Samy Vellu’s men might have swept the top posts in the MIC party elections, but the future of race-based politics and parties remains distinctly bleak.
Leaving aside the lack of renewal in the party’s top leadership, the reality is that race-based parties are catering to a shrinking “market”, despite the best attempts of politicians to whip up ethnic sentiment. Thus, we now see attempts to use religion for political mileage. All this at great cost to unity.
While there are many disenfranchised Indian Malaysians – as there are those of other ethnic groups – the problem is not one of race but socio-economic policies that fail to protect the interests of the lower-income group.
The lack of a minimum wage, the suppression of wages through the import of foreign workers and weak trade union laws undermine the position of workers – all in the name of promoting a pro-business climate. Moreover, neo-liberal policies that favour private corporations and privatisation of essential services have led to a two-tier system emerging in several areas while essential services such as health care and education are either stretched, underfunded or poorly managed.
Today, many Malaysians are struggling just to make ends meet.
There is little that race-based parties like the MIC can do to tackle such issues, especially when the interests of the elite in the political-business nexus are so divergent from those of the marginalised communities.