Monday, February 23, 2009
He who sleeps on a full stomach
With reference to the previous post, here are a few stastistics Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin ought to look at before dismissing the very real concerns of Malaysian-Indians.

Ethnic Indians make up 7.5 percent of the total population of Malaysia. If one were to go purely by government-released statistics, the Indian community would seem comfortably off: mean monthly gross household income of Indians in 2002 was RM3,044 compared to RM2,702 in 1999, an increase in real terms of 4.2 percent per annum and a whole 1 percent above the national average; incidence of poverty within the community declined steadily from 39.2 percent in 1970 to 2.5 percent in 2007, notwithstanding the decision by government statisticians to set the poverty line at RM529, a ridiculously low amount at best.

However, other numbers paint a bleaker picture. Indians constitute 30 percent of those in the bottom 40 percent of the population in terms of wage earnings. Indian share of corporate equity remained stagnant at 1.5 percent between 1995 and 1999 before falling to 1.2 percent in 2004 and declining further still to 1.1 percent in 2006. More than 30 percent of Indians do not own a house, compared to 25.2 percent of Malays and 17.6 percent of Chinese. Indians have the lowest life expectancy among the major ethnic groups—in 2004, this was 71.1 years compared to 76.4 years for the Chinese and 72.5 years for the Malays
—while Indian males in particular have shown the least degree of improvement in this measure since independence. (Indeed, during the first 30 years of Malaysia's existence, the community on the whole registered the lowest annual increments in life expectancy.) On top of all this, Indians present the highest suicide rate at 21.1 suicides per 100,000 Indians, compared to 8.6 per 100,000 Chinese and 2.6 per 100,000 Malays.

Indians also make up a disproportionate number of those charged or convicted of serious crimes in Malaysia, as attested to by Assistant Commissioner of Police Amar Singh Sidhu in his report, 'The Rise Of Crime In Malaysia'. (Cue proponents of strain theory.) In it, he identifies 'the Indian problem', described as 'the involvement of Indian youth in murder, arson, gang-clashes, rioting, hijacking, factory break-ins and robberies, slashing, extortions and drug trafficking'. As evidence, he points to the fact that, of the 702 inmates at the Simpang Renggam Rehabilitation Centre who were remanded under preventive detention laws for violent crimes, 45 percent were Indians—this jells with an earlier claim that 34 percent of all murders committed nationally in 1994 were perpetrated by Indians—and the prevalence of 'Indian thug gangs', a grouping that accounts for 32.3 percent of all registered gangs in Malaysia.

Muhyiddin (and the rest of the administration, for that matter) would do well to heed the old proverb: as you sow, so shall you reap. If they are foolish and inhumane enough to ignore the danger signs of a hardening underclass right in the urban heart of Malaysia, they might awake one day soon to a bumper crop of discontent.

All statistics taken from the Eighth Malaysia Plan, the Mid-Term Review of the Eighth Malaysia Plan and this CPPS report, unless otherwise stated.


Update, 24th February 2009:
Malaysiakini has put together a documentary (parts one, two and three) that does a good job of examining the communal grievances, both proximal and long-standing, which allowed for the rise to prominence of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) in national politics.

posted by Hong at 5:54 am | Permalink |