Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How the British suppressed the Malayan labour movement (Part 3)

Part 3 of  4 parts

The state of the labour movement in Malaysia (Part 1)

The origins of the labour movement in M’sia (Part 2 of a series)

How the British suppressed the Malayan labour movement


Published:     Modified:
This is part three of a series on the Malaysian labour movement.

FEATURE | In 1947, the Pan-Malayan General Labour Union, which was established in 1946, changed its name to Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU).

It boasted a membership of 263,598, and this represented more than half the total workforce in Malaya. 85 percent of all existing unions in Malaya were part of the PMFTU.

The attitude of the Malayan worker was more assertive during this period. For instance, a strike was reported of Chinese and Indian hospital workers because they no longer wanted to be addressed as 'boy', and workers began to see their subjection to physical punishments as unacceptable. 

Tamil trade unionists refused to suffer any longer the use of the derogatory term “Kling”. Estate workers no longer dismounted from their bicycles when a dorai, or planter, passed by.

In short, unions concern went beyond limited industrial relations matters or employee-employer matters concerning work rights and working conditions.

The British colonial government wanted to crush this development, and the ever-strengthening labour movement decided to “reconstruct” the organised labour movement in Malaysia and Singapore.

While the Singapore Trade Union Adviser, SP Garett, allowed the Singapore GLU (SGLU) to re-organize as a federation and operate legally without registering which led to the formation of the Singapore Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) in August 1946.

In Malaya, however, the then Trade Union Adviser John Alfred Brazier did not want the same for Malaya – he did not want the PMGLU to be recognised or continue to exist.

Brazier ruled that all the branch unions had to register, and that thereafter there be no relationship between any of the newly registered unions with the PMGLU (that later came to be known as the PMFTU). The registered unions were not allowed to seek guidance or remit funds to PMFTU. This created problems for the PMFTU, that ultimately led to its demise.

The Trade Union Ordinance required the registration (or re-registration) of trade unions according to sector or industry, and this allowed the government to deny registration to unions they considered strong, unacceptable or “militant unions”.

Until the proclamation by the British colonial authorities of a state of emergency in Malaya and Singapore in 1948, most of the plantation trade unions and federations of plantation trade unions in Malaya were affiliated with the PMFTU.

It is of interest that the British may have considered the PMFTU a bigger threat than even the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), for the PMFTU was outlawed even before the CPM was.

The influence of the Trade Union Adviser

Another method that was employed by the British, was to try and influence the trade unions, and to this end in 1945, a British trade unionist, John Alfred Brazier, was appointed by the government as Trade Union Adviser.

English-educated middle-class individuals were groomed and trained to replace the then existing progressive worker leadership of trade unions. One of the targeted unions were the plantation worker unions.

The government-appointed trade union adviser’s objective was not to strengthen, but rather, to weaken the labour movement in Malaya. This included eliminating the labour movement’s role in the political, socio-economic and cultural lives of the nation, and narrowly restricting its activities to “industrial relations”, that is the disputes between employers and workers.

This was an unnatural development, as workers are also citizens and humans who live in the country. Who wins the federal, state and local government elections is material – the wrong people and parties may mean anti-worker and anti-trade union policies and laws.

This restriction led to further erosion of worker rights and the power of negotiation for better terms. If the price of water, basic amenities, and the cost of living go up, it also has a direct impact on the lives of workers and their families. To bar unions and workers from taking up or speaking on such issues was absurd.

It must not be forgotten that workers and their unions had played a very significant role in the struggle for independence of Malaya from the British colonial government. They also played a significant role in developing the Constitution of Malaya - now Malaysia.

The PMFTU, Clerical Unions of Penang, Malacca, Selangor and Perak, and the Peasant's Union were a part of the All-Malayan Council of Joint Action (AMCJA), with Tan Cheng Lock as chairperson and Gerald de Cruz as Secretary-General, who actively campaigned on matters concerning the Malaysian Constitution.

It must be reiterated that what the British did to the trade unions in Malaysia was contrary to the accepted position and role of trade unions in England. To this day, trade unions in the United Kingdom continue to play an active role in the political life until today, being still very much affiliated to the Labour Party.

The manner in which the British treated the labour movement in Malaya and Singapore was not at all the same the way they treated their own labour movement in Britain.

In Malaysia, the object was clearly “union busting” for the benefit of employers and businesses, most of which were British-owned or controlled.

Other laws to suppress labour movement

Besides the new labour laws, the British colonial government also used other laws to suppress or carry out “union busting”.

In 1947, the ordinary trespassing law was used to keep union organisers from meeting and speaking with workers in plantations.

For instance in late March 1947, a large police force came to the Dublin estate in Kedah to arrest a federation of trade unions official for trespassing as he was speaking to a group of workers there. When the workers closed ranks around the official, the police opened fire, killing one worker and wounding five.

In a clash between police and workers at the Bedong estate on 3 March 1947, 21 workers were injured; whereby "the strike leader died of injuries received at the hands of the police a few days later". 61 of these workers were charged and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

The existing law then was that workers could not be terminated just for exercising their right to strike, which was a worker’s right. But in October 1947, the Supreme Court ruled in a case involving three rubber tappers that striking was a breach of contract and that the dismissal was justified. This was a major change of law and policy.

Unionists were also convicted for intimidation. In November 1947, S Appadurai, vice-president of the Penang Federation of Trade Unions and chairperson of the Indian section of the Penang Harbour Labour Association was charged for having written to an employer warning him against using “backlegs”.

“Backlegs” are persons who act against the interests of a trade union by continuing to work during a strike, or taking over a striker's job during a strike. In law then and before this, it was wrong for employers to use “backlegs” when workers are on strike. However, in this case, the said union leader was found guilty and sent to prison.

