The MIC, by organising demonstrations against the DAP or any other component parties of Pakatan Harapan (PH), cannot hope to resolve the long-standing issue of citizenship for Indians. It is Umno that is mainly responsible for preventing Indians and others from being accepted as full-fledged citizens in the country. MIC, being a component party of the Barisan Nasional (BN), simply lacks the muscle to pressure Umno or BN as whole to liberalise the granting of citizenship to qualified Malaysians, irrespective of their race or religion. Earlier, MIC Youth wing, headed by one K. Arvind, held a demonstration in front of the DAP headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to protest against the statement issued by the Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching.
On June 8, 2016, Teo said nearly 300,000 children had yet to obtain their citizenship status. She was merely quoting the figures from a report presented to the parliament by none other than Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, that there were 290,437 children below the age of 18 who were considered stateless, in other words, without citizenship. Teo never made any reference to Indians. However, MIC failed to read Teo’s statement and jumped to the conclusion that she equated the figure with Indian children. Whether MIC members really knew what Teo said or whether they misread her statement is not clear. But as the general election is drawing close, the party wants to remain relevant so that it can get a few seats from Umno.
If demonstrations against the DAP can ensure that more deserving Indians get citizenship, then there is some rationality why MIC should organise more demonstrations. However, politically motivated demonstrations against the DAP for some breadcrumbs is not something that will advance the legitimate interests of Indians in the country. Well, if MIC is disputing the figures presented by Zahid, then it should come out with the accurate figures. The party is currently organising registration exercises (MyDafter) for Indians who are stateless, but is completely silent on the extent of the problem.
Surely the party should have figures to counter those that they think are giving a false picture. Indians in this country know that the real culprit behind the denial of citizenship to some section of the Indian population is none other than Umno. The party may be in a political alliance with MIC and others, but it has failed to address the issue of citizenship rights of Indians in the country for decades. Thus, without political will and commitment on the part of Umno, there will be little or no advance on the provision of citizenship status for thousands of stateless Indians and others. So, MIC should not bark up the wrong tree! P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.