Time to set up a Ministry of Minority Affairs


By Dr. Lim Teck Ghee | 04 January 2013 09:19
CPI

As we begin a new year, a rash of old issues and challenges confront the country. Chief amongst them are racial and religious tensions and a rising sense of marginalization and alienation among our minority communities while at the same time the majority community feels threatened and insecure.

Many of these problems are deeply entrenched. Their effects are no longer confined to a small part of our body politic or emerge as isolated and unconnected events. They have infiltrated into all sectors of society and cast a shadow in the life of every Malaysian – in our everyday thought processes, in our consciousness and in our actions.

The problems that are associated with the ethnic and religious divide between Malays and non-Malays and between Muslims and non-Muslims will not be resolved quickly. There is no magical remedy.

Many of these problems stem from our seriously weakened social cohesion and the growing disunity that our nation has experienced during the past four decades. The intangible but potent glue of harmony, sense of community and commitment to realizing the common good that binds countries and their people together has long broken down in Malaysia.

The start of a new year is a good time to spend pondering on how to recover this spirit of lost social cohesion and to focus on what can be done to rebuild it.

Addressing the plight of small minorities

The sense of alienation and marginalization is most palpable among Indian, Orang Asli and other small minority communities. Although some members of these groups can make their way up the socio-economic ladder with their own resources, nonetheless many of the rest are wallowing in poverty and deprivation. They will require a special helping hand if they are able to ever escape from the straitjacket of impoverishment and stagnation.

As the race-oriented New Economic Policy is jettisoned in place of a new national policy paradigm based on need and not race, how do we ensure that these groups –which have badly lagged behind other communities in every single important indicator of development and wellbeing – do not lose out again in the implementation of the New Economic Model during the next decade?

How do we guarantee that poor and needy members of small minority communities will be scrupulously and fairly targeted for assistance and do not disappear or are lost sight of in our national agenda of development that will be inevitably dominated by the concerns of the dominant Malay, and to some extent, the Chinese community?

To undo the negative impact of decades of government neglect and discrimination against the smaller minority communities as well as to steer a new path for social cohesion and social justice that will embrace all Malaysians, it may be necessary to establish a new Ministry that can mobilize and lead future efforts in the public sector aimed at improving the life prospects of downtrodden minority Malaysians.

Hindraf’s blueprint

Two months ago, to mark the fifth anniversary of the movement’s rally in KLCC on Nov 25, 2007 – the event which precipitated a new dawn of political consciousness in Malaysia – Hindraf unveiled a blueprint proposing solutions to overcome the plight of ethnic Indian community, especially the 800,000 displaced estate workers and 350,000 stateless Indians.

Towards the end of the blueprint document is a proposal to establish a Ministry of Minority Affairs that would plan and execute development efforts to address the educational, housing, resettlement and employment needs of marginalized Indians.

This proposal to set up an entirely new Ministry may seem like an inappropriate one, coming at a time when the efficiency and efficacy of a bloated civil service has come under severe public scrutiny and censure.

However, it is in my view worthy of serious consideration by the Barisan and Pakatan parties, whichever coalition comes to power in the coming elections.

Justification for the new Ministry

The justification for establishing an entirely new Ministry devoted to the smaller minorities is compelling. Numerous studies have established that relations between and within communities suffer when people lack work and endure hardship, debt, low esteem, poor skills and bad living conditions. These basic necessities of life are the foundations of a strong social fabric but are lacking for many in the smaller minority communities.

Also, unlike the Malay and Chinese communities that dominate our public and private sectors, Malaysia’s small minority communities lack the resources and clout to compete for the opportunities ostensibly available to all stakeholders in our economy and society.

Already marginalized, when left to fend for themselves in the future, they are likely to fall further behind as the competition for scarce resources becomes more intense.

How much will it cost?

During the past ten Malaysia Development Plans, a total sum of over one trillion ringgit was spent. Little of this development expenditure was committed towards or trickled down to the smaller minorities (see table).

Development Expenditure for 10 Malaysia Plans
Total: RM1.155 trillion
Ninth Malaysia Plan 2006-10 RM230 billion
Eighth Malaysia Plan 2001-05 RM253 billion
Seventh Malaysia Plan 1996-2000 RM222 billion
Sixth Malaysia Plan 1991-95 RM104 billion
Fifth Malaysia Plan 1986-90 RM62 billion
Fourth Malaysia Plan 1981-85 RM28 billion
Third Malaysia Plan 1976-80 RM18.6 billion
Second Malaysia Plan 1971-75 RM7.25 billion
First Malaysia Plan 1965-70 RM4.5 billion

Hindraf has estimated that a small fraction of this massive expenditure – RM25 billion – provided to the new Ministry will provide the first ditch effort to permanently improve the life of marginalized Indians. The cost for uplifting the conditions and life chances of other minorities will be more modest.

The total bill for improving the life chances of marginalized Indians, Orang Asli and others and restoring dignity and a sense of belonging to the smaller minorities is a price the country can well afford. But is the political will there – in either Barisan or Pakatan parties – to take this small step forward in what could lead to a momentous paradigm shift in our journey towards a fair, just and compassionate society?

A just multi-ethnic society is judged by how fairly it treats its smallest minority communities and provides them with access to opportunities that can improve their material circumstances and future life chances.

In India, the Government recently established a Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2006 as the apex body for the central government’s regulatory and developmental programmes for the minority communities which include Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Zoroastrians identified as minority communities under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. Other countries which have established similar Ministries include Pakistan and Israel.

We should do no less in Malaysia.

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  1. #1 by chengho on Friday, 4 January 2013 - 5:55 pm

    That why you need BN , the party that CARE
    Pakatan only pakat pakat so far , not formally establish , still suspicious of each other agenda

  2. #2 by cintanegara on Friday, 4 January 2013 - 6:08 pm

    In another country..they have a Minister in-charge of Muslim Affairs…Probably DAP want to emulate this approach…so, if PR were to take over the Federal Gov…DAP must be given ONLY this portfolio…Let PAS and PKR get the rests…fair enough?

  3. #3 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Friday, 4 January 2013 - 6:12 pm

    But never fear for we hv Prinsip2 Ekonomi Pokok Rambutan and Keadah2 Kerajaan Poker-style.

  4. #4 by Loh on Friday, 4 January 2013 - 7:37 pm

    Mahathir’s words

    CHANGE

    Jan3rd 2013 Written by chedet

    ///1. In his campaign to become President of the US Barack Obama promised change, “time for change”, he said.
    2. He promised to close down Guantanamo Detention Camp.

    3. He promised to stop trials of detainees by Military Courts.

    4. He promised to pull out from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    5. And many more.

    6. Now four years into his first term he has failed to keep his promises.

    7. Guantanamo is still holding so-called terrorists; still torturing them. No military courts but no trials by civilian courts either.

    8. Instead of pulling out from Iraq and Afghanistan he approved a “surge” in the troops sent to this area. Later he pulled out some troops but American soldiers are still in the two countries.

    9. Making promises during campaigns for elections is easy. Keeping them is a different matter. The best hope is that people’s memory is short. They would normally forget the promises.

    10. Now the opposition in Malaysia have copied Obama and is promising change.///–Mamakthir

    Malaysians want change because they know that only a change of government would be able to make those who plundered this land made to answer for their criminal acts. If the new government is able to make the corrupted politicians return their ill gotten gains, poverty will be a thing of the past.

    ///11. Give them a chance they say. The BN has ruled this country for 55 years. It is time to change. They will change this into a welfare state. Everything will be free. No fees for education. No tolls. Large subsidy for petrol. 20% royalty to oil producing states etc..etc.///–Mamakthir

    Only UMNO practices welfare state for a group of people, right now.

    BN was not that bad until 1981 when Mamakthir legalized institutionalized corruption. UMNO has to go not because it has ruled for 55 years, but because it has been involved in corruption since 1981 but only now do we see sufficient number of voters who are aware of the curse UMNO brings to the country.

    If there is no corruption, or if the money ended up in the hands of Mamakthir’s cronies through institutionalized corruption can be recovered, the government can very well afford to provide free education for its nationals. But only UMNO spreads the ideology that the government has the responsibility to look after the welfare Malays who are members of his party, and whoa re duty bound to vote UMNO to power.

    ///12. The Socialist and Communist have tried this welfare state idea. They failed. Malaysia has no ideology. But the reality is that all Governments need money in order to develop the country and to subsidise living cost for the people. But when Government foregoes taxes, tolls and fees, it will have less money. But it will still have to spend money on running and maintaining utilities, expressways, schools, hospitals, operational and development cost, pension, subsidies, etc.///–Mamakthir

    NEP is a raced-based socialist policy, but it has been made a vehicle to make tycoons from selected cronies of the powers-that-be.

    If the government does not profess the ideology that it will look after the welfare of the selected people in return for their votes, all citizens will know that they have responsibility for their own life. That thought alone would remove racial conflicts in the country when government does not have to play the zero sum game in allotting resources to selected group for their votes. Of course such government cannot make use of race-issue to garner the lion’s share of government resources in the name of helping people of the selected race.

    ///13. So where does the Government get necessary funds.

    14. Borrowing is okay if the money is invested and giving a return to repay the loans. But borrowing money in order to just spend will lead to non-payment of debts.

    15. That’s what happened to Greece. It’s bankrupt now. The whole of Europe cannot put it back together again.///–Mamakthir

    A responsible government which serves the interest of the nation will not face the problems if it stops doing what UMNO government practices to buy votes. A new government will not have to follow UMNO’s example.

    ///16. Admittedly the BN has ruled this country every since independence. But look at the record and compare it with other countries which gained independence at the same time. Compare it even with the developed West. They are in deep financial trouble and try as they might, they have not been able to overcome the crisis.///–Mamakthir

    Why make necessary comparison? Singapore shows that with existing natural resources Malaysia should have been more prosperous that what it is now, if there was no institutionalized corruption put in place by Mamakthir since 1981.