In January 1948, K Vanivellu, secretary of the Kedah Federation of Rubber Workers Unions was charged for having written to an employer asking him to reinstate 14 workers who had been dismissed for striking and suggesting that if he did not, the remaining workers might leave their jobs.

Hence, various other laws and the courts were also used wrongly, for the purpose of “union-busting” pursuant to the new British policy of weakening the labour movement in Malaysia.

New amendments to the Trade Union Ordinance

The Trade Union Ordinance of 1940 was again amended to weaken unions. New amendments to the Trade Union Ordinance were passed by the Federal Legislative Council on 31 May 1948. The amendments were in three parts.

The first stipulated that a trade union official must have at least three years of experience in the industry concerned.

The second prohibited anyone convicted of certain criminal offenses (notably intimidation and extortion, which were common charges against unionists) from holding trade union office.

The third stated that a federation could only include workers from one trade or industry.

As Michael R Stenson said in his 1969 book, “Repression and Revolt: the Origins of the 1948 Communist Insurrection in Malaya and Singapore”, the first provision was seen as "a measure designed to exclude educated 'outsiders'”.

It also created problems because many workers worked in different industries and sectors, as work available during that time was not permanent, and had more of a seasonal or transient nature.

It was similar to what is happening now, with the use of precarious short-term contracts, where after the end of contracts, workers have no choice but to find another job, which more often than not is in a different industry and sector.

The third part that insisted that a federation could only include workers from one trade or industry effectively killed the PMFTU and even the SFTU. This divided private sector workers further, and it also affected public sector workers, because it prevented workers from different sectors and industries from coming together and fighting for better rights and common issues.

PMFTU outlawed in June 1948

On 12 June 1948, the British colonial government finally outlawed PMFTU. This is interesting considering the fact that the Malayan Communist Party and other left-wing groups were only made illegal later in July 1948.

Can we say that for the British colonial government, the bigger concern or threat was the labour movement and unions - not the Communist party?  

Many of the leaders of the labour movement were arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced. SA Ganapathy, for example, who was the first president of the 300,000-strong PMFTU, was hanged by the British in May 1949.

He was said to be on the way to the police to surrender a firearm he found, when he was arrested by the 
police and sentenced to hang in Pudu Jail.

The birth of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC)

Effectively, the British colonial government succeeded in crushing the labour movement in Malaya. With the requirement of registration, and the powers vested in the Registrar of Trade Unions, the government could now eliminate the stronger “troublemaker” trade unionist and trade unions, and break up the labour movement according to sectors/industries – divide and rule.

In January 1949, there only remained 163 registered trade unions with a total membership of only 68,814. In comparison, PMFTU had a membership of about 263,598 – which represented more than 50 percent of the total workforce.

The Council of Trade Unions was formed. It organised the Conference of Malayan Trade Union Delegates from 27 to 28 February 1949, and this gave birth to what is today known as the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).

Now, since the amended new trade union laws prohibited the formation of trade union federations from different trades, sectors and industry, MTUC could not be registered as a trade union or a federation of trade unions, and had to be registered under the Societies Act as a society.

After Merdeka: The oppression continues

On 31st August 1957, Malaya got its independence from the British, but alas, the position of the new Umno-led coalition government that ruled since then until now did not differ much from their past British colonial masters.

Malaysia may have gained independence, but workers and trade unions continued to be denied independence.

They continued to be oppressed and suppressed, by the Umno-led government – who adopted and continued the British “divide and rule” policy and laws, and the restrictions and control with regard to trade union activities, trade union funds and even trade union leadership restrictions.

The struggle for Malaysian independence took many forms ranging from armed struggle to diplomatic negotiations, and for some the handing over power to the Umno-led coalition was not real independence, and some continued to struggle on.

The Umno-BN government and some leaders continue to be confused as to whom we were fighting to gain our independence from – the British or the Communist Party of Malaya (and others).

Members of the police and military serving the British colonial government are shockingly still seen as “heroes of independence”, and the recent invitation of 31 British army veterans to participate in the 2017 Independence Day celebration highlights this continued confusion.

Some suggest that the British choice in handing over power to the Umno-led coalition, a “friend”, was basically to ensure the protection of British-owned companies and assets, and the continued flow of resources and profits from Malaysia to Britain.

All these may not matter, as we now accept that Malaysia is an independent state. What matters is that workers, unions and the labour movement continue to be oppressed and/or stifled even many years after independence.

The role and influence of the labour movement in socio-economic and political life and future of the nation continues to be slowly eroded as the current government’s policy is perceived to be pro-businesses and employers.

A greater concern seems to be to ensure smooth unhindered operation of business and profits, something that may not change soon as the government too now are employers in the growing number of government-owned and/or controlled private businesses.

This article was first published by Aliran here. Malaysiakini has been authorised to republish it. - Malaysiakini, 18/11/2017

Keep people poor and in debt, and they will be afraid to stand up for rights or justice?

FREEDOM - Well that has been something that Malaysians have not really fully experienced - thanks to the UMNO-led coalition(today the Barisan Nasional) that has 'ruled' in Malaysia ever since independence in 1957. 

The funny thing is that many Malaysians have not just adapted but have also accepted the state of affairs...and some even believe that is all that we deserve... If there are going to be any changes, well we Malaysians really must WANT it and be willing to fight for this...we cannot simply be an 'independent' by-stander, not committed...and doing nothing...

GDP - Is UMNO-BN borrowing to increase spending to increase GDP? Debt RM908.7 Billion, Reserves RM426Billion only?

Well, now there is a lot of 'finger pointing' at Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak - 1MDB, kleptocracy, 'poor' governance, etc...BUT, the fact is that Najib could be very easily removed as Prime Minister - it is the Members of Parliament(wakil rakyat/peoples' representative) that is keeping him in power - the moment that Najib loses the confidence of the majority of the MPs, he cannot anymore remain as Prime Minister - he will have to resign and/or advise the Yang DiPertuan Agung to call for a new elections. 

