A Letter to Malay Mail – Labour Law Issue

The Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr Lim Kit Siang, today sent the following letter to the Editor, Malay Mail, Kuala Lumpur [17.8.71]


The Editor,
Malay Mail,
Kuala Lumpur


My attention has just been drawn to a letter by a so-called labour leader, Mr S.J.H Zahidi, Secretary-General of the MTUC, in the Malay Mail of August 10, 1971.

Referring to my speeches in Parliament in the debates on the labour laws, Mr. Zaidi said that unlike the DAP, the MTUC “have never confused its national problems with the Government with those of its international obligations and responsibilities to Malaysia as a whole.”

Mr. Zaidi is sore because of my following remarks, as appeared n the Hansard of 16.7.71, during the debate on the Trade Union Act Amendment Bill:

“Just now, the Minister of Labour questioned the loyalty of the DAP because my party had sent a telegram to the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation in protest over his election as President of the ILO for 1970.

“The Minister of Labour equates loyalty to Malaysia to support for him in his election to the presidency of the ILO. This is indeed a fantastic claim. We of the DAP here – our loyalty to Malaysia is second to none. But we do not regard that to be loyal to Malaysia must mean support to the Minister of Labour as President of the ILO.

“We have not supported his election as President of the ILO because we do not believe that it was right to support a person with pronounced anti-labour bias to occupy a seat which symbolizes social and industrial justice, so that once he occupies that seat and comes back here, he can go around and boast of his appointment to show what a great champion and fighter of the rights of the workers he is – of which he is not!

“This was why we were shocked when the MTUC had given its support to him. We were given to understand that the MTUC has supported him because it had extracted an undertaking from the Minister of Labour that in return for its support to his election to the Presidency of the ILO, the government would withdraw all their emergency regulations.

“That was why we read in the press of the pained shock and lament from the MTUC President, who is also the Member for Bukit Bintang, Mr. Yeh Teck Chye, that the Minister of Labour has madethe MTUC a ‘laughing stock’ of the world, and he was right.”

In my speeches on Labour laws, I had made two other references to the MTUC.

One: The Fact that when the 1969 emergency regulations to the labour laws were passed, wheich chopped away so many of the traditional rights of the workers and unions, the MTUC at first made brave noises and a big fuss about the death blow to trade unions. The MTUC also warned of the dire consequences to the government if these emergency labour regulations were not repealed. Today, these same obnoxious anti-labour laws have become permanent features of the country’s labour legislation. What is the MTUC, or the great Mr. Zaidi, doing about it?

All that we hear, which is repeated in Mr. Zaidi’s letter, is that MTUC leaders are “responsible men who do not go in for rash action.” And of course, the actions which are least rash is to go globe-trotting, one after another, at the workers’ expense!

My final reference to the MTUC had been my regret that the MTUC, who claimed to be the national centre for workers, have not paid attention to the grave problem of the organization of the unorganized, who represent 90 per cent of the workers, as these unorganized workers are the most exploited people in the labour force.

I leave to the public to judge for themselves as to whether my remarks and comments had been legitimate and justified. For such mid reference, I have brought onto my head the wrath of the great Mr. Zaidi. I sympathies with him, because he wouldn’t dare to turn any wrath of his on either Mr. Manickavasagam or the government.

If Mr. Zaidi is not satisfied with this letter of mine, and wants to pursue this matter further, I invite him to a public debate on a review of “The successes and failure of two decades of the MTUC”.