    ///17. Remember 1997- 8 crisis. The then Deputy PM and Minister of Finance tried the IMF solution without the IMF loans. Banks and companies were faced with the threat of bankruptcy from non-performing loans. Imports cost more. Cost of living shot up.///–Mamakthir

    Lest we forget; the threat to Malaysian ringgit started after Mamakthir made wild accusations against currency traders, in Hong Kong. Some wonders whether Mamakthir did any currency trading before he made those accusations; he obviously knew the expected effects of his statements.

    ///18. The track record of the Minister of Finance then was bad although there is a fondness of claiming success brought about by other people as his success. PNB, UIA and Islamic banking were part of the claim.

    19. Now as leader of the Opposition he is claiming to bring about change. What good change did he introduce when he was in the Government. All he was interested in was getting up the leadership ladder of UMNO in order to become Prime Minister. How he achieved his objective does not bear scrutiny.///–Mamakthir

    The position of Prime Minister is to serve the nation. Mamakthir having served 22 years in the position does not seem to get that. He still thinks that the post PM is for him to make personal gains.

    Mamakthir is worried that Anwar might become Prime Minister. Anwar as PM should make Mamakthir and his children answer how much money they have honestly earned that they can keep, out of 44 billion USD said to be accumulated by the family.

    ///20. Five years for the Anwar or Hadi-led opposition to govern is dangerous. Many things can be destroyed in five years. We have some experience of this. Besides the Opposition as Government will ensure there will be no return for the BN. Officer in the Government will be used to “gempar” (threaten) whoever tries to change Government. We know this has happened before.///–Mamakthir

    UMNO had harmed this country for the past 55 years, and with their records, five more years are bad. Mamakthir has just outlined how UMNO has managed to stay on for 55 years. A change in government can only be for the better since with UMNO’s experience in corruption spanning over 55 years Pakatan Rakyat has no chance to get away if they try to go astray.

    ///21. Already we see this person who claims to fight for free speech suing and resorting to the courts to shut the mouths of his critics. Other powers of the Government will be similarly abused. Nepotism and cronyism will be employed as indeed they are in the party he now heads.///–Mamakthir

    The legal system in Malaysia was good until Mamakthir destroyed it in 1988. Now that the system favours the ruling government, Mamakthir is still unhappy that people resort to court decision despite the difficulties face. Does this person believe in rule of law?

    ///22. The record is there. Malaysians must not allow themselves to be hoodwinked as I was hoodwinked by the appearance of religious piety in the past.///–Mamakthir

    How can a person who could be hoodwinked be trusted with the important position as Prime Minister? Unfortunately we had him for 22 years.

    ///23. The BN has listened to the people and has changed many laws and policies. All that the people need to do is to urge the BN to carry out whatever change the people desire. But changing the Government can and will result in this country becoming unstable and unable to grow.///–Mamakthir

    The laws and policies that UMNO introduced in the country were all intended for UMNO to remain in power. UMNO only wants to stay in power and they are making chances now to lure votes. How can a political party whose interest is to stay in power be trusted to govern? If BN had been a good government, it should have refrained from introducing laws that are against the interest of the people. If the laws are in the interest of the people, then there would not be a need to change.

  5. #5 by chengho on Friday, 4 January 2013 - 8:08 pm

    Heard from some birds , some Dapter members will get court injunction to declare CEC election null and void

  6. #6 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Friday, 4 January 2013 - 9:32 pm

    Hey everybody,

    I thought Pak Sako has written a wonderful response to Tun M’s blog article on “Change”.

    http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/what-change-a-reply-to-dr-m-pak-sako/

    Change, we must. Just change UMNO and BN and dump them in the bins of history!

  7. #7 by monsterball on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 12:57 am

    chengho always hears the wrong thing…. at the wrong time ….from the wrong place.

  8. #8 by chengho on Saturday, 5 January 2013 - 4:17 pm

    Recount the ballot papers , or the ballot papers already disappeared eh

  9. #9 by monsterball on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:10 am

    Recount your B…A..L..L…S.
    One may have disappeared.

  10. #10 by chengho on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:16 am

    Heard from some birds , the ballot papers already disappeared if not destroyed eh

  11. #11 by monsterball on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:46 pm

    Great B..A..L..L..S of fire!!
    Birds talking to chengho.

  12. #12 by monsterball on Sunday, 6 January 2013 - 11:52 pm

    What kinds of birds…chicken…roasters…geese?? from ” Chicken Ranch” {American house for pros.}

  13. #13 by assamlaksa on Monday, 7 January 2013 - 4:16 pm

    Chengho, beacuse BN only cares their own pockets that’s why today we need to set up a Ministry of Minority Affairs.

    BTW the PM that was elected during the last GE was Abdullah Badawi, we didn’t choose Najib to be PM. Many BN ministers were also not not elected but gain entrance through back-door, where is democracy?? More like democrazy.

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