances it also been preying on it. The result is a powerless and
direction-less community, like a ship drifting in the open sea with
its engine shut and rudders jammed.
By an accident of history the vast majority of Indians who came to
Malaysia were caught in a cultural trap of the green ghettoes. The prolonged
political, social, economic and culture isolation from the mainstream
of national life resulted in the stagnation and regression of their
once rich culture. Over time their culture evolved into a culture distinctive
and divergent from that of the mainstream national culture. The estate
Indian slipped out of the Indian consciousness.
The difference between the successful Indian professionals and the
less successful Indian working class is culture. (SLIDE 6)
The two sub-cultures, the working class and the middle class Indian
cultures are as different, distinctive and divergent as eastern and
western cultures. The attitude, attire, values expectations and lingua
franca of the two groups are distinguishably different. What is worse
is that there is hardly any meaningful interaction between the two sub-cultures.
Any interaction is reduced to one where the middle class assumes a patronizing
or paternalistic attitude. Otherwise it is one of indifference, non-interference,
disgust, denial or shame for the state of affairs of the working class
This dichotomy of cultures within the community is of grave concern.
They are analogous to the parallel lines of the railway track, the two
lying side-by-side ever close to each other along the entire length
station to station, but sworn never to meet.
In all communities, the middle class is the engine of growth for the
community. In the Indian community it is otherwise. The Indian middle
class is divorced from the working class. The middle class engine is
chugging along by itself without caring to pull along the working class
coaches. Unless there is some degree of cultural integration within
the Indian community the stagnation in educational and socio-economic
development of the community is set to continue unshackled for a long
The differences in socio-economic status, caste, religion, educational
levels, occupation and the multitude of sub-ethnic groups add festering
pain to the otherwise colourful diversity and complexity of the Indian
community. The English educated Indians who should be providing the
leadership have compounded the problem by spinning cocoons around themselves
and their sub-culture.
The deep socio-cultural- religious diversity has seen to it that the
community can never come together to take common stands on common issues
affecting it. In the first place, there were probably no common issues
that cut across the sectarian interests of the various sub-groups. There
really never was a common problem where one and all could join forces
and take a common stand. The middle class Indian's preoccupations are
education and job opportunities for his children. Whereas the preoccupation
of the working class Indian is improvement in basic wages, health benefits,
basic housing and some rudiments of education in their mother tongue
for his children.
The problems of the disadvantaged Malaysian Indian community are not
a peculiarity of the Malaysian Indian community per se but a peculiarity
of any minority community subjected to prolonged social injustice, neglect
and indifference to their needs. The problems are similar in other marginalized
groups in many other parts of the world.
To many African Americans their progress has been undermined by the
fact that a third of the African American families live below the poverty
line; 1 in 3 African American males in his 20's is in jail, on probation
or on parole; that a African American middle class consisting of blue
collar workers is shrinking. Almost one in two mothers is single; Children
growing in a single parent culture is almost as common as children growing
in a family culture! The African American feels that he is looked upon
as an inarticulate, stupid, incapable or dangerous but never as creative
innovative or contributive. This analysis was published in the Time
Magazine on October 16th, 1995 and came out of a classroom discussion
with University students.
Should we allow the poverty of cultural crosscurrents within the Indian
community to continue unabated to the detriment of the whole community?
What measures should we take to remedy the situation?
The Culture of Want Vs. the Culture of Excess (SLIDE 8)
If the culture of want haunted the community in the past there are
potentially greater cultural upheavals awaiting to haunt it in the new
millennium. The Hippie-culture of the sixties bears some similarity
to the 'Indian wayward culture' of the nineties. Both have the semblance
of excesses of addiction, unabashed sexual behavior and antiestablishment
sentiments and attitudes.
The Indian community has the unique distinction of being simultaneously
afflicted with the paradox of cultural extremes: the culture of want
and the culture of excesses. On one extreme are the less privileged
who need assistance in almost all his basic needs and on the other is
the over privileged overindulgent or the social delinquent and deculturised
Malaysian Indian youths. They are given in to the excesses of life without
compunction or concern.
