Call for Special Scheme to help kampong people and tappers hit by collapsing rubber price

Speech by DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Ra’ayat in the Committee stage debate on the Ministry of Commerce and Industry allocations under the 1972 Development Estimates on 16th December 1971

Call for Special Scheme to help kampong people and tappers hit by collapsing rubber price

The price of rubber has been hitting the rock bottom for the most part of this year, creating great hardships to the kampong people, new villagers, tappers, workers, hawkers and the people all round.

The fate of the kampong people and the new villagers is even worse off than the prices quoted on the market.

Although the rubber price listed today for R.S.S.l is $39.30, the kampong people produce rubbers which are of the lower grades.

Because of the poor market price, it is always the case that the prices the kampong people get are very much lower than the listed prices. In fact, it is not uncommon for the kampong people to get only $20 a picul for their rubber.

Thus, in the past when rubber price was good, the kampong people, even for their low grade of rubber, can buy 2 katis of sugar for one kati of rubber – as the price of sugar then had not gone up in price. Nowaways, they need 2 katis of rubber for one kati of sugar.

This illustrates the grave deterioriation in incomes and standard of living of the kampong people.

The fate of the tappers and labourers in the rubber estates is no better.

Two days ago, I asked an oral question for annual figures of workers retrenched from rubber estates and rubber-processing factories since 1960, giving a breakdown of the figures according to race.

The Assistant Minister of Labour and Manpower, Mr. Lee San Choon, blithely replied that the government does not have such figures.

We know that from 1962 to 1970, about 80,000 workers, nearly 30% of the rubber estate work force, were retrenched from this sector alone, working out to about 10,000 workers thrown out of work every year. Yet we have the Assistant Minister of Labour and Manpower standing up in Parliament declaring his ignorance and unconcern of the matter. For his ignorance and unconcern for the fate of the suffering tens of thousands of workers, I would ask Mr. Lee San Choon to resign his Assistant Ministership. The country wants Ministers and Assistant Ministers who care and feel for the sufferings of the workers, and will do their best to help them.

Mr. Speaker, Sir, the kampong people, the new villagers, the tappers and labourers are facing very grave hardships; I call on the government to draw up contingency plans to provide special assistance to these people so that they will not be left destitute, hungry, poor and miserable.

Mr. Speaker, Sir, on the one hand, there is the fall in the price of rubber, causing drastic reduction in the earnings of kampong people, new villagers, tappers, and unemployment.

There is on the other hand, steep rise in the price of daily goods. The kampong people, the new villagers, and the workers are therefore squeezed between the pincers of these price changes.

One way to help the kampong people, the new villagers and the workers will be to check the rise in the price of goods. But apart from very faithful paying of lip-service to the government’s concern about rising prices, it has done nothing about it, because this steep rise in the price of goods benefit capitalists, who form the backbone finance of the Alliance.

I would commend to the Hon’ble the Minister of Commerce and Industry to stop dilly-dally on this grave matter of rising prices any longer.

It must be firm and stop racketeers from making money at the expense of the toiling masses. It should set up a Consumers’ Protection Unit, comprising government officials, opposition members, representatives from consumer organizations, with power to hold public inquiry into each rise in price, to call up the manufacturer or agent of the article concerned whose price has increased, and to recommend to the government to stop the price increase.

Rural Electrification

I will like to take this opportunity to ask the Hon’ble the Minister of Commerce and Industry to find out whether there are any plans to bring the amenities of rural electrification to the new villages which have no electricity, if so, whether he could let this House know the number and their names. I am sure his officials behind him can provide him with the particulars I have asked for.

When I spoke on the plight, the neglect of the 400 new villages involving 750,000 new villagers earlier during this meeting, I was accused of being a Chinese chauvinist. But when at the last Parliament meeting I spoke of the problem of the kampong ra’ayat of their landlessness and poverty, and the majority of whom are Malays, no Alliance speaker accuse me of Malay racialism?

Sir, we in the DAP are not going to allow abuses which substitute for argument and reason to deter us from presenting the ills and sufferings of the people. The fact is the 750,000 people in the new villagers have been neglected, and their fate deserve public attention. As for the kampong ra’ayat, we had spoken of their fate and poverty, and will continue to speak about them.

Finally, before I conclude, I just want to draw the attention of the Minister to a serious state of affairs with regard to electrification in Malacca. In Malacca town, at Jalan Kampong Pantei, a four-storey building was recently completed. But it had no electricity supply for the two upper floors.

I think it is only in Malacca and in Malaysia that you have a four-storey building completed in the heart of a town, which could not get electricity supply because of lack of foresight, planning and efficiency of the government departments concerned, in particular the Alliance-run Malacca Municipality.

There is a sorry commentary on the state of government efficiency in Malaysia. I call on the Minister of Commerce and Industry to give personal attention to this problem.