Thursday, March 21

Feud between Lo and Idris intensifies

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Idris (left) and Lo have been at loggerheads over issues affecting workers and job creation in the state.

KUCHING: Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak Division secretary Andrew Lo said he was shocked that Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) information chief Datuk Idris Buang had resorted to personal attacks and wild accusations against the union’s officials instead of addressing the issues affecting workers in Sarawak.

Lo was referring to Idris’s statement yesterday, calling Lo’s comment saying that the state government had failed to create decent-paying jobs for Sarawakians “totally outrageous” and “a personal statement with a political agenda”.

In a statement today, Lo said he has no doubt that Idris’ statement has the full approval of PBB’s top leadership and was fully deliberated in their meetings.

“Since he (Idris) is the information chief, we must take his views as the official view of PBB.

“It is shocking that the backbone party of the state government resorted to personal attacks that illuminate their failure to engage constructively with workers in Sarawak on fundamental issues,” he said.

However, Idris hit back at Lo in a statement saying that he had “reliable proof” that the latter’s previous statements were not endorsed by the union.

“I have got proof from a ‘very reliable insider’ that the statement issued by Andrew Lo, Secretary of MTUC Sarawak Division, was never brought first to any of their councils or board meeting,” Idris said.

“I have the evidence, that this present statement by its Chairman Haji Mohd Ibrahim, is just a mere ‘afterthought’ – a face-saving effort so to speak.

“No way could all 70, 000 workers under MTUC’s banner in Sarawak, which include my own friends and relatives, be blindly bound by his said statement. I have the proof which I hereby promise to reveal if situation warrants it so that the truth will prevail,” he asserted.

“I was a trained police investigator and also a criminal trial lawyer. I know what truth is and what is otherwise. Truths can never be the same as lies.”

Lo went on to say that based on what Idris stated, it shows that the Sarawak government does not understand what are the differences between creation of jobs and creation of decent jobs.

“There is absolutely no point in creating tens of thousands of jobs in timber and oil palm plantations only to have more than 80 per cent of employees paid only minimum wages, despite some working for more than 10 years.”

Apart from that, Lo said, Idris also refused to address the question as to why 10 out 17 poorest districts are in Sarawak even though Sarawak is ranked number three in gross domestic product (GDP).

“Perhaps, he should know that even now, more than 86 per cent of Sarawakians earn below RM5,000 a month, and the household debt is at 146 per cent of household income.

“Meaning that for every ringgit we earn, we already owe RM1.46,” he said.

On Idris’ call for MTUC to be the Sarawak government and federal government’s strategic partner, Lo said: “Our numerous suggestions, a memorandum to the state government to set a state level Human Resources consultative platform for all tripartite partners – government, employers and employees, to find ways to move forward has fallen on deaf ears.”

Lo also claimed that the Sarawak government has been making arbitrary decisions on issues affecting Sarawak workers as well as taken positions on the ongoing amendments of labour laws without ever seeking the views of workers in Sarawak.

“They may have consulted with employers but never consulted the workers. Perhaps PBB only listens to the views of employers.

“We have not seen any statement from PBB or its Yang Berhormat(s) urging employers especially timber companies to increase minimum wages to be at par with Peninsular Malaysia.”

With an overwhelming majority of state elected representatives, Lo said MTUC Sarawak Division expects PBB to “not be so defensive and paranoid and treat every criticism as a political conspiracy and agenda”.

“PBB should be thankful that MTUC is apolitical, and we will work with any party to advance the economic interest of local workers which lead to higher domestic consumption and therefore enhance economic growth and development,” said Lo.