Deputy Rural and Regional Development Minister Zainal Abidin Osman told the Dewan Rakyat that the household income for Indians in 2004 was RM3,456, while it was RM2,711 for the 'Malays' and RM4,437 for the Chinese.
The spotlight fell on the Indian community following a mass rally on Nov 25 organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), which saw some 30,000 people taking to the streets amid allegations of marginalisation and ill treatment.
So are the Indians better off as claimed by Zainal Abidin?
"This is not true," stressed Santiago when met yesterday. "He must have acquired his facts from the Ninth Malaysian Plan (9MP) but I can tell you that Zainal's method of approaching the issue was incorrect."
Research showed that Zainal did acquire his facts from the 9MP in which the income per capita indicator had shown that the Indian household income was higher than the bumiputera.
However, Santiago noted that the key word here is the term 'bumiputera'.
He said the bumiputera category included non-Malay bumiputeras like the natives in Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli.
This "weighted down the per capita income of the well-off Malay bumiputeras," he added.
"Their (non-Malay bumiputera) income is one of the lowest in the country and of course if you categorise them as a single bumiputera ethnic group, the income index for the well-off Malay bumiputera will be lower than the Indians because the non-Malay bumiputera population is considerably high," he explained.
The 9MP's Employment by Occupation and Ethnic Group chart from 2000 to 2005 also showed that the Indians were economically the worst of the three major races in this country.
In 2005, for the low-wage labour sectors like plant, machine operators and assemblers, Indians constitute the highest number at 20.8 %, compared to bumiputeras (15.5 %) and Chinese (11.1 %).
Indians also dominate the lowest-paid non-production employment sector such as janitors and cleaners, with16.3 % compared to bumiputeras (9.9 %) and Chinese (8 %). [See chart below]
Another startling fact was that under the 9MP, a total of RM64 million had supposedly been allocated for 525 Tamil schools but only a total of RM2 million was given, which means that each school will only get a total of RM24,780 for a five-year period.
There are 148 Tamil schools which are fully aided while the remaining 396 are partially aided despite a Social Science Foundation's study showing that Tamil primary schools performed much better than national schools.
Apart from the schools issue, about 70,000 Indians born in this country do not have identity cards or birth certificates. Set-up task force
Although Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi promised to elevate the status of Indians under the 9MP saying that they will be given a compulsory three percent equity ownership by 2010, Santiago fails to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"No concrete mechanism to introduce this law was mentioned in the 9MP," he said.
"The 9MP has 599 pages but there is no mention about how the Indians are to enjoy the benefit of the compelling of businesses to give a three percent equity to them," he added.
If the government is serious in tackling Indian woes, Santiago said emphasis must be placed on education.
"Most of the Indians out there are unskilled and they cannot cope with a world that is ever demanding for more skilled workers.
"If education for the Indians remains as it is, how will they survive? This is the kind of situation that forces them to resort to crime," he added.
He suggested that the government set up a task force to be chaired by the prime minister himself to focus on measures to help tackle the 'Indian problem'.
"It must be Abdullah himself. No one else can solve this but the head of the policy makers," he added.
Umno's young turks are just as chauvinisticP Dev Anand Pillai | Dec 6, 07 4:32pm
It has been more than a week since the mass Indian Malaysian rally in the streets of Kuala Lumpur. As the dust settles, some begin to ponder how far we have come after all these years of being together. Has religious chauvinism become the clarion call of Umno’s younger leaders?
The population would have expected that they do better than their forefathers by crossing frontiers, going where none of their kin would have treaded into for the fear of losing support. They should have better understood their Chinese and Indian neighbours and their way of life. Instead, they chose to pit one religious belief against the other and see which has the state's endorsement.
The constant and blatant demolition of Hindu temples was the beginning of an opposition towards what one would see as religious chauvinism. Temples are the only place for Indian Malaysians to propagate the Hindu faith. Practices, rituals and devotion to the deities which form the path to the almighty is something they cannot do without.
If a temple is demolished after another, no right-minded community will be able to keep quiet and accept their fate. The very core was ignited and they all came in droves, answering the call to stand up and ask the government to stop the nonsense and bullying. The government is a government for all Malaysians. Indian Malaysians, the most ardent Barisan Nasional supporters, came to the streets and rallied because the government was not listening.
All state governments and local councils should designate a plot of land to Indians for their places of worship. The government should be serious enough to implement this instead of just paying plain lip service to the Indians that the Umno-led Barisan government cares for their welfare. It is no use for the government to help ethnic Indians through the MIC.
The government should do it without the involvement of political parties. The main reason for MIC’s failure in helping the Indians quest for their rights to religious freedom and worship is due to its leaders inability to voice the growing dissent within the Indian community. One thing leads to another and hence the mass rally.
The mainstream media does not help. From the first page to the last, it is nothing but government propaganda. Many are now beginning to realise how much we can save by not subscribing to the mainstream media. If the Umno-led government is a responsible government, it would have stopped its MPs and chief ministers from supporting the demolition of Hindu temples and shrines without proper discourse with the locals.
Having already been marginalised in rapid developments that seem to be centered towards the needs of one race, the Indian masses will naturally answer the call to rally from any group who says that they should question the government and seek answers for the blatant demolitions.
The government seems to be allowing religious fanaticism and chauvinism amongst the Malays to fester. In turn, it becomes political when leaders begin to question the norms of other minority communities. If the government makes a point to gazette Hindu and Buddhist temples in all villages, towns and cities in the country, allocate land for it and allow an elected committee to run the places of worship, things will be more orderly for everyone to accept.
If questions regarding the crucifix still adorning former missionary schools are still asked, then we have failed in race relations and unity. One would expect the younger generation of Umno leaders to better understand the Chinese and Indian Malaysians and see how we can live in harmony. But sadly, many young Umno leaders seem very chauvinistic in their thinking.
The government has to be fair and straight with the Indian Malaysians. If it does not want us in this country anymore, it should be plainly said. Give us a plan as to what and how the government wants us to live in the years to come. Until then, with open favouritism and discrimination that has become part and parcel of Malaysian life, the question of equality will always arise.