Most of us have been focusing only on the culture of want. If we are
not careful and do not take appropriate remedial measures now, the next
generation of Indians may not fare as well as the present generation
because they are spoilt by the culture of excesses. Parents tend to
pay more attention to scholastic and academic achievements of their
children rather than their overall development. Should academic achievements
be at the expense of traditions, values, and culture and character development?
The culture of anti-social activities and gangsterism is the result
of severe want, frustration, lack of opportunities and role models.
The problem cannot be solved by wishful thinking, punitive police action
or banning Tamil movies. These people need help. We have to understand
the root causes and institute preventative measures. The authorities
should engage in rehabilitation and retraining with easy access to small
business licences, vocational training and social skills. The community
itself must show the Hindu Dharma and compassion or the spirit of the
Cultural identity, deculturisation and cultural capitulation (SLIDE
There is a view from some quarters some even from the high echelons
of the government that minority communities should capitulate their
culture and adopt the mainstream culture of the multicultural nation
The African Americans were robbed of their most precious possessions,
language, religion, culture, and even their names and given a 'pseudo
White' identity. Despite this they have been unsuccessful in integrating
completely into the fabric of American society even after more than
400 years of interaction with the American Caucasians. They have been
faring poorly in almost all areas of development. The trade off of their
self-respect and self-worth for material progress did not pay. Instead
they were rewarded with the psychological trauma of loss of their identity.
It may be easier to accept the pangs of discrimination if the individual's
identity is intact than if it is not.
While there have been many African American leaders, it was Malcom
X who struck the right cord with the grassroots when he said that black
is beautiful and that African Americans should accept themselves as
they are and be proud of their heritage. He galvanized them when he
said, "A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses
its own talent, takes pride in its history, expresses its own culture
and affirms its own selfhood, it cannot fulfill itself" The Malaysian
Indian community is in a similar boat. (SLIDE 10)
Only after Malcolm X had taken this stand did the African Americans
begin to move. Until then they were blaming everyone else except themselves.
Today despite many continuing to search for their roots and their identify
within the framework of the American constitution they have a new found
friend in their own inner strength and self-confidence which have come
about only after their self-realization of who they really are.
Identity, self-respect, self esteem and self pride are indispensable
value systems that an individual cannot afford to loose if he is to
find his inner strength and his self-confidence. (SLIDE 11)
Tun Abdul Razak did the right thing when he recommended Bahasa Malaysia
as the medium of instruction in the National education system. It is
the best thing that could have happened to the Malays. It has given
them a sense of identity pride, fulfillment and confidence. The use
of the language in commerce and trade and science and technology will
give yet greater confidence. The measure has allowed Malays all over
the country, be they rich or poor, strong or weak, bright or ordinary,
to be receive a sound education in a language that they are all familiar
with. This would not have been possible with English as the medium of
Instruction, but this was ill-founded. There was unhappiness among the
middle class when English was replaced. The education system will collapse,
many had emphatically said. But the system has flourished and has brought
tremendous benefits, in terms of unity, cohesion, and balanced opportunity
The National system of education in Bahasa Malaysia has been successful
because of the acceptance by the Malays and the government's financial
muscle. Chinese schools have succeeded for the same reasons, namely
acceptance by the Chinese community and unlimited financial support
from the community. But in the case of the Indian community it is a
sad story. As a starter, only half the community supports the Tamil
schools. The notion that the community lacks the financial resources
is not entirely correct. It is more so the lack of conviction, commitment,
and confidence in the Tamil education system. Furthermore the fear of
their children loosing out if they did not adhere to the national system
of education has an overbearing effect on their love for the Tamil language
and culture. The community cannot or would not see the relevance of
cultural identity and its positive impact on the functionality of the
individual and community.
Cultural Diversity (identity) vs. National Integration (SLIDE12)
There can be no creativity if all humans looked alike, had the same
attributes, shared the same language, culture and religion and remained
immortal. Utopia on earth is a contradiction to creativity. Human creativity
can only occur on Nature's theme of unity in diversity (SLIDE 13).
