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Ramasamy offers to join controversial UKM forum ‘to make it more diverse’

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy has offered to take part in a controversial discourse on the Indian community hosted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), saying his past experience as a professor in the same university makes him qualified to be part of the panel.

This comes after the forum organised by UKM’s Malay World and Civilisation Institute (Atma), was initially postponed after it was accused of racial overtones against the Indian community.

Ramasamy said he had no problem for the forum to go ahead, but said his participation would make the panel more diverse.

“We should not block it,” he told FMT. “I am all for the conference to go on. My only qualm is why the panel was not inclusive?

“The entire panel consists of Malays. Why can’t they invite non-Malays over, since it is an Indian matter?”

He said he had always taken a key interest on the migration of Indians to Malaya, the theme of the discussion.

“You can’t say there are no Indian panellists around. I’m sure I can add my two cents worth.

“I have organised conferences related to the Indian diaspora in Malaysia, the South East Asian region and commissioned archaeological diggings in Guar Kepah,” said Ramasamy.

The forum, originally titled “Polemik Kehadiran Masyarakat India di Semenanjung Tanah Melayu: Migrasi atau Imigran?”, has since been renamed to “Kependudukan dan Pergerakan Etnik di Kepulauan Melayu”. It will be held on Nov 14 and will feature four academics.

Yesterday, a little-known political party, the Minority Rights Action Party or Mira, accused organisers of undermining racial harmony by holding such a forum.

Ramasamy said he did not agree with the use of the word “polemic” in the original title of the forum, adding that migration of ethnic Indians to this part of the world had already been established.

“The presence of Indians in Southeast Asia and Malaysia is a settled question, it’s not polemical,” he said.

Ramasamy said the forum could likely be a response to German-based scholar Subashini Kanagasundram who spoke at a seminar in Penang on Oct 21 about Tamil heritage and how they migrated to Malaya.

Ramasamy said the issue was blown up after a local Malay daily’s insinuation that the talk had questioned Malay civilisation.

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