Ethnic Indian barbers will be called hairstylists and cooks will be referred to as chefs from now on, as part of a better deal that would include more jobs, nationalisation of Tamil schools and regularisation of the stateless, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and premier-elect Najib Tun Razak has said.
The Indian community's plight is also being seriously looked into by a special cabinet committee, which he chairs, to ensure that it had participation in the national economy and equity.
"Tamil schools, for instance, will be progressively nationalised so that they get better facilities and aid. Micro-credit facilities will be extended to small-scale businesses," Razak, who is set to be Malaysia's next prime minister in March, said Sunday at a Diwali celebration.
"Technical training for Indian youths will be enhanced as they transform themselves from the estate environment to skilled professional workers," he added.
Razak said the government would soon look into the plight of 30,000 ethnic Indians born in the country who were without the MyKad, the national identity card or birth certificates.
About 2.6 million Indians, a bulk of them Tamils who came here during the British era, form an estimated eight per cent of Malaysia's multi-ethnic 28 million population.
Only a government concerned with the welfare of its people would be able to command their respect and cooperation for the betterment of the country, Razak said, calling it the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional's (BN) "winning formula".
Although weakened after the elections in March this year, the BN, with the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) as one of its constituents, has retained power at the national level and in eight of the 13 states.
"This has been our winning formula... We have always looked into the legitimate needs and grievances of each community, although some of it may be unique to a particular group," Razak was quoted as saying in The New Straits Times on Monday.
MIC's long-time president and Razak's former ministerial colleague S Samy Vellu was present at the function.
"MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu has asked me to no longer refer to those cutting hair as barbers but as hairstylists. Likewise, Indian cooks will be referred to as chefs," he said.
"We want to ensure a future for all Malaysians and stakeholders, irrespective of race, so that they can live harmoniously.
"We have to appreciate the values, practices and trust among the various communities. If, for the Indians we have the Bharatanatyam, the Malays have the Zapin and the Chinese the Fan Dance, which are enjoyed by all," he said.
At the open house, over 30,000 people, including cabinet ministers, leaders of political parties, heads of foreign missions and tourists, were entertained by traditional dances, songs, food and an exhibition of Indian culture.