A group of estate workers held a demonstration outside Parliament today seeking government intervention to keep their houses, once their contracts end.

The 200-strong group, all members of a coalition of NGOs called the Estate Society Support Committee, carried banners in a peaceful manner and handed a memorandum to a special officer to the law minister in the Prime Minister's Department.

The group's national coordinator, Karthiges Rajamanickam told reporters at the demonstration that under the current estate housing policy, estate workers are provided houses only during their contract period.

Once their contracts end, they will have to hand over the keys, and this posed issues afterwards as many retired workers could not even afford low-cost houses by the housing and local government ministry, he said.

Many workers who had been promised houses and signed contracts, had ended up as victims of abandoned housing projects, he added.

According to him, the fight for house ownership is not new.

"We started (fighting for house ownership) in 1973. It has been made a policy but until now, it has not been made law.

"The last time we went to Parliament to pass a memorandum was in 1999. Now, after 20 years, we have come here today to pass a memorandum to the new government to call them to enact an Estate Housing Act as a guarantee of housing for estate workers," he was quoted saying by Free Malaysia Today.

"Build houses for them (estate workers). Don’t force them to vacate once the contract is over. That is our demand."

The group further demanded raising the minimum wage to RM1,800 and including estate workers in the development plans of the ministry of rural development.

PSM deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan, who was also present, noted that the welfare of estate workers does not fall under the purview of any ministry, unlike that of other rural dwellers like farmers and fishermen, who fall under the ministry of rural development.

"Their housing needs are taken care of, they have a community hall in their area and get other facilities and aid.

"We are asking the government not to treat estate workers as if it's an employer-employee thing, but to treat them as a community," he was quoted saying.

Source: Free Malaysia Today
Photo source: PSM Facebook