FMT LETTER: From Easow Verghese, via e-mail
Anwar Ibrahim’s promise to amend the Pakatan Manifesto to include specific commitments to the Indian community is another knee-jerk reaction. It is another feeble attempt at damage control.
His promise is a carrot that he dangled before Indian voters, hoping they would bite. But it is too little too late.
This was Anwar’s second flip-flop since Pakatan released its election manifesto less than two weeks ago. The first was when he agreed, three days later, to amend the manifesto to accommodate increased oil and gas royalty to Kelantan Malays.
After that the manifesto went back to the drawing board again, this time ostensibly to placate Indians who were miffed that no mention was made of their plight in the manifesto while there were specific references to other races.
Two changes to the manifesto even before the ink is dry? Knowing Pakatan’s pet obsessions, they should perhaps have used indelible ink before they published their manifesto. That would have ensured that an important document as a manifesto cannot be tampered with for political exigencies. What guarantee is there that, after elections, it will not be amended again?
At this rate, it is reasonable to expect the manifesto to undergo more changes when other groups also step up demands to have their pet projects also included in the document. Eventually, the manifesto will become a bulky document. But that won’t please DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng who had expressed his aversion to a ‘thick manifesto’.
But the more important question is this: If Pakatan is unable to produce a solid and comprehensive document at the party level, how can it be trusted to do it at the government level, if it gets its chance to rule?
It is plain for everyone to see that not much serious thought went into the manifesto which was really only a rehash of past promises.
Another weakness of the manifesto was laid bare by a DAP leader and MP Charles Santiago who made a damning admission yesterdaty. A Malaysian Indian, he said that he was not consulted by the framers of the manifesto. Then who was consulted on Indian affairs?
Were any of the other Indian MPs consulted? What about Sivarasa, Kulasegaran, Manickavasagam? Since none of them has owned up todate, is it safe to assume that all the Indian leaders in PKR, including its vice-president N Surendran were kept totally in the dark?
Or they were too afraid to speak up, fearing that if they did their candidacy in the upcoming election would be in question?
And so, they left it all to the PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim. In a swift about-turn, Anwar promised to amend the manifesto to include these promises – to build affordable homes for estate workers, to resolve the issue of stateless Indians, and to provide technical and job opportunities for Indians.
These are, at best, hollow promises. How can Anwar provide affordable homes when he could not even keep his promise to provide alternate housing for the displaced residents of Kampung Buah Pala in Penang despite having promised to do so?
Resolve the issue of stateless Indians? Anwar promised to do this in 100 days. Pakatan had always claimed that there are 300,000 stateless Indians in the country. If Pakatan wants to play the role of honest broker, it will have to clear 3,000 cases every day, or 350 cases every hour.
This means completing the whole process of filling out the forms, verification of data and completing all other formalities before the applications are signed, sealed, stamped and delivered.
Any primary school kid who has studied maths in ether English or Bahasa Malaysia will tell you that this is impossible. The figures simple don’t compute. Pakatan must think Indians are gullible enough to believe in the impossible.
Anwar also makes vague references to funding for Tamil schools and providing vocational training and job opportunities. These promises pale in the light of what the BN Government has been doing these past months and years, and continues to do, for the Indian community.
Pakatan has pledged RM17 million for Tamil schools, but the BN Government has already made grants totalling RM350 million for this purpose from 2009 till 2011. More grants are in the pipeline, increasing the total to RM500 million. And that’s only for the upkeep of schools. There’s more for new schools and for upgrading of facilities. This has never before been done in the history of Malaysia.
As against the pittance promised by Pakatan, let’s see what else the BN government has offered the Indian community. Free education, more matriculation places, more scholarships, RM50 million for training 3,200 school leavers, and RM150 in loans for Indian SMEs.
And then there is TEKUN, TUKAR, SEED, ATOM, 1MISM, DHRRA, KAR1SMA, SARA and USD1. These are all acronyms that stand for the various initiatives that the Najib regime has already rolled out for Malaysian Indians in all sectors, for all age groups, and in rural and urban centres. In short, wherever there is an Indian in need, there is promise of help, usually only a phone call away.
Stateless Indians? Long before Pakatan made a gross miscalculation in the number of stateless Indians, the Federal Government had already introduced MyDaftar programme to resolve this issue swiftly and humanely. Many have been helped. The door has not been closed. The exercise is ongoing.
This episode of the Pakatan manifesto has revealed many weaknesses in the Pakatan fabric. Clearly, within the ranks of Pakatan, the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Rather some underhand handiwork is suspected. For instance:
• Lim Guan Eng was quoted to have said that the manifesto only sets out the common policies of political parties but not the specifics. But now Anwar has contradicted him by including specifics – about the Indian community.
• Anwar Ibrahim had said when the manifesto was first launched, that it transcends racial groups. But now Anwar has contradicted himself.
• Pakatan’s director of strategy, Rafizi Ramli, had said it was not a mistake to not have mentioned Indians in the manifesto. But now Anwar has made him eat his words.
After all the hullabaloo made by segments of the marginalised Indian community who felt they were being again marginalised in the manifesto, Pakatan is trying hard to regain lost ground. But it is too little too late.