Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings - Shan Ranjit

On Tamils in Malaysia

8 December 2007

Malaysia has been in the news of recently. The Tamils in Malaysia especially those of Indian origin have begun agitating for their civic rights. I had written an  article - attached below - in the mid nineties during a visit to Malaysia. I was shocked at the way that non Malays - especially  those of Indian and Eelam origin were treated.  And I was  saddened by  the way these Malaysians of Indian and  Eelam origin accepted the open discrimination of their government.  I had the opportunity of meeting very highly educated and wealthy Malaysians of Eelam origin during the visit. When I pointed to them about their  unconditional support for  the racist policies of the  Malaysian government, they laughed at me and told me that it was the Eelam Tamils who were real fools. They pointed out that had the Eelam Tamils followed their policies - accepting political discrimination for economic concessions the Tamils of Eelam would not be in their present sorry state. All of them were unanimous in their opinion that the Malaysian government would never allow another " 69 " ( a major riot which broke out against the Chinese and the Indians)

Malaysian Tamils - a Dormant Volcano?
Written in the mid 1990s

As Muniandy Murugesan - fondly called as Muruks - came out of the imposing building in down town Kuala Lumpur , he was not only frustrated , but also angry. He was just notified that he was not going to be selected for the clerical post that he had applied some time back. His only competitor at the final interview had been a Bhumiputra (son of soil) - a Malaysian Malay.

Muruks was saddened when he saw the Bhumiputra at the interview hall, because he knew that his chances were almost nil. He was more qualified and smarter than the Bhumputra, yet they gave the job to the son of soil. After all, Muruks was a third generation Malaysian, raised in Malaysia and very proud to call himself a Malaysian. He would give up his life for the country that he deeply loved.

He would recall his visit to his grandfather's native village in Tamil Nadu a few years ago. He was horrified to see the living conditions of his cousins and other relatives. They were illiterate, lived in thatched houses, hardly wore any clothes and eat only one meal a day. But here in Malaysia, his parents owned a small house, ate well and had everything that a family would hope to have. Yes, the country had given his family a decent economic living and he was not sure whether it was worth agitating against such injustices .

With the booming Malaysian economy, he was certain that he would find another job. As he walked away, there was a huge bill board on the side of the road, hailing Malaysia citizens for fostering national unity and integration.

To day, Malaysia's total population is about 18 million. Malays make up roughly 48%, Chinese 34%, Indians 9% and indigenous tribes  9%. The Malay people first migrated to the Malaysian peninsula from Sumatra. They were a race that originally evolved from  blending of Mongoloid race from Central Asia with an Island race living between the Indian and the Pacific ocean.

With the arrival of successive waves of Malay immigrants, the earliest settlers- the Orang Asli aboriginal - moved in to the interior. Malays converted to Islam in the early 15th century, the language was written in Sanskrit which evolved into the Arabic looking Jawi.

Most of the Malaysian Chinese came in the early 1800 and began to flood in to Singapore from China's southern province. They left China because of poverty, over population, religious persecution and lure of gold. These Chinese had a penchant for good food, ability to smell profits and make successful businesses together with a general avoidance of politics in favor of money making pursuits.

Indian traders first arrived on the shores of Malay peninsula more than 2,000 years ago in search of Suvarndvipa- the fabled land of gold. There was a well established community of Indian traders in Melaka in the 13th century. But most of the Indians in modern Malaysia are descendants of indentured Tamil laborers shipped to Malaysia from South India in the
19th century. They were nicknamed ` Klings ' - a name which today has a deeply derogatory connotation.

When the British introduced the Federal system in 1948 in Malaysia, the non - Malays could become Malaysian citizens only if they had been a resident in Malaysia for a minimum of 15 out of the previous 25 years. The Chinese and the Indians were not consulted on these Anglo- Malay negotiations and ethnic and religious tensions among the three communities were running high, unleashing the forces of racialism that had been lying dormant for many years.

The Chinese began to identify with the more radical Malaysian Communist party, which opted for an armed rebellion against the British. In the elections in 1955 that preceded Malaysian independence in 1957, the leader of the United Malay National Organization (UMNO) -the only nationalist party with any political credibility- wanted to allow non Malayas to become members of the party. But he was strongly opposed by the other Malay leaders , and ultimately Tunku Abdul Rahaman - described as the father of the nation- took over the party and made an electoral pact with the Chinese and the Indians. The Chinese politicians in Singapore made it very clear that they wanted to be a part of the independent Malaysia, but the Malay leaders were strongly opposed to the merger of Singapore with Malaysia - because that would have resulted in the non Malays being the majority in Malaysia - and  Singapore and Malaysia became separate in 1965.

