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Life on a razor's edge for poor Indians in Malaysia
By Marty Logan
21/3/2001 12:11 am Wed
[Masalah kaum India sebenarnya disebabkan oleh sikap kerajaan
sendiri. Masalah mereka tidak akan dapat di atasi dengan membedil
kumpulan samseng. Sebaliknya mutu pendidikkan dan taraf hidup mereka
perlu diperbaiki segera. Keadaan hidup yang miskin dan tertekan
didesa menyebabkan mereka berhijrah ke bandar. Tetapi kelulusan
yang lemah menyebabkan mereka mendapat gaji yang tidak memadai
sehingga ramai yang mencebur diri dalam kegiatan haram. Dan Kg
Medan adalah salah satu tempat mereka bersarang.
Tragedi ini adalah lambang kegagalan MIC dan BN memainkan peranan.
Kita tentu belum lupa bagaimana SAmy Vellu bersuka ria dengan majlis
perkahwinan anaknya yang mencecah jutaan belanja. Kali ini dia cuma
mampu menangis sahaja.... tetapi itu tidak akan dapat mengembalikan
apa-apa. Pertubuhan peladang dan NGO sudah lama berdemo dan memperjuangkan
nasib kaum India yang tertindas di ladang tetapi Samy Vellu berdiam sahaja.
Sekarang terimalah akibatnya....
Life on a razor's edge for poor Indians in Malaysia.
KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 (Reuters) - When communal clashes broke out last week in
a tough, crime-ridden neighbourhood outside Kuala Lumpur the violence
highlighted the plight of Malaysia's impoverished ethnic Indian minority.
Four of the six people killed in the nation's worst ethnic violence for more
than 30 years were Indians, a community regarded as the poorest in the nation's
Taman Desaria, where the clashes occurred, is a fringe of villages on the edge
of Petaling Jaya, a satellite town south of Kuala Lumpur. It is divided into
pockets of almost exclusively Indian and Malay communities, along with some
immigrant Indonesian workers.
It is also one of the nation's most violent places. Police say there were 53
murders last year in the area, the highest rate in the country.
Indigenous Malays were settled in Taman Desaria as part of Malaysia's New
Economic Plan, designed to lift the economic and social lot of the majority
The Indians arrived from rubber plantations and erected slums next door, and
with no jobs many turned to crime.
A gang culture flourished and, according to police, violence has been going on
there for the past decade.
Most of the Indians are Tamils. Their forefathers came from southern India
around a century ago to work in the plantations and do the backbreaking work
for their British colonial masters, such as building roads and railways.
While Malaysia has transformed itself into one of Southeast Asia's most
developed nations, its ethnic Indians are still bottom of the heap, holding
less than two percent of the country's wealth.
While Malaysia has transformed itself into one of Southeast Asia's most developed nations, its ethnic Indians are still bottom of the heap, holding less than two percent of the country's wealth.
WHERE TAXIS DON'T GO
While race issues are highly charged, Malaysia's record for keeping the peace
has been fairly good since Malay-Chinese riots in 1969, when around 200 people
were killed after an election.
The last serious conflict was in 1998, when nine people were hurt in
Hindu-Muslim clashes over the relocation of a Hindu shrine in northern Penang
The latest bloody fighting erupted last week after an argument over a broken
windscreen. But days earlier there had been skirmishes when a Hindu funeral
procession crossed the path of a Malay wedding.
Even before these clashes, taxi drivers would seldom venture into Taman
"In this particular area you not only have economic backwardness but a high
level of drug addiction as well," activist Charles Santiago told Reuters.
Indians have been blamed for committing more serious crimes than other ethnic
groups in the country though they make up less than a tenth of the country's
Malaysian police last year said 38 Indian crime gangs with about 1,500 members
were active in peninsular Malaysia.
For many Indian youths on the edge of society, heroes are drawn from the
gangsters in the gory Tamil movies they adore.
The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a partner in Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohamad's coalition, endorses Tamil-language schools, a factor regarded as
hampering the community's ability to integrate.
The Chinese also protect their own language schools, but they are many rungs
higher on Malaysia's social ladder.
Many Indians feel their interests have been neglected, blaming the federal
government's race-based policies, particularly the affirmative action policy to
help Malays move up the socio-economic ladder, for their plight.
"The Indian members of the working class have had difficulty competing for
facilities and resources because the government was so involved in pushing
programmes for Malays," political economist P. Ramasamy said.
"The message of last week's violence seems to be very clear - there are groups
that have been alienated by the racial policies of the government," he said.
AN INDIAN BY ANY OTHER NAME
Indians are the most visible of the urban poor, sweeping the country's streets
and collecting its garbage.
They officially make up about eight percent or two million of Malaysia's 22
million people, while Malays make up 55 percent and Chinese 30 percent.
But the race numbers are blurred. Many northern Indians living in Malaysia tick
the box for "Others" rather than "Indian" when they fill in government forms.
While at least 80 percent of Indians are labourers, they also account for 32
percent of Malaysia's doctors and 25 percent of lawyers, Ramasamy said.
Many have successful careers in business and entertainment as well.
But the majority of southern Indians have struggled to move on. They still
account for 40 percent of workers in Malaysia's plantations, but modern methods
mean fewer are needed and thousands more are expected to flock to the city
The government, on its part, has approved a 20 million ringgit ($5.3 million)
grant to help the impoverished community and plans are being drafted to build
low-cost housing for squatters.
After meeting grief-stricken relatives last week, MIC President Samy Vellu
said: "Everyone is asking me what to do. I can't do anything at the moment
except to cry."