Election sloganeering to win Indian votes

Wouldn’t it be plain daydreaming to expect Najib to suddenly transform himself to be the poor man’s champion?

By M Manoharan, FMT

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s privileged background hinders his understanding of the needs of poor and disadvantaged Indians.

Apart from a brief stint at Petronas, Najib has always enjoyed privileged positions as the PM’s eldest son, Menteri Besar, Deputy Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and currently, Prime Minister.

His has been an aristocratic role within an Umno regime whose rule has reduced Indians to an impoverished and marginalised community. Wouldn’t it be plain daydreaming to expect him to suddenly transform himself to be the poor man’s champion?

Najib and other Umno leaders’ speeches are tailor-made according to the audience. Ketuanan Melayu and the Malay chauvinistic agenda is a favourite subject of Najib to Malay audiences. However, when he faces an Indian crowd, he transforms himself into the Messiah for the marginalised Indian.

However, Najib is known for encouraging the proliferation of Indian-based parties. Recently, at a meeting with KIMMA, he said that the appointment of the new Chief Secretary takes care of the welfare of Muslim Indians and that they should not clamour for KIMMA’s membership in BN.

In an indirect manner, he was relaying the message that Muslim Indians who consider themselves Malays cannot afford to be disunited but Indians can.

Short on delivery

Najib is also consistently big on pronouncements but short on delivery. Examples include his announcement of a 1,000 matriculation/ pre-university places for high achieving SPM students, but it required sustained pressure from NGOs, politicians and community leaders before the places were ready and even then doubts persist as to whether the number ever reached the promised 1,000.

Another announcement was the RM180 million fund offered ostensibly solely for Indian SMEs. Again this turned out to be a ruse because it was just a small portion of a pre-existing loans portfolio in the banking network. Moreover, applicants had to meet standard stringent documentation and other criteria.

Similarly, grandiose figures were dished out on the allocation of funds to Tamil schools post-April 2009. Recently, a colossal figure of RM500 million was bandied about but experts agree that the real disbursement is likely to be a tiny fraction of the publicised amount.

‘The Cabinet Committee on Indian Issues’ and the ‘Task Force on Indians in the PM’s Department’ are two very high profile teams to be established under the Najib administration, designed to tackle the broad spectrum of problems affecting the Indians.

Both teams have proven to be a public relations exercise, more than anything else, with hundreds of thousands of ringgit poured into print, radio and television advertisements with otherwise very little to show for it.

Najib comes out tops in sloganeering with terms like ‘Nambikei’ but there were just mere slogans!

There are close to 300 000 ‘stateless’ Indians in the country. ‘Stateless’ because of the absence of birth registration and MyKad documents. Sadly, Najib chooses to trumpet the miniscule 4,000 odd numbers who have gained citizenship recently, many in their advance years, where a Malaysian citizenship arrives too late and is of little use to them. Again, he chooses publicity over actual delivery/achievement.

Mahathir link

Perhaps the biggest indication that a future Najib premiership would see Indians falling further behind is his close ties to former PM Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir’s policies shamelessly neglected and discriminated against the Indian community. For instance, at the start of the Mahathir premiership, about 29% of the civil service consisted of non Malays (Indians are part of this figure) but by the end of his tenure, the number had been whittled down to a measly 8%.

Many retiring senior Indian civil service members were replaced by Malays at the higher echelons. It is sad to note that the majority of the high ranking Indian civil servants are in the obituary columns of the newspapers.