Pakatan Government What are you waiting for?

By Naragan N.

74 percent of the Indians (1,295,775 out of a total population of all races of 23,135,685 – year 2000 census) live in the 5 states controlled by the Pakatan Government (AT LEAST TILL Perak fell into a Limbo) and the Federal Territory of KL. Let me suggest a few things that the Pakatan State government should begin doing now so that it will be a win–win situation for the marginalized Indians and the PR governments:

1) Knowing that primary education is Primary, the PR State Governments in all these states should draw up a comprehensive plan to bolster this part of the system. Many of the social ills befalling the Indian community can be traced back to the failure of this Primary education system. This is a priority area.

As a first step, allocate land to all the Primary schools in the state that are not on their own land or are in very confined spaces. This is well within the authority of the Pakatan Governments.

This can prepare the way for a revamp of the Primary School system for the marginalized poor. The state government should get off the mindset that the federal government holds the purse strings in education and therefore they have to wait to get federal government cooperation before they can move on this rather serious issue.

This will all surely take a little time and maybe while this is being done the BN government may not want to be outdone.

2) The Pakatan State governments can begin setting up appropriate Citizens groups (NGOs) to begin understanding the many social issues that invariably exist within marginalized groups to determine what needs to be done and then to draw up plans to address them.

There was a recent report that 100,000 Indian youths are involved in some criminal activity (reported by the erstwhile BN Human Resources Minister). The year 2000 census shows a total of 234,000 male Indian youths in the age group of 15 to 29 years. This means 40% of the Indian male youth are at risk. That is almost one in two.  This is a very serious problem.

Think what happens when they become parents in their turn. Think how this problem will multiply. So, who is going to address this problem if it continues to languish because of the racial mindset in everything?

This is a significant opportunity for Pakatan to live out its Electoral promise of a New Dawn.

3) The State Governments should allocate resources to deal with the Citizenship registration issues of this group of citizens. Resources can be applied by the PR State Governments to locate and to resolve the problems.

The problem with the birth certificates and ICs is a problem of poverty, ignorance, mistaken beliefs, attitudes, practices of customary marriages, out of wedlock births, child runaways, broken homes and such issues that directly are caused by poverty, deprivation and abandonment.

To top it all off, the Government Bureaucracy does not provide one iota of assistance to help these people regain their lost rights. The mindsets at the counters in the various Pendaftaran offices are that the applicants deserve the problem they find themselves in. They should have done it right in the first place, but did not, so whose fault is it. Anyway they are of Indian ethnic origin – pendatang, never mind.

Plus, the procedures for correcting this situation are so complicated, that even the strong among us can be brought to our knees. What of these people.

The PR State Governments should allocate resources to this effort – start a publicity campaign, identify the people with such problems, help them to meet all the documentation requirements and then work through the bureaucracy to finally resolve the issues and get these people what is their right.

4) The State Governments should allocate affordable housing for those in dire need of such housing. The State Government sponsored NGOs can be assigned to identify and work with the respective Administrative units to appropriately allocate low cost housing units to those in true need. There apparently are low cost housing projects with one or two room units available – but few people seem to know about this.

All of this can be readily and easily addressed by the Pakatan Governments.

5) Small business help can be provided to create employment opportunities for the poor and marginalized. These include providing micro credit to purchase the basic tools of some trade, providing some licences, maybe identifying spaces and providing for such other basic needs of people in these situations.

These could include training programs in the conduct of business or training in some skills that can create a viable and sustainable income.  A Government of the people should take all this seriously and start on some program like this.

6) Training programs to develop employable skills can be initiated for the 18 – 25 group as special programs for the groups at risk. Skills that will help them realize their human potential.

There are agencies that can be recruited to advise the Governments on such programs. There is plenty that has already been done for the Bumiputra community in this area; similar efforts need to be instituted for the marginalized Indian poor.

It is time that something comprehensive like all of this is attempted so that the Indian poor and marginalized can see that they are equal citizens of Malaysia, so they can regain their pride and position in our country. Also this will certainly make them feel they were right in supporting the Pakatan Government in these 5 states. The attempts to address the issues must be sincere, not piecemeal  but comprehensive.

The issue is National in character and must not be argued away as a narrow racial issue, as I see being done often whenever this problem is raised. This is what the aggrieved Indians are looking for immediately. All other social and political reforms that are needed only come after.

So, Pakatan Government, what are you waiting for?