LETTER | A disagreement between the Minister of Human Resources M Kulasegaran and some MTUC leaders has resulted in a move to oust the MTUC altogether. The disagreement, which involves the process that the Ministry of Human Resources followed in tabling some labour law amendments has incurred the opprobrium of the minister.
The merits of the issue become a lesser issue when there is an attempt to cripple dissent within society, and in this case through suggestions that the MTUC’s role could be replaced by other organisations. Kulasegaran has cleverly positioned himself behind the move in a way in which he can either subsequently ride on it or back out, after seeing which way the cards are falling.
The workers of Malaysia have long been sidelined, first through the exploitative and oppressive measures of the previous BN government and now through an underperforming Pakatan Harapan government.
The trade union movement in Malaysia has always been seen as a threat to the government, whether it was the British colonialists or the BN government. It’s leadership, barring a few exceptions such as the late V David and Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud, largely worked within the framework that the government set. It did not serve the interests of the workers of the country well, and it kept the exploitative capitalist machinery happy.
This was achieved through the control that the BN government exercised through legislation that kept the true freedom and independence of trade unions under wraps. Many trade union leaders felt that the way to get anything done was to ingratiate themselves with the BN government. It descended into a race to the bottom where workers and trade union rights were concerned.
The fall of the BN government raised expectations of a new dawn among workers and the trade union movement in the country. Without the support of the workers in the country, Harapan would have never assumed power. The start was promising, though it has since descended into a major disappointment.
The government is not giving a gift to workers, whenever any amendment to the legislation is made in favour of workers or trade unions. It is merely doing its job, and it is imperative that the Harapan government rewrite the wrongs and atrocities committed against workers and the trade union movement.
For a disagreement with a newly installed minister to result into a debate as to the continued viability of the MTUC speaks to the level of arrogance the Harapan government has since acquired, and that, too, less than two years after taking over the reins of government.
There are too few Harapan ministers oo members of Parliament that are encouraging and dealing with dissent in true democratic spirit, with the exceptions being the likes of Anwar Ibrahim, Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid, P Ramasamy and Charles Santiago.
The DAP, in particular, with its long history in the opposition, should be careful in not making the mistakes that it railed against when the BN government was abusing its position. When Kulasegaran talks about “decorum” in expressing dissent, he would do well to remember how he and many of us conducted ourselves when we felt passionate about some form of injustice previously.
The minister and his ministry should stay above being partisan, and play its role as part of the executive of the country. The minister should also very quickly call for an open dialogue, to reset the relationship with the MTUC.
The current situation does not bode well for the Harapan government. While a divide-and-rule strategy would help it to remain in control in the shorter term, it will be short-lived as the people will not be fooled for too long.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.