Malaysia's PM Najib woos Indian vote with Hindraf pact
Updated 19 April 2013, 21:38 AEST
It's not clear how many votes Hindraf would deliver to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, but there're over a million eligible Indian voters.
Under the pact, Mr Najib agreed to Hindraf's demands, including improving the lives of poor and marginalised Indians, such as estate workers.
He also promised to look into Indians without identity cards and job opportunities for the community.
Najib's government had in the past detained Hindraf leaders under the ISA (Internal Security Act).
Former Hindraf coordinator, R. S. Thanenthiran is now president of the Malaysia Makkal Sakti party.. he too supports the pact.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: R.S. Thanenthiran, president of the Malaysia Makkal Sakti party and former coordinator of Indian rights movement, Hindraf
THANENTHIRAN: We support the agreement proposed by Hindraf, because this is what we asked from the government, when we took to the streets in 2007 - that the government must endorse the minority Indians in the country. We've been left out for the past fifty years. When Datuk Seri Najib came to power, became prime minister of Malaysia, he said all people, regardless or race or religion would be uplifted. For the past four years, Najib has done alot especially for the Indian community, through its transformation plan. In Tamil schools, temples, education, he's given placements for the rural poor, especially like matriculation, and loans for higher education, scholarships, single mothers - many, many things - what he's done for the Indian community.
LAM: The ruling Barisan Nasional already has an Indian representative component, the Malaysian Indian Congress, the MIC. MIC has long been accused of doing very little for the wider Indian community - what's to say that the same won't happen again, once Najib and BN get back into office?
THANENTHIRAN: No, we're yet to see it, but what Najib has done for the past four years, is a result - a shown result. Practically, we can see the improvements, the transformation. People in Malaysia, especially the Indian community can see, especially economically, they don't feel the economic pinch that other countries are feeling. What we're telling the people, Barisan Nasional is the party, which can bring up, 'uplift' the Indian community. So, regardless who's the candidate, we have to vote for Barisan Nasional to ensure the victory.
LAM: The Opposition Pakatan Rakyat, some might say is a truly multi-racial coalition given that it's not dominated by any particular race, unlike BN, where UMNO rules supreme, the Malay party. So why not support Pakatan?
THANENTHIRAN: Pakatan! The three parties can't even get together! (They can't get along). Different, different ideologies! DAP has one ideology, PAS, the Islamic party having another ideology, and the Keadilan has another ideology - they can't even get together, only three parties! Whereas Barisan's fourteen components - we are at peace, the country's in harmony!
The DAP, the Chinese-based party - I can say - most of the Indian leaders (in DAP) have been sidelined. Most of the Indians are left out!
LAM: How many votes do you think you might be able to deliver to the BN on the May 5th election?
THANENTHIRAN: On the May 5th election, we can say 70 to 80 percent of Indians (eligible Indian voters) will vote Barisan Nasional.
LAM: So how will this new understanding with BN help them?
THANENTHIRAN: Okay. In the manifesto of Barisan Nasional, they have said they're going to have another special cabinet minister, who's going to take care of the Indian commnity's asp... (aspirations) not only the Indian community but also the minority people. Apart from them, they would overcome the Indian problems, from the estate workers - they'll be given house ownership. Apart from that, Indian settlements will be built in those estates which have been demolished (disused plantations), to accomodate the estate workers. So all this show the marginalised Indians will get back their rights. That is the promise he's giving (Najib).
For my members, sixty-thousand voters who're eligible voters, they're going house to house to campaign, telling the people, "Only Barisan Nasional".
LAM: Do you think it's realistic for Najib and the BN to undo half a century of neglect, to suddenly help the Indian community and indeed, the most marginalised in Malaysia?
THANENTHIRAN: Yes, because (as you see) we had in the last general election (helped) to deliver five states to the Opposition - in Selangor, Penang. But none of these states have helped the Indians. That is proof enough. If we give them further (more states) they would be even worse. Because we've given them the five states, especially Penang and Selangor, the Indians have been left out, and they're not doing anything. Indians have experienced in their own state level. That's why we're confident that only Barisan, they've made a mistake, they've admitted, but Pakatan is not admitting their mistakes! Even before taking over national (government), they were very arrogant! Anwar Ibrahim is just interested in becoming the prime minister, not really to really help the poor!
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