DAP forms National Estates sub-Committee to fight for cause and rights of estate workers

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, when addressing the Sungai Siput DAP Branch in Sungei Siput on Sunday, 12th March 1972 at 4 p.m.

DAP forms National Estates sub-Committee to fight for cause and rights of estate workers

In the last ten years, about 100000 workers were retrenched from the rubber estates, constituting nearly 30 per cent of the total rubber estate work force. When we take their dependants into account, about 500000 people are involved.

Year by year, the annual displacement of rubber estate workers has become more and more acute. Figures are hard to come by, but the Second Malaysia Plan (Paragraph 283) admits that in the five years from 1962 – 1967, alone, some 54000 workers were displaced from the rubber sector.

The rate and volume of estate retrenchment of labour since 1967 has accelerated.

The cause of this employment decline in the rubber estates is caused by the reduction in rubber estate acreage through fragmentation and by efforts of estates to introduce cost savings in production – in particular, because of the low price of rubber.

Thus, from 1966 to 1970, during the First Malaysia Plan, although estate rubber output increased by nearly 4% per year, total acreage tapped declined from 1.32 million acres to 1.28 million acres. More important, the number of workers per hundred acres tapped also dropped, from 21.7 to 18.1.

The 100000 workers thrown out of work by the estates in the last ten years had spent the best part of their lives to build up the rubber industry and national revenue.

It is an act of ingratitude on the part of the nation and government to now ignore the plight, misery and poverty of these 100000 estate workers and their families who are now thrown onto the unemployment heap.

The DAP is shocked that in a problem of such magnitude the Government and the MIC have not given it the urgent attention it deserves.

In fact, I raised this matter in the last session of Parliament, but the government is blind to the suffering of the estate workers. As for the MIC leaders, they seem more interested in their presidential tussle for power than in the sufferings of 500000 estate workers and their dependents thrown out of work and without a means of livelihood.

The DAP is a democratic socialist party which seeks to abolish poverty and exploitation of man by man, and the enslavement of man by man-made circumstances.

We have therefore decided to take up the cause of the neglected 500000 retrenched estate workers and their dependents, to bring pressure to bear on the government to care and look after them through the formation of a DAP National Estates Sub-Committee.

Just as the DAP has formed the DAP National New Villages Sub-Committee to fight the cause and rights of the 900000 new villagers who had been neglected and excluded from the mainstream of economic development for 20 years, and succeeded in compelling the Government to acknowledge the existence of the problem, by appointing a Minister specially in charged of New Villages, the DAP National Estates Sub-Committee will fight for the rights of estate workers.

The DAP National Estate Sub-Committee will be charged with the task of highlighting and focusing national attention on this grave problem of the annual 100000 people being retrenched from estates, their plight, unemployment, the need for government assistance.

The DAP calls on the government to stop ignoring the plight of the retrenched estate workers and leave them to suffer in silence.

The government should draw up a special scheme to help find jobs and means of livelihood for the displaced estate workers. It should give land to the displaced estate workers, for instance. In parliament, I called on the Government to set aside 100000 acres of land for the retrenched estate workers under the Second Malaysia Plan.

The Government should also set up a special department to look into this grave problem to provide a ready government machinery to tackle and deal with this matter.

The DAP National Estates Sub-Committee will, however, not confine itself to the problem of the retrenched estate workers – though this will be its primary task. The Sub-Committee will also be responsible for championing the cause of all estate labourers to a better life, socially, economically and politically.

The DAP National Estates Sub-Committee will be headed by the DAP State Assemblyman for Batak Rabit, Sdr. Felix Anthony. The Secretary will be Sdr. K. Raman of Negri Sembilan.

Other members are: Sdr. K. Ramasen, State Assemblyman for Bukit Raja
Sdr. Dr. A. Soorian, M. P. for Port Dickson
Sdr. Samuel Raj (Selangor)
Sdr. P. Pattoo (Perak)
Sdr. S. Ramanathan (Sungei Siput)
Sdr. L. Thamby (Perak)
Sdr. S. P. Samy (Selangor)
Sdr. S. Nathan (Selangor)
Sdr. N. Ramasamy (Selangor)
Sdr. Subaramaniam s/o Raju (Johore)
Sdr. Chew Teck Seng (Johore)
Sdr. Daing Ibrahim bin Othman (Johore)
Sdr. K. Shanmugam (Negri Sembilan)
Sdr. Hassan Bakti (Malacca)