The glass wall that separates the rich from the poor

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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.

Outside the locked main entrance: Penang state exco member Abdul Malik holding the fort and negotiating with police, who had given the cyclists, who arrived at 1.10pm, half an hour to disperse or risk arrests. Also present was Sungai Siput MP Jeyakumar Devaraj.

Guan Eng was delivering his closing remarks at the conference and came down at around 1.45pm after being told that the police had given the Jerit folks a deadline to disperse. At first, he was expecting to walk out of the main entrance. But even the Chief Minister was not allowed to exit through the main entrance. Instead, the hotel’s top management ushered him to the smaller front door near the reception. Once he stepped outside, Jerit representatives finally got to hand over their memo.

Guan Eng said he supported their campaign – though he was able to spend just a couple of minutes with the Jerit representatives.

PRM’s Gary Nair flags off the cyclists at Swatow Lane in Penang after treating them to a meal at his Passions of Kerala restaurant in New World Park

Apart from Gary, Deputy CM Ramasamy and a PKR state exco member who said they supported the campaign, the response from other ruling politicians in the state wasn’t exactly one of whole-hearted support. “They could have been more pro-active in supporting the cause of workers,” Suaram’s Choo Chon Kai told me.

This was what the Pakatan leaders were busy talking about inside the hotel:

Friday/Time
Programme
8.00 a.m.
Registration (Refreshments will be served)
9.00 a.m.

Welcoming Address by Organising Chairman, Dato’ Lee Kah Choon, The Chairman, Executive Committee of investPenang

9.15 a.m.

Launching of the International Conference on “The New Economic Vision for Penang and Malaysia” and the I-George Town website

9.30 a.m.
Keynote address by the Chief Minister of Penang,Rt. Hon. Mr Lim Guan Eng
10.00 a.m.
Session 1: Overcoming the Obstacles to High Growth in Penang and in Malaysia
11.30 a.m.
Tea / Coffee Break
12.00 p.m.
Session 2: The Priorities in Formulating the Development Strategy
1.30 p.m.
Lunch
2.30 p.m.
Session 3: Moving Up the Value Added Ladder
4.00 p.m.
Tea / Coffee Break
4.30 p.m.
Session 4: New Engines of Growth in a Globalised World
6.00 p.m.
End of First Day
Day 2, Friday, December 6, 2008
Saturday/Time
Programme
8.30 a.m.
Networking (Refreshments will be served)
9.00 a.m.

Session 5: Establishing the Framework Institutions to Support Development

10.30 a.m.

Tea / Coffee Break

11.00 a.m.
Closing Keynote by the Hon. Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Parliamentary Opposition Leader
11.30 a.m.
Session 6: Getting the Politics Right to Enable Sustainable Economic Growth That Is Socially Just
1.00 p.m.
End of Conference

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bow

High FDI does not automatically translate into lesser Malaysians getting poor, it probably help in job creation, without fair and live able wages and high value jobs, our poverty rate will not change much because many will remain working poor in this high inflation environment while the CEO continue to exploit our human resources.

penangpek

If PR want to extend their term of governance in Malaysia,they should never forget the low income Malaysians and working poor contribution to our country tremendous growth over the past few decades, any policy formulated by them need to take the welfare of these hard working class of Malaysian into consideration instead of corporates’ interests. It is time for PR government to redress the inequality distribution of wealth in our society before thing get out of control.

mygolfsucks

I’m all for pro-business, pro-investment. We cannot live in an isolated state. As some of the readers above have noted, no investment, no jobs, more poor people. Do you not realize that there is only a finite amount of investments available to be located in some part of the world? Do give credit where it’s due, and if the investments go elsewhere, could be India, or China or Timbuktu, then where will the state or federal government find the budget to retrain the poorer community. Rightly or wrongly, do try to put the horse in front of the cart, and… Read more »

LBJ

“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.”

This has always been PAP position in Singapore. Are you aware there is no law protecting workers in Singapore. DAP is just the same.

You got it right.

muthu

Therewill be a way to grow up if we work for it ratter than waiting for somebody to spoon feed.Put your effort on positive thigs and u wil see the outcomes as soon as posible.

Robotman

Let’s be honest! Who would you rather have as a state government, BN or PR? Come on! Tell me! If you voted for PR in March 2008 because you wanted change, then please give PR some time to adapt & change the system. If you “wrongly” voted for PR, then I’m sure you’re not from Penang. For those who had voted for BN, sorry mate, too bad. You are still very lost!

By Robotman
(Voted for PR – in other state – but not from Penang)

asiseesit

kris khaira, you really did clear up some of these doubts. thanks. while i do not object the campaign itself, some aspect of management must be in place. eg. gathering in large group in a hotel premises do look intimidating. the post here was clearly lopsided and the title itself gave an impression of a very segregated society. so some of these information you just clarified should have been gathered and put in. since our police forces are not going to get any fairer with the general population for justice, we have to be one step ahead (legally) of any… Read more »

Jeffrey Chew

Khris
Totally agree.

Kris Khaira

mut, the cyclists were there only to pass a memo to the CM and were not concerned about the conference. In fact, the State representatives already knew about the memo beforehand, like Jeffrey Chew said.

Jeffrey, everything could’ve run smoothly were it not for the unnecessary police hindrance.

asiseesit, the bicycles and shorts were bought in bulk so cost much less than what you assumed.

Thank you to the workers at Passions of Kerala and Gary Nair for lunch.

