Ain’t the first time having May Day rally at Dataran Merdeka

Ain’t the first time having May Day rally at Dataran Merdeka

By: S Arutchelvan

Yesterday morning, as the huge May Day rally walked along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman heading towards the Dataran Merdeka junction and planning to make a left turn to Jalan Tun Perak; the Public Order officer of Dang Wangi ASP Sivakumar, negotiated with us to move instead into Dataran Merdeka because he feared our huge crowd may disrupt and create chaos along the heavy traffic in Jalan Tun Perak.

As we moved closer to the junction, the barricade which was initially closed at Dataran Merdeka was opened up to allow our Hilux and crowd to move in into the historical space. This was applauded as a victory and picked up by several newspaper including Malaysiakini. Some called this a liberation and some credited the new Government.

This is factually not correct. We organised our first May Day gathering on 1 May 1994 at Dataran Merdeka. It was participated by 3000 plantation and urban pioneers. It was jointly organised by JSPB (Jawatankuasa Sokongan Peneroka Bandar) led by Dr. Nasir and V.Selvam and JSML (Jawatankuasa Sokongan Masyarakat Ladang) – Plantation workers support committee which was started by CDC (Community Development Centre).

We had to face off with the Federal Reserve Unit at Dataran Merdeka then. That event was the biggest gathering at Dataran Merdeka in twenty years as well the biggest gathering since Operasi Lallang in 1987. The Nation Newspaper called the gathering as the awakening of Malaysian workers after for many years, May Day was not organised publicly.

After 1994, May Day event organised by the May day Committee moved into some community areas and then made its comeback to Kuala Lumpur in 2001, in front of the Petronas Twin Tower. Again there was a tense standoff between us and the police. In 2002, May Day was clamp down by the then ACP Bakri Zinin who did not want to see any gathering in KL. Many people were arrested including PSM leadership and myself while buses ferrying workers were stopped from entering KL or chased out of KL.

In 2003, after a year long battle with the police, May Day gathering was again held in Dataran Merdeka. ACP Hadi Ho from Dang Wangi surprised us by giving us a permit in spite of us not applying one. So if one is to claim that 2019, we liberated Dataran Merdeka, then in 2003 it was already achieved.

In 2005, we for the first time jointly organised May Day with MTUC led then by Syed Shahril. It was held on the eve of May Day at Dataran Merdeka. On that day, our committee performed a play including sang the Internationale which was shown on the giant screen of Dataran Merdeka. But MTUC was too rigid where they did not want us to attack the privatisation policies of the government of the day. It appears to be a condition set by the police and MTUC officials even stopped some of our workers leaders from speaking. We therefore staged a walkout towards the end of the program.

In 2014, the biggest May Day gathering in recent memory was at Dataran Merdeka and its theme was against the GST. A crowd of over 30,000 people participated. We marched from KLCC to Dataran merdeka. Police once again under ACP Zainuddin gave permission for us to use Jalan Raja at Dataran merdeka for our gathering. The message was conveyed to Muhamamd Sabu and myself.

I am putting this facts so that people don’t get it wrong by saying that the PH government liberated Dataran Merdeka this year for May Day. Long before that, workers have liberated Dataran Merdeka in spite of intense pressure from the BN government as well as the police force.

Is the May day rally necessary?

When we finally reached Medan Pasar, our final destination – Yes another May day rally was accomplished in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. While other bigger Union partners especially the MTUC and Cuepacs have become soft in organising may day rallies and instead organise family day event or even outing. This is a great insult to the May Day tradition. In fact, it is a far cry from the May Day rallies organised by the Pan Malaya Federation of Trade Union (PMFTU) where on 1 may 1947, 50,000 people were mobilised. MTUC was instrumental in fighting for the May Day holiday but they have not used the day to mobilise workers to the streets like many other countries.

The May Day committee is proud to continue to live up to the true spirit of May day struggle by organising a May day rally every year. This year was our 25 year anniversary. May Day Declaration was endorsed by more than 100 groups. May Day is a day to demands the rights of the workers today while respecting the gains made by the workers of yesteryears including the one day leave they have given workers today.

At Medan Pasar, a young girl from a local University holding a microphone asked if, “ Every year you do a May day rally, have workers achieved anything? She then went on to ask “ if you get a higher wages, will you stop the rally?. Such a naïve question from a young participant who may have not done her homework on May day. I replied whatever gains the workers got today from the minimum wage Act, to the Workers Insurance Scheme, as well as weekly holiday etc has been because of continues struggle by the working class. There was never an instance when the employer out of goodwill decided to give more benefits to the workers. It has all the while been because of the huge struggle by the workers. I told her that May day rallies will continue to exist as long as poverty exist. As Marx has said, the class struggle will go on until there are no more classes.

Workers of the World Unite – You have nothing to lose except your chains. You have a world to win.

S Arutchelvan is a central committee member of Parti Sosialis Malaysia.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Leaders Online.

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