Indians should stay united and work to improve their lot through education to "get on par" with other races in Malaysia, a senior leader of the community has said.
Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) leader and the country's Works Minister S Samy Vellu said on Wednesday that education alone would help the community to be on its path to socio-economic development and parity with other communities.
"We should be on par with other races and have thousands of graduates among us," he told the media during Thaipusam celebrations, a festival of Tamil Hindus, at Batu Caves.
"Don't believe the opposition's stories and accusations. Yes, there are areas in which we are lagging such as in the job market, in getting placement at universities and in getting government contracts," Vellu was quoted as saying by The New Straits Times.
"But it is not as if we are not getting opportunities at all," said Vellu, citing examples of five Class-A Indian contractors who had successfully linked up with the Bumiputera (indigenous Malays) contractors to obtain government projects.
"You can't just sit at home and expect contracts to drop on your lap. You must be active and seek out opportunities," he said.
Vellu said there were 3,000 Malaysian students of Indian origin overseas, 1,500 of whom were being supported by the MIC.
Vellu brushed off a question on whether the recent declaration of Thaipusam as a public holiday in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya was a political ploy in view of the upcoming elections. "You think the Indian community is that foolish? Just because the holiday has been given, they will make a favourable decision? The Indian community is very smart now. They are not like before," he said.
The MIC that Vellu has been leading for long has been part of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
There has been speculation about early general elections in Malaysia and all political parties have said that they have begun preparations for it. However, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has not yet given any indication.
Ethnic Indians, predominantly Tamil Hindus who had come to Malaysia during the British Era, form roughly eight percent of the country's 27 million population.