By NS Rajendran
Recently, there have been articles with regard to a workshop organised by Indian leaders in the opposition about the Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB). It was heartening to know that many were concerned and dutifully participated to provide their views on the matter.
My only qualm regarding this is that it could have been done earlier, perhaps in 2016 to coincide with the development phase of the MIB. This would have led us to evaluate the input analytically and would have enriched the entire document prior to the launch.
Mind you, we still dutifully carried out our role to provide sufficient avenue for all members of the community to air their grievances and valuable input throughout the two years of the MIB’s development. We had to ensure that the research findings are a true reflection of the ground and based on data.
We have had an extensive engagement, including with community leaders within and outside the government and subject matter experts. It was an effort which cut across political differences and brought many individuals and groups together.
The prove is in the pudding, so we have even listed out the names and organisations which have provided valuable input in developing the MIB in the back pages of the document, which you can download from www.mib.my.
The motivation behind these politically veiled workshops notwithstanding, we could have had a meaningful discussion on community upliftment if only other lawmakers were forthcoming from day one.
We are happy to note that Charles Santiago has finally acknowledged that the document is comprehensive and that now the outcome depends on effective implementation. We have indeed passed our first hurdle of getting the MIB objectives and initiatives accepted by the wider public. We appreciate your concerns and we have hit the ground running since the launch, achieving some major gains just within three months.
We started off with the Mega MyDaftar Campaign to once and for all identify and resolve citizenship and documentation issues faced by some Malaysian Indians. This was carried out in 23 locations nationwide receiving more than 2,500 applications, which are currently being processed by the National Registration Department.
Then, on June 18, 2017, we launched the grant application process, for NGO’s and skills training providers, where RM50 million has been allocated for 2017 towards programmes to assist Malaysian Indians, comprising single mothers, drop-outs, youths-at-risk, unemployed youths and groups with no access to market. For the past two years, we have provided NGO’s and skills training providers around RM160 million, which had benefited nearly 300,000 Indians throughout Malaysia.
Subsequently, on Aug 16, 2017, 400 Indian families from Taman Permata Flats had their long-standing housing issues resolved with the launching of the construction of 400 brand-new single storey terrace houses. It’s called the PPR Ampar Tenang. The prime minister has committed to an allocation of RM60 million for the development of the 400 houses.
Taman Permata residents originate from the Prang Besar, Galloway, Sedgley and Medengley estates. In 1999, they were displaced, along with their families, to make way for the development of Putrajaya after the government under former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad acquired these estates.
We have been carrying out due diligence on past cases of housing issues, mainly displaced estate workers throughout Malaysia. We will intervene and push through all other pending housing issues that need resolution soon.
This thrusts away all uncertainties that rose upon the launch of the MIB. Calling it political rhetoric doesn’t hold water any more. Neither this nor any other attempt at disparagement will weaken our determination to effectively implement all initiatives outlined in the MIB.
Our past experiences dictate to us that the problems faced by the Indian community are multi-faceted. It is to be noted that in many instances, be it education, employment or wealth, the Indians are under-represented and under-performing compared with all other races.
As Charles has pointed out, it is indeed imperative to look into a minimum wage and to reduce dependence on foreign workers. But should the B40 Indians compete for low paying jobs with a foreign worker? We should explore deeper to realise that without the requisite skills and knowledge, where would the B40 be employed?
We are already talking about robots, i.e. artificial intelligence taking over many jobs of the future. MIB is an ambitious plan that looks beyond to uplift the B40 by re-skilling them to take on future jobs rather than seeking to establish skills in the sunset industries.
We hope to continually work hard and achieve incremental gains to fulfil the targets outlined in the MIB. We will carry out our responsibilities with the highest of standards to uplift the future of Malaysian Indians. We are committed to addressing long-standing and intergenerational issues, and in all fairness, SEDIC needs to be given the space and I request the parties concerned not to be judgemental.
NS. Rajendran is the director-general for Socioeconomic Development of Indian Community (SEDIC).
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.