Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Wednesday, 26th November 2008:

Selangor State Government's aid to Tamil schools is a victory for the people 

I applaud the decision by the Selangor state government, headed by Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, to disburse RM 4 million ringgit in aid of Tamil schools and RM 6 million to Chinese schools. This is a historic decision and in line with the electoral pledge by Pakatan Rakyat to provide financial assistance irrespective of race and religion.

The aid disbursement is the first in the state's history and initiated by the Pakatan Rakyat government in eight months since taking over office. This is a feat which was not done by the previous state government in the last 50 over years.

Today holds another significance as it is the first anniversary of the Hindraf rally, which drew thousands of Indians to the streets to demand for their socio- economic, cultural and political rights.

The street protest took the authorities by surprise as the minority community was largely dismissed as apolitical, fragmented and conveniently alienated from the development of the nation.

The demonstration, organised by Hindraf, highlighted the discrimination faced by the Indians and allowed them the public space to vent their dissatisfaction with the ruling government and its coalition partners.

I consider this initiative by the Pakatan-led state government a victory for Hindraf, the group's leaders, especially those who are imprisoned under the ISA and peoples' power or Makkal Shakti.

The aid is part of the government's communitarian economy project, which aims to translate economic growth into programmes to protect and promote the welfare of the people.

I however strongly denounce the act of the fear mongers who have ill-advised school principals against accepting the funds. The state education department should know better than to issue verbal instructions to principals asking them not to attend the function at the Petaling Jaya Civic Center.

Currently there are only 11 Tamil schools registered with the state government for financial aid, to be used to improve facilities and infrastructure.

I encourage more schools to come forward for the future of the school children.

The government and state education department must not try to force a political issue out of the initiative by the Selangor state government . Instead they could try to genuinely reach out to help the Tamil and Chinese schools which are in dire need of funding.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang