On June 2, 2020, a picket was organised against a hospital cleaning services company in Ipoh.
Several activists and members of the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services (NUWHSAS) gathered outside Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun (HRPB) to protest about unfair treatment of union members and insufficient PPE for cleaners, but were dispersed by the police. Five activists were eventually arrested and charged for “unauthorised gathering”.
The five activists were NUWHSAS executive secretary M. Sarasvathy who is also a Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) committee member; NUWHSAS officials L. Danaletchumi and V. Santhiran, as well as PSM members P. Jody and C. Subramane.
I would like to call on the PN government to immediately drop all charges against the five activists and to stop violating freedom of expression and freedom of association of all citizens.
As freedom of expression and freedom of association are enshrined in the Constitution as the fundamental right of every citizen, the activists and members of the union have every right to organise pickets or protests in order to voice their dissatisfaction and to speak up against injustice.
Although Malaysia was and is still battling the Covid-19 pandemic, the citizens’ fundamental rights must not be automatically and arbitrarily negated- all the more so when most of the picketers were also frontliners serving as cleaners at the hospital.
Even though the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) was being enforced in early of June, photos of the picketing circulated online show that they followed the SOPs by keeping a distance from each other and putting on masks.
As the cleaners at the hospital are also frontliners who risked their lives for every Malaysian, they definitely deserve to be treated fairly and equally by their employers, particularly when safety has been a huge concern during the pandemic.
Furthermore, how could the rakyat believe that there are no double standards at play when even frontliners were charged, yet no legal action had been taken against the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin for blatantly breaching quarantine protocols after returning from a trip abroad?
The PN government must respect and protect the fundamental rights of every citizen by dropping all charges against the activists immediately. The PN government should be open to criticisms by listening to the complaints of the activists and union members, and to end the practice of double standards in its treatment of citizens and VIPs.
Chiong Yoke Kong
DAPSY Deputy Chairman