Unthinking and passive as it may appear to be, Nature is man's best
teacher. We can only ignore its lessons at our own peril. The brute
efficiency and excellence that Nature proudly manifests of itself is
due to her uncompromising stance on biological diversity and free competition.
Diversity in her books does not mean discord or disorder. In fact there
is strong underlying unity, order and harmony within Nature's biological
diversity and free competition. She has made this possible by her non-discriminatory
application of her non-discriminatory laws of adaptation.
If Nature's recipe for a healthy earth is biological diversity, God's
recipe for a socially, culturally and spiritually healthy man is linguistic-cultural-religious
diversity. If Nature desires unity and harmony within its biological
diversity, God desires unity and harmony within man's linguistic-cultural-religious
plurality. If God had willed, He could have created a single race sharing
a common religion, language and culture. That He chose not to can only
mean that diversity is the central theme to His creation. Diversity
is by design not by accident! (SLIDE 14)
Our Founding Fathers of this Nation appreciated that national integration
is a political necessity, needing an intellectual effort. They realised
that attachment to one's mother tongue and culture is an emotional necessity.
The former is vital to the political, social and economic well being
of the nation and the latter to the psychological and emotional well
being and functionality of the individual. It was apparent at the time
of independence that one without the other was not possible, nor healthy.
Our past political and community leaders have to be credited for not
allowing the political expediencies of the day to cloud their intellectual
convictions on this matter.
Integration can only occur at the political level. It is against Darwin's
law for complete cultural integration to occur without cultural regression.
The Way Forward (SLIDE 17)
There are many of us who are compelled by circumstances to take a self-centered
view and believe that our responsibility is only to our individual families
and as long as it is doing well we are all right. Unfortunately this
simplistic argument does not hold water. No matter in what position
of life we are in, we have a primary responsibility to our families,
a secondary responsibility to our community, and a tertiary responsibility
to society at large. This is not my concoction but the serious exhortation
of Thiruvalluvar in the Thirukurral.
Christ had said 'love thy neighbour as thy self'; Thiruvalluvar said
that one who has the opportunity to earn must use that opportunity to
earn well; in the next phrase he quickly exhorts that a portion of the
earnings must be distributed to needy relatives and members of society
otherwise that earning carries sin
(SLIDE 18). Confucius emphatically said that the individual can only
be as strong as the community. All these sages were uniform in their
teachings that self-interest must be balanced by common interest. Can
we with true conviction say that they are wrong?
For argument sake let us reject the exhortations of these sages and
look beyond altruism, egalitarianism, Christ's spirit of the Good Samaritan
and the Veda's clear exposition, 'help ever but hurt never'. Is it not
in our own self-interest and that of our families and children to help
the less privileged Indian in our midst? Firstly for our safety and
that our family; secondly, for our spiritual well being and thirdly,
our own self-respect, self-esteem and self-pride. Whoever or whatever
we are, we will be identified as Indians. If we are to be respected
our community must be respected. The community will gain respect only
if it is doing well and seen to be doing well. We therefore have no
choice but to uplift the community.
The Government has its own priorities and it is difficult to see the
Government's total commitment to resolving the socio-economic problems
of the community. That leaves only the community to help itself. Unfortunately
those who need help lack the resources, education, social skills or
training to help themselves; the people who have the resources are convinced
that they must conserve all their savings for their families' needs
as they cannot depend on government for hand outs.
The community has very few choices for its way forward. It has to take
the matters into its own hands. We can appeal to the government for
help. The Government will certainly give its minimum help. We have to
use our ingenuity and find innovative approaches to forge our way forward.
You will agree with me that among all the Indian Diasporas in the world
we in Malaysia are in one of the most advantageous position. The community
has a well structured Tamil primary school system, round the clock,
government funded Tamil radio and Television service, Tamil cinema and
video services, well-patronised Hindu temples all over the country,
a myriad registered Indian NGOS, Chair in Indian studies in the University
of Malaya, and Indian based political parties and Indian political representation
at the federal and state levels. We can use this advantage to improve
ourselves and also to provide leadership to the Indian Diaspora in the
rest of the world. Indeed the Malaysian Indian community is a unique
position for this role.