Then, there is UMNO itself, UMNO members can also get rid of Najib Tun Razak as the President of UMNO...but that too is not happening? 

What about BN component parties - MCA, MIC, Gerakan, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu(PBB), Parti Rakyat Bersatu Sarawak(SUPP), Parti Liberal Demokratik(LDP),Parti Progresif Penduduk Malaysia(MYPPP), Parti Bersatu Sabah(PBS), Pertubuhan Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Bersatu(UPKO), Parti Demokratik Progresif(PDP),  Parti Rakyat Sarawak, ... Well, have these 'independent' BN component parties all lost its independent voice - silence means, the consent to all that Najib and the BN government is doing? UMNO dominance and control within the BN looks like the new reality - and its various component parties seem to have simply lost its own identity...freedom..independence?

Wakil Rakyat(peoples' representative) - MPs are peoples' representative and as such what they say and do should reflect the voice of the people? But alas, how many of these 'representatives' even have consultations and/or discussions with the people they allegedly represent? How many even provide information to the people of their constituencies? What is the problem about having a once a month public meeting with your constituents using some town hall, community hall or some other venue  - to simply report back to the people what is going on, to answer simply LISTEN to the views and concerns of the people you are supposed to be representing? [Well, Opposition MPs could say, they could not get the halls and the required permits in BN controlled states, but what about Selangor, Penang and Kelantan?

Well, if you do not have the time to meet the people once a month, well you could start a Blog/Website/FB Page - and keep the people in the know of the main issues, concerns, your opinions, the answers to your Parliamentary questions ....Hello, you are paid a lot being an MP, surely this could be done. Well, some have Blogs/Website ...but they use this to simply post their photos of them shaking hands, handing out 'gifts' and 'bantuan', opening some functions ... Important - but people need more information concerning major issues and concerns, etc...

People are also the problem - because they simply 'vote' without properly considering the candidates or the parties - do they have a history of being 'democratic', fighting for justice and rights,...OR you vote because the leadership of parties picked and chose these candidates? Do you try to meet with your MPs to get information, discuss issues, etc...? Or do you just go to see the peoples' representative to get 'donations' and 'contracts'? 

DEMOCRACY - Well, we claim that we live in a democracy, but the reality is that maybe we are living in an 'autocracy', 'dictatorship' or a 'feudalistic' state? We do not challenge or dare to voice out a different opinion from that of our 'leader' - we just listen and follow? We are 'obedient'...we are 'loyal' - and that is the problem not just in the government, but also in ordinary societies. The style of leadership is no more 'democratic'...and when members question or voice a different opinion, the solution seems to be simple - we expel them as members - usually the leaders do this, and the members simply do not question. Well, in a democratic organisation, there will also be many different opinions (some even against the opinion of the 'supreme' leaders)...there will always be criticism of actions taken and decisions made. But at the end of the day, despite the different viewpoints, criticisms, etc ...they will decide and take a common stand. Seldom, do they get a 100% support...but more than 50% is sufficient, and they do not expel members simply because of the difference of opinions. 

Is our political parties democratic? Well, at the recent UMNO AGM, oddly there seem to have been no different view or opposition to the actions of the leadership? PAS expelled Husam Musa because of his opinions and the wrongdoings he highlighted...and was there even a Disciplinary Hearing? Mahathir's Pribumi party has also been expelling 'leaders'/members who publicly raised questions and criticisms? So, look at the various parties - is it democratic? A party that does not practice democracy may not have the capacity to govern Malaysia in a democratic manner...

FREEDOM - well, that is what everyone is fighting for. But alas, many today may have sacrificed 'freedoms' and even rights in favour of mere survival ...

DEBTS can affect your 'freedom' and desire to struggle for 'rights'. If you end up with large debts, and monthly loan payment obligations, then a worker will not even highlight wrongdoings and fight for better right - Why? For fear of repercussions - loss of employment, overlooked for promotions, etc..UMNO-BN policy of not insisting on regular employment, and allowing unchecked precarious employment(short term contracts, workers supplied by contractors for labour, etc) simply makes this FEAR more ...and, hence a greater loss of FREEDOMS.

Well, this UMNO-BN government is encouraging people to buy OWN houses - take out your EPF(savings for old age) and buy your own house. Now, you can get almost 100% loan - and you get to pay back in 30 years. If you get a RM100,000 house(now very difficult), and you are paying say 5% interest on the loan, well by the time you end up paying your loan, you would have paid 150% interest, and that means you paid RM250,000-00 for the house, and monthly payments is about RM550 roughly - Well, how much monthly income needed for your survival? Minimum wage of RM1,000 - how much for all the other payments - electricity, Indah Water, water, telecommunication, Astro, transportation, etc...Will you finish payment by your retirement age? 

Problem is where will you buy the house? Will you be staying in it? Well, now employment security is gone ...thanks to the government, many people are on short-term contracts, and private companies can end up retrenching you...and finding a new job near the house you purchase is not at all easy these days. Civil servants do get transferred to where the need is, and same to many who are working in private sector. Now, if you are forced to move to another town - then, there is extra accommodation expenditure. Surely, the government knew all this - but alas the reality of ordinary people is not much the government's concern. And the fact that one is burdened by such monthly loan payments makes a person 'docile' - not willing to demand or even claim rights. Well, there you have it - people end up putting themselves in a situation, that makes them indifferent and not bothered...a non-payment of loan payments could result is loss of homes, cars, etc. 

