By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, on Wednesday, 11th July 1979:
DAP proposes establishment of Royal Commission of Inquiry into labour laws and labour situation before any hasty, drastic amemdments to labour laws are rushed through October meeting of Parliament
The speech by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, at last weekend’s UMNO General Assembly, attacking the labour laws as ‘time bombs’ is ominous and very unfortunate.
Dr. Mahathir’s speech is shocking because in attacking the labour laws as British colonial legacy unsuitable for Malaysian conditions, he is firstly, indicating his own poor opinion of the former Labour Ministers, Tan Sri Manickavasagam and Datuk Lee San Choon, in operating such ‘unsuitable’ labour laws; and secondly, his outburst is completely the product of his hostility and prejudices against trade unions and the working class, which is well-known and of long-standing repute.
It will be most unfortunate if the Government allow its mishandling the MAS-AEU dispute, which escalated from a simple employer-employee wage dispute into an international crisis causing untold embarrassment to Malaysia and damage to Malaysia’s investment climate, to resort to harsh and even more repressive labour laws.
There is no doubt that the labour laws in Malaysia need a thorough review, and that there should be amendments in a number of areas. But this review and amendments should not stem from the attitude of the Government to ‘teach the unions and workers a lesson’ because of the MAS-AEU crisis.
Dr. Mahathir and the UMNO leadership are not the most qualified people to carry out a balanced and independent evaluation of the labour laws in the country.
The DAP proposes that before the Government rushes to ram through hasty and drastic amendments to the labour laws in the October meeting of Parliament, it should set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the labour laws and the labour situation in the country, headed by an eminent Malaysian respected by government and trade unions, like Professor Ungku Aziz, and comprising representatives from government, trade unions and employers’ federations.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry should submit its findings and recommendations to the Government and Parliament, and it is on the basis of the Royal Commission of Inquiry Report that the Government should present amendments to the labour laws to Parliament for legislative approval.