Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:27PM
A Malaysian Indian rights organization has finally managed to sign a pact with the Malaysian ruling coalition to improve the living standards of minority Indians, who were brought to the country as workers during the British Malaya era.
The head of the Malaysian Indian rights group Hindraf, Waythamorrthy Ponnusamy, went on a hunger strike for three weeks. He was trying to push both the ruling coalition and the Opposition to adopt the group’s blueprint for improving the lives of the country’s ethnic Indians, who make up about seven per cent of the population. In the end, a couple of weeks before the election, it was only Prime Minister Najib Razak's coalition that signed the deal. The British brought the Indians to the country mostly to work in rubber plantations. Although there is now a sizeable middle class, analysts say there is still a large number of hardcore poor. Hindraf acknowledges it had to drop issues linked to human rights but says it still got big concessions on economic improvements. Critics have attacked Hindraf for dropping crucial issues such as the large number of Indian deaths in police custody, and for backing the ruling coalition that has done little for Indians during its decades in power. But Waythamorthy says he’s sticking to Hindraf’s pledge to support whichever political alliance that backed its blueprint. And since it was only the ruling Barisan Nasional that did so, Hindraf is urging Indians to vote them back into power. Analysts say although the blueprint has been watered down, the Prime Minister's move could help sway crucial Indian votes his way. Analysts and Hindraf say that most working class Indians at least, will likely heed their call to back Najib and his coalition when they vote on May 5th.