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Malaysia Gets 16 Indian-Origin Members of Parliament

Mahathir Mohamad takes over as Malaysia's Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur on May 10.

The Malaysian Parliament has 16 elected members of Indian origin, following the 14th general election held this month, Free Malaysia Today reported. The number of Indian-origin MPs in the country in 2013 was 11.

Malaysian Indians are now opting for multi-racial parties to represent them, as opposed to the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), the publication quoted Prof. Denison Jayasooria as saying. While only two of the Indian-origin members are from the ethnic-based MIC, the other 14 MPs belong to two political parties that make up the Pakatan Harapan coalition. Jayasooria, a principal research fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies at National University of Malaysia, further said that the trend is a major departure from the traditional approach of race-based political party representation.

While the MIC is part of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, which is the new federal government, comprises the Democratic Action Party and People’s Justice Party. These two parties have seven Indian MPs each. MIC president Subramaniam Sathasivam and deputy president Devamany  S. Krishnasamy did not win this year — an echo of what happened in the 2008 general election.

“What is also significant is that many of them won with very large majorities,” Jayasooria further said. “In all the seats where there was a contest between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan, with the exception of Cameron Highlands, all the Pakatan Harapan candidates won. The new reality is that for the first time since independence, MIC is with the new opposition in Parliament and out of the federal government.”

Noting that many of the Indian MPs from Pakatan Harapan are dynamic politicians with good grassroots experience as well as professional competency, he added: “This is their opportunity to lead the Malaysian Indian community into the 2020s and beyond, with a message of hope and new ways of community empowerment in addressing social disadvantage positions.”

Jayasooria also said that the Pakatan Harapan manifesto had special reference to address the concerns of the Indian community. “It is without a doubt that the Pakatan Harapan government will build on these. These will be strengthened to ensure the benefits reach the targeted groups,” he was quoted as saying.

“In the dialogues before the 14th general election, Tun Mahathir did participate in a dialogue organized by Hindraf, and it could be possible that they and other strategic partners will work together to ensure effective delivery on major concerns such as citizenship rights, education and skills training, including scholarships, economic and micro business loans, urban poverty issues including affordable housing, and issues pertaining to death in custody, police brutality and human rights violations,” Jayasooria said.

Mahathir Mohamad, the 92-year-old leader of the Pakatan Harapan and now the Prime Minister of Malaysia, also has Indian roots. Last month, Mohamad faced criticism for referring to the Malaysian-Indian community as “keling,” and issued an apology later over the same. “I would like to apologize to the Indian community because I used the derogatory term. I never meant to insult anyone but when I was a boy, we used that word but it is now considered derogatory. I apologize if I have caused any problems to them,” he said then.