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Malaysia: May Day rally proceeds despite police disruption

More than 2,000 people attended
1st. May 2008, Kuala Lumpur

All major newspapers this morning had a warning from the city police Chief asking people not to participate in the May Day rally called by JERIT. The Chief Police Office (CPO) of Kuala Lumpur, Muhammad Sabtu Osman stated that the rally is illegal as it did obtain police permit and those participating will be arrested under Section 27 of the Police Act. Consistent with the threat, Dataran Merdeka was cordoned off by riot police FRU. The crowd then gathered near the Bar Council while PSM leaders led by Secretary General S.Arutchelvan and Chairperson Dr. Nasir Hashim held negotiation with the District Police Chief, ACP Mohammad Zulkarnain.

After a tough negotiation, the police who initially decided to disperse the crowd back- tracked and allowed the people to gather and walk in smaller numbers. The organizers decided to compromise on carrying the banners. Besides that, leaflets on the importance of Mayday was distributed along the way. The crowd them moved in three-four people and walked to Confucian school where the main event was to take place. The walk was led by Comrade A.Sivarajan.

Whatever said, the May Day this year was once again disrupted by the police who does respect the democratic rights of the people. In spite of the huge victory in the elections, freedom of assemble remains curtailed. The Bar Council held watching brief of the events today.

The crowd then walked past the busy KL streets and moved into the venue of the event. Inside, around twenty newly elected State Assemblyman and MPs also attended the event. It was perhaps the first time that so many elected reps attended a mayday rally.

The event started with a big applause to the people who have successful marched to the venue. The vent was conducted in three languages. It started with a workers song. The highlight was when the demands were put on stage and each representative read out the demands. The May Day logo was the unveiled. The political parties’ representative then gave their commitment and pledged to carry out reforms on workers rights. The main speakers were Dr. Lo Lo from PAS – MP from Setiawangsa, Charles Santiago- DAP, MP for Klang, Zuraidah PKR, MP from Ampang while Dr. Nasir represented PSM.

Charles Santiago said that the Selangor State Government would try to implement RM 1,500 minimum wage in Government linked Companies in Selangor while Dr. Lo Lo said that reforms would start form the five states and it will be used as a pressure point for reforms in the Federal Government. Dr. Nasir spoke about workers power and their rights.

The event ended with the May day Declaration which has 15 points read out one by one. 102 Organization endorsed this years declaration. The declaration among other things called for Minimum wage, special retrenchment funds for workers, Housing for the poor and stop forced eviction, Abolish University and Colleges Act, give land for farmers, Abolish the ISA, Equal rights for Migrant workers, Stop the FTA talks and privatization of water and public health care, enact laws to protect women and resolve land issues involving the indigenous community.

The finally May day 2008 was concluded with the singing of the Internationale.

The organizing committee need to be applauded for continuing this great tradition of May Day. There are many other efforts done to commemorate May day but it is only when the spirit of the workers are alive can any event be successful.

Photos by Colin and Nalini E

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