Seeking re-election in the upcoming polls, Malaysia's only ethnic-Indian minister, who faced flak for opposing protests by the community against alleged marginalisation, has now admitted that the government may not have done enough for them.
Samy Vellu, whose Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) is part of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition led by Premier Abdullah Badawi, said ethnic Indians were facing lack of education opportunities, unemployment and inadequate housing facilities leading to sprouting of illegal urban squatters as well as low literacy level.
Vellu, who is facing accusations of not doing enough for the community and criticism for running down the unprecedented street protests led by Hindu Right Action Force, said he wanted more opportunities for ethnic Indians in all fields.
"This is what we have been asking the government, and the government has been accommodative, although I must say that it may not be enough. The government has promised to do more for the Indians. We are confident," he told the New Straits Times.
Vellu is contesting from his traditional seat for the seventh time in the March 8 poll though there was some speculation that the ruling alliance wanted to dump him in the wake of the demonstrations since November.
The minister said the progress of ethnic Indians in Malaysia, who have migrated from rural to urban areas, is being impeded by a host of social ills like "alcoholism, increasing school dropout rate and high crime rate".
Vellu's comments came amid an advertisement blitz by his MIC asking ethnic Indians to vote for the party. Leading dailies everyday carry full page ads boasting about MIC's "strong and proven track record for delivery".
The ads claimed that MIC understood the community's challenges in the coming years and promised to create "world class Tamil schools."
Vellu admitted that there was a failure at the implementation level which has resulted in the ineffectiveness of current delivery mechanisms.
"We tell Malaysian Indians that there is no alternative to the MIC and any replacement by opposition parties will not in any way protect the interests or legitimate rights of Malaysian Indians," the MIC president said.
In 62 parliamentary and 130 state seats, Indians comprise 10 per cent or more of the registered voters.
Asked what the MIC had done to address the pressing issues listed out by Vellu, the minister claimed that the party had "taken the burden on itself and had created a new outlook to establish an educated Indian community".
He said in the last 20 years, MIC had rebuilt almost 100 schools with 30 million ringit (Rs 30 crore) in grants from the government and an additional 7 million ringgit raised by the MIC.