Practically and reasonably, the government should have just build houses for people...and rent it out at a nominal sum. The government should have provided housing loans with a very low interest - hence becoming truly responsible for the people. When one suddenly loses monthly income - government could delay payment, or even re-structure payment. But if you took a loan from an ordinary private bank, you can forget about compassion - not pay, lawyers letter, house seized and auction. Low rental houses really a need especially for civil servants, and poorer Malaysians. Increase financial obligations - and the people will be 'controlled'.

Malaysia was a nation blessed with natural resources and goods - PETROLEUM, RUBBER, TIN, OIL PALM,...and good weather. Remember the British colonial government held from from granting Malaysia independence for a long time because of this...'wealth'...Finally, it handed over the government to the UMNO-MCA-MIC coalition...WHY? Why was that coalition given the power? A good question to ask...had it anything to do with that continuation of the British 'divide and rule' strategy...or more important 'protecting the wealth and businesses' of the British in Malaya? After all, the Malaysian government post-independence did not take back land, property or British businesses? So was it true INDEPENDENCE or was it just handing over power and control to cronnies or 'friends' or people who will protect British interest?

There was no dismantling of unjust oppressive laws the British left - like the laws 'weakening' and 'controlling trade unions? The old Sedition Act 1948 still is there and is still being used.

Why would they still maintain these policies and laws, that restrict freedoms, so long after Independence? Well, maybe it worked...and it certainly has kept UMNO, and now the UMNO led coalition, Barisan Nasional, in power. Further, if we look around, many of these leaders and their families have become rather wealthy...Comparatively, many Malaysians are still poor...and ultimately, the government, has admitted that financial assistance is needed for families earning less than RM4,000 monthly. [Beware the BR1M - because it is not a right in law, and depends solely on the discretion of the government of the day. It should be made into a right in law - then it becomes a right for all Malaysians]

The government administers the people's monies - but alas, now we continue to hear how a lot of public funds have also been wrongly taken by individuals for their own benefits - Corruption, Kleptocracy, Other Abuses of power, etc ....(Just have a look at even the Auditor Generals Report - and wonder why even after being highlighted, not much real actions have been taken against the guilty individuals...) The failure of government to take strict actions against the corrupt, especially in government, only makes the problem even bigger...Blame and responsibility would ultimately lie with the Prime Minister, the MPs that kept him in power, and of course the people who by their votes brought about this..

Now, the UMNO-BN government is slowly removing subsidies, increasing tols...increased cost of living. 

Worker wages, rights and 'weakened' unions were all put in place allegedly to make Malaysia more attractive and draw in foreign companies to come open their factories - So, many Malaysians sacrificed a lot and accepted these low wages and the state of affairs, and the government tried to keep cost of living low - so people could live decent lives. 

But these all are changing very fast under UMNO-BN, as now it moves even faster to adopt more and more neo-liberal(capitalism) policies - "Whatever you want you pay for it...if you cannot afford it, then too bad". Remember, the biggest advocate of neo-liberalism was the US, and the model has clearly failed which the emergence of a new class of poor and homeless. The policy does not care for those who cannot compete...the winners of the 100 meter race gets medals, and the others get nothing. 

Well, such 'neo-liberalism' thinking may be OK where all of the citizens are already well-to-do, and so some 'winners of the rat race' can get more and more...But reality is that in a human community, it will not work - for human beings are diverse in skills, abilities, capacities ...and our responsibility must always be for the well-being of ALL - not just ourselves and/or our families. Governments should ensure this, and as such the focus must always be for the poor and marginalised - to ensure that their livelihood is as equitable as others - but the UMNO-BN seems not to understand this. Look at BR1M - logic dictates greater assistance for the poorer families and individuals - so this practice of giving the same sum for all families earning RM3,000 or less is illogical.

Uplifting the socio-economic status of the poor in Malaysia - somehow the UMNO-BN government failed to grasp that concept...look around you. Welfarism or monetary payouts works for flood and natural disaster victims - but for an effective upliftment of the poor, one needs to give people the ability, skills and assistance so that they can themselves later improve their socio-economic position and will be no more be dependent on welfare or monetary assistance...

All in all, the UMNO-BN government, in governing Malaysia, has forced most Malaysians into poverty or financial instability - and so, they will continue to 'depend' on this government's welfaristic practices... 

They have encouraged Malaysians to be in debt - with the encouraging of people to buy homes, cars, etc ...on loan. A person who have much monthly loan obligations will be less likely to take RISKS which is crucial if we want to gain more rights and liberties, voice out and stop injustices and violations of rights, if we want to 'check and balance' leaders of government, etc...

Now, for those willing to speak up...government just created more THREATs - well, there is the Sedition Act, Peaceful Assemble Act, Criminal Defamation, Targeted Enforcement of Laws, Multimedia Act, Censorship laws --- well, the threat is targeted to almost everything ...including social media (even pressing 'Like' can get you in trouble)...Siti Noor Aishah Atam is in jail for having in her possession 12 books that were not banned in Malaysia. According to the government, Malaysians in this democratic country must be QUITE and accept things...your democratic right is the ability to VOTE once every 5 years...

One indicator of the failure of government is CRIME - well, is it increasing especially thefts and robbery (Well, UMNO-BN was smart - so no more statistics of crime - just some crime index?? Very smart. Well, then let us look at the number of persons in prison - well, in 2016, it was revealed that there are 59,600 in prisons (Does that even include the possibly thousands under Detention Without Trial laws - ABOLISH POCA AND DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL LAWS (38 Groups) - 142 juveniles have been arrested under the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA))

59,600 convicts in prisons in this country...Director of Inmate Management of the Prison Department, SAC Nordin Muhamad said of the total, 71.3 percent of those in prison are Malays and 66 per cent of them are between 22 and 40 years old.
59,600 persons in prison in a country of about 30 million - That is like 1 or 2 number of voters in a Parliamentary Constituency - and what 71.3% of prisoners are Malays, in a country where 50% of the population are Malay? Well, is that an indicator of the failure of UMNO-BN...

