Message by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, for the inaugural meeting of the DAP National Estates Sub-Committee at DAP Headquarters in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 24th March 1972 at 2 p.m.
The DAP National Estates Sub-Committee – the conscience and champion of Malaysian estate workers
The inaugural meeting of the 18-member DAP National Estate Sub-Committee today marks yet another milestone in the DAP’s fight for a democratic socialist Malaysia where the poor, whether worker or peasant, can lead a good, meaningful and fulfilling life.
For the last 10 years, the government has neglected the plight and growing misery of the estate workers – in particular the 100000 estate labourers who were thrown out of jobs during the period.
The retrenched workers have so far lacked a spokesman. The DAP National Estates Sub-Committee will be the conscience and champion of the estate workers, particularly the retrenched estate workers, and fight for their fundamental right to a decent life in Malaysia.
The DAP National Estates Sub-Committee must plan its tactics and strategy to firstly, bring this problem of the retrenched estate workers to the forefront of national attention and concern, and secondly, to compel the government to take positive action to help the retrenched estate workers to find alternative means of employment and livelihood.
From the experience of the DAP National New Villages Sub-Committee formed to champion the cause and right of the 900000 new villagers in Malaysia who were neglected and excluded from the mainstream of government assistance in economic and social development for 20 years, I believe that the DAP National Estates Sub-Committee will face similar problems at the start of its operation.
Firstly, the government will deny the existence of a problem as far as the retrenched estate workers are concerned. Secondly, the authorities concerned will admit that there is a problem, but dispute that it is a big problem.
Following further success of the Committee to highlight the extent and intensity of the problem, the government will try to counter the campaign indirectly – as by making empty promises and raising false hopes. But if the Committee is determined, dedicated and relentless in the upholding of the interest and welfare of the poor, finally the Committee will succeed in advancing the interests of the estate workers.
However, the Sub-Committee should be on the look-out for attempts by the authorities to try to mislead the people.
It will be useful here to note the government’s attempt to solve the problem of poverty, landlessness and unemployment of the 900000 new villagers after the formation and campaign of the DAP National New Villagers Sub-Committee.
The Government appointed a new Minister for Special Functions specially charged to look after new villages. Regrettable to say, up to now, the Minister concerned, Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, has confined himself to speechifying and publicity, and has not got down to the fundamental problem of finding jobs and giving land to the 900000 new villagers.
In fact, Dr. Lim seemed to be so intent on publicity that he seemed to be competing with himself to make bigger and bigger promises with every passing day.
Thus, two days ago, Dr. Lim even announced that the Government has decided to suspend the rubber replanting cess of four-and-a-half cents a pound for six months, leading to immediate denial by the Secretary General of Trade and Industry, Ministry, Inche Nasruddin Mahamed.
The DAP National Estates Sub-Committee must be on the look-out for such empty promises to try to cover up the basic problem of the retrenched estate workers.
The task and challenge of the DAP National Estates Sub-Committee is no easy one. Retrenchment is increasing apace throughout the country. Last week, for instance, when on a constituency tour of the Sementa State Constituency in Klang, I came across two estates where workers have been served with notice f termination.
This problem is duplicated in most estates throughout the country. The Government has failed to give land and find new jobs to the retrenched workers. The DAP National Estates Sub-Committee is charged with building up public opinion to compel the Government to discharge its obligations and responsibilities to the 10000 estates workers retrenched every year.