Is EPF withholding announcement of lowest dividend in 40 years until Iraq war so as to attract minimum adverse reactions from the 10.3 million EPF contributors and to distract demand for a new policy of EPF accountability, transparency and efficacy?

 at the Memorial Night "Ahmad Nor: Symbol of Bangsa Malaysia" in memory of Ahmad Nor (1943-2003)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday): We are gathered here, Ahmad Nor's family, DAP leaders and activists, political and trade union friends like Datuk Siva Subramaniam, CUEPACS President, G. Rajasekaran, MTUC Secretary-General, Mohamad Sabu, PAS MP for Kuala Kedah, Khalid Jaffar, Parti Keadilan Nasional Supreme Council member, Dr. Mohd Nasir, Protem Chairman of Parti Sosialis Malaysia to honour and pay tribute to a great political and trade union leader, the symbol of Bangsa Malaysia decades ahead of the Vision 2020 objective, who passed away on 11th February 2003.

Sixteen years ago in 1986, I persuaded Ahmad Nor to join the DAP. We had kept our compact to join forces to work for a new paradigm in Malaysian politics, to move the country away from race-based to a more issues-oriented politics.

We had walked together in our common struggle for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance. We have had our ups and downs, joys and sorrows, moments of inspiration and periods of depression, but undeterred we had battled on against a whole array of forces set against us.

His election as DAP Member of Parliament for Bayan Baru in 1990 was the apotheosis of his political career. In his five years in Parliament, Ahmad Nor was the voice of the worker, the down-trodden, the forgotten and the marginalized - and the absence of this voice for the worker and the common man and woman is sorely felt in Parliament today.

If Ahmad Nor is still with us today, he would undoubtedly be in the forefront to take up the issues of unjust price increases, whether the repeated upward price revision for petrol or the recent hike of telephone rates, corruption, triad politics, human rights, the rule of law and all concerns of workers which had always been closest to his heart.

One of Ahmad Nor's favourite topics is the Employees' Provident Fund, and he was the DAP's spokesman on EPF and all labour affairs in Parliament.

In the past, EPF dividend for the previous year had always been announced before the end of February. It is now in the third week of March, and yet the EPF dividend for last year has not been announced.

What is the reason for the inordinate delay in the announcement of the EPF dividend, expected to be the lowest dividend in 40 years of below 5% for 2002? Is it to wait until the American war against Iraq so as to attract minimum adverse reactions from the 10.3 million EPF contributors and to distract demand for a new policy of EPF accountability, transparency and efficacy?

If Ahmad Nor is with us, he would be the leading spokesman to articulate the concerns of the 10.3 million EPF contributors about the efficiency, competence, accountability, transparency and integrity of EPF stewardship of RM200 billion of their life savings.

What is the best way to honour and pay tribute to Ahmad Nor. I believe there is no better way to remember Ahmad Nor than to keep his spirit and his struggle for justice, freedom and fair play alive.

Siva has just told us that CUPACS would be naming its IT Hall after Ahmad Nor. DAP should honour Ahmad Nor by launching a series of "The Spirit of Ahmad Nor Lives" forums and discussions to keep issues close to Ahmad Nor in the very forefront of national consciousness.

Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi recently gave a brilliant diagnosis of the Malaysian disease, which he described the "First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality" Malaysian malaise.

Ahmad Nor would have been most concerned about such a Malaysian malaise and would have dedicated himself together with his political, trade union and NGO friends to eradicate such a malaise.

May be, the "Spirit of Ahmad Nor Lives" series of forums can focus on the "First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality" malaise. It would be good if this Ahmad Nor series of forums could be launched to coincide with the 2003 Health Day on April 7, which is dedicated to the theme "Healthy Environments for Children" - a most ironic theme for Malaysia, as children have been the chief victims and casualties in the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, which is still raging unchecked, with the death toll exceeding the century figure.

Ahmad has left us, called away by the Maker. But we will continue to soldier on to keep alive his spirit, struggle and ideals.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman