It’s ironic that MIC leaders are demanding in unison that former PM Mahathir Mohamad explain why he left the Indian community poor during the 22 years that he was in the saddle.
Hindraf Makkal Sakthi begs to differ. It holds that the November 2007 uprising in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, by more than 100,000 people, was a response to the failure of the MIC. It was not just to register displeasure with the Malaysian government and the British colonialists over the plight of the Indians.
Patently, it’s hard to believe that MIC has been about the people, especially the 800,000 displaced estate workers and the 350,000 stateless persons in Peninsular Malaysia.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak himself implied just as much during the MIC assembly on Saturday. He conceded that those born and/or staying in Malaya before 1957 should not be denied citizenship. It was in fact Najib who also openly apologised to the Indian community, on the eve of the 2013 general election, for the wrongs done to them over the years.
The truth is somewhere in between.
Many would recall the bombshell dropped by Mahathir on the eve of the 2008 general election. He said then that “Samy Vellu never opened his mouth during cabinet meetings” to speak for the Indians. The effect, coupled with the presence of Hindraf, was electric. The Malays took their cue from Mahathir. Samy lost his Sungai Siput parliamentary seat on his birthday.
Indeed, Mahathir’s disclosure underlines Hindraf’s position that MIC was never about the people, especially the displaced estate workers and stateless people. The NGO has charged that MIC was just about working with Umno to deliver Indian votes to Barisan Nasional (BN). In return, a handful of MIC leaders were rewarded handsomely, but at the expense of the people they claim to represent.
To be fair to Mahathir, he was probably never racist. Those close to him included many non-Malay tycoons. The list is well known and includes several Indians, including MIC leaders.
Mahathir recognised that the little Napoleons in the civil service could be a stumbling block. In one of his first actions, he released RM100 million from the Prime Minister’s Department for renovations to numerous Tamil schools. They had virtually degenerated into cowsheds. If Mahathir was a racist, he would not have done that, and on his own accord.
Party leaders should explain why MIC was strongest during Mahathir’s 22 years in power. It could not be because it looked after the displaced estate workers and stateless people. If that was so, Hindraf would not have erupted on the national scene in 2007 like a hydra.
The main reason for MIC’s strength was due to party leaders being elected, at Mahathir’s behest.
However, after Hindraf erupted on the scene, Malays in general refused to vote for MIC leaders. They blamed MIC for the emergence of Hindraf. It was poetic justice that 85 per cent of Indian votes counted in 2008 were against BN. It was only because of the BN-Hindraf Memorandum of Understanding that 45 per cent of Indian votes counted in 2013 returned to the BN.