Malaysia: India’s only failed Diaspora - III
by Sandhya Jain on 09 Jan 2011 23 Comments
The Indian community in Malaysia has the highest suicide rates in the country, as compared to other ethnic groups. It is 600% higher than the Malay Muslim community, and is certainly attributable to the fact that the burden of life is heaviest on Indians owing to their pathetic socio-economic status. Low incomes, lack of education and skills, family stress, indebtedness, alcoholism and a sheer alienation and hopelessness have been cited in various researches conducted in the country to explain this staggering suicide rate. It confirms the marginalization of the community as a whole.


In 2008, Deputy Minister for Women, Family and Community Development G Palanivel said 30-35 Malaysian Indians per 100,000 committed or attempted to commit suicide annually, three times the Malaysian average. Reports constantly pour in of Indian Mothers attempting to kill their children before taking their own lives. A recent case concerns Seetha of Gemencheh Negri Sembilan, who was upset when her younger Surendran was shot dead by Malaysian Police in cold blood on 8 Nov. 2009; she took her own life and those of her four children on 12 Nov. There are many such stories.


Citizenship and Nationality: Making Indians Stateless


The worst aspect of discrimination in Malaysia pertains to the denial of birth certificates and identity documents to Indians, with the result that as many as 1.5 to 2 lakh citizens are denied basic citizenship rights. They are thus rendered STATELESS despite being fourth and fifth generation citizens of the country.


The ethnocentric system operated by the ruling UMNO regime makes it seek political advantage by reducing the population of ethnic groups that are not its basic constituency and increase that of its basic constituency - Malay or Muslim. In contrast to Hindus, Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Philippines are readily given citizenship.


The National Registration Department (NRD) of Malaysia continues to adopt a biased, racial and religious approach in executing its tasks. To mitigate the plight of the stateless Indians, the Human Rights Party launched a nationwide campaign for documentation of applications to the NRD for ICs and BCs. On 13 Aug. 2010, the national adviser of HRP / Hindraf N. Ganesan, pro-tem secretary general P. Uthayakumar, president W. Sambulingam, S. Thiagarajan and Manimaran met En Mohd Azmin bin Hassan, Director of Births, Deaths and Adoptions and twelve of senior officers in Putrajaya to amicably solve the problem.


But Malaysian newspapers themselves report that one in six Malaysian born ethnic Indians is denied a birth certificate, identity card and citizenship (The Star, 26 Sept. 2010, p12). Teenage marriages are taking place amongst ethnic Indians in estates as they do not possess birth certificates to confirm date of birth following failure to register births (The Star, 26 Sept., p 12). As many as 93,360 birth certificates were processed in 2009 for children and others without proper birth certificates, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (UM-14/11/09 p 4).


Malaysians undergo an arduous procedure of providing proof of birth of the child, parents’ marriage, parents’ citizenship proof and are made to run to and fro as applications are not complete, and then interviewed before the birth certificate is issued. This is deliberate government policy to contain non-Malay Muslim population.

-          Darshini (11) was denied a birth certificate because her mother had not registered her birth within the required 42 days as the father was away working as a crane driver in Penang. She has been asked to leave school. Malaysian authorities rejected her application so many times that she has stopped trying (Malaysiakini 23 Jan 2009).

-          Fourth generation Mariappan, an odd job labourer, and his wife do not have Identity Cards; his three children have no birth certificates. So they cannot find legitimate jobs; their marriage is not registered… Two children are attending a nearby Tamil school, where two out of twenty children are without birth certificates. Soon these children will be asked to leave school on this count.


Education and the Constitution


Young Malaysian ethnic Indians suffer lack of opportunities and hurdles in acquiring tertiary education. Admission to public universities is through the extremely difficult Pre-University program of STPM (Higher School Certificate) for Non Malays, compared to an easier pre-University program of Matriculation for Malays. Further, very limited places are allocated for Malaysian Indians, that too, in less desired programs. Student scholarships and loans are very limited for ethnic Indian students.


As many ethnic Indian students choose to go abroad for tertiary education to countries like India, Indonesia, Russia, and Romania, to improve on their future opportunities, in many cases using their parents’ life savings, the government shut this opportunity by introducing a requirement to have special certification to study abroad. Such students were denied access to government scholarships or loans from the Government Higher Education Fund.


In theory, the constitution provides equality before the law and equal protection of the law, but specially says there will be to prejudice or discrimination in the administration of any educational institution maintained by public authority, especially in the matter of admission or payment of fees. But the reality is a rock solid Racist system akin to the Apartheid regime of South Africa. Only a handful of seats in Medical Faculties of 20 Malaysian Government Universities are available to Indians, just about 1-2% of seats. Deserving Indian students are routinely denied places.


According to press reports: -

-        Indians students are excluded from the 200,000 places in University UiTM, which only admits the Malay Muslim students (Utusan Malaysia 1 Jan 2009). Yet 10% of the annual intake into UiTM are foreign students from Muslim countries

-        There are 62,000 diploma places and 60,000-degree places for 2010 at 27 Polytechnics in Malaysia (NST 22 Nov. 09, p 25). It is estimated that a mere 0.1% will be given to Indian students regardless of their qualifications

-        8,132 PhD graduates are produced from the 20 government universities (The Star,  2 Dec 09 p 20); only 0.1% are Indians

-        There are 163,779 students studying at the 20 government Universities at an annual expenditure of RM 2.6 Billion; a mere 1% of this expenditure and/or University places will likely be given to Indian Malaysian students.

