DAP calls for a Special Ministry to look after Welfare of estate workers

Message by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary General. Lim Kit Siang, to the DAP National Estates and Mines Sub Committee’s inaugural meeting held on 5th October, 1977, at 8 p.m. at DAP Headquarters, Petaling Jaya.

DAP calls for a Special Ministry to look after Welfare of estate workers

When the DAP first formed the National Estates Sub Committee in 1972, the Government, despite MIC participation in the Cabinet and Parliament, was not prepared to admit that estate workers comprise one of the poverty groups in the country who deserve special attention and help.

The DAP National Estates Sub committee was formed to educate public opinion about the plight and poverty of estate workers especially the increasing number of estate workers retrenched and thrown out of unemployment and to secure recognition by society and government of their poverty positions and governmental responsibility towards them.

I am therefore glad that in the Third Malaysia Plan from 1976-80, estate workers’ poverty has been finally recognised as one of the poverty areas in the country. But whether recognition of estate working class poverty means concrete government help to redress this social inequality is something which has not been borne out by government action.

In fact, in the five years from 1971-1975, the period of the Second Malaysia Plan, which the government claims is dedicated to the elimination of poverty regardless of race, the incidence of poverty among estate workers has increased rather than decreased. And the overall Indian unemployment rate has risen from 11% in 1971 to 12.2% in 1975 at the end of the Second Malaysia Plan.

It has been estimated that there were about 250,000 workers in 150,000 households in 1970 – 40% of whom were Indians, 32% Malays and 22% Chinese. About 60% of these workers earn monthly cash income of $100-120, with 20% earning less than this and the remaining 20% more.

The Barisan Nasional Government record to eliminate or reduce poverty in the estate sector is a record of failure.

There is ministry specially charged with rural development and another Minister with Special Functions in charge of village development. I call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, to appoint a minister specially charged with the welfare of estate workers, to eliminate estate poverty, for in the absence of a minister appointed specifically to be responsible for these matters, no concrete change is likely to be affected in redressal of estate workers poverty.

This ministry would have an the other equally important task the emplacement of redundant estate workers in Felda and other public land schemes and to see that there is an adequate and representation of estate workers in all government land schemes.

Furthermore, as the possession of red identity cards is an acute problem among estate workers, this ministry should also be responsible in helping in the speedy processing of citizenship applications by red identity card holders who have all the requisite citizenship qualifications.