The special preference provided for in the Malaysian Federal Constitution for Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak was meant to uplift the socio-economic condition of ethnic groups that were inequitably lower than primarily the Chinese Malaysians and Indian with all these special allocations, UMNO-BN seems to have desperately failed even with the Malays? Well, or maybe the money and benefits have not been flowing to all persons in the said targeted ethnic groups - because there is certainly an increase of the number of very rich individuals from the said groups - and the rich have been growing richer and richer...

The keeping people poor and always needing the UMNO-BN, was that the strategy? Well, in recent years we have had cases of RM2.6 billion in PM's personal account, alleged loss of billions of ringgit from 1MDB (which strangely the government and 1MDB says that there was no such loss - but several other countries say the opposite like US, Singapore, Switzerland, etc ...) 
Majority are poor...indebted(with personal monthly loan repayment obligation) - so many Malaysians will just not have the 'capacity' to be bothered about other people in Malaysia - or the well-being of ALL Malaysians, and will be too fearful to take force a change in government or the priorities of the government? 

RISK will always be there when people want to CHANGE things ...So, will Malaysians take RISKS...or will they continue to keep UMNO-BN in power for the BR1M money, the chances of getting scholarship, the chance of getting jobs in the civil service, the possibility of getting a 'low cost house', 'small contracts', government 'subsidies', etc...

The failure of UMNO was the lack of questioning amongst the members of UMNO - likewise the failure of BN component parties. They say 'Silence is CONSENT' - so MCA, MIC, Gerakan, ...? Maybe, it is time that the various members of political parties need to re-evaluate their principles and core values, and even their leaders > Are you ready to abandon values and principles for some of your party members becoming Ministers or YBs? 

Yes - FEAR and desire not to do the needful for the betterment of Malaysia (nay...for the betterment of ALL persons in Malaysia) - Is that what you believe in and want?

The UMNO-BN government or persons associated with these parties have made 'insinuations' that there will be repercussions for those who oppose the incumbent, what will you do? 


Some 33,500 convicts in prison because of drug abuse

Some 33,500 convicts in prison because of drug abuse
Of the total, 71.3 percent of those in prison are Malays and 66 per cent of them are between 22 and 40 years old.
KUALA LUMPUR: Some 33,500 of the 59,600 convicts in prisons in this country are because of drug offences and they represent 56 per cent of the total number of prison inmates nationwide.

Director of Inmate Management of the Prison Department, SAC Nordin Muhamad said of the total, 71.3 percent of those in prison are Malays and 66 per cent of them are between 22 and 40 years old.

"What is worrying is the involvement of our citizens in drug abuse. Only 11 per cent of prisoners due to drug offences are foreigners," he said while sitting as a panel member of an anti-drug forum, here today.
The forum organised by the Malay Consultative Council in collaboration with the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF), the Malaysian Drug Prevention Association (Pemadam) and Utusan Melayu Bhd, was attended by over 100 participants specially invited to find a more effective plan to fight drug abuse.

Meanwhile, principal assistant director (International) of the National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK) Hamizan Haidzir expressed concern over the rising number of drug abuse cases in this country.

In 2016 (last year), the number of arrests for drug offences stood at 30,844 people compared to only 26,000 in 2015 (the previous year).

"Drug abuse is on the rise throughout the world, particularly with the entry of synthetic drugs which have negative effects on the central nervous system."

Hamizan said the authorities will intensify its efforts to fight drug abuse by increasing the frequency of raids on premises with the aim to trace and arrest those involved in drug abuse.

-BERNAMA- Astro Awani, 14/6/2017


Worst off in this situation is the Malay population, I believe. The non-Malays, because they are alienated by the Bumiputra policy has learnt how to survive and even prosper without government assistance or preferences. Well, the 'Bumiputra' preferential policy really helps UMNO-BN, because without that many will not be able to make it in the market - in getting jobs, etc...

UMNO - well, it is a Malay party - and there are only about 50% Malays in Malaysia - but for the past few years, there is no more disclosure of the real number of Malays in Malaysia, as we now suddenly get the Bumiputra figures? 

Well, some of the ethnic groupings in Sabah and Sarawak are really not that happy of being lumped in as Bumiputra? Why? Who really are benefiting from these 'Bumiputra' preferences and allocations? How many Malays - what is the percentage of the total Malay population will this make? How many Kadazans? How many Ibans? How many Penan? 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The origins of the labour movement in M’sia (Part 2 of a series)

The origins of the labour movement in M’sia

Published:     Modified:

Editor’s note: This is part two of a series on the Malaysian labour movement.

FEATURE | The fact that the Malaysian trade unions movement played a significant role in the political, economic and sociocultural life of Malaysia has been forgotten by many.

The labour movement did actively struggle for independence from the British colonial powers, and contributed significantly even in the determination of the future of Malaysia, including the drafting of the Malaysian Constitution.

But alas, all that is in the past, and the trade unions have been systematically weakened and isolated from involvement in the life of the nation, first by the British colonial masters and thereafter by the Umno-led coalition that has governed Malaysia since independence.

This weakening, nay, annihilation, of the labour movement still continues today through the actions and omissions of a government that seems to not just have embraced neoliberalism, but is also seen today as being pro-business. Of late, government-owned and controlled companies also are seen to be violating worker rights.

The future of the labour movement in Malaysia now depends on the workers and the trade unions, who really must appreciate the history of the Malaysian labour movement and decide whether they would want to struggle to make the labour movement once again strong and relevant, or just allow the slow withering away of not just the movement, but also worker and trade union rights.  

