Call on workers to unite in the next general election to deny the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority as a first step to ensure that the government will be more sensitive and responsive to their legitimate concerns and aspirations
- Perak DAP May Day Dinner
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Wednesday): DAP calls on workers to unite in the next general election to deny the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority as a first step to ensure that the government will be more sensitive and responsive to their legitimate concerns and aspirations, whether on just and fair wages, decent working conditions, affordable quality education and health care or social security for old age.
Workers must realize that in the final analysis, it is political power and the political institutions like the government, Parliament and State Assemblies which determine and decide the most important policies affecting their lives and future and that of their children.
Over the years, Malaysian workers have less and less say in the nation’s important decision-making processes which affect their living standards and quality of life, despite the official recognition of May Day as a public holiday and the appointment of the MTUC President as a Senator.
This is why the government and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) could get away with declaring the lowest dividend in 40 years, i.e. 4.25 per cent for last year, without having to give full accountability to the 10.3 million EPF contributors on many fundamental issues of EPF management and investment, such as:
Ten days ago, the Human Resources Minister, Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn claimed credit for the monthly minimum wage of RM350 for rubber estate workers hailing it as a great historic breakthrough in labour relations, when it is a poor and miserable excuse for a salary in 21st-century Malaysia as the government had defined the poverty line as RM1,200 a month per household in the Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010.
Is the RM350 minimum monthly wage enough to pay for food, infant formula, clothing, medicine or bus tickets? It is insufficient even for one person let alone an entire family.
Before May Day in 1999, over a thousand estate workers and their representatives from all over the country thronged Parliament House with their memorandum on their long-standing grievances as the most marginalized and exploited segment of the Malaysian population – presenting their legitimate demands for a fair and just minimum monthly wage and better housing.
On the very same day, the then DAP MP for Teluk Intan M. Kula Segaran sought unsuccessfully to adjourn Parliament to debate the plight of over 300,000 estate workers in a motion of urgent, definite public importance.
But the government and Parliament today are even more inured to such gross injustices so much so that Fong can claim credit for introducing a minimum monthly wage for the rubber estate sector which is historic by its heartlessness and lack of social conscience.
This political impotence of the labour movement is also the root cause for the oft-repeated complaint by trade union leaders of having the worst Labour Minister in history, as Fong has neither the heart nor mind for the problems and challenges of labour, being too pre-occupied with his survival stakes in the MCA factional power struggle between the MCA A and B teams – knowing fully well that if the MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik goes, so goes he too.
As a result, the National Joint Labour Advisory Council (NJLAC), which is supposed to be the Labour Parliament, has not met for more than a year – not because there are no pressing labour issues or problems, but because Fong has just no time for them!
Workers can only expect a fundamental change to the government’s insensitive and unresponsive attitude and policy approach if a message is sent loud and clear to the Barisan Nasional in the next general election – with the unprecedented deprivation of its two-thirds parliamentary majority.
In the next general election, with the increase of total parliamentary seats to 219 constituencies, the Opposition must collectively win at least 74 parliamentary seats if the goal to crush the political hegemony of Barisan Nasional government by ending its two-third majority stranglehold on Parliament is to be achieved.
It is quite a tall order, as at present there are only 42 Opposition MPs in Parliament, but achievable. DAP must aim at the next general election to get 25 to 30 DAP MPs elected, as our contribution to achieve the historic first in Malaysia to end the Barisan Nasional’s unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority – and to make a clean, honest and accountable government meaningful and exciting again in Malaysian politics.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman