The glass facade of George Town’s premier business hotel, Traders Hotel (formerly Shangri-la Hotel), where Jerit cyclists were to hand over their memo to Guan Eng at 1.30pm
Pakatan leaders were inside attending a conference to outline their “New economic vision for Penang and Malaysia”. US multinational electronics corporation, Agilent Technologies, and the Shangri La hotels chain were the sponsors of the event, to which participants had to pay RM250/person to attend. Ironically, the session scheduled just before lunchtime was “Getting the politics right to enable sustainable economic growth that is socially just.”
But nobody cared to ask the workers and representatives of marginalised communities outside what they thought of this vision. Instead, the front door of the hotel was locked while hotel management and security looked concerned. Not that the Jerit cyclists were desperate to get in. All they wanted to do was hand over their memo and leave. Still, it would have been a great gesture if the Pakatan reps inside had invited the cyclists and activists in to listen to the aspirations and hopes of workers and marginalised groups. The Pakatan folks would have been seen as pro-people.
As it stands, the Pakatan leaders in general look increasingly pro-market, pro-investor and pro-business while lowly paid workers, who are struggling to make ends meet, do not seem to figure very highly on their list of priorities.
Jerit cyclists peering through the glass to see how the rich wine and dine: The poor in Malaysia can only dream of the lavish life-styles of the upper middle-class and the rich.
The rich top 10 per cent of the population earn 22 times what the bottom 10 per cent earn, making Malaysia one of the most unequal societies in East Asia in terms of income disparities. The Jerit campaigners and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress have been calling for a decent minimum wage in the country that would enable workers to live in dignity. A minimum wage would also help the economy as it would give the public, especially workers, greater purchasing power.