About 200 people gathered for a Workers’ Day rally in an open space in Butterworth opposite one of the oldest factories in the state to protest against the GST. Many others who would otherwise have attended the gathering had travelled to KL for the mammoth GST rally that afternoon.
Among the speakers were Toh Kin Woon, Penang Deputy Chief Minister Ramasamy, Prema Devaraj, Machang Bubok Adun Lee Khai Loon, unionist Abdul Razak and Penang MTUC chief S Ravindran.
Ramasamy said the land where the rally was held belonged to the Hindu Endowment Board and as he was the chairperson, there was no problem holding the rally there.
It was good to see the gangly Razak in action again giving a rousing speech. He had not been too well, but that did not stop him from delivering a fiery speech about workers’ rights and how important it was not to allow the revocation of any rights that had been granted to the workers after a hard-fought struggle. He also reminded us that the struggle of the workers’ movement was – or should be – undertaken irrespective of racial considerations.
All the speakers touched on the impact GST would have on the people and how it would add to their burden. Even children would be affected as parents would find it more difficult to afford proper child-care when they go out to work.
A group of youth along with activist Dr Khim Pa presented a skit of workers refusing to pay GST.
Activist Min, for his part, tried his hand at stand-up comedy, something along these lines:
If Min works at it, he could give Harith Iskander a run for his money!
Despite the lower than expected turnout, Ravindran seemed pleased that the rally had proceeded without a hitch. In previous years, the MTUC had celebrated Workers’ Day with a dinner. But this time, they felt that the GST was such an important issue it warranted a ‘turun padang’ gathering.
A couple dozen plainclothes police personnel, expecting a turnout of a few thousand as indicated by the organisers, had converged at the venue as well while a few traffic cops facilitated traffic flow.
After the rally ended with shouts of “Hidup Pekerja!” and “Hapuskan GST!”, the activists adjourned to a nearby nasi kandar restaurant and sat at a long table. Parallel to their table, at another table were seated a group of plainclothes cops after rally duty tucking into their lunch.
A couple of the cops walked up to another table where my colleague and I was seated and had a friendly chat with us. Later when I went up to pay the bill, I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the cashier that one of the cops had been kind enough to pick up the lunch tab for my colleague and me!
So all said, the morning didn’t end too badly.