Funds meant to help the poor instead only benefited a few.
THERE is no end to financial scandals in general and among the various ethnic communities in the country.
It gives the appearance that Malaysians have not learnt lessons from the past as these scandals are very often repeated in their various manifestations.
These scandals go to show that leadership in general and ethnic leadership in particular have failed the ordinary people.
In Malaysia, history often repeats itself in the form of financial scandals and abuse of public funds whereby funds meant for the uplift of the poor have been hijacked to cater for the interests of those who manage public funds.
The unfortunate thing is that these scandals are allowed to repeat and those responsible getting away scot-free, with those who have robbed the public of huge sums of money being allowed to roam the corridors of power.
The impression is given that robbing the country of public funds pays in two aspects: the chances of getting away and second, they can come back to power through the political route.
The reality of the Indian community in Malaysia
When it comes to the Malaysian Indian community, about 7% of the population is the most marginalised and deprived.
Consisting mainly of the working class in urban and rural areas, the community has been fundamentally neglected in a political system where the primacy is given to the majoritarian interests.
From time to time, attempts have been made to assist the community through the efforts of the political party such as MIC and lately public funds have been allocated through special agencies to assist the target group, Indians in need for assistance.
In the 1980s, MIC set up Maika Holdings, a special-purpose vehicle to mobilise funds from the community for investment purposes.
Within a short period of time, nearly RM100,000 were collected from MIC members to launch the fund under former MIC president S. Samy Vellu.
In the initial period, the accumulation of funds was impressive, with very few companies capable of matching the performance of Maika Holdings.
Years back I estimated that if the company had engaged in prudent management of funds, the Indian community could have assets worth a few billions.
However, it was matter of time before greed and selfishness took hold of Maika Holdings that led to its ruin.
Finally, the company was sold to an outsider, the shareholders receiving only 80% of the value of their shares.
Under MIC there have been other scandals associated with the cooperations run by some leaders.
Maika Holdings is a sad chapter in the lives of Indians.
It was a humiliation as a result of irresponsible and greedy leadership.
The sad thing is that those responsible for the collapse of Maika Holdings have never been criminally charged.
But the Maika financial scandal was not the last as other initiatives were formed to assist the poor Indians.
Under Barisan Nasional (BN) during the period of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Socio-economic Development of Indian Community (SEDIC) was set up with public funds to assist the Indian community.
How the funds were disbursed and who benefitted should be the subject of investigation by the law enforcement agencies.
I believe that funds meant for the targeted groups or individuals never reached them but to date, there have been no investigations into the matter.
A terrible curse on Indians in Malaysia
Under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, SEDIC was renamed and reorganised as the Malaysian Indian Transformation Research Unit (MITRA) under the former minister P. Waythamoorthy.
RM100 mil was allocated in 2019 and in 2020 before the collapse of the PH government.
After the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government took over the reins of power, MITRA was placed under the National Unity Ministry.
I understand that a number of police reports have been lodged against MITRA and those responsible for the disbursement of funds.
The matter was raised in Parliament and the minister in charge said that when she took office, the full RM100 mil was not given to MITRA.
She was trying to put the blame on those who managed the funds during the PH period without mentioning the fact that funds were also abused after PN government took power.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating the scandal to the effect of arresting 16 directors of companies that received funds from MITRA.
There might be further arrests.
The idea of assisting the Indian community indirectly by channelling funds to non-governmental organisation (NGOs) is improper and highly unethical.
Such methodology will not be able to assist those in need of funds directly and funds given to NGOs might be subject to abuse.
I understand that a big portion of the funds allocated might be used for administrative purpose of the NGOs including salaries of their staff.
Whatever remains might be passed to individuals or groups.
Both SEDIC and MITRA are guilty of not passing the funds to the affected groups and individuals directly.
This indirect nature of disbursement will only benefit the NGOs.
This is the reason why the funds meant for the community have been abused to the advantage of the directors of the organisations.
I urge the enforcement authorities to investigate to investigate not only the wrongdoings of MITRA, but also its predecessor, SEDIC.
It is shocking to hear that organisations were just set up to apply for MITRA funds with no experience in community work.
If the MACC is serious in its investigation, then many heads will roll, including some influential and politically-connected individuals.
There is a terrible curse on Indians in the country.
They are squeezed not only by the racist system but leaders who have maliciously and irresponsibly diverted public funds from the community to few individuals as well.
How are Indians expected to have faith in the system and their leaders?
By : Ramasamy Palanisamy (State assemblyperson for Perai and deputy chief minister II of Penang) – FOCUS MALAYSIA