Call on the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, to resolve the ministerial conflicts between Datuk Samy Vallu and Datuk Rais Yatim over the Selancar Empat Scandal

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary – General, Lim Kit Siang, when opening the Johor DAP State Ordinary Convention on Sunday, 17th July 1993 at 10.00 a.m. at Scudai, Johor.

Call on the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, to resolve the ministerial conflicts between Datuk Samy Vallu and Datuk Rais Yatim over the Selancar Empat Scandal.

It is most shocking to read the comments of the Minister of Land and Regional Development, Datuk Rais Yatim, on the Selancar Empat scandal when he said that his ministry was inclined to accept the version of the Pahang CPO, SAC Mohamed Noor Khamis, that police investigations showed that there has been no criminal offences comitted and allegations of wrongful confinement, illegal detention, forced labour and criminal assault of workers at Selancar Empat were untrue. Datuk Rais also said that his ministry was inclined to accept the police investigations rather than other reports including those in the press of the situation in Selancar Empat.

Datuk Rais’ statement is most shocking not only because it went against all eye-witness accounts of those who had visited the schemes but also because it tantamounts to a repudiation of a statement by his ministerial colleague, Datuk Samy Vellu, about the exploitation at Selancar Empat.

Such ministerial conflict is most disconcerting and the Prime Minister must step in to resolve it if public confidence in the collective responsibility of the Cabinet is not to be undermined.

Either Datuk Samy Vellu is telling untruths and seeking only to sensationalise the Selancar Empat Scandal, in which case, he should resign as Cabinet Minister or be sacked from it, or Datuk Rais id being grossly insensitive and irresponsible to be exploitation and inhumanities which have been taking place for the last four years in one of the Felda schemes. In the latter event, then it is Datuk Rais who should resign or be sacked from the Cabinet.

I cannot understand how after so many different and independent accounts of the sufferings and degradation of the Selancar Empat workers, Datuk Rais could blissfully assert that the Pahang CPO’s version that no criminal offences have been disclosed is true.

It is precisely because of the failure of the police and other government authorities to protect these contract labourers that three of them travelled all the way from Selancar Empat to Malacca last Saturday to lodge official police reports of the assaults, illegal confinement and detention and other forms of torture meted out to them the last four years.

After the statement by the Pahang CPO, these workers have even less confidence in the Pahang police.

The Selancar Empat Scandal vividly demonstrates that Dr. Mahathir’s motto for a efficient and trustworthy government are mere words for if the three departments involved, namely, the police, labour department and Felda, had discharged their responsibilities in an efficient and trustworthy manner, the workers at Selancar Empat would never have been exploited and victimized in such a fashion.

For instance, contract workers are meant for temporary jobs and not for employment lasting for 4 years but the Labour Ministry has failed completely in monitoring the contract labour system to prevent such unemployment abuses from taking place.

As a result of persistent DAP pressure in Parliament for regulation of contract labour, Parliament amended the Employment Ordinance in 1976 to give the Minister power by order to prohibit contract labour in any agricultural of industrial undertaking or any other place of work. Unfortunately, for the last seven years, this provision had remained a dead-letter for it has never been invoked by the Labour Minister to protect workers from the type of exploitation highlighted by the Selancar Empat incident.

The government must now order a full- scale investigation into the system of contract labour to ensure there are sufficient legal powers to prevent another Selancar Empat, either by abolishing the contract labour system or by effective regulations.