ESTATE INDIANS' INHERENT RIGHT TO COMMUNAL PROPERTY!
Rocky in his post in rocky's bru Sunday, March 16, 2008, entitled Temple in Sime Darby estate demolished refers to an incident in one of the Sime Darby Estates of a temple demolition. Others have disputed that fact. I posted a series of questions in the commentary which I thought I shall post here for my own future reference more than anything else.
I am not going to bother about the veracity of it. However, there have obviously been many instances of temple demolitions on land that is supposedly private but which once was part of an estate.
Obviously there are always two sides to a coin. The position of the land owners may in the face of it seem right. Calling it "temple on private land" appears to be sufficient to appease the majority that the land owners have a rightful claim an that there is trespass to the property.
I would like to explore a different approach and I wonder if you might be of the same opinion as I that maybe it may not just be as simple as that after all. In a much earlier posting on the Malaysian Indian Dilemma I did try to explain. Maybe it was a little over the top.
I am proferring a set of questions that require some honest answers. Of course I am directing it all to Sime Darby, seeing that they are presently the largest owners and benefactors of decades of sacrifice and investment. But this can equally apply to any estate, large enough to warrant the support of a working community within the estate. You will need to go through all the questions before you begin to see the picture that I am attempting to paint here. So please bear with me.
So these are the pertinent questions for Sime Darby.
1. When was the temple built?
2.Who built or allowed the temple to be built ?
3. On whose land was it built?
4. Why was it necessary for the temple to be built?
5. Was/Is there a tamil school also built within the vicinity?
6. The housing provided, was it of the dormitory kind suitable for itinerant workers or was the housing provided cater for families to live in?
7. If housing was meant for workers and their families, a school was provided for the children of the workers and land was allocated for a temple to be built, how were all these facilities used and how was it relevant in the carrying on of the business of the estate?
8. If all these facilities that were provided and tolerated for so long by the owners despite them not being used nor relevant in the carrying on of the business of the estate, then why did Sime Darby find it necessary to misallocate company resources for non-business use?
9. Why does Sime Darby now demolish this temple?
10. Has the nature of the business of the estate been changed somewhat so that any need that might have existed prior to the demolition, now does not exist anymore?
11. How does provision of a primary tamil school, housing for a family, instead of the worker, and provision of a temple be wholly, exclusively and necessarily for the carrying on of the business of the estate?
12. If Sime Darby is unable to answer question 11 above satisfactorily, then Sime Darby is required to answer why then were these provided and tolerated for so long?
13. What is the economic life expectancy of a rubber tree that will make investment in the industry viable?
14. Can that life expectancy of the rubber tree be ensured using itinerant workers who may work from anything between 1-3 years.?
15. If not, why not?
16. Will Sime Darby agree that using itinerant workers will in most instances cause the premature expiry of the tree because of unskilled tapping?
17. Will Sime Darby agree that the rubber industry is only viable when permanent workers continue working, on average, their entire working life, in the estate?
18. Will Sime Darby agree that it needed to ensure constant replacement of retiring and dying tapping workers?
19. Will Sime Darby agree that because tapping needed to commence at dawn and workers needed to begin work while it was still dark, it was necessary that in any sizable estate housing was necessary to be provided so that it is almost equidistant to the four corners of the estate?
20. Will Sime Darby agree that it needed to provide all the necessary facilities and infrastructure within the estate so that workers can be the catalyst for the birth of a cummunity that can be relied upon to supply the needed skilled tree tapping staff as a matter of succession planning?
21. Will Sime Darby agree that to conduct a viable rubber estate business it was not only the workers which the estate needed, but its demographics and succession planning meant that alongside the cultivation of the rubber trees a community needed to be supported?
22. Will Sime Darby agree that marriage and copulation between workers of the opposite sex produced for them the assurance of replacement workers in n years time?
23. Will Sime Darby Agree that basic school and/or day care facilities were provided for only such purpose and such time that the children were of unemployable age?
24. Will Sime Darby agree that the tamil school provided in the estates enabled the parents to go on to work and government employed teachers were used to teach, with little hope of the children proceeding beyond primary education?
25. Will Sime Darby agree that this pool of children supplied the needed replacement that came about from the retirement, death or moving out of rubber tapping workers?
26. Were a mosque or a church ever considered to be provided to these workers? If not, why not?
27. Were the provision of the temple a necessary requisite in order to ensure the community that provided the skilled workforce and that assured the work force of the future in order that the economic life of the rubber trees can be prolonged for as long as is possible? Is there a correlation between the two?
28. Does Sime Darby agree that what it needed were workers, and yet it needed to sustain and support a community in order that it has a viable business model that will secure for itself the maximum earnings?
29. Has Sime Darby derived from each of its rubber estates the earnings that it had sought?
30. Does Sime Darby acknowledge that while supporting a community, it's employment arrangements were only with the individual workers and that those who were not workers, and yet part of the community, for example some spouses, children and non-working parents, were not compensated for the role they played in making possible and viable the business of the estate?
31. Will Sime Darby Agree that this community may have just an inherent right to not just the communal land but also all the facilities that include the housing, temple as well as the school and the small patch of garden and playing field that kept them immobile?
32. Will Sime Darby agree that the rubber industry has been screwing the workers and this community for the last 150 years?
33. Can Sime Darby explain why it provided transportation for the children of the chief clerks, the mandores and supervisors from the estate to the nearest English or Sekolah Bangsaan Schools often located several miles fromt eh estate?
34. Can Sime Darby explain why it did not provide the same opportunities for the children of the rubber tapping workers?
35. So how long does it have to take for a community to work for Sime Darby before they can earn and keep for themselves what was promised to them as a community as an enticement to stay and work for Sime Darby?
I get a feeling that if the various stakeholders were to go through these questions, a better formulae can be worked out to deal with the marginalised Indian situation with dignity and honour. I am not suggesting that Sime Darby or other estates set out to steal from or abuse or exploit the workers in the first instance. A lot of what was done may have not even been strategically thought out. Even if it was I wonder if documents can surface to show conspiracy.
Without having to feel the need to defend themselves. Or without having to read this from the point of one standing accused, or without reading this list of questions from the point of view of one who might feel exploited, I am hoping that understanding can be established. From there we can work towards a respectable solution for not just marginalised societies, but also temples and places of worship and community property.