Conclusion and Suggestions for Solutions
We have to reestablish our respect for our culture and spiritualistic
values. Culture and economy cannot be divorced from each other as the
two are intertwined one influencing the other to the improvement or
detriment of the other.
The Malaysian Indians have been caught in a trap from which they are
finding it difficult to extricate themselves. The dramatic changes in
the economic, social and cultural landscape of Malaysia may seem to
have passed them by. There is a perception that the Indians have been
marginalized and that they have a lesser role to play in the changing
fortunes and direction of the Malaysian economy. Human fortunes are
difficult to predict but certainly they are neither an all or none,
nor a now or never phenomenon. The East Asian miracle should be our
standard bearer and a source of inspiration. (SLIDE 19)The indomitable
manufacturing might of America after the war did not daunt Japan from
trying and succeeding as a manufacturing hub for the world. Similarly
Japan's success and its leadership in manufacturing did not deter Hong
Kong, Taiwan, Korea, ASEAN, and now China from cascading sequentially
into their respective success stories in manufacturing. The success
of the former spurred rather than spurned the latter from trying. The
right mental attitude, self-confidence and hard work are necessary for
one to engage in the true spirit of free competition and succeed.
Contrary to popular perceptions, the Malaysian Indians have not lost
out, because the race is not over! They are awakening to realities of
multiracial Malaysia. The sub-ethnic communities of the Malaysian nation
should not be viewed as participating in a conventional race, a hundred
meter dash or even a marathon race. The race of life has a beginning
but 'no' end. No one knows and no one will ever know where the goal
posts are. It is God's will, for if we know where the goal posts are
there will be insoluble problems between the 'early birds' and the latecomers!
Life is a continuous chain of events, individuals joining uninterrupted
at regular intervals along its non-ending path. Where is the 'early
bird' and late bird in the unending chain of life; are the latter units
less important or more disadvantaged than the former? Is it permissible
under the laws of Nature? Indians must wake up from their sad slumber
and bounce back with confidence to participate and succeed in Malaysia's
continuing economic growth and development to their benefit and that
of the nation. They should not bemoan their past misfortunes. They should
look to the future not with trepidation but with confidence. For this
they must first come to know their inner selves, the richness of their
culture, its resilience and its bottomless depth in creativity. For
creativity is the mother of all progress.
It will be to Malaysia's advantage to re-discover the potential creativity
culture of the Indian community. The community has much more to offer
this country than surmised. America had to overcome its own biases and
prejudices to look beyond the natural barriers to realise the potential
strengths of the Indians. The Indians are playing a significant role
in the growth of the new American economy to the benefit of all sides.
As the Indians are today in the forefront of the new American economy,
the Malaysian Indians, God willing, can also be in the forefront of
the IT revolution in Malaysia. The Tamil schools if primed properly
have the potential to be a hotbed of creative thinking and a breeding
ground for IT wizards. Emotions aside, let us not be hasty and underestimate
the creative potential of the Tamil language and the Hindu heritage
of abstract thinking.
Contrary to popular views the community is not poor economically but
culturally. It needs cultural revival and refurbishment; a cultural
renaissance. The cultural dichotomy between the middle class and the
working class needs to be bridged. The bridges should act as freeways
for cultural interaction.
The divisiveness in the community and unfounded, passions and emotions
in respect of sub-ethnicity, religion and, caste must be dismantled.
The community has to identify common issues or common identifying symbols
for it to rally around and gel. A cultural common center is a very useful
The community's problems in the long term can only be solved through
education. While continuing to increase opportunities for higher education
our immediate focus and emphasis should be directed to the improvement
of educational achievements of the working class children in primary
education and particularly Tamil primary education. There is a need
to focus our efforts on the improvement of Tamil schools. Solving the
Tamil school problems will immediately solve fifty percent of the community's
problems. As at least fifty percent of the other half is middle class
( which can take care of itself) solving the Tamil school problem will
effectively solve at the very least 75% of the community's problems.
There must be a change in the education culture of the community. There
must be pressure from the community as a whole for the head-teachers
and teachers to adjust. Both the parents and teachers must be held accountable
by the community for the performance of children in Tamil schools.
