KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 ― Over 100 Malaysians rallied here today in conjunction with Labour Day to demand for a workers’ retrenchment fund.
Demonstrators at the May Day rally organised by various political outfits and NGOs, including Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), have gathered near the National Mosque and will be marching towards Bukit Bintang.
Among the prominent figures in the crowd of both young and old, clad in red shirts and bandannas, included student activist Anis Syafiqah, PSM central committee member S. Arutchelvan and Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar.
Many of the protesters also held up banners which said “we want a retrenchment fund now”, “labourer's uprising” and “lost jobs, angry workers” among others.
They also chanted “long live the workers”, “abolish capitalism” and “we want rights” .
Various groups of Malaysians from farmers, factory workers and indigenous group representatives were also part of the rally.
“Remember the estate workers who have worked for this country. They are being abandoned by their employers just like that but no one cares. The government doesn't care,” an oil palm estate worker lamented during his speech.
The group swelled up to over 300 people by the time the crowd reached the Lot 10 square under the scorching heat.
Among those who partook in the rally included several lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer (LGBTQ) activists who waved around rainbow flags.
There was also a small group of supporters from the Otai Reformasi group which protested for the release of PKR's incarcerated leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
One Azmi Mohamad Zin, a former five-star hotel staff of 20 years, was also there to stand up for the rights of his 80 colleagues, who were terminated without proper reason last January.
The organising committee for the rally claimed the gathering had been endorsed by over 113 groups, including Sisters of Islam, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and only one other political party, Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).
They also stressed that invitations to participate in the rally had been sent out to all organisations and political parties, from both sides of the divide.
The rally also made 22 demands for Putrajaya to fulfil on Labour's Day, including a higher minimum wage of RM1,500, media freedom, the abolishment of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and multiple oppressive laws.
During the press conference, Dr Jeyakumar stressed that Putrajaya should fast-track the establishment of the worker's retrenchment fund, as many workers were suffering after being laid off by bankrupt companies.
“What happens in Malaysia, more than one-third is bankrupt companies. So they have assets frozen and they don't pay the workers. We want a fund to help this kind of situations,” he stressed.
The PSM lawmaker also urged workers to be united instead of falling prey to racial and religious politics played up by unscrupulous politicians.
“We have been divided by our politicians via race and religion. The issue of workers do not arise at all.
“System of politics here does not educate here about globalisation. We have a false impression (of each other) and make enemies of each other,” Dr Jeyakumar said.
The rally ended at 1pm with several performances and speeches on top of a truck in front of the McDonald's restaurant in Bukit Bintang.