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Malaysia offers sops to placate ethnic Indians

November 03, 2008 13:11 IST

The Malaysian government has said that the plight of the minority ethnic Indians in the country was being seriously looked into by a special cabinet committee to ensure that the community had participation in the national economy and equity.

The Indian community's plight was being seriously looked into by a committee chaired by me, Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who won the presidency of the ruling UMNO party unopposed, said.

Tamil schools will be nationalised

"Tamil schools, for instance, will be progressively nationalised so that they get better facilities and aid. Micro-credit facilities will be extended to small-scale businesses," he said.

Ethnic Indian, mostly Hindu Tamils, form eight percent of Malaysia's population of 27 million and have been in this southeast Asian country for several generations now. Their ancestors came as indentured labourers brought in by the British to build railways and help out at rubber plantations.

Technical training will be enhanced

Najib, who got 164 nominations to become president of the United Malay National Organisation - the main party in the coalition Barisan Nasional party, said the technical training for Indian youths will be enhanced as they transform themselves from the estate environment to skilled professional workers.

Several hundred ethnic Indians still work at palm oil estates and have a poor standard of living in this multi-ethnic country where Muslim Malays are in majority with 60 per cent population while ethnic Chinese comprise 25 per cent.

The deputy premier, whose name came up for presidency of the UMNO party after premier Abdullah Badawi announced his decision to step down in March next year, said Barisan Nasional party had always "looked into the legitimate needs and grievances of each community, although some of it may be unique to a particular group."

The Barisan Nasional comprises the UMNO, the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).

Najib, who was attending 'Malaysia Deepavali Open House 2008' at Kuala lumpur's little India area called Brickfields yesterday, said MIC chief Samy Vellu had asked him to refer to Indians cutting hair as hairstylists and not barbers and Indian cooks as Chefs.

Hope for Indians born in Malaysia

He said the government would soon look into the plight of 30,000 Indians born in the country who did not have the Malaysian identity card MyKad or birth certificates.

"We want to ensure a future for all Malaysians and stakeholders, irrespective of race, so that they can live harmoniously.

"We have to appreciate the values, practices and trust among the various communities. If, for the Indians we have the bharatanatyam, the Malays have the zapin and the Chinese the fan dance, which are enjoyed by all."

In Malaysian politics, usually the president of the UMNO also becomes the prime minister.

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