Thursday, October 15, 2009

Budget 2009 must bring in working-class Indians

Jeevindra Kumar Krishnan, Sukumaran Apparu
Pro-tem central committee members,
Human Rights Party Malaysia.
Oct 14, 09

Dear Prime Minister,

We are a recently formed political party, the Human Rights Party Malaysia (HRP), which is pending registration. We refer to your recent request to the rakyat for proposals to be incorporated in the upcoming Budget for 2010. Our humble proposals, not quantified monetarily due to lack of data and time constraints, are as follows:

1. Minimum Wage

1. We propose that a minimum wage be set at RM1,200 per month, and, RM50 a day (RM6.25 per hour) for piece rate or daily paid wage-earners, for all Malaysian citizens, so as to uplift them from low wages and concomitant poverty. This will, in one sweep move the lowest paid workers' family above the poverty line of RM691 under the 9MP. The average minimum wage of RM325 agreed for oil palm plantation workers from Jan 1, 2001 will give those workers a real wage of only RM258.55 in Jan 1, 2010.

2. Repatriation of illegal foreign workers and cessation of intake of foreign labour

2.1 Simultaneous to the above minimum wage for Malaysians, we propose that it be accompanied with the repatriation of 500,000 foreign workers so as to create and augment employment opportunities for Malaysians.

2.2 The repatriation of foreign workers would largely be confined to the illegal workers who are estimated by sociologists to number 1.5 million in the peninsula alone.

2.3 To ensure that the effect of the minimum wage increase is not diluted but enhanced, the repatriation of foreign workers must be simultaneous to the setting of minimum wages for Malaysians.

2.4 To bring about a restructuring of the Malaysian economy and society, there should be a capping of the intake of unskilled foreign labour so as to force the automation and mechanisation of work.

2.5 Once again this policy would be widespread and could only be a gain to all Malaysians, particularly the marginalised and impoverished bottom strata of Malaysian society.

3. Alienation of one million acres of land for the technologically advanced farming of high- yielding grains, vegetables, fruits, livestock and aqua--culture

3.1 As in previous schemes like Felda, Felcra, Fama, Risda, Kejora, Keda, Kesedar, Ketengah, Agropolitan etc, e propose that one million acres of land be alienated to Malaysians of all races equitably for the technologically advanced farming of high yielding grains, vegetables, fruits, livestock and aqua-culture.

3.2 We rank 8th , 11th and 12th respectively in terms of per capita import of corn, rice and wheat worldwide; this is critical considering that global grain reserves are estimated at 40 days as of 2008. This will also increase the existing agricultural land from 78,700 sq km to 82,746 sq km.

3.3 The purpose of this scheme is to be increasingly self-sufficient in food supply, and if possible for export, as well as to restructure the economy so that no ethnicity is identified with any sector of the economy.

3.4 As previous schemes mostly benefitted the Malay community, further entrenching them in agriculture, we propose this scheme be opened to a larger and more equitable participation by all Malaysians, particularly the working class Indians, without prejudice.

4. Franchise schemes

4.1 We propose that PNB should now extend its mission to provide total franchise solutions to all Malaysians. The time has come for Malaysians, especially working class Indians, to be allowed into all mainstream development programmes that are available.

4.2 We also propose that the licensing requirements under the Franchise Act 1998 be relaxed together with the removal of race-based requirements in submissions of annual Reports for the franchisers or the master franchise.

5. Establishment of an Anti-Race Discrimination Commission and an Equal Opportunities Commission

5.1 We note that in the past, many proposals and schemes did not filter down to the masses as intended, or were not implemented, or were not equitably distributed, or were hijacked by corrupt parties, and this was the bane of the NEP.

As such we propose that an Anti-Race Discrimination Commission and an Equal Opportunities Commission be established for the specific purpose of acting as a watchdog and ensuring that government policy be implemented as intended, and be distributed equitably, specifically not excluding the working class Indians.

This commission should be similar to the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equality and the Human Rights Commission of the United Kingdom.

5.2 This commission would be set-up with powers to enforce what is already budgetary and government policy, including the following:
5.2.1 Enforcement of minimum wage in the private sector
5.2.2 Monitoring of the repatriation of illegal foreign workers
5.2.3 Equitable distribution of land alienated for the purpose of agriculture, livestock and aqua-culture (as in para 3 above).

