At May Day rally, workers demand dignified wages and strengthening of country's food security
KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 — Labour and civil society groups today called for workers nationwide to be given dignified salaries and urged the government to strengthen the country's food security during a May Day rally here today.
This year's theme, “Gaji Bermaruah, Jaminan Makanan” or dignified salary and food security in English, premised on workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and their struggles against sharp increases in their daily costs of living.
The 29th edition of the May Day rally in Kuala Lumpur started with a rally from the Maju Junction Mall on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman before culminating in a gathering at Medan Pasar, some 1.4km away.
The rally, with some 400 people in attendance, began around 10.20am before dispersing shortly before 1pm.
Enforcement officers from the Royal Malaysia Police and Kuala Lumpur City Hall were also deployed for crowd control.
Also known as the International Workers' Day or Labour Day, May 1st is an annual celebration of labourers and the working class that is promoted by international labour movements.
The organising committee for this year’s event comprised 13 groups including Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Gabungan MARHAEN, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Sisters of Islam, Malaysian E-hailing Union, Food Sovereignty Forum and political parties such as Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) among others.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) was present as an observer.
PSM chairperson Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj said today's rally provided an opportunity for those whose industries have been economically affected to voice out their concerns.
“From PSM's analysis, Malaysia is not a poor country.
“Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has increased 28 times between 1970 to 2019; but wages have only gone up by just 1.5 times.
“So, a lot of the country's wealth is captured by those at the top, such as corporations and billionaires, and that is why those below are facing hardships,” he told a press conference.
As a solution, Dr Jeyakumar said the federal government has to intervene, by taking the role of 'referee' to put a stop to wealth exploitation by the riches.
“What we are asking here is for the country's wealth to be fairly distributed,” he said.
On food security, Abdul Rashid Yop from Pertubuhan Persaudaraan Pesawah Malaysia (PeSAWAH) urged the federal government to increase existing subsidies for paddy farmers, owing to the higher cost of paddy farming due to climate change.
“Today, there are some 300,000 paddy farmers producing rice for some 30 million Malaysians.
“Imagine if we paddy farmers are unable to sustain our farming in the future due to high costs which will put a strain on the country's food supply,” he said.