The Chinese and the Indians were against the enforcement of Malay as the medium of instruction in all schools and
the national language and on the privileged educational and employment opportunities offered to the Malays. The tension finally exploded on the 13th May 1969, in the wake of the general election. In the election, the opposition parties (mainly from the Chinese) deprived the UMNO led alliance of its two third majority that was required to amend the constitution. The opposition party celebrations provoked counter demonstrations from the Malays and in the ensuing mayhem hundreds were killed in Kuala Lumpur.

The Government clamped down emergency and introduced `RUKUNEGARA `, a written national ideology that demanded respect for Islam, and banned all discussions about the special status offered to the Malays.

To day, one only has to go to Malaysia to see and comprehend the economic miracle that has taken place there. In the early seventies, Malaysians living in poverty- described as those earning less than 300 Malaysian Ringets- was around 62%.  Twenty- five years later , this has been brought down to 12%. Malaysia , virtually boasts no unemployment at present. The economy is growing yearly at an astounding rate of 8%. The inflation has been hovering around 3-4 %, one of the lowest in the developing countries. Down town Kuala Lumpur boasts some of the best sky scrappers in the world. It is a common sight in KL to see young Malaysians being chauffeured around in their sleek Mercedes Benzes and BMWs. They even manufacture their own car - Proton.

Kaula Lumpur has its own mono rail system. The Malaysians dress and eat well. Some of the best cuisine, at  affordable prices in the world can be found in KL - a mixture of Chinese, Malay and Indian. They are hoping to achieve " developed nation" status in another twenty years (it's neighbor, Singapore did attain that status some time back). It is indeed a creditable performance for a country, where the majority race is not well known for it's hard work and ingenuity.

The Malaysian Economic miracle may be compared to that of a wild fire. When the wild fire strikes , it does not differentiate between productive and non productive trees. It burns down everything in it's pathway. Like wise, when the economic boom struck the South East region, Malaysia was lucky, because it stood in it's path and caught the fire.

In Malaysia, the minorities have their religious freedom. The country is dotted with many Hindu and Chinese temples. But the religion of the majority -Islam- plays a bigger role in the daily life of Malaysians. Their national color is Green - the color of Islam. Their national flower is the five petal hibiscus - to represent the five ideologies of Islam. Their national flag does not include any symbols representing other minorities. They even have a ministry that helps those people who had converted voluntarily to Islam.

Malaysia imports immigrant workers , mainly from two Muslim countries - Indonesia and Bangladesh. There are about a million immigrant workers presently in Malaysia. Malaysia has been very fortunate in the sense that it has two ethnic minorities that are not  too interested in demanding their political rights.

The Chinese are more interested in securing their hold on business activities. The Malaysians of Indian and Eelam origins are more than happy with what they have. The Indians often quote about the despicable conditions of their brothers and sisters in Tamil Nadu, while the Malaysian Tamils of  Eelam origin lament about the plight of the people in Eelam.

But discrimantion continues. For example, if a Malaysian female of Indian origin marries a boy from Tamil Nadu, her husband cannot migrate to Malaysia. Admissions to Medical schools and universities are based mainly on the race - Malays get almost all the seats to the Medical and engineering schools.

I once had the opportunity of meeting a Malay who had been sent by the Malaysian government on a scholarship to a Malaysian university. I was simply shocked at his standard of education. I was later told that he had been sent on this scholarship to fill the quota for the Malays. This is what drives hundreds of wealthy Malaysians of Indian and Eelam origin to go to India, especially to the prestigious Manipal Medical College and other universities.

The so called Malaysian unity is nothing but a mirage. The Malaysians should ask themselves whether they are sincere when they talk about unity in Malaysia. A real mother would not discriminate between her children. Her love is equally shared among all her children.

The minorities , especially the Malaysian of Indians and Eelam origin,  have been mortgaging their political rights for a few economic goodies thrown at them, a decision that will come to haunt their future generations. Present Malaysia could be compared to that of a dormant volcano.  Right now, every thing looks quiet and calm. But the volcano will erupt when the country goes through a bad economic period or recession.



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