Thursday, August 6, 2009

Street protests: It's all your fault, gov't told - Malaysiakini

The umbrella body for trade unions today threw its weight behind street demonstrations by stating that the government was never interested in any forms of feedbacks given by the civil societies.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general G Rajasekaran said that the government "always ignored memorandums and proposals submitted by civil society groups".

He added that it was this failure by the government which had prompted the people to resort to street demonstrations.

He was referring to the anti-ISA march which attracted almost 30,000 people last Saturday. The march was broken forcibly by the police with tear gas and water cannons. More than 500 people, including juveniles, were arrested.

"There is no justification for the government to use brute force against peaceful demonstrators," said Rajasekaran in a statement today.

"The whole world witnessed that the march against the dreaded Internal Security Act remained orderly and peaceful until the police intervened with water cannon and tear gas," he added.

He said that the government had failed to understand that the protesters' aim was to submit their concerns against the ISA to the King.

The unionist said that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak must take note that civil society groups have made known their resentment and reasoning for opposing the ISA on various occasions.

"In the last 50 years, series of forums and assemblies have debated the abuses of the ISA. Unfortunately nothing has changed.

"It is now a well known fact that government always ignored memorandums and proposals submitted by civil society groups," he added.

Abdullah only as good as his slogans

He said that MTUC had bad experience with the former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over his attitude and approach to memorandums submitted to him calling on reforms.

He said Abdullah had continuously sidelined the MTUC and ignored the needs of seven millions workers in the private sector since assuming his office in October 2003.

"During his entire five years and five months rein he never met MTUC leaders, he ignored repeated reminders," he said.

Rajasekaran added that the MTUC had submitted four memorandums to Abdullah since November 2003 but saw no response from the government.

The four memorandums were on Privatization of water distribution on Jan 24, 2006, on the impact of increase of Petroleum products on March 27, 2006, on the minimum wage on June 18, 2007 and on the restrictive labour legislations on May 5, 2008.

"Not only Prime Minister Abdullah failed to meet with MTUC leaders, he even failed to acknowledge any of the communications forwarded to him.

"By this he proved that all his slogans were just that - mere slogans. He never believed in any of them," he said.

He added that while it was true that it was the government's responsibility to maintain public order, this should not be used as an excuse to ban peaceful assemblies when all other efforts have failed.