Kris Khaira
AJK Kempen Basikal Jerit
Pulau Pinang

anak pulau pinang

Anil, The report on the Jerit “tour” is very interesting though I must say that comments posted is most confusing. Firstly, members of Jerit had congregated at the Traders’ Hotel to hand over their memo to Guan Eng. Question, did Guan Eng refuse to accept the Memo? Was he forced to accept the memo or did he accept it willingly? Did he tell the Polce/his minders to keep the protestors away from him? Your report mentioned that it was the Hotel management who did not want LGE to go out through the main door- perhaps due to their concern for… Read more »

Shylock

One of the comments abt expensive bikes obviously comes from someone who has no idea what things cost nowadays. RM300-500 is considered cheap. In fact, I don’t think bikes come any cheaper than that these days. They’re also heavy and they they’re outfitted with the cheapest parts which doesn’t last. As for the cyclist, would it look better for their cause if they wore rags as befitting the middle class instead of proper cycling pants(which incidentally are padded and are meant for long distance riding) Look at their cause and support it, not what they’re wearing or the bikes they’re… Read more »

Rajan

Gary Nair? Well, ask him what he did during the PGCC campaign after Tsu Koon ate at his restaurant at new world park? He became silent…hmmmm………..

koken

PR leaders sould se them first . They must know without the rakyat who vote them..thy will not be here at tis tradrshotel.

thank u very musc Anil for yr good info..

looes74

Oh by the way, No development! No jobs! More poor people! More crime! That’s how Singapore made it to the first world. That’s the way we should emulate. Of course, a more socialist way

looes74

I am not sure if my messages would be published again in this blog. If so, that proves that Anil himself is guilty of preventing people from commenting.

Anyway, I got to agree with Jeffrey Chew’s comment. Frankly,it’s not to the benefit of the state government of not supporting the movement in a much decent way. Especially, the mainstream media would easily have LGE and its government for LUNCH. Anytime, man

Anil,
Do hope to publish my message. Otherwise, you are as hyprocite as those you criticise in your posting

My humblest regards,
looes74
from Singapore

asiseesit

did you see the kind of bicycles some these people were riding? i had a careful look at them i other media and they are not cheap. presumably around rm300 to rm500. and the second picture here shows one of them wearing a easily rm135 branded cycling pants. while i’m all for it for their effort, this particular post of yours seem quite bias. the least they can do is appoint one representative to go in and hand over the memo. coming in a big group do appear intimidating. fortunately, the hotel did right by not allowing them in otherwise… Read more »

yaukhean

PRM’s Gary,you have my respect and support for treating our young Malaysian cyclists for lunch at Swatow lane.What happened to our LGE and his Pakatan Rakyat pledge to help poor people? Sorry my YB, my hope for your future is fast fading by the day!

kangelar

Wage is depends on your effort and academic qualification. In this reality world, nobody owe you a living. If you want to success, you have to strive at the very beginning. I come from a poor family but I study hard to earn a degree. I wanted to become a doctor but have been denied place because of racial quota system in our local university. I scored 3 As in my STPM in 1994 and finally got into National University of Singapore to do my degree. Thank you Singapore Goverment. Now, I can earn better to give a comfortable life… Read more »

cy

anil, your blog is today one of the most informative, with some very interesting point of views.

thank you for keeping this blog.

Antares

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. Anil, you and I know there are so many degrees of Left & Right in politics. The current crop of Pakatan Rakyat (which unfortunately acronymizes as PR) leaders can be said to be slightly left of center. Since the PKR Congress, Anwar himself has been chanting the mantra: ECONOMY! ECONOMY! ECONOMY! This reveals that ultimately it’s MONEY that will determine policy… and this… Read more »

LChuah

“Mut on” has a case over the delegation’s method, but it’s still valid to question Pakatan’s economic policy. There’s a need to go beyond the neoliberalism pushed forward by Reagan – the ideology that privileges the already privileged and now getting choked by the inequalities it engendered through globalization. Economics by definition is about what people do, yet today the people factor has been largely ignored or forgotten as something called “the marketplace” takes over. Yet, in the ultimate sense, labor still belongs to the people, and they’ve every right to insist that they get the proper share of their… Read more »

kittykat46

Very apt imagery. I remember reading about the dillemas which the German Green’s Party faced when they first became part of a ruling coalition. A political party which wins power on a platform of the rights of the Have-Nots inevitably finds it has to work WITH the rich and powerful elite. The key test is how it manages to get work done in the context of a modern Capitalist economy, without betraying its ideals. I hope DAP and PKR politicians keep that in mind as they learn to walk the Corridors of Power. BTW, the buffet at the Trader’s Hotel… Read more »

john

My goodness these are school children who only wanted to hand over a memorandum. No need to arrest them. Compare this to Khairy Jmaluddin’s protest in KL some years back and not being hindered at all tells us the police have got double standards.

Jeffrey Chew

Let’s be fair on the reporting. I think this is how it started and I was there to see it myself. The handover of memo was clearly planned awhile ago. Although it was suppose to be done an hour earlier (1230pm), the International Conference attended by almost 400 people was ending by 1 pm. Nevertheless, it spilled over. The CM’s press secretary received a call that the handover of the memo was suppose to be at 130pm. Hence, LGE was wrapping up the session and it is of no intention to ignore them. YB Malik was there to at least… Read more »

Eagle has landed

What is going on now. Everybody is so confused. What do we want? Everything seems to move at the same time without anyone really clarifying the issue and allowing the rest of the public to be aware of what is going on.