Origins of union: Protection and promotions of rights

A worker alone is weak, but workers united are strong. Workers have always naturally come to a realisation that only together as workers will they be able to fight and get better rights and justice at their workplace. As such, more likely than not, there have been organised worker solidarity actions in one form or another ever since there have been workers in Malaysia.

For Malaysia, the advent of worker struggle would have been in the rubber plantations and the tin mines (photo), whose labour was primarily workers of Indian and Chinese origins – a reality then when Malay workers resisted working in such mines and plantations, choosing rather self-employment, small businesses, farming, fishing and the civil service. The majority of the workers in the civil service were Malay.

The origins of organised labour in the form of worker unions in Malaysia date back to the 1920s. Workers then, who were primarily of Chinese and Indian origins in the private sector and Malay workers in the civil service, formed what was known as General Labour Unions (GLUs).

GLU membership was generally open to any worker, with no restrictions with regards to any particular industry, sector or workplace, unlike what we have today in Malaysia.

GLUs were generally formed in different geographical areas all around Malaya. They attracted many workers and were strong. In the struggle for rights, history shows that many actions were taken by GLUs, including strikes.

The labour movement then was not restricted to merely employer-employee matters, but also played an active role in the political, economic and sociocultural lives of the country.

The labour movement, together with other pro-independence groups (photo - MPAJA), was also actively involved in the struggle for independence from the British. They were also active in the struggle against Japanese occupation forces during World War II.

An example of a union then was the Selangor Engineering Mechanics Association, which was registered in 1928, and was maybe one of the first registered trade unions in Malaya.

The GLUs and many of the unions also started coming together as coalitions and federations – and finally merged into the Pan-Malayan General Labour Union (PMGLU) and the Singapore GLU.

British moves to weaken labour movement

The British colonial powers, worried about the growing labour movement, decided to try to control and influence it. The British colonial government were especially concerned about the perceived influence that the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) and other pro-independence groups had in the labour movement.

Methods the British employed to weaken and control the labour movement included the enactment of laws like the Trade Union Ordinance of 1940, and the appointment of the Trade Union Advisor.

One of the primary objects of this Trade Union Ordinance was to stabilise the labour situation in the interest of increasing production to sustain Britain's economy and its war efforts. It was not concerned about worker or trade union rights.

The Malayan economy at that time was geared to support the wartime needs of Britain. As such, labour and trade union rights, and existing struggles for better rights had to be suppressed and subordinated to what the British considered more important – Imperial Defence.

Malaya then was considered the “dollar arsenal” for the British empire, and the 1940 Ordinance was enacted for the purpose of ensuring a continued flow of revenue to the British Empire.

The stated object in the title of this 1940 Ordinance was, “An Enactment for the Registration and Control of Trade Unions''. Its declared purpose was the fostering of “the right kind of responsible leadership amongst workers and at the same time to discourage or reduce such influence as the professional agitators may have had and to reduce the opportunities or the excuse for the activities of such persons.''

It was clearly to weaken the existing labour movement, and transform existing trade unions and union leadership into what the British wanted.

The existing worker solidarity was to be destroyed, and a “divide and weaken” policy was the aim. Private sector workers were to be separated from public sector workers, and workers from different industry and sectors were to be kept apart.

The role of unions were to be limited to simply “industrial relations” matters – matters between workers and employers only. Unions were no longer allowed to be involved in matters concerning the nation, including the struggle for independence.

This new Trade Union Ordinance now required unions in Malaya to be registered (or rather re-registered), which meant submitting an application to the government, and receiving government approval prior to registration. This allowed the government not to re-register some of the stronger unions, and federation of unions across different sectors or industries.

As such, the new law prevented government (or public sector) employees and private sector employees from belonging to the same union. The affiliation of unions with other classes of unions was also prevented. Restriction was also imposed on the usage of union funds.

The registration rules were somewhat restrictive. For instance, government employees and non-government employees could not anymore belong to the same union or even to affiliate themselves with unions of other classes of workers. The usage of union funds was also restricted - it could no longer be used for a variety of other purposes, including political purposes.

Under these rules, all the existing GLUs (or even other federations of unions across different sectors, industry or occupation) were not qualified for registration and therefore could no longer operate legally.

The new Trade Union Ordinance and laws that came into force in 1946 effectively killed the GLUs, which could no longer be registered (or re-registered) under the new law, and as such were no longer able to operate legally. It also killed off many stronger unions.

What is of interest was that this new policy and laws did not apply to the union movement in Britain and the UK. It only applied to Malaysia. British unions to date are still involved in political struggles, and even political parties like the Labour Party, in the UK.

This article was first published by Aliran here. Malaysiakini has been authorised to republish it.
Part 1: The state of the labour movement in Malaysia
Part 2: The origins of the labour movement in Malaysia


Saturday, November 18, 2017

The state of the labour movement in Malaysia (Part 1)

Malaysian people and workers have been 'weakened' by the British colonial government, but alas the UMNO led coalition that governed Malaysia since Independence have continued to weaken and deny rights/freedoms of workers. Many today are unaware of these loss of rights and freedoms, and as such, we need to look back at history to see what happened, how it happened and why? Here, we look at the labour movement in Malaysia - which at one time was very strong, with more than 50% of the total workforce being unionised workers..

The state of the labour movement in Malaysia

Published:     Modified:

Editor's note: This is part one of a series on the Malaysian labour movement.

FEATURE | In Malaysia, the trade union movement seems to be weakening, with the number of unions and unionised workers steadily decreasing.

According to the Trade Union Affairs Department, only 875,193, or six percent, of the 14.5 million workers in the country, are currently union members. Union membership in the private sector also shows a marked decrease, dropping from 433,702 in 2009 to 359,206 in 2017.

Traditionally, trade unions have been controlled by laws, first imposed by the British colonial administration. This practice was continued post-independence by their successors, the Umno-led BN.

