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Malaysia launches 10-year plan to help its Indian community

PM Najib launches programme to help minority race, but critics say it's a pre-election tactic

KUALA LUMPUR Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has launched a 10-year programme to help the country's Indian community, promising to raise its members' incomes and educational levels, open up business opportunities and reserve more jobs for them in government.

Calling it the Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB), Mr Najib pledged on Sunday that most of its main components will be delivered within a decade.

"This blueprint must and will be delivered. This is no election gimmick or political rhetoric," he said in a speech to Indian community and political leaders.

"We guarantee this," he added, while shouting "naalai namadhe", Tamil for "tomorrow is ours", several times.

Malaysia's nearly 2 million Indians make up 7 per cent of the 31 million population.

They are disadvantaged educationally and economically as they do not get extensive government aid like the Malays and bumiputeras (indigenous races including the Orang Asli and those from Sabah and Sarawak) do, and are not dominant in business like the Chinese.

The aid package includes a RM500 million (S$159 million) unit trust seed fund to create wealth for the poorest Indians, and a RM500 million fund for local Indian entrepreneurs.

DOUBLE THE INCOME

Mr Najib said the government also plans to double the income of poor Indian families, reserve 7 per cent of places in public tertiary institutions and the civil service for Indians by 2026, and create jobs for the community.

To critics, the MIB is a sign that the elections are near, as the government previously had similar programmes for Indians just before calling for polls.

But Mr Najib, flanked by Dr S. Subramaniam, president of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), said the government had engaged Malaysian Indians at the grassroots to develop a plan for their betterment.

He said: "We also consulted hundreds of NGOs, community groups and civil society leaders, besides the experts. So this is not 'vetti pechi' (empty talk)."

Mr Najib said that unlike past plans to upgrade the Indian community, the government is taking the lead with the MIB.

Traditionally staunch supporters of BN, sections of Indian voters veered towards the opposition in the last two general elections as they were turned off by racial rhetoric from some leaders of Umno, BN's lead party, as well as infighting among MIC leaders.

- THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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