Message by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr.Lim Kit Siang, for the one-day seminar on the problems of estate labourers organized by the DAP Selangor State Estates Sub-Committee held at Klang DAP Branch on Sunday, 9th Sept. 1973 at 9 a.m.
DAP proposes the establishment of residential schools by the government to specially cater for children of estate workers
The Ministry of Education’s Murad Report on School Drop-outs made the following pertinent findings:
1. “The drop-out rate within the primary school years is substantially higher for Indians than the other two groups, more Indian youths drop out during their primary school years than do Malay or Chinese youths.” (p.19)
2. “For Indian youths, the finding of this study shows that they have, on the average, the lowest socio-economic status of the three communities and have a lower motivation than the Malays. As a result the rates of enrolment among Indians, for both age groups, are significantly lower than those of Malays and Chinese.” (p.26)
Thus, we can see from the Murad Report that the Indians as a whole, are the most worst off educationally, as illustrated by higher drop-outs and lower motivation and poor socio-economic status.
Education is the key to one’s life and future, and it should be used to permit every Malaysian child, regardless of his socio-economic status and environment, to develop to the fullest his potential.
Unfortunately, for the Malaysian Indians as a whole, and for the estate workers’ children in particular, the over 16 years’ of Alliance rule have not bettered their economic and educational position in society. In fact, their position have got worse.
I call on the Malaysian Government to give full attention and assistance to the problem of the educational upliftment of the children of estate workers, so that they can be brought out of the trap or poverty and misery and have an opportunity to develop their innate talents as doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, scientists, educationists and other professional lines, or as technicians, foremen, etc.
To do this and make up for the decades of neglect and indifference, urgent remedial action must be taken. For a start, I propose that the Alliance Government build residential schools for estate workers’ children, so that they can fully benefit from educational facilities and not be plagued by poverty and adverse socio-economic or family environment. The Government should aim as its target the construction of one such residential school for estate workers’ children in every state by the end of the second Malaysian Five Year Plan in 1975.
The sufferings of estate labourers
Although rubber, palm oil and other crops are fetching a very high price in the world markets, the workers do not benefit proportionately. It is the capitalists and foreign proprietors who reap the gains and new riches.
By and large, the estate workers continued their pitiful existence as had been their lot for the past decades.
It was in recognition of the government neglect over the decades of the economic, educational, social and cultural life of the estate workers that the DAP in 1971 formed an Estates Sub-Committee to do our part in seeking for the estate workers a rightful place in Malaysian development and progress.
It was two years back that the DAP formally and publicly called for the establishment of a Special Ministry to look after the social, economic, educational and cultural needs of the estate workers and their dependants. I personally raised this call in Parliament, but Alliance leaders were not only cool, but indifferent to the idea.
I am happy to see that in the recent MIC General Delegates Congress, it passed a resolution taking up the DAP call for the establishment of a Special Ministry on Estate Affairs.
Although the MIC has belatedly awaken up to the sufferings and miseries of the estate workers, it is better late than never. However, I would like to see MIC, as an ‘equal partner’ in the Alliance government, produce results and not merely pass empty resolutions.
The people are aware that resolutions passed at UMNO General Assemblies are swiftly implemented. Let us see whether MIC resolutions are passed for more publicity and propaganda, or whether they would be implemented.
In this connection, I would like to ask the MIC President, Tan Sri Manickavasagam, whether he had, since the MIC General Delegates’ Meeting, raised the MIC resolution calling for the establishment of a special ministry on estate affairs in the Cabinet, and if so, what is the outcome, and if not, whether he proposed to raise it up with the Prime Minister at all.
Rice Crisis deepens suffering of rubber estate workers
Although there is some increase in take home pay for estate workers as a result of the high price for rubber, in actual fact, their real income has not improved – as their purchasing power had been eaten up by the rise in prices of all goods and commodities, especially by the recent rice price hike.
The inability and unwillingness of the Alliance government to take firm, effective action to bring down prices of rice and all other essential commodities is an indication of the order of priorities of the ruling party. To the Alliance, the problem of the workers rank very low down in the order of national priorities, while the profits of the employers and capitalists come high on the list of government concern.
The DAP calls on estate workers to rise up and make their pressure felt by the government in their demand for stable prices and cheap food in the country.