A letter to the editor of Malay Mail – Criticism on Trade Union

Lim Kit Siang, Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka,
96-I, Jalan Haji Basir,
Batu Pahat, Johore.
23. 12.1971

Malay Mail,
31 Jalan Riong,


My attention has just been drawn to your report on 21.12.1971 on “DAP criticism of MTUC to split image of unions” where MTUC President, Mr. Yeoh Teck Chye, was purported to have replied to me at a National Union of Banking Employees forum where I analysed the three causes of the weakness of trade union movement in Malaysia: namely, an anti-labour government with its host of anti-labour legislation; an ineffective trade union leadership; and the multiplicity of peanut trade unions.

Mr. Yeoh Teck Chye was present at the forum held at the NUBD Headquarters at Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. He neither disputed my analysis, nor stated that my criticism was ‘destructive’ or ‘aimed at splitting the image of trade union leadership.’ In fact, he did not say a single word when the forum was opened to the floor for questioning and comment.

Two fellow-panellists, Mr. V. David representing the MTUC, and Dr. Tan Chee Khoon representing Parti Kemas, agreed with my analysis.

Mr. David said many trade union leaders were insincere and not dedicated. He recounted how often after union meetings, government people immediately know of what transpired at the meetings.

Dr. Tan Chee Khoon said the problem of the trade union movement in the country was that many trade union leaders ‘run with the bare and hunt with the hound.’

Does Mr. Yeoh Teck Chye agree with the views as expressed by his Parti Kemas colleagues?

What merits attention is that Mr. Yeoh Teck Chye, though he did not say a single word at the forum, should after the forum inspire a press report that he replied to my speech at the forum itself.

If Mr. Yeoh Teck Chye had thought that my speech was ‘destructive’, why didn’t he stand up at the forum and point out in what way I had indulged in merely ‘destructive’ criticism? Why scurry away from an open argument and debate to the safety of his air-conditioned office to inspire a press of how valiantly he had replied to my views at the forum?

One cannot but wonder at the credibility and capability of Mr. Yeoh Teck Chye to stand up firmly, courageiously and unflinchingly for workers’ interests when confronted by government leaders, when at a forum in his own union, he dared not voice he thoughts, and had to wait after the event to inspire a press report about his fictitious intervention at the forum.

I made it very clear in my speech that I was offering some criticism of the MTUC, not to run down the MTUC leadership, but to give my views as to its areas of weakness and ineffectiveness so that they could be removed. I did so out of my concern for the trade union movement, for I want to see a strong MTUC, which grows stronger year by year.

Mr. Yeoh had said that my criticisms were ‘destructive’, but that he would welcome ‘constructive’ criticism of the MTUC.

If Mr. Yeoh regrets that he had not made use of the opportunity at the forum to speak his mind on the points that I made, I am prepared to meet him at any public venue, even in the MTUC, so that this very grave problem of a strong, effective, militant trade union movement can be discussed, debated and realized.

Finally, just a correction of the ‘inspired’ press report, I never said that trade union membership represented only 30 per cent of the works. What I said was that trade union membership had only represented 15% of the work force.

Yours sincerely,


(Lim Kit Siang)
Member of Parliament for
Bandar Melaka