Intensifying the opposition to 'Interlok', the appointment of a special Indian aide to menteris besar in three Pakatan-ruled states, and raising the intake of Indians in municipal councils in opposition-held states, are three measures an informal caucus of Pakatan Rakyat legislators decided at a meeting yesterday.
M Kulasegaran,MP for Ipoh Barat, said after a half-day meeting in Penang that no definite finding was made on whether the support of Indian Malaysians for the opposition coalition had waned since the last general election.
The swing in Indian votes from BN to Pakatan in the March 2008 polls played a critical part in the ruling coalition's loss of its customary two-third majority in Parliament and its defeat in four states.
"By-elections results in Johor, Pahang and Malacca in the last few months purport to show that support for Pakatan has declined among Indian Malaysian voters," Kulasegaran told Malaysiakini.
"But we cannot be sure that pattern would hold for the rest of the peninsula," he added.
Nevertheless, he said, the four MPs and nine state assemblypersons who gathered for the meeting agreed on some measures to be taken to project the coalition as the best channel for the achievement of Indian Malaysian aspirations.
"We have decided to go on a road show to intensify the fight to have the novel 'Interlok' removed as a literary text in schools," he said.
He said the issue, contrary to what Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has contended, is not closed but has intensified, with Chinese NGOs joining the chorus of criticism that the novel is not suitable for the edification of our youth.
"In a sense, the people who led the initial opposition to the novel have been proven prescient," offered Kulasegaran.
"Now the Chinese are beginning to feel that 'Interlok' is in decidedly bad taste and want it removed from the syllabus," he said.
Not wise to ignore Indian discontent
Not for the first time, Kulasegaran observed, has the feelings of Indian Malaysians been a bellwether of sorts.
"When they gathered together in a protest in November 2007, the demonstration was a harbinger. And so it turned out to be four months later at the general election," he opined.
"I don't want to be put too fine a point on this, but it is not wise to ignore Indian Malaysian discontent, if recent history is indicative," he elaborated.
Kulasegaran held that the Indian Malaysian agenda of socio-economic betterment is indivisible from the fate of the rest of the have-nots in Malaysia.
"Their comprehensive betterment can only come about as part of a broader uplift of the poor in Malaysia and that requires the positioning of Pakatan in Putrajaya," he said.
So, he said, that while it is easy to dismiss the other two measures decided yesterday – the placement of a special Indian affairs officer in the chief minister's office in Pakatan-governed states, and raised intake of Indians among municipal council staff in such states – as window dressing, "they are needed as an earnest of Pakatan's intention to help Indian Malaysians."
"These steps are not just tokens to placate Indians – these are gestures indicative of broader intent and determined application on a national scale, achievable when Pakatan helms Putrajaya," he said.