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Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Thursday, 26th February 2009:

The Indian dilemma details required

At first glance Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's announcement to assist the Indian community seems generous. But upon careful scrutiny, his concern blurs into mere rhetoric.

Let's take a look at his list of things to do:

Najib says a RM 50 million allocation was set aside to repair and rebuild dilapidated Tamil schools under the economic stimulus package in November last year. The list of schools which will benefit from this allocation has been finalised and work will begin soon.

The Education Ministry will set-up a small unit to review the process of turning semi-aided Tamil schools into fully-aided ones.

The government has allocated 20 million ringgit to re-train and re-skill Indian youths so that they could be gainfully employed.

Indian students who excel in their studies will be given Public Service Department scholarships and the allocation under the micro credit scheme will be increased.

Lastly Indian participation in the civil service will be increased to 7.1% from 4.1%.

Having listed Najib's aspirations neatly, we see that it reads like the synopsis for a spy thriller novel. This is simply because the Prime Minister in Waiting has failed to give concrete details as to how these projects will be effectively carried out to benefit the minority Indian community.

His promise to seriously look into allegations that the police were targeting Indians also rings false. We are yet to see any action taken against the police officers who were responsible for the physical injuries sustained by A. Kugan Ananthan during detention. He died on January 20th.

I urge Najib to set a clear deadline to carry out these measures. There must be specific targets, the public must be told when these measures will be implemented and there must be periodic accounting which is accessible to the people.

In short we need more details and the whole process has to be transparent and accountable. Or it will not be possible to gain the trust of the Indian community that has been taken for a ride, one too many times.

The lack of detailed information from the government simply mean that these measures were not thought through but hastily announced ahead of the two by elections scheduled for April 7.

The fact that Indian candidates will be contesting the Bukit Selambau seat makes the intention of Najib and Barisan Nasional murkier.

The Indians did send a strongly-worded message to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the ruling coalition government at the last general election. The outcome of the polls was so devastating that it has forced Abdullah to throw in the towel next month due to pressure from his own party.

But Najib is inheriting a government that has been discriminating the Indians. Therefore, Najib and Barisan Nasional has to be clear about one thing - it is no more about the ruling elite working a mojo on the Indian community. They are now demanding real answers and sustainable changes.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang



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