-        Dr. Mahathir decided to restrict the number of students studying medicine in various universities in Russia after a visit in 2003. Most were from Indian families, who had raised personal loans due to lack of places in Malaysian universities. The Malaysian Government derecognised the foreign universities despite a huge shortfall of doctors in Malaysia (UM 8 Oct 09 p 29).

-        The Malaysian Government instituted a new scheme of “No Objections Certificates” to be issued by the Ministry of Education in the name of maintaining education standards before students can go abroad for studies (NST 9 Mar. 09 p 16)

-        The government recruits doctors from mainly Muslim countries while hundreds of Malaysian Indian doctors qualified from India, Indonesia, Ukraine, Russia, and Romania suffer their degrees derecognized.

-        Yet because of lower standards of Medical schools in local Universities, the European Union has since 1990 derecognized even University Malaya’s (the oldest Malaysian University) Medical degree (NST 19 Mar 09 p 12)

-        RM 2.8 Billion is allocated for the 2010 National Budget for student’s assistance scholarships, but only an estimated 1% may reach Indian students.


Fifty six top-scoring (7 to 13 A’s) Indian students reported denial of entries by the Malaysian government into both local and foreign universities as well as Matriculation Programmes. All students were also denied Public Service Department (PSD) and other scholarships despite their excellent results in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (Malaysian Certificate of Education) Examination. These are only the tip of the iceberg.


At secondary school level, elite schools are simply out of bounds for all Indian students, even though they all qualify according to criteria established by the Malaysian Government for Malay Muslim Students. Even very meritorious Indian students do not get the opportunity for all round and focused development available in Mara Junior Science Colleges or fully residential schools. Sadly, 80% ethnic Indian Malaysian students do not go beyond Form 5, mostly because of the lack of institutional support and poverty.


The Tamil schools where 50% of all Indian children study suffer terrible deprivation in terms of basic resources due to systematic neglect by the UMNO Government. So while 50% of the 200,000 Indian students attend the National Primary School system and about 100,000 attend the Tamil Primary schools, as many as 371 of the 523 Tamil schools are denied full government financial assistance even after 52 years of independence. 289 schools are located in the plantations.


The 523 Tamil schools were promised RM 100 million under the 2009 first and second economic stimulus packages, but so far ZERO funds have been received by a single school though the year is over (The Star 30 Sept 2009 and letter to Prime Minister Najib dated 13 Oct 2009). Similary, RM 30 billion was allocated in the 2010 national budget for 80 new schools; 1100 additional blocks and 347 school replacement projects; to refurbish, upgrade schools, pre-school education performance schools. Yet nearly two-thirds of the Tamil medium schools remain in the pre-war dilapidated, near cowshed conditions.


Though 817 Tamil schools pupils scored 7As in Nov. 2009, barely 1% will get to enter the 12,440 Mara and fully government residential schools. State land has yet to be allocated to most of the partially-aided Tamil schools in the country. Scores of Tamil school land are snatched or disappears (TN 18 Apr. 09 p 3). The land issue is one of the most serious affecting the future of the community. Schools also lack bare necessities like tables and chairs; there is an acute shortage of classrooms; there is often a paucity of library, science laboratory, computer lab, canteen and playing field. Above all, there is a lack of pre-school facilities. Tamils are equally discriminated in the matter of skills training, vocational and technical training, and admission to polytechnics, and so on.


Indian Slavery and Child Slaves


The worst secret is the slavery and abuse of Malaysian Hindus in the country:-

-        A five-member Indian family was subjected to slavery for the past four years in an oil palm and rubber plantation, Bahau negeri Sembilan. The husband, wife and three children aged between 4 and 10 were imprisoned and forced to work without pay; they were also physically tortured by their employer (Berita Harian 25 Dec. 2010 p 1)

-        Vishnu Parani Kumaran (14), son of Devi Kannaiya (32) who has no Birth Certificate and whose father is languishing in prison, works as a lorry attendant for a daily meagre income of RM 20/-. Before that, he worked as a dish washer in a Chinese restaurant. His brother who is one year older, also works as a grocery shop assistant for a meagre daily wage of RM 15/-. Both brothers have to work as their mother could not secure a job to support the family and they do not qualify for any aid under the Welfare Ministry as they do not have identification papers.

-        R Priya (19) has been a slave for 14 years since the age of five. Her younger brother, Guna (16), faced the same fate since the age of three. Both were put to hard labour (Malaysiakini 7 Jan. 2010). Priya began with daily household chores and was later put to work at a small-scale glove factory all day, and then return to finish the chores at home before being allowed any food. She was beaten and not paid for the labour.

-        Priya was tortured when caught trying to run away last year; she attempted suicide by consuming rat-poison. Guna escaped on 11 Dec. 2009 by hitch-hiking on a lorry moving from Bahau to Bentong.

-        Indian children as young as five are found scavenging for a living – looking for recyclable items like plastic bottles and aluminum cans at the Bukit Beruntung landfill. (Star Metro, 24 Aug 2010, p M 1)


These cases reflect the reality of the 70% poor Indians in Malaysia, many of whom are underage children without Birth Certificates and Identity Cards. It goes without saying that the number of unreported child labour cases will be greater in the country as a whole.


[For more information, contact HINDRAF chairman, P. Waytha Moorthy, Barrister at Law, Lincoln’s Inn, London, at or visit]

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