Plea for Malaysian Indians
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labour – not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. – Albert Einstein in ‘Why Socialism?’ (1949)
What do I think of Western civilisation? I think it would be a very good idea. – Mohandas K Gandhi
Will Queen Elizabeth II of England pay for the 150-year suffering of Indian Malaysians? How would reparations be addressed in an age in which we are still mystified by newer forms of colonialism – the English Premier League, Malaysian Eton-clones, Oxbridge education, and British rock musicians such as the guitarist-astrophysicist Dr Brian May of the better-than-the-Beatles rock group Queen (and recently appointed chancellor of a Liverpool university)?
Who in British Malaya collaborated with the British East India company in facilitating the globalised system of indentured slavery? Will the current government now pay attention to the 50-year problems of Indian Malaysians?
We need to untangle this ideological mess and listen to the pulse of the nation. We are hyperventilating from the ills of a 50-year indentured self-designed pathological system of discriminatory servitude of the mind and body, fashioned after the style of colonialism.
We need a crash course in the history of reparation, slavery, and the declaration universal human rights. We need to understand the style of British colonialism as it collaborated with the local power elites of any colony it buried its tentacles in and sucked dry the blood, sweat and tears of the natives it dehumanised and sub-humanised.
We need to calculate how much the imperialists and the local chieftains gained from the trafficking of human labour – across time and space and throughout history.
In short, we need to educate ourselves on the anatomy, chemistry, anthropology and post-structurality of old and newer forms of imperialism. British imperialism has successfully structured a profitable system of the servitude of the body, mind and soul and has transferred this ideology onto the natives wishing to be “more British than their brown skins can handle”.
We need to encourage our children to read about the system of indentured slavery – of the kangchuand kangani and how the Malays were also relegated to becoming ‘reluctant’ producers of the colonial economy. The Malays’ reluctance led to the British designation “lazy native”.
We need to also learn from the Orang Asli and the natives of each state and how their philosophy of developmentalism is more advanced that the programmes prescribed under the successive five-year Malaysia Plans. A philosophy of development that respects and is symbiotic with Nature is certainly more appropriate for cultural dignity that the one to which we have been subjected; one that exploits human beings and destroys the environment under the guise of ‘progress’.
Our history lessons mask the larger issue of traditional, modern and corporate control of the means of production of Malaya. We see the issue of race being played up from time immemorial; issue of convenience and necessity to the sustenance of the status quo and the proliferation of modern local oligopoly and plutocracy.
Our history classes have failed our generation that is in need of the bigger picture; ones that will allow us to see what is outside of our caged construction of historicising. Our historians, from the court propagandist Tun Sri Lanang to our modern historians written under the mental surveillance of the ruling parties, have not been true to the demand of the production of knowledge based on social and humanistic dimensions of factualising historical accounts.
We need to study the political-economy of the rubber and canning industry and the relationship between the British and the American empire as industrialisation began to take off.
The Indians in Malaysia have all the right to ask for reparation and even most importantly they have the rights as rightful citizens of Malaysia to demand for equality and equal opportunity as such accorded to the ‘bumiputera’. Every Malaysian must be given such rights.
Failure to do so we will all be guilty of practising neo-colonialism and we will one day be faced with similar issue of reparation; this time marginalised Malaysians against the independent government of Malaysia. How are we going to peacefully correct the imbalances if we do not learn from the history of international slavery, labour migration and human labour trafficking that, in the case of Hindraf, involved millions of Tamils from Tamil Nadu province?
I once wrote a piece calling for all of us to help the least privileged of our fellow Malaysians – the Indians. The piece called for the leaders to stop fighting and to help each other as well.
I wrote a passage on the need to help each other in the spirit of selflessness and collaboration: “It is time for the other races to engage in serious and sincere gotong-royong to help the poorest of the poor among the Indians. It is time that we become possessed with a new spirit of multi-cultural marhaenism. The great Indonesian leader Ahmed Soekarno popularised the concept of marhaenism as an antidote to the ideological battle against materialism, colonialism, dependency and imperialism. The thought that the top 10 percent of the richest Malaysians are earning more than 20 times compared to the 90 percent of the population is terrifying. What has become of this nation that promised a just distribution of wealth at the onset of Independence?”
Not a Hindu problem
Now we have a better scenario – we have the rights group that is beginning to pull together,-close ranks and demand for their basic human rights that have been denied. Not only their rights to be accorded places of worship and economic justice, but also the rights to look at history and ourselves and interrogate what actually happened and who actually was responsible for the misery, desolation and sustained abject poverty to which they have been subjected.
It is not a Hindu problem – it is universal problem that cuts across race and religion. If we believe in what religion has taught us about human dignity and the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity, we will all be speaking in one voice rallying for those who demand for their rights to live with dignity.
In Hindraf, I believe there are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Catholics, atheists, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahais, Jains, etc rallying for the cause. In other words there are human beings speaking up for peace and social justice. It is the right of every Malaysian to lend support to their demands.
We have let the Indians in Malaysia suffer for too long. We ought to have a programme of affirmative action in place. We ought to have a sound programme for alleviation of poverty for the Indians and radically improve their conditions through political action, education and cultural preservation. We ought to extract the enabling aspects of culture though and perhaps reconstruct the our understanding of the relationship between culture and human progress.
But can the current political paradigm engineer a solution to the problems of the Malaysian Indians, as long as politics – after 50 years – is still British colonialist-imperialist-oppressive in nature? We have evolved into a sophisticated politically racist nation, hiding our discriminatory policies with the use of language that rationalises what the British imperialists brutally did in the open.
But our arguments cannot hold water any loner. Things are falling apart – deconstructed. The waves of demands, the frequency of rallies and the excavating of issues drawn from the archaeology of our fossilised arrogant knowledge – all these are symptoms of deconstructionism in our body politics. It is like the violent vomit of a rehabilitating cocaine addict undergoing treatment in a Buddhist monastery somewhere in northern Thailand.
We cannot continue to alienate each other through arguments on a ‘social contract’ that is alien from perhaps what Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote about some 300 years ago – a philosophy that inspired the founding of America, a nation of immigrants constantly struggling (albeit imperfectly) to meet the standards requirements of equality, equity and equal opportunity especially in education.
How do we come together, as Malaysians, as neo-bumiputeras free from false political-economic and ideological dichotomies of Malays versus non-Malays, bumi versus non-bumi and craft a better way of looking at our political, economic, social, cultural, psychological and spiritual destiny – so that we may continue to survive as a species for the next 50 years?
As a privileged Malaysian whose mother tongue is the Malay language and as one designated as a bumiputera, I want to see the false dichotomies destroyed and a new sense of social order emerging, based on a more just form of linguistic play designed as a new Merdeka game plan.
Think Malaysian – we do not have anything to lose except our mental chains. We have a lot to gain in seeing the oppressed be freed from the burden of history; one that is based on the march of materialism. We are essentially social beings, as Einstein would emphasise. Our economic design must address the socialism of existence.
Let us restructure of policies to help the Indian Malaysians – they are our lawful citizens speaking up for their fundamental rights. Let us help restructure the lives of the poor before they restructure the lives of the rich.
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