Malaysian trade union and labour laws fall far short of minimum international standards.

Even when Malaysia wanted to be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) – itself perceived to be a threat to labour rights – one of the preconditions was that Malaysia should make significant amendments to its labour laws to bring it up to par with minimum human rights and worker rights standards.

 Although the government promised to implement some of the provisions of the TPPA despite the deal falling through, no amendments have been made to labour laws.

When there are violations of worker or trade union rights, many Malaysian unions still do not choose to struggle through pickets, strikes or campaigns against employers.

Instead, they choose to lodge complaints with relevant government institutions, which leads to court actions, and possibly the appeal process, which can last for many years.

Even when workers and unions do win, the remedies are weak, having no real impact on employers nor instrumental in bringing about legislative changes. Employers are very happy with the state of affairs, for this method of industrial dispute resolution does not really impact its business and profits. The only victims are workers and unions.

Surviving within a limited space

What has happened to the trade union movement is an acceptance of the limitations imposed on them by authorities, and a choice of surviving within that limited space with a strong adherence to the law, even if that law is unjust.

There is also very little effort to reach out to the Malaysian public or even elected representatives for help in the fight for justice.

Since 1998, Malaysians generally have become braver, and have started coming out in much larger numbers in peaceful assemblies to protest wrongdoings and demand changes. But alas, this has not moved the trade union movement or workers to do the same, despite the continued erosion of worker and trade union rights.

The absence of a progressive and dynamic new breed of worker leaders may also be a factor. Current existing union leaders seem to have been compromised – worried more about union de-registration, the financial security of union members, or perhaps their own.

But the struggle for better rights and justice will always have an element of risk, and unless unions and their leaders are brave enough to fight for justice and rights, then things will not change.

Union leaders have also forgotten how to use their largest asset, namely the large numbers of workers acting in solidarity.

Union leaders today often choose to act alone, in a representative capacity – but neither employers nor government ministries are really worried because they believe that unions are weak, and that their leaders are incapable of moving even their own membership to collective action.

Even when pickets are carried out, the members that do come out and participate is but a small percentage of the membership. The last few large pickets or protests that occurred in Malaysia were from migrant workers, and many of them are not even unionised.

What happened with Malaysian Airlines when the company decided to get rid of about 6,000 workers is an indication of the state of the labour movement. These were all mostly unionised workers, with the unions affected having thousands of members, and yet not a single dedicated mass protest took place.

 To appreciate how the Malaysian trade union movement came to be this way, the history of the labour movement in the country has to be recounted, particularly before the subjugation of the labour movement by the British.

The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), unfortunately, is a creature of British manipulation, emerging only after much stronger unions, federations, and leaders were suppressed.

One would have expected that the MTUC and the larger labour movement would have undergone a resurrection after Malaya gained independence in 1957, but that did not happen.

The ‘union way’

With the passage of time, workers themselves have forgotten the past, and how strong the labour movement was at one point in the history of Malaysia.

This lack of historical knowledge, complemented by a lack of education and empowerment of workers and union members by existing “leaders,” keeps unions weak.

For many workers today, the union is simply a “subscription” deducted automatically from their salary by employers and transmitted to their unions, and the little benefit that they get from collective bargaining, which are usually salary increments and bonuses.

Unions now also seldom have regular meetings for its members, if at all, which has been proven to be essential for the strengthening of solidarity, enhancing knowledge of members, and strengthening unions as a whole.

 The lack of members being involved in decision-making and union actions has also developed in an overall lack of interest. The dearth of new leaders is also problematic, and we find the same old people retaining union leadership positions for years and years.

Things need to change, if unionism and the labour movement are to become stronger and more effective, but standing in the way are the existing leaders of unions.

It is easy to blame the government and existing laws, but if workers and unions are not ready to fight for better rights together, then the legislative hurdles to overcome will only get taller.

There must be a “union way” – a collective struggle with all workers standing together in solidarity, not a handful of representatives working without the participation or support of their members.

This article was first published by Aliran here. Malaysiakini has been authorised to republish it.

Part 1: The state of the labour movement in Malaysia

Part 2: The origins of the labour movement in Malaysia

Friday, November 17, 2017


Media Statement16/11/2017 (now 38 groups)

142 juveniles and possibly thousands denied their
liberty without being accorded the right to fair trial

We, the 36 undersigned civil society organisations, trade unions and groups are perturbed to hear that 142 juveniles have been arrested under the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA), a law that allows the detention of people without trial. This was revealed by the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in a Parliamentary written reply dated 31/10/2017.(Malaysian Insight, 7/11/2017)

We are shocked about the continued existence of Detention Without Trial laws in Malaysia, including the Prevention of Crimes Act 1959(POCA), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015(POTA) and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 that allows for persons to be arrested, detained and/or restricted without even being accorded the right to challenge the reasons of their incarceration and/or restriction in court. The fundamental right to a fair trial is denied. 

If 142 juveniles were victims of this Detention Without Trial(DWT) law, then one wonders whether thousands of individuals are currently being detained/restricted under POCA and other DWT laws.

The fundamental problem with these DWT laws in Malaysia is that the victim cannot even challenge even the reasons for his arrest, detention and/or restriction in a court of law. Without the ability to go for a judicial review challenging the reasons used for the detention/restriction, the judiciary is effectively barred from ensuring that the Executive is not abusing its power and/or that no innocent person is being unjustly denied his constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties.  

DWT allows for an individual to be detained and/or restricted indefinitely according to the whims and fancies of the government, be it a Minister or some appointed Board. 

A person who has been arrested, detained and/or restricted under these draconian Detention Without Trial Laws are also denied the fundamental right to a fair trial. The  State could also deny rights/liberties of the innocent. The principle that everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law must be respected.

