KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — More than 100 workers marched to Parliament here today to voice their unhappiness with government’s paltry hike that raised the minimum wage to just RM1,050 monthly.
Led by Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general Sivarajan Arumugam, the workers who called themselves Bantah 1050 started out from Padang Merbok early this morning but encountered a wall of policemen just before the bridge to Parliament.
A minor scuffle broke out when police prevented several protesters, including PSM member S. Arutchelvan, from continuing their march.
They pushed through and came within 50 metres of Parliament’s gates where Arutchelvan sought to negotiate with police to be allowed entry so the workers could hand their memorandum of protest to Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran.
But then the demonstrators came up against a police unit from the Light Strike Force officers.
Bank Employee Union Malaysia vice-president Chee Yeeh Ceeu told Malay Mail that the anti-riot squad charged at them.
“Luckily I wasn’t hurt. I was just pushed back because I managed to brace myself. They should have just let us marched to the gate instead of blocking us,” he said.
Tempers cooled when Kulasegaran appeared at about 10.50am and personally invited 20 leaders of the protest into Parliament.
“We welcome them... we welcome them for a discussion. Last time I was the one who was on the other side, on their side trying to make my way in,” the minister joked.
MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon praised Kulasegaran as being the first minister to personally meet workers at the gates of Parliament and welcome them in for a discussion.
However, PSM’s Arutchelvan was heard telling Kulasegaran: “You should advise the police not to do the same mistakes they made when Barisan Nasional ruled”.