“Najib wants Malaysia to become a high-income country [by 2020]. If he is sincere, then he should raise [the living standard] to a liveable state

BATANG BERJUNTAI: Introducing a minimum wage is an important matter, given the many plantation workers in the country, PKR supreme council member Zaid Ibrahim said.

“I want to ask MP Kamalanathan and Barisan Nasional: What is their plan on mininum wage?”
P Kamalanathan is the BN candidate who defeated Zaid in Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election.

“Najib wants Malaysia to become a high-income country [by 2020]. If he is sincere, then he should raise [the living standard] to a liveable state,” Zaid told FMT staff after making a visit to the Nigel Gardner oil palm plantation earlier this afternoon.

During his visit, Zaid spoke to some households and asked them about their living conditions.
One resident, Kamala Govindasamy, said that although most workers were given basic healthcare, they do not have enough money for treatment of serious ailments.

She showed FMT her mother, Visalatchi, who had been suffering from a cataract for the past three years without proper treatment.

M Thangachiamah, 43, a field worker, said that she could take home RM21 a day after a hard day's work. However, this dependent largely on the weather. “I don't get anything if it rains,” the mother of four said.

After speaking to both families, Zaid presented them with a small cash donation.
“We have asked before for the federal government to implement a minimum wage, but we received no response,” he said, challenging the federal government to a debate on the matter.
Step-by-step approach

According to Zaid, the question of a minimum wage was also an issue in Pakatan Rakyat. “I hope that both Pakatan Rakyat and the state government can help these people. If we cannot implement a minimum wage, at the very least, we should try and relieve their burdens.”
While Zaid admitted he lacks an official posting, he nevertheless said that he will try his best to relieve the plantation workers' plight.

He also said that a step-by-step approach was needed to implement a minimum wage. “Start with the plantations, then we can go sector by sector. We can show you that we can do it,” he said.

On foreign workers, Zaid said that it was a separate issue, and that it was the responsibility of the government to take care of its own citizens first. “We can buy rockets and submarines, but why can't we help our own people?” the Pakatan coordinator asked.

Asked what should be the minimum wage, he said, “Some people say the minimum wage should be at RM900. Others say RM1,800 a month. I would say RM1,200 should be enough for a family of four to live on.”

Asked about certain groups opposing the minimum wage, Zaid said, “Well, they have to give me the facts and figures. The plantation companies have made so much money. They make huge profits, both here (Peninsular Malaysia), and in Sabah and Sarawak. They will make excuses, and employers will always abuse the system.”


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