MALAYSIA Indians have voted for multi-racial political parties to represent them in parliament based on GE14 results. This show a major departure from the traditional approach of race based political party representation. In the post GE14 parliament there would be 15 elected Indian members of parliament. This is larger than the 2013 figure of eleven.
Of the 15, only two are from the ethnic based party of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) which is part of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. In this GE14, both the MIC President and the Deputy President failed to secure a seat, as it happened in the 2008 general elections.
The other 13 members of parliament are from two political parties in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition which has now become the new federal government. There are six elected members from the DAP and seven from PKR. What is also significant is, that many of them won with very large majorities. In all the seats where there was a contest between the BN and the PH, with the exception of Cameron Highland , all the PH candidates won.
The new reality is that for the first time since independence, the MIC is with the new opposition in parliament and out of the Federal government. From among the thirteen MPs will be appointed new cabinet members both Ministers and Deputy Ministers. The rest will become backbenchers. This is a very new role and experience for these MPs. They will have to see themselves as being part of the ruling government and will become answerable for the services. The MIC leadership will now have to review their position and see their new role.
Among the PH Indian MPs are many very dynamic politicians with good grassroots experience as well as professional competencies. A number have been MPs since 2008 and in their third term. There is only one lady MP, Ms Kasthuri Patto and the youngest MP is Mr P Prabakaran who contested as an independent candidate and accepted at a PKR choice when the PKR candidate for Batu was disqualified.
This is their opportunity to lead the Malaysian Indian community into the 2020s and beyond, with a message of hope and new ways of community empowerment in addressing social disadvantage position. The future of SEDIC?
The question is what would become of all the special measures that the former PM has initiated such as SEDIC? Would it continue? Would there be changes? The PH Manifesto has a special reference to measures in addressing Indian concerns. It is without doubt that the PH government would build on these. These will be strengthen to ensure the benefits reach the targeted groups.
In the pre GE14 dialogues, Tun Mahathir did participate in a dialogue organised by Hindraf and it could be possible that they and other strategic partners will work together to ensure effective delivery and addressable of major concerns such as citizenship rights, education and skills training including scholarships, economic and micro business loans, urban poverty issues including affordable housing and issues pertaining to death in custody, Police brutality and human rights violations. Some new directions
In this context there might be a possibility to give some focus to three additional concerns and approaches.
The first is, to adopt a rights based approach to development- moving away from charity, welfare approach and hand out towards community empowerment and resilience. This must be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which is most necessary.
Second, there is a need to adopt a non-racial and non-ethnic approach, addressing minority concerns through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The 17 SDGs give a multidimensional approach which also requires inter agency cooperation. This would be a better measure to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’, therefore moving beyond ethnicity, gender, disability and socio-economic including class or caste status.
Third, setting up a dedicated social inclusion unit by addressing social exclusion irrespective of ethnicity with specific targets to reach all disadvantaged communities. This might be the new way forward in this climate of political change. It is important to strengthen public disclosure of the resources and this could be best done through an effective oversight body which is made of a cross section of Malaysians. A consultative process on this to review the past and chart the new course in line with the Vision 2020 agenda is now possible by taking stock on what happened in the past, what are the gaps and what is the way forward.
There is now an opportunity to review the earlier approaches and over the next five years ensure effective monitoring and effective delivery so that no one is left behind and would now have an opportunity to enjoy a better quality of life.
------------------- *Prof Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria is the Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies at UKM. **The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Astro AWANI.