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Samy Vellu flunked the opportunity to end the marginalization of Malaysian Indians 40 months ago or he would not be like “a rat running across the street with everybody shouting ‘smack it’”

Media Statement         
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Ipoh, Thursday): MIC President and sole Indian Cabinet Minister for more than 28 years, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu announced that the Prime Minister has asked him to monitor all Hindu temples and submit a report on their status periodically.

He said the Prime Minister also wanted the MIC to forward to him and the Cabinet a list of temples that might have to be demolished for various reasons.

In declaring that the MIC “will completely take over” the sensitive issue of Hindu temples, several observations and questions are in order.

Firstly, is this an election gimmick until the next general election expected in March is over – when the various State Governments will again assert their untrammeled power and authority like the arbitrary, high-handed and insensitive demolition of the of the Sri Mariamman Temple at Padang Jawa in Shah Alam a few days before Deepavali?

Secondly, is there a total moratorium and halt on the demolition of Hindu temples, and if so, for what period – is it only until the next general election?

Thirdly, if Samy Vellu is now given additional responsibilities and powers by the Prime Minister on the question of Hindu temples in the country, he must thank Hindraf and he should ask the Prime Minister to release all the five Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act immediately and unconditionally – and they should be charged in court and be given their fundamental right of an open trial to defend themselves to any charges that the Attorney-General wants to prefer against them.

It is moot however that this latest announcement is going to reverse Samy Vellu’s political fortunes, who is akin to the Chinese saying of a “a rat running across the street with everybody shouting ‘smack it’”.

A Malaysiakini correspondent writing about the public booing of Samy Vellu when officiating the Astro’s 'Aattam 100 Vagai' (100 types of dance), an international modern Indian dance competition, at the Penang International Sports Arena (Pisa) on Sunday, entitled his report: “Writing on the wall for MIC supremo”.

Some 40 months ago, I had given Samy Vellu an opportunity to redeem himself, MIC and the Barisan Nasional Government by embarking on the process to check and arrest the long-standing political, economic, educational, social, cultural and religious polarization of the Malaysian Indians in the country.

This was when I suggested to Samy Vellu that he get Cabinet approval for the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on the Marginalisation of the Indian Community, with him as Chairman, to identify the problem areas faced by Malaysian Indians for over two decades which have denied them an equal place under the Malaysian sun, to be followed by a New Deal to restore justice and fair play to the Malaysian Indians.

I even wrote an official letter to Samy Vellu, dated 4th June 2004, which I handed to him personally in Parliament at a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee of Selection.

Samy Vellu expressed great enthusiasm and full support for my proposal at the time and promised to raise it at the Cabinet – but nothing has come out of it. He has not breathed a single word about my letter and proposal in the past 40 months.

I do not know whether he had just thrown my letter into the wastepaper basket when I turned my back, but Samy Vellu had flunked the opportunity to end the marginalization of Malaysian Indians 40 months ago or he would not now be like “a rat running across the street with everybody shouting ‘smack it’”!

This is the letter which I gave Samy Vellu, which I am making public for the first time:

“4th June 2004,
Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu,
MIC President and Works Minister,

YB Datuk Seri,

Select Committee on Marginalisation of Indian Community in Malaysia

We are in the era of a more open, accountable and democratic government with the agreement by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister for the establishment of two Select Committees, one to address the problem of increase in sex crimes through amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code and the other, a Select Committee on National Unity and Integration, with its first agenda a review of the national service training programme.

Even more important and significant is the developing consensus between the government and the opposition on the need for a “First World Parliament” if the Prime Minister’s aspiration that the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise obstructing the nation from becoming a fully developed nation is to give way to a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality”.

Long-overdue parliamentary reform and modernization to effect a more activist and hands-on Parliamentary institution, such as embracing the Select Committee system which has become common-place in First World Parliaments in the Commonwealth, deserve the strong and vocal endorsement from all quarters particularly Cabinet Ministers.

I am seeking YB’s support for the establishment of a third Select Committee, viz. on the marginalization of the Indian community which have not received commensurate benefits from decades of national development – an issue which deserves the concern of all Malaysians, regardless of community and political affiliation.

YB knows better than me about the crisis of Indian marginalization in the national development process, and there is no need for me to enumerate them, although an NGO had recently summarized the long-standing fundamental issues faced by Indian Malaysians, including the following:

• The number of Indian youths dying in police custody has increased;
• The socio-economic inequality between the Indian poor and rich and between other communities has worsened;
• The State has not responded effectively in addressing social ills in the community;
• The State policies towards and financial allocations for Tamil schools remains pitiful;
• The University intake policy has been a source of major distress for the community;
• Low cost housing needs of the Indian poor have not been adequately addressed;
• The negative consequences of the final breakdown of the plantation economy on the Indian rural poor have still not are regulated. Aggressive displacement of the Indian Malaysians is a serious problem.

A Select Committee on the marginalization of the Indian community in the national development process will be the most opportune and appropriate forum for a full ventilation of this national problem to find a formula to break the back of this crisis, with the support of all concerned players rising above party differences and partisan interests.

YB will be the most ideal Chairman for the Select Committee on the Marginalisation of the Indian community in the development process and DAP MPs are prepared to give full support and make the fullest contribution if the Cabinet could agree to its establishment.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

(Lim Kit Siang)
Ketua Pembangkang”

The offer of co-operation 40 months ago by DAP MPs to Samy Vellu, the MIC and the Barisan Nasional government, rising above party differences, to work in unison to end the long-standing marginalization of the Malaysian Indians was spurned and rejected.

What a golden opportunity lost – with Samy Vellu, Malaysian Indians and the nation as a whole all become the losers.

If the long-standing problem of the marginalization of the Malaysian Indians had been highlighted and addressed by a Parliamentary Select Committee 40 months ago, the feeling of neglect, alienation and despair would not have reached the stage where 30,000 Indians from all over the country braved hardships and threats to rally in support of the Hindraf demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 25 in a collective cry of desperation to be heard by the Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional government.

Can Samy Vellu explain why he had spurned my proposal for the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on the Marginalisation of the Indian community in Malaysia 40 months ago?


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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