The Tamil Dilemma

 |Oct 31, 2016
 The Tamil Malaysian community.
The Tamil Malaysian community.

If the Tamils of Malaysia seriously wish to improve the condition of their community and enhance the opportunities available to them, they have to engage firstly in a little introspection of themselves and their leaders.

It is not as if the Tamils are altogether deprived any more than say the rural Malays, the Keralites, Punjabis, Marathis or Gujaratis are in a sense.

They too fall outside the catchment area of the windfalls of the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Many amongst the latter groups are also deprived of economic and education opportunities under the NEP.

The Chinese whatever one may think of them or say of them, did not land in Malaysia (or Malaya as it was then) on wings of eagles or gilded horse drawn carriages.

Nothing, no one favoured them in colonial Malaya.

The future looked equally if not more bleak to the Chinese on the departure of the British at independence.

The Tamils had India to run back to if the tide of independence did not favour them.

The Chinese had nowhere to run to.

It was a do or die situation for them.

And they did.

The Chinese without the burden of a caste ridden culture of a homeland to fall back on had little to hold them back.

They soon found their sea legs and turned their forlorn community of labourers, beggars, tradesmen, warlords, unskilled artisans and social misfits into a nation within a nation.

A handful of their leaders who were independently wealthy and economically well off soon engaged the Malay political elite, trading favours behind a wall of silence and secrecy that often goes with such transactions.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first prime minister was their target.

Tunku was soon enamoured by this group he once distrusted and distanced himself from for a number of reasons.

They persisted and gradually built for themselves inextricable and indispensable bonds with the Malays.

By contrast many of the upper caste and in particular Jaffna Tamils who enjoyed privilege and position under the British, reserved any influence and opportunity they enjoyed through their connections to themselves, for their clans and their parochial communities.

A subservient Tamil community was born.

Therein lays the difference between the Chinese and the Indians of Malaysia.

In the current political situation in Malaysia, the Tamils have an unprecedented smorgass board of opportunities staring them in the face to leverage.

The question is will they grab it this time with both hands for the blessing it is or continue to bicker amongst themselves, rely on “leaders” who are nothing more than self-serving political eunuchs: Or will they re-organise themselves as the Chinese and Malays have done and rise to the challenges in the form of opportunities presented to them by the current Barisan government?

  1. Ambiga, like her father before her, has no Tamil credentials to speak of.

She has jettisoned her Tamilness for the pseudo western Bersih types funded and trained on destablising Malaysia.

Her treatment of P. Waytha Moorthy and his Hindraf group when she led the Malaysian Bar speaks volumes of commitment to the Tamils.

She serves communities and masters outside of Malaysia.

Ambiga is riding on the coat tails of a Chinese movement seeking to topple the Malay-majority federal government and usher in a cradle to grave system run by private corporations.

Will the Tamils wait for their leaders to determine their priorities or will the tail wag the dog and force a more consultative approach by their leaders.

Will they continue to ignore the opportunities presented to them by government and heed the calls for cooperation of fall back into the abyss where they continue to languish?

Waytha Moorthy on the other hand turned out to be a flash in the pan.

Lacking leadership qualities he made his mark amongst the Tamils by making a few noises on their behalf with his University of London law degree.

The man from all accounts is not terribly competent as a lawyer.

And neither are those members of his inner circle with or without their LLB’s any different to him.

Waytha Moorthy and Hindraf have squandered all the opportunities placed before them by a sympathetic government.

Waytha and Hindraf (his brother) have not accounted for the hundreds and thousands of ringgits contributed by Hindraf members to the movement since 2007.

Waytha Moorthy is unreliable as he was unpredictable and undependable.

He switches political allegiances more often than most people change their under garments.

But that’s Waytha Moorthy for you.

Playing the role of Gandhi where there is no systemic violence inflicted by government against Tamils is misplaced.

In fact if he has to play the non-violent role, it has to be directed towards his violence prone community of Tamils.

Waytha’s conduct in this regard is pure theatre – Tamil ‘B’ grade movie stuff, emotional and without utility.

His pleadings against the British government were the last straw.

