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:

  • why EPF could not give a dividend of more than 5% declared for 2001 when the country had registered a higher economic growth of 4.2 per cent last year as compared to 0.4 per cent for 2001;
  • why  EPF had to set aside RM2.14 billion for “paper losses” in equity last year  which could have  been used to declare a higher EPF dividend of at least 5.43 per cent instead of 4.25 per cent;
  • why EPF had to write off over RM5 billion  for “paper losses” in equity and doubtful debts in the five years from 1998 to 2002, and is still sitting  on over RM10 billion “paper losses” in equity which  will force the further reduction of the EPF dividend in the coming years.

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