Thursday, November 26, 2009

“Minister-in-the-dark” caught in the limelight

OUR learned-and-honorable Plantation and Commodities Minister, Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok was in the limelight recently, again for the wrong reason. This time he was accused of lying about the minimum wage of plantation workers, by Sungai Siput MP, Dr D Jeyakumar. (read the attached full story below)

While I’m not a fan of Dompok, I would humbly appeal to Dr Jeyakumar to give our innocent-looking Dompok a break, if not forgive him. This is because like what he recently claimed on the controversial proposed Kaiduan Dam project in his Penampang constituency, Dompok was probably also “in the dark” over the real situation and plight of plantation workers.

The other reason could be because Dompok could have mistaken that he was talking about plantation workers in Sabah, a majority (believe to be more than 90%) who are foreigners, illegal immigrants included.

But having said that, I somehow wondered whether Dompok was really always “in-the-dark”, or just that he wished the people would think so and forgive him for his slow response to their plight, just like in the case of the Kaiduan Dam issue.

Hence, my question to Dompok is – when are you going to come out from the dark and start shedding some light?

Jeyakumar: The minister did lie

Sungai Siput parlimanetarian Dr D Jeyakumar did not budge from his stand that Plantation and Commodities Minister Bernard Dompok lied about the minimum wage of plantation workers.

Jeyakumar, the MP from Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), said the minister mislead and misrepresented facts when he told Parliament on Oct 19 that the net income of an oil palm harvester was about RM1,700 and a rubber tapper's around RM870 a month.

Dompok, in a written reply to Mas Gading BN parliamentarian Dr Tiki Lafe, said that the earnings per worker was well above the poverty line which is at RM720 per month.

"How about single mothers working as weeders in the rubber estates or oil palm plantations?" asked Jeyakumar (right).

"What makes us angry is that he is hiding the facts? The majority of workers in estates are women and earn an income of about RM500 a month but that was not reflected," he said.

"Dompok's answer referred to harvesters and tappers and not the weeders, who form the majority workers in the estates now," said Jeyakumar.

"How many locals are working in the estates now? And you talk about just two categories and avoid the major one where Malaysians work," said Jeyakumar, referring to those employed as weeders.

"His answer is misleading and is bad for people in the estates. Those wanting to help them are getting the wrong information. The ministry is doing them a disservice, and we are very unhappy," he stressed.

Improbable figures

Jerit coordinator Y Kohila too, said the answer in Parliament was misleading. The question was how many Malaysians are dependent on the plantation industry and how much they were earning?

"The Minister's answer was about 600,000, where a tapper earned around RM870 and a harvester around RM1,700. This is definitely misleading as rubber estates have dwindled.

"And a rubber tapper definitely does not earn RM870 a month. Secondly, harvesters earning up to RM1,700 are mainly subcontractors," she said.

"Workers earn around RM13.70 a day including other allowances. Taken into consideration are market prices and the height of trees. They earn only around RM500 to RM600 a month," added Kohila (left).

She added that there are few locals who are employed as harvesters and usually the job is contracted out with higher payment to subcontractors and foreign workers who are able put in 12 hours a day.

"The deputy minister says that if 78 tonnes are harvested a month, a salary of RM1,700 is achievable. This may be true but it means working more than 12 hours a day from 6am to 7 to 8pm daily for a month and harvesting about 200 fruits.

"Not only that, workers are supposed to pick up the dropped fruits, clear the dried branches and leaves. Doing all this and harvesting 3 tonnes a day is not possible under normal circumstances," said Kohila.

1 comment:

  1. Back in l985 as the PBS finance Minister,this BGD was like a cacak man, sorry I mean he was grossly slim, and today after making himself a name one of the ' frogman ' from his party mentor PBS, he has overgrown himself and at times he seems to have breathing problems due his obessity. This is progress i supposed in terms of health and wealth of a person. It is high timeBGD do something worthwhile for the Sabahans like fighting a fair wage for locals working in the Estates, which are now dominated by foreigners, but how could he be doing his home work when he seems to be in the dark not one time but 2 occassions. 0ne thing is clear if a man who seems to love to be in the dark, the time will come when he slipped and fell miserably.