Waytha refused assistance by more competent lawyers offering to re draft his pleadings which were embarrassing, failed to plead the facts properly or properly disclose a cause of action.

The outcomes were disastrous for those who depended on him to deliver.

If Tamil leaders do not deliver long term tangible results in the short term, they must be jettisoned to make place for a younger more dynamic generation of politicians who are more politically savvy, capable and strategic in their thinking than the Waythas of this world.

The trouble with Tamil politics is that there was no succession planning within Tamil political communities.

When in government, Waytha wanted Rome to be built in a day.

It was not going to happen.

It was a tactical blunder on his part to hold a gun to the government’s head demanding cash handouts and ‘projects’ to a rudderless community that had demonstrated no capacity to look after themselves.

He wanted to run before he could walk.

Malaysia’s Tamils have unfortunately had a history of incompetent self-serving leaders from V.T. Sambanthan onwards.

None of them have done much for their community apart from exploiting the Tamils for personal gain and nothing else.

There is little to show in achievement and advancement for the Tamils that occurred during tenure of Sambanthan, Manickavasagam, Murughesu (who was found dead in a Chinese brothel in Chow Kit Road in the 1970’s) or any of their successors in office.

As for the more controversial S. Samy Vellu, there can be no doubt that in spite of the allegations of corruption leveled against him, he has a lot more to show in terms of economic and educational advancement for the Tamil community that occurred during his tenure at the helm of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

Samy Vellu faced unprecedented challenges and resistance from Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, who were both openly hostile to the Tamils when they were in office.

Anwar had a pathological hatred for the Tamils and his many derogatory references to them were legend.

Whilst there now appears to be a Tamil polity that appears to want manna to fall from the  sky to “free them form their despair and suffering”, many resort to violence disappointed with the failure of those unrealistic expectations of quick wealth, prosperity and advancement promised them by their wayward leaders.

In order for Tamils to move forward in a highly competitive Malaysia they only need to look around them and to their own kind, some of whom have found success in the most unusual fields and against seemingly insurmountable odds.

Amongst these are journalists who speak, read and write in perfect Bahasa Melayu.

There are also doctors, manufacturers, grocers, lawyers, accountants, teachers and Tamils in almost every form of human endevour, who have willed themselves to success working themselves to the bone to get there.

Not all of them come from privilege.

There is also a very large body yet of those who with their meagre earnings, drink themselves to death, curse and swear at government, join the Bersih crowds of mainly Chinese with some Indians at the helm ready to devour them for the causes of others and spit them out into the heap at the end of the day as they have all throughout the history of Malaysia.

For evidence of the drunk Tamil one merely has to pay a visit to the bars of the Selangor club for one.

It is’ ‘infested’ with long term habitual drunks most of whom come from the Indian communities.

The tragedy being that many of these are ‘professionals’.

The proverbial “kichy buku’ at the Chinese after hours bars are also home to this class of mainly Tamil Indian.

The choices today for the Tamils are stark.

But they choices nonetheless and they are there.

Leaders are not always born.

Many more are the by-product of failure and adversity.

They have succeeded because they have persisted instead of complaining.

Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in the formative years of an independent Singapore warned the Chinese thus: “If you wish to go forward into the future successfully, you must be prepared to shed some of your cultural baggage”.

Those who heeded his advice (most of them) enjoyed successes in the brave new world.

Those who clung on to a past that would never return languished at the bottom and never prospered.

The Tamils must organise.

They must be prepared to do deals with government and the majority (the Malays) and jettison some of their emotion and cultural baggage at the door when they enter into negotiations.

Most important of all they must engage their leaders regularly and ensure they are being listened to.

Their leaders must be acting in their interests and not in the interests of their leaders own re-election prospects.

If the Tamils do not take responsibility for their own futures no one else will or can.

Let’s hope this Deepavali, the triumph of light over darkness will ensure the light of truth and knowledge would shine amongst the Tamils in places where the light had never been before.

Let’s also hope that this Deepavali would usher in a new dawn for the Tamils of Malaysia and that they would cast off the false promises and slogans of a mainly Chinese Bersih seeking to enslave them as they always have.

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Gopal Raj Kumar is a MO reader and contributor.