5.3 To show transparency and sincerity, an official prime minister's circular should not only be issued but made public and specifically also forwarded to us for our follow-up in the implementation thereto. This would prove the government's commitment and sincerity.

After all, Article 8 of the federal constitution provides for equality before the law and equal protection before the law and Article 12 provides for no discrimination on the grounds of race and religion.

5.4 In addition, the Implementation and Coordination Unit of the Prime Minister's Department must be made responsible for the implementation of the prime minister circulars and the budget as a whole, as well as provide monthly updates on their website (that is, when they are up and running again) on the latest status of what has been achieved vis-a-vis the budget.

An example of long overdue implementation will be the yet-to-be-seen allocation of RM100 million for the re-development of Tamil schools as announced in the last budget, of which not a single sen has filtered down.

This when the monies could have been put to use immediately on a lesser number of schools if the initial allocation had been too small, as it has proven to be.

6. All Tamil schools to be made fully aided

6.1 On this budget, an announcement should be made by the prime minister, reiterating an earlier government announcement, that with effect from Budget 2009, all the 523 Tamil schools are to be fully-aided government schools with equal budgets, facilities, resources and teaching staff.

Simultaneously, a policy should be introduced that Tamil and Chinese be taught in all national schools during regular school hours with effect from Jan 1, 2010 onwards.

7. Micro-credit schemes and small business loans extended to non-bumiputeras

7.1 We propose that micro-credit schemes such as the Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga (Tekun) be extended to all Malaysians regardless of race. Right now there is only token assistance to non-bumi small businessmen.

A meaningful extension of the policy to favour all Malaysians would ensure the wide spreading and flourishing of small businesses and a reduction of loan sharks (Ah Longs) and the attendant crimes.

7.2 Licenses must be issued to entrepreneurs in the scrap yard and recycling industries. It is inconceivable that businesses that play such an invaluable role in managing dwindling resources are persecuted because they are unable to obtain the necessary licenses.

8. Amanah Saham Scheme for working class Indians

8.1 The Indians' equity stake in Malaysia has fallen to 1.1%. We propose that the government take concrete steps to rectify this dismal state of affairs by launching a brand new Amanah Saham Scheme in Budget 2010 specifically for the Indian working class.

This scheme is targeted for Indian Malaysians earning less than RM1,200 per month but will be open to all Indian Malaysians earning less than RM3,000 per month.

8.2 The proposed Amanah Saham Scheme must be launched with an initial annual fund size of RM2 billion and be structured with the availability of a government-backed loan scheme at a preferential interest rate of not more than 2.5% per annum (similar to yield of a 3-year Malaysian government security). Current outstanding MGS issues stand at RM229 billion.

8.3 All other terms must be kept similar to that of Amanah Saham Wawasan 2020.

9. Reclassify the plantation sector from the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry to the Rural and Regional Development Ministry

9.1 We propose this transference of the plantation sector from one ministry to another as the plantation population are better served under the rural development ministry which is better able to care of the social needs of the rural population.

Agencies like Felda, Felcra, Risda, etc, come under this ministry and are better able to meet the needs of the rural population particularly when they get displaced when plantations are phased out. This is nothing more than a reclassification of departments from one ministry to another.

10. Resettlement of urban poor into government housing schemes

10.1 Resettlement of all urban poor communities should be carried out on a programmed basis into well-planned government housing schemes rather than in an ad hoc manner, on the occasion of their eviction when private development occurs.

This will avoid all the incumbent conflicts and abuses that are currently associated with private development on land occupied by these urban poor communities.

11. Legal aid for criminal cases

11.1 In order to serve justice to the poor, we propose a fully-funded government legal aid fund for all criminal cases as a fundamental right for all Malaysians earning RM5,000 and below per month. This proposal would be seen as Malaysia taking the steps to ensure justice is served fairly and equitably. This should be modelled along the United Kingdom Legal Services Commission.

12. Conclusion

12.1 We request that working-class Indians be brought into the national mainstream development of Malaysia rather than on ad hoc race-based specific allocations that do not filter down. Kindly therefore provide and announce the necessary allocations for all our aforesaid proposals that benefit all Malaysians and cannot be faulted on any grounds.

The writers are pro-tem central committee members, Human Rights Party Malaysia.