DAP calls for special department to look after the fate of 500000 estate workers and their dependents retrenched by estates

Adjournment Speech by Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang in the Dewan Ra’ayat on Thursday, 3rd February 1972

DAP calls for special department to look after the fate of 500000 estate workers and their dependents retrenched by estates

In the last ten years, about 100000 workers were retrenched from the rubber estates, constituting nearly 30 per cent of the total account, about 500000 are involved.

The yearly retrenchment of 10000 rubber estate workers is a very grave problem in Malaysia, as the majority of them will not be able to find alternative means of employment with the already very high rate of unemployment in the country.

The majority of these workers had spent the best part of their lives in the rubber industry, contributing to the building development of the rubber industry and national wealth.

It will be an act of ingratitude on the part of the nation and government to neglect the estate workers, the majority of whom are Malaysian Indians, when every year 10000 of them are being thrown out of employment, as a result of fragmentation of estates, conversion of the rubber estates into oil palm and other crops, and the general decline of the rubber industry in employment-generating capability.

At the end of 1970 when the Rompin and Dungun iron mines were closing down, retrenching about 40000 workers, the Prime Minister, personally visited the areas concerned and announced special government aid and programme to get alternative employment opportunities for the retrenched workers.

Why is it in this matter of 10000 estates workers being retrenched every year, a clearly bigger problem than Rompin and Dungun closures, the government has completely ignored the problem. Why are the Indian estate workers being treated in this shabby fashion, as if they are step-children and second-class citizens?

I call on the Government to give urgent attention to this problem and find ways of helping the 500000 estate workers and their dependents affected and even more number in coming years.

The magnitude of the problem requires a special government department to be established, to specially look into his problem, to find out ways to minimising the high rate of retrenchments, and to help the retrenched in alternative means of livelihood and employment.

In this connection, I would call on Government to give land to the retrenched workers, so that they could have a means of livelihood. The Government is opening one million acres of land in the Second Malaysia Plan. I call on the government, for a start, to set aside 100000 acres of land to be given out to the retrenched estate workers. The time has come for a more dynamic and positive governmental action to help the 500000 estate workers.