When Malaysia finally got rid of the infamous Internal Security Act 1960(ISA) and the Emergency(Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969, there was hope that all other laws that allow for DWT will also soon be repealed. 

However, the opposite happened and the ability of the State to continue using Detention Without Trial laws, was enhanced by the amendments of the Prevention of Crimes Act 1959(POCA), and the introduction of the new Prevention of Terrorism Act 2012.

An amendment to POCA, which came into effect on 2/4/2014, introduced a new Part IVA, that introduced Detention Without Trial. The Board could now issue ‘detention order for a period not exceeding two years, and may renew any such detention order for a further period not exceeding two years at a time, if it is satisfied that such detention is necessary in the interest of public order, public security or prevention of crime.’

Previously, when POCA was used, within 24 hours after arrest when the victim is brought before the Magistrate for a remand application, a statement in writing signed by a police officer not below the rank of Assistant Superintendent stating that there are grounds for believing that the name of that person should be entered on the Register was required before a Magistrate had to grant a 14 day remand. But, after April 2014, all that is required is a statement of a police officer of merely the rank of Inspector. Hence, rather than having greater safeguard against possible abuse, it was made easier by requiring just a lower ranked Inspector’s statement. Remand period was also extended to 21 days.

POCA, which was originally enacted to be used for organized crime members, triads or gangs involved in crimes involving ‘violence or extortion’ was amended to cover all offences in the Penal Code. Originally it was to be used for gangs of 5 or more persons, but that was amended to 2 or more persons. That means that POCA can now be used for even a person who committed a  crime with another, even if the crime was theft or some other lesser crime. Right to a fair trial now could easily be denied for many more persons.

The POCA amendment, that came into force in May 2014, allowed for POCA to be used also for an even wider range of persons including drug traffickers including persons living on proceeds of drug trafficking, human traffickers including persons living on proceeds of human trafficking, persons involved in unlawful gaming, smugglers of migrants including persons living on proceeds of migrant smuggling, recruiters of members of gangs or persons to participate in some crime. A subsequent amendment in 2015 added ‘Persons who engage in the commission or support of terrorist acts under the Penal Code’.

An interesting amendment to POCA that came into effect on 1/9/2015 was section 4(2A) which stated that “No person shall be arrested and detained under this section solely for his political belief or political activity. The new Section 4(5) goes on to explain "political belief or political activity" as meaning ‘engaging in a lawful activity through-(a) the expression of an opinion or the pursuit of a course of action made according to the tenets of a political party that is at the relevant time registered under the Societies Act 1966 [Act 335] as evidenced by-(i) membership of or contribution to that party; or (ii) open and active participation in the affairs of that party; (b) the expression of an opinion directed towards any government in Malaysia; or (c) the pursuit of a course of action directed towards any government in Malaysia.".

This may give the impression that POCA will not be used against politicians (and possibly even civil society personalities) for actions directed against the government. It however does not protect civil society or human rights defenders if their actions and/or expression of opinion is directed against some our perpetrator of injustice, not being ‘any government’, or is they are alleged of committing some other crime. We recall that POCA was used in July 2016 in the case of R. Sri Sanjeevan, Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force (MyWatch) chairman – a civil society organisation. 

This amendment, however, may have the effect of reducing the interest or concern of political parties about POCA and such Detention Without Trial Laws.

The victims of these DWT laws may now be mostly common people, who are being detained and/or restricted for years without even being accorded a fair trial. 

The number of victims of such DWT laws are also unknown, as most such information in Malaysia are usually known when the government makes a reply to a Parliamentary Question. The recent information about the number of juvenile victims of POCA was because of a such question raised by an Opposition parliamentarian.

Now, whenever a person is suspected of a crime involving 2 or more persons, POCA can simply be used as it is so much easier, and requires no comprehensive investigation or gathering of evidence that would have been required if one was to be charged and tried in court. In a fair trial, prosecution needs to prove that a person is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The guilt or innocence of a person must be determined by an independent judge in court, and the belief of the police, prosecution or government that a person is guilty is inadequate. A trial also gives a right to the accused persons to defend themselves, and the courts will decide after considering all evidence and facts of the case. 

Therefore, we call 

1.       For the immediate repeal of all Detention Without Trial laws, including the Prevention of Crimes Act 1959(POCA), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015(POTA) and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985;

2.       For the immediate and unconditional release of all persons now currently being detained and/or restricted under these Detention Without Trial laws;

3.       For the immediate disclosure of the numbers of persons being detained under these DWT laws, and the reasons being used to justify their detention/restriction;

4.       That compensation and/or damages be paid to all victims of detention without trial laws for their loss of rights and liberties;

Charles Hector
For and on behalf the 36 groups, organisations and unions listed below

Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters- HRDP, Myanmar
Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition. (APSOC)
ATRAHDOM Guatemala.
Australians Against Capital Punishment(AACP)
Center for Prisoners' Rights Japan
Christian Development Alternative (CDA), Bangladesh
Civil Rights Committee of KLSCAH
Democratic Commission for Human Development, Pakistan
Indonesian Legal Roundtable
Institute for development of Alternative Living (IDEAL)
Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center
Legal Awareness Watch (LAW), Pakistan
MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
Malaysia Youth & Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW)
North South Initiative
NUFAM(National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia)
Odhikar, Bangladesh
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & KL
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates
PROHAM (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia)
Sahabat Rakyat 人民之友
Sawit Watch, Indonesian Social NGO
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
Sosialis Alternatif (Committee for Workers International-Malaysia)
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
Think Centre, Singapore
Workers Assistance Center, Inc., Philippines
WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)
Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association (YCOWA)

Additional Endorsements:-
Asia Centre
Human Rights & Democracy Media Center SHAMS”