Political Parties Woo Indians Ahead of Malaysia General Elections
Most political parties have promised better access to education and other opportunities for the Indian-origin people ahead of the general elections in Malaysia.
With the general elections in Malaysia only a few months away, political parties in the country are trying to woo the 2 million-strong Indian community with promises of better political representation, healthcare and other facilities.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 92, who is once again in the fray, has repeatedly told the Indian community that their rights will be upheld if he is elected to the position in 2018. The community could influence the general election results, he said. He has earlier been criticized for not upholding the rights of the Indian-origin population during his 22-year-rule.
Mohamad has pledged that Indians will have better access to education if he comes to power. To counter the former PM, current Prime Minister Najib Razak has said that he has done more for the Indian community in his eight years in power than Mohamad ever did.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), an Islamist political party, also met Indian civil society groups in Penang to gain their support. Opposition parties like the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) have, however, maintained that Indians will not support the Islamic Party.
“It is very unlikely Indian voters will be swayed (to support PAS),” MIC president Dr S. Subramaniam said on Feb. 4, according to The Malaysian Insight. “I think Indian civil society groups know what PAS’ stand is and what it wants. I don’t think most of them will support the party and its agenda,” he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in his speech last week at the 128th Thaipusam ceremony in Batu Caves, Selangor, told Indian Malaysians to close old books.
“With the commitment from the current government, I hope that the Indians will close old books. Any disagreement that you have, forget about it. For the next big day, we must support Barisan Nasional under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Razak,” he was quoted as saying by the publication.
In November 2017, the opposition — led by Mohamad — criticized the Razak government for the condition of the “stateless” Indians, estimated to number around 300,000. They were referring to Indians who had been living in Malaysia for decades but haven’t obtained citizenship yet.
A recent survey conducted by the NGO MyDaftar said there are 12,000 stateless Indians, including Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims. The people of Indian origin in Malaysia are mainly Tamil-speaking while a significant number speak Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Punjabi.