Minimise our differences, not perpetuate them
MAY 21 — When Hindraf first gained national prominence, the movement was greeted with some voices of apprehension from various commentators, activists and politicians.
Not all were reacting out of fear of the movement as a political threat. Even those who were empathetic to Hindraf's cause felt uncomfortable with the racial nature of the movement. The way forward for the Indian community and the nation at large, some felt, was to adopt an inclusive, non-racial approach.
In an ideal world, that would certainly be true. After all, we are all Malaysians, no? Go Bangsa Malaysia!
In the real world, however, much of Malaysian life remains defined by ethnicity and religion. The historical and present experiences of each ethnic group are so unique and disparate that we are often living parallel lives.
It's hard to expect, say, a middle-class Chinese Malaysian to fully grasp what it means to see your temple demolished. Or grow up with a lack of opportunities in an estate. Or face police brutality. It seems only natural that in such a racial society, challenges manifest themselves along similar lines. Likewise, the impetus to change will come from those most directly affected.
Nevertheless, while the reality of Malaysia's past and present dictates communal politics, it is by no means written in our destiny.
Hindraf has admirably given the Indian Malaysian community, particularly the marginalised, a voice. The movement, so violently cracked down upon and demonised by the authorities, has undoubtedly altered the political landscape in Malaysia, bringing Indian Malaysian issues out of MIC and onto the front pages.
Addressing longstanding issues such as education, poverty and crime, however, requires Hindraf to chart a new way forward for both the Indian Malaysian community and the nation. This new way forward has to be one that also rejects the racial divisions we are so accustomed to, which is largely responsible for the state of affairs to begin with.
Very slowly but surely Malaysian politics is in the midst of turning a page on race. How the story progresses is still undetermined, but at a time when non-Muslims are openly supporting PAS, when the DAP no longer spooks all Malays and the multi-racial PKR is the largest opposition party in Parliament, it is regressive to see another ethnic-based party being formed.
The Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party isn't the first new Indian Malaysian party to be formed in recent years. Hindraf leader P. Uthayakumar himself formed Parti Reformasi Insan Malaysia, while Datuk Nallakaruppan put together the Malaysia Indian United Party after his departure from PKR.
Is another Indian Malaysian political party a step forward? The present lines between ethnic groups were drawn in the past, but our future does not have to be a mere continuation of failed ideas and formulas.
The different communities that make up Malaysia have every right to articulate and express their concerns or dissatisfactions. There's nothing racist about that. After all, the fact is our lives, challenges, experiences are very different. The solution, however, is in minimising these differences. Not continuing to perpetuate them.