Marking another new year, Malaysian Indians say recognition, corresponding rewards will be good

File photo of Maha Mariamman temple in Sri Muda, Shah Alam. Temples were more crowded this Indian New Year compared with the Covid-19-brought on deserted temples last year.
Exactly a year ago, Weekly Echo spoke to some people from the Malaysian Indian community who marked the first day of the Indian solar calendar year, which usually falls on April 14. It is Chitirai Puthanda in Tamil, Baisakhi in Punjabi. Some sections of the community, like the Malayalees welcome it on April 15 as Vishu. Last year’s question was posed again. What the new year meant and what do the Indians in Malaysia want. Many positive comments came in, but there were also the usual grievances ranging from lack of opportunities to inequality and lack of power in Parliament. One common want expressed was the need for recognition. Recognition of the Indian community’s contribution to the country’s growth and development and more importantly, the corresponding rewards for them in the economic, education and social field.

Reports by Sharman I, Manjin, RK Indumathinii, Eurica Tissa,

KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 – The Indian New Year, which fell on Thursday, April 14, was celebrated in a definitely higher gear this year, where Malaysia is under the transitioning phase to endemicity from the Covid-19 terror the last two years.

Unlike last year’s empty temples, this year, the temples were filled with people, with their masks on for prayers, while some homes were also crowded with joining in for the special thanksgiving prayers.

Those who spoke to Weekly Echo, saw it as a time to strengthen their faith and nurture positivity, while some also saw it as an opportune time to voice out what would make things better for Malaysian Indians and other fellow Malaysians.

For Mani, 55, who joined her relatives in prayers in Sendayan, it was time for gratitude that things were coming back to normal.

Roshini Nair, 19, a culinary student with a private university, said coming together for the New Year prayers once again was a joy. Her hope for the country was a little more opportunities for the younger people to be given the chance to bring changes to the country.

“My friends were from all races during school time. There was no issue being an Indian. We never had any racial issues, although sometimes this is seen in the social media now. Maybe young people can be given more opportunities to bring changes to the country. Where race, religion and other identities would not really matter.”

For Selvam, who commented on the community’s needs said that while Malaysia remains a peaceful country with people going about their daily activities generally undisturbed, there were some underlying “uneasy emotions among some of us about where we stand in the society today.

“The Indian community has been relegated to a “minority” status in the recent years but the word had no regular use in the earlier days of Malaysia’s development where the more common tagline was “multi-racial, multi-religious.

“The Indians had equal, if not more heavy responsibilities while the country was being built on the strength of rubber production among others, and they were also pioneers like the Chinese, in many areas, setting up of various government and private research bodies related to economic, health and other matters. They were not the minorities then. They were the front runners. Where are we today? We have one minister in the Cabinet. Is this sufficient representation?

“How did the colours of Malaysia change over the years? What kind of politics have we been practicing with If we just stick to the Federal Constitution as promised during independence by the British, we can’t go wrong on the equal benefits part.”

For banker Ravi Krishna Iyer, 58, the Indian New Year is a time to let go of all negativity, embrace a fresh future with a positive mindset.

“Tamil New Year plays a religion significance to us compared to the English new year which is celebratory in nature.”

Lawyer Rajani Kumar Naidu meanwhile suggested the establishment of a technology co operative society for Malaysian Indians with government backing.

“This will allow members to invest in technologies and in turn reap the benefits from it. While there are other bodies like the NLFCS (National Land Finance Co-Op Society Limited), which has been doing a lot for the community, and has been successful in investing in traditional markets like plantation, manufacturing etc and helping former estate workers and so on.

“However they are not leveraging on technologies which is a surefire thing moving forward. Hence, this co operative society will solely focus on investing in the technology segment and it’s emerging markets.
Eg robotics, AI, metaverse etc

So, a tech based co-operative will be ideal, as it will solely focus on investing in the technology segment and its emerging markets from robotics, AI, metaverse and serve a wider segment of the community through dividends, loans, shares when they become members. But such a body must have reputable personalities meticulously placed in its formation and management.”

The following are more comments:

Nanda: “Malaysia is a beautiful country. What I’d like to see is fairness and equality for all races. There should be no discrimination in any field, whether at work or school. Singapore has much to teach us, considering how a small country has grown to such great heights.”

Lavanya: “Our education system needs much improvement. Not everyone can afford private or international school fees. Gone are the days when government schools had quality educators. I hope that we have learnt what is lacking especially in this past two years.

Leena: “like to see merit based entry into institutions of higher learning. It would also be nice to see a stop in employment discrimination, rental discrimination…discriminations of any sort should be a thing of the past if we want to move forward.”

Sharmini: “Gone are the days when we had more than 1 voice to represent us in Parliament. We seem to have become rather irrelevant. There was a time when there was almost equal representation or learned ministers in our Parliament. I hope the people who have a say will be the voice to push for reforms.”

Anbalagan: hope that our country will come out strong from the pandemic. 

Banu: Indians in Malaysia would like to see equal access to job opportunities, rewards and assistance. There are many who are still unable to make ends meet or at borderline poverty. The welfare of the Indians needs to be seen to.

Meanwhile, others spoke on a similar tone, including creating more opportunities for career progression in the civil service for Indians, discounts to buy house.

Some also called for a stop to stereotyping Indians as gangsters and drunkards and instead to recognise them for their hard work and intelligence.

Then there were the specific requests for the new year from Krishna: “Increase quota for IPTA intake for Indians, give well deserving Indians students JPA scholarships to further studies in the country or abroad.

“Increase Indians in the civil service including in high ranking positions, and resolve the citizenship issues faced by Indians born in Malaysia.”

For Bavani Iyer, the New Year day was celebrated with gratitude, remembering and praying for others presently in difficult situations.

“On this New Year Day, I can’t help feeling for the people of Sri Lanka who are reeling from a very dark period. I pray for the resilience of the people of Sri Lanka to weather through this. New Year always gives us an opportunity to reflect and review where we are now in all aspects of life. Living mindfully should be the aspiration of each of us . Let’s move away from mediocrity and rise above.”