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Structural impediments of Indians in multiracial political parties

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COMMENT BY PROF DR P.RAMASAMY,
FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG

Structural impediments of Indians in multi-racial political parties

The so-called multiracial political parties in the country, principally those in the present government, PKR has the most numbers of non-Malays mainly Indians.

In terms of membership, PKR is the most multiracial in terms in terms of membership.

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After PKR, another party in the present coalition government, the DAP, has second highest composition of the non-Malays, Indians around 20 percent with sprinkling of Malays.

As for these two parties are concerned, being multiracial is simply based on the idea of membership. However, in a more substantive sense, in both the parties but more so in the PKR, Indians and Chinese have insignificant role.

In terms of being elected to the party’s high office, Indians fair poorly. If at all Indians in high party positions, they were nominated but not elected. As such they don’t have much say in the running of the party, PKR, whose president is none other Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

The DAP is dominated by the Chinese. Except for one or two elected positions in the party hierarchy by virtue of their blind loyalty to the party, Indians have no say in the running of the party that subscribes to the Bernstein’s theory of social democracy. A theory that believes in parliamentary democracy as opposed to the Marxist revolutionary version. The party call its as multiracial and multicultural by virtue of membership and through the provision of some elected posts to Indians and Malays.

In fact, Malays in the party without a significant support base in their own Malay community are used as more of a window dressing for political reasons.

The Chinese are a dominant racial group in the DAP and Malays in the PKR. Furthermore, since both the parties are in the government, they are part of the larger political set up that subscribes to the notion of Malay hegemony.

In this respect, both the DAP and PKR might be called multiracial parties, but they are subordinated to the version of Malay hegemony that is being practiced by the government in power.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim might give the impression that he is for all the races in the country, but in actual fact, he is part and parcel of the Malay hegemonic establishment.

The imperative of institutional requirements provides little or no way for political parties such as the DAP or PKR to move beyond the parameters that might be permissible.

Numerically smaller communities such as Indians face double-jeopardy—being the dis-empowered community in the DAP and PKR and at the same time captives of the latter institutional requirement of the Malay hegemony ideology.

So, how can Indians in the PKR and DAP deny the fact that they have not been sidelined.

It is better and more forthright to accept the reality and move beyond rather than reinforce the existing practice of their further subordination in the so-called multiracial political parties.

Those who don’t or refuse to understand the structural impediments of Indians will be condemned by history.