Tamil schools must be viewed as a community asset and never lost. The
question of closure of Tamil schools is irrelevant in the context of
linguistic and cultural diversity and its potential benefits to the
community and the nation. The lobby for closure of Tamil schools must
be pronounced dead and buried. The new mantra should be excellence in
the quality of Tamil education with trilingual proficiency. The Tamil
school should be the soul of the community. The community as whole must
adopt the Tamil schools a community project and contribute actively
to its growth and development.
We cannot become euphoric over the government's offer to improve the
community's economic pie from 1 to 3 percent. We should view with some
concern the sudden emergence of groups showing unexpected interest in
mobilizing the savings of the community for investment in PNB like instruments
on behalf of the community. Although times have changed and the community
has a larger and more talented business management pool than ever before
we must avoid the pitfalls of the past. The establishment of mass based
companies to tap the community's savings and venture into PNB like businesses
is more than likely to meet the same sorry fate as Maika and Sampoorna.
We will have to examine different models.
The community faces an uphill task to find easy solutions to their
problems.. But we have to face up to the challenges if we want to be
seen to have done something for the coming generations. We have to engage
the government of the following points.
The NEP will always influence the way we think and act. The community
cannot find solutions independent of it but has to adjust to it.
The Indian community unlike the Chinese community lacks the resources
to be self-reliant. Its lack of self-respect and self confidence and
its limited resources has made it to depend on the government. However
it is time the community discarded its 'fear of government and dependency
syndrome'. It should shed its conformist role for that of a creative
non-conformist one and be prepared to work outside the government but
in partnership and with the support of the Government. This should be
the community's new strategy.
The government must encourage the growth and development of mother tongues.
Contrary to general belief this move will have a more positive effect
on national integration. The minorities will have greater self-respect
and self-confidence which will remove the feeling of deprivation, engender
appreciation that the minorities are respected and wanted by the political
majority. This will encourage greater respect and tolerance and facilitate
Every mother tongue has its own values, culture and traditions. The
teaching of the language will highlight these values which will play
a positive role in integration at the various levels and engender national
integration in a more conducive environment.
As it is becoming timely for the upgrading of English it is also timely
for re-rating the importance of proficiency in one's mother tongue.
It must be taught as a compulsory examination subject or as a necessary
instrument for entrance to tertiary education as in many other countries.
This move will give the minorities confidence in the government and
allow the dismantling of the vernacular system of education.
In essence the government should aim for nation with trilingual proficiency.
This will remove many of the current social and cultural ills plaguing
the nation in general and the Indian community in particular.
The changes in the social dynamics of Indian families' are beginning
to have telling effects on the cultural, emotional and intellectual
growth of our children. There is an imperceptible but relentlessly change
in the way we are bringing up our children. The physical growth and
academic performance take priority over the child's emotional, intellectual,
ethical and cultural development.
We have to make our children face hardships. Parents should not meet
all their material needs. They have to grow up knowing what they missed.
They will work hard to achieve that. Otherwise wont they become soft?
Wont their competitive spirit and the drive for excellence of their
parents be lost?
Like a kite held by a string, children are kept under surveillance with
the long 'cordless cord' of the hand phone. Parents have to spend time
listening to their children if they are understand their children's
CHILD has initiated the following:
1. Establish a council of Indian NGOS as a platform forum where important
issues of the community will be discussed for a consensus opinion and
a common stand irrespective of the ideologies and programmes of the
2. Establish a Tamil school development fund to improve the performance
of Tamil school children.
3. Through CHILD'S involvement in Tamil schools, we built cultural
bridges between us and the large cross section of the working class
Indians. This has yielded noticeable changes on both sides of the cultural
4. CHILD"S Young professional grooming programme, under which
we now have almost three hundred children, has been yet another opportunity
to build cultural bridges between the middle and working class groups.
They are acting as freeways for cultural interaction between the two
groups. There are forty of them here today walking the cultural bridge
here. You can interact with them.
5. Child is mooting the idea of a cultural center for the Indian community
as a whole.