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Deepavali CelebrationsDeepavali, or the Festival of Lights as many love to call it, has come and gone in a very sombre mood this year with little hype or even publicity, you may say. Maybe this has to do with the festivities not being played up by advertisements like they used to in the various media. Or that many political events that took place recently have dampened this year’s Deepavali celebrations. But more than anything, perhaps the reason lies deep in the realisation that Malaysia isn’t what it used to be anymore. Liberalism in cultural and religious practices seems to be more and more a myth in today’s Malaysia, where temples are treated as an inconvenience and the nation’s shortcomings are blamed on specific races. Indians particularly have made headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, being linked to the rampant crime rate and gangsterism in Malaysia. Citing high poverty rates among the group to be a cause of such behaviour, Malaysian Indians have our politicians to thank for the permanent stigma they have been given. Add to that the arguments and protests to do with Hindu temples in Malaysia and you’ve got a community that could eventually lose interest in whatever the Government keeps “promising” them. As far as these promises are concerned though, Barisan Nasional appeared to be pretty pleased with the Indian community post-elections, stating it received much support from them. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in his Deepavali speech on his blog, “As a responsible government, we acknowledge that more needs to be done to ensure our initiatives and services reach every Indian in Malaysia, who needs assistance. We are committed to delivering the promises we made to the Indian community in the 13th General Election.” According to Barisan Nasional’s manifesto this year, released prior to elections, some of its commitments to the Indian community include the allocation of RM500 million in seed funding to increase the equity of the Indian community to at least 3%. It also mentioned the setting up of a special unit to ensure the successful implementation of policies for the upliftment of the Indian community. It then boasted of having provided RM2 billion from 2008 to 2013 to TEKUN for small-scale entrepreneurs, inclusive of RM50 million for the Indian community in 2013 alone. Even in the 2014 Budget, the Government introduced measures aimed at the development of Malaysian Indians, with the allocation of RM100 million for enhancing education performance and skills training, including RM28 million for early education programmes involving 176 Tamil pre-schools and i-Sinar programmes. But will these be enough in the long run? It all reads well on paper and sounds great in speeches, but since the damage is already done as far as perception of the community is concerned, it is going to take a lot more than paper-written promises to get the Malaysian Indians’ trust again.

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