Country study: Malaysia
Malaysia is home to 1.7 million People of Indian Origin (PIO)1 and approximately 8 percent of the country’s 27 million population are ethnic Indians and some families have lived in Malaysia for at least two generations.2 The Malaysian Indians in general feel that they have been neglected by the state and society. They own less than 2 percent of the national wealth and are frustrated because they have not been able to leverage on their inherent talents nor receive adequate expression for their culture and identity. The underclass mentality that has pervaded could also be blamed on divisions within the community itself along caste and class lines. Arguably, the source of this problem could be attributed to the British colonialists who created a system of stratification with upper-caste Malayalees and Jaffna Tamils at the top and lower-caste Tamils at the bottom. While the Malayalees and Jaffna Tamils benefited from their close proximity to the British and exploited the modernizing economy to accumulate wealth, the Tamils laboring in the plantations were alienated from these modernizing and progressive influences. The aim of this chapter will be to examine the social and economic impact of Indian professionals in Malaysia. Against the background of unrest among the ethnic Indian population of Malaysia, the chapter also aims to examine the dynamics between the settled and Indian expatriate community.