FOR the week of 9 to 15 March 2009, the Tamil papers highlighted the economic difficulties faced by Indian Malaysians, celebrated the achievements of Indian Malaysian students in the SPM, and cheered Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan for winning the International Women of Courage 2009 Awards from the US.
Restaurants up in arms
The recent hike in levy for foreign workers and its effect on Indian Malaysian restaurant owners was big news in all Tamil papers. Malaysia Nanban gave the best coverage of the issue as it was front-page news on 13 and 14 March.
The headline on 14 March, Increase in levy rates: We cannot cope, highlighted the difficulties faces by Indian Malaysian restaurant owners in Ipoh. “We still have not got over the shock of the huge raise in the levy for foreign workers,” said Mrs Poogavanam, owner of Sri Rama Villas. “I have been in this food business for many years. But this is the most shocking news I have ever heard that concerns our industry.”
(Pic by goocis / sxc.hu)
For the growth of the restaurant business, please reduce the levy rates, appealed the paper in its editorial on the same day. The editorial pointed out that the government’s move has severe repercussions on restaurant owners. It argued that the government’s argument that this move would force restaurant owners to hire local workers was unfounded because locals shunned these jobs.
It pointed out that this problem affects people of all races who own restaurants. “We urge the government on behalf of restaurant owners, workers and consumers to rethink the levy hike on foreign workers, and urge the government to help the people in the food and beverage industry,” the article concluded.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator T Murugiah told off Indian Malaysian leaders for failing in their duties to help uplift Indian Malaysians.
Makkal Osai covered his comments widely in its headline news on 9 March. In the report, Community leaders are responsible for the economic backwardness of Indians, it quoted him as saying: “If the leaders had done their jobs properly, this sad situation would not have happened. They have failed in their duty to inform the community of the various economic programmes that the government has put in place to help them.”
His comments elicited an editorial from the paper the same day titled Put a stop to the blame game. While acknowledging the failure on the part of Indian Malaysian leaders, the editorial also questioned government red tape that acts as a barrier for Indian Malaysians.
“Have the Indian [Malaysians] failed to fully utilise the help and opportunities from the government? Or have they been forced into a position where they are unable to use them? Has the government done a follow-up to investigate this? Senator Murugiah should release the full report on this matter.”
In another report on the same day, the paper quoted the senator giving some career advice to Indian Malaysian students at a function. In the article titled After finishing your education, stop thinking of getting a job and start thinking of doing your own business, the senator advised the students to make use of the various training programmes and loan facilities offered by the government. “We have to make the effort to make use of these facilities for our betterment,” he said.
The Tamil papers were ecstatic that more Indian Malaysian students were among the top scorers this year compared with previous years. All papers carried a montage of pictures of the top scorers on 13 March. Stars who achieved record, said Malaysia Nanban. Makkal Osai’s headline crowed, Our students’ record breaking achievements. And Tamil Nesan’s headline said, SPM results: Students achieve record As.
“The results prove that Indian Malaysian students, too, are as good as others in getting top results,” noted the paper with pride.
All the papers also highlighted that many of the top scorers had their primary education in Tamil schools. “A senior officer from the state department of education revealed that many students from Tamil primary schools did very well in the SPM exams,” noted Malaysia Nanban in a report titled Indian students in Johor do very well.
Great improvement in SPM results, said Tamil Nesan in its editorial. “It seems that this time, many Indian [Malaysian] students have done extremely well in their exams … the government must ensure that the top scorers, regardless of their race, must be given scholarships to pursue their education.”
The Tamil papers celebrated and congratulated former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga on being awarded the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage 2009 Award.
All papers carried the picture of her receiving the award from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama. Makkal Osai in its report on 14 March titled An international award for Datuk Ambiga said this award was a huge honour for Malaysia, but in particular for Indian Malaysian women.
“This international award is apt considering all that she has done,” said Bukit Bintang Wanita MIC chief Mrs Rajeshwari Ganesan.
Malaysia Nanban’s 9 March editorial on Ambiga was titled A golden light for women: Datuk Ambiga gets an award. The editorial congratulated her, saying: “Her being selected for this award is a source of pride for all Malaysians, more so as she is the first Malaysian woman to get this award. At the same time, the Indian [Malaysian] community has another reason to celebrate as she is an Indian [Malaysian].”