KUALA LUMPUR: PKR vice-president N Surendran has hit back at his detractors over the issue of stateless Indians in the country, calling MIC “powerless and pathetic.”
He said the Barisan Nasional component party failed to resolve a problem which was much bigger than what the government would like to admit.
“We do not wish to debate this issue with the powerless and pathetic MIC. We want to know why the deafening silence from (Prime Minister) Najib (Tun Razak) and (Home Minister) Hishammuddin (Hussein)?” Surendran told FMT.
“We want the home minister to answer why there are tens of thousands of Malaysian Indians who are still without documents,” said the lawyer.
Surendran said that previously the government itself admitted that there were about 40,000 stateless Indians, though MIC claimed that it was 15,000.
Even former Selangor menteri besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo said in 2008 that there were 40,000 Indian children without birth certificates in the state, he added.
“Whatever the figure is, I am saying that we should not even have a single Malaysian, whether Indian, Malay or Chinese who is born in the country and not have any documents.
“The real figure is obviously huge and the government is in no position to say that 40,000 is correct, have they done a comprehensive survey and documented everyone without ICs?” he asked.
Justifying his 300,000 figure, Surendran said it was not only derived from “ground reports, evidence from the work of activists and political parties” but was also consistent with population studies.
“Now, according to the population study by the legendary R Chander, who was the chief statistician in the country in the 70s, the Indian population should be much higher than what it is today.
“This is very accurate (and it shows that) there are about 300,000 who are living in the country but are unaccounted for. They are the missing 300,000. And I believe this too is an underestimation.
“The real figure could be much higher. This is certainly not something I pulled out of thin air,” he added.
‘BN should locate them’
Responding to calls that PKR bring the 300,000 forward so that MIC could help register them, Surendran said:”The 300,000 are all over the country, the duty to find them and get them registered is in the hands of the federal government.”
“We demand that the government don’t try to wash its hands off the problem,” he added.
Surendran said the government had enough resources to locate each and every one of these undocumented Indians.
“Until now, they have totally failed, maybe deliberately. MIC’s MyDaftar campaign to register Indians without proper documents is a complete and utter failure,” he said.
“Going by anecdotal evidence, the people you encounter in the estates, rural ares, and housing areas, everywhere you can come across people with red ICs, and without birth certificates. I know because I have been going across the country for the past one year. Everytime I go to an Indian area for a ceramah, I come across five… 10… 15 of these people in just one area,” he added.
Surendran said that MyDaftar was just a “ploy” by the government to “pretend that they were solving the problem.”
“I believe the government is deliberately hiding the real fact of stateless Indians. They came up with the MyDaftar in response to political pressure after the 2008 election in order to silence the Indians. They are doing that just to win, because its an important issue,” he said.
“BN has neither the political will nor real interest in resolving the problem. They are indifferent and they have complete lack of concern for the suffering of the poor and the oppressed. They are more interested in big business, cronyism and mega projects. And anyway, these are not voters, they (BN) are not interested,” he added.
Surendran repeated his claim that the country was now in a “crisis situation” and said that these 300,000 or more Indians were now shut out of the economic output.
“You have 300,000 who can’t contribute to the economy. No education, no employment, no healthcare, nothing. They are in limbo, they are cut off from society.
“Just last week, I met a 70-year-old Indian born in Sg Petani, he has been carrying a red IC all these while. He asked me ‘do you know how much I have suffered in my life?’
“I feel angered about this the most when I see the utter indifference of BN, the behavior of MIC is totally disgraceful. They have come to betray these people and trying desperately to justify the actions of the BN government,” he added.
Surendran said the root causes of the problem were factors such as the social economic situation of the Indians, their illiteracy, and how many, until the mid 70s, had still lived in estates.
“The biggest contributor was the systematic neglect of the Indian community by the government,” he added.
On why he had taken up this issue now, Surendran said: “Why have I taken up this issue? I have been going around the country for the past one year or so, I have come across so much of suffering among Indians who are victims of this. And it has sunk into me, the extent of the problem. Anyone who has gone down, walked the mile, will understand what I am talking about.”
“These are people living in limbo and its a horrible thing to do to people with the rights to citizenship,” he added.
“The government can’t blame anyone, because they have ruled for 50 over years. I tell you now, concede the next general election, and let Pakatan Rakyat take Putrajaya, then we will it. That is our resolve,” he stressed.
Last Thursday, Surendran had led a protest at the Parliament gates, urging the government to issue MyKads to those who do not have proper identification.
Subsequently, Surendran’s claim of 300,000 stateless Indians was attacked by several MIC leaders.
In February this year, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had hailed the MyDaftar campaign, which at that point had approved 5,593 applications out of 9,529 applied, as a success.