A little too late to praise Indians in Malaysia

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By P Ramasamy

Prime Minister Najib Razak is in India with some MIC “clowns” for bilateral talks with the government of India. In an opinion piece in  an Indian newspaper, he apparently praised the contributions of the Malaysian Indian community for the progress attained by the country so far.

To Najib’s credit not many Umno leaders or prime ministers have praised the Indian community the way Najib has. However I am not sure whether Najib is sincere in praising the contributions of Indians in the country. But one thing is for sure; he is not prepared to face the coming general election without appeasing certain sections of Malaysian society.

While he has given up on the Chinese, he still thinks the Indians can be brought to the fold of the Barisan Nasional (BN). The electoral arithmetic is still fresh in Najib’s mind.

Apart from the state constituency of Buntong in Perak, no other state or parliamentary constituency has an Indian majority. However, more than 60 constituencies both state and parliament, have sizeable Indian voters who can make a difference as to who will win in the coming election.

In other words, Najib is not prepared to write-off the Indian community yet although he is fully aware that MIC is an “albatross around his neck”. He therefore has no choice but to take them along with him in both the literal and metaphorical sense.

This is the reason why Najib is directly appealing to various sub-segments of the Indian community for support. Unlike earlier prime ministers, Najib has increased financial aid to Tamil schools and Indian non-governmental organisations despite criticism that aid is not reaching the target.

Before Najib left for India, there were rumours he may meet Rajnikanth, the Tamil movie superstar. These rumours were denied but in reality the prime minister was able to visit the home of Rajnikanth and even took a selfie with him.

Najib is under the impression that if he visited and took photographs with Rajnikanth, this might go down well with the Indian community in Malaysia. Yes, Rajnikanth might be considered a movie idol for Malaysian Indians, but the fact that he is not Tamil and he has not done anything substantial for the progress of Tamils in Tamil Nadu is something that Tamils in Malaysia are all too aware of. There are rumours that he invested substantially in his home state of Karnataka, not in the state of Tamil Nadu where he had made his fortune.

I seriously doubt that Najib’s visit to Rajnikanth’s house will endear him to the Indian community in Malaysia, the majority of whom are Tamils, descendants from the state of Tamil Nadu.

Najib’s sudden “ethnic” rapprochement is nothing to do with his newfound “love” for Indians, but a deliberate attempt to move away from the major scandals including the 1MDB fiasco.

The general election might be held late this year or early next year, so he is not taking any chances. He is not prepared to leave the garnering of Indian support to the MIC and other Indian-based parties which are weak to say the least. He is directly dealing with Indians or Tamils, whether they are in Malaysia or India.

While Najib sought the support of Rajnikanth in Tamil Nadu, he has failed to acknowledge the suffering of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The Malaysian government refused to recognise the thousands of refugees who came in to the country in the immediate aftermath of the civil war in 2009.

On the contrary, the Malaysian government worked hand in hand with the Sri Lanka government to identify, arrest and deport Tamils “suspected” of having links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

So it is a bit too late for Najib to get the support of Indians in the coming election. The vast majority of Indians have already made up their mind that BN means trouble and misery for them.

They may not be comfortable with some parties in Pakatan Harapan, but they are prepared to throw their lot behind this opposition coalition in the coming general election.

P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and Deputy Secretary-General of the DAP.

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Najib: Without Indians, Malaysia won’t be what it is today