Friday October 3, 2008
Story by GEETHA KRISHNAN
THE red T-shirt he wears has become a symbol of sorts. At the recent swearing-in of new councillors for the Kajang Municipal Council, some reporters were actually expecting Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan to show up in his trademark red T-shirt because he is never seen in public without it.
But in keeping with the social dictum of the day, he wore a shirt, to the disappointment of a few.
Arutchelvan: Proper change will only be brought about through a system where councillors are elected by the people.
The red T-shirt symbolises empowerment for Arutchelvan, a passionate student activist from his varsity days at University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). The habit of aiding others was stirred in him as a student in his hometown of Ipoh.
Before he was appointed Kajang municipal councillor, Arutchelvan tirelessly championed and still avidly continues to champion the rights of the down-trodden estate workers by destroying the perception of a feudal system through landowners and multi-national corporations.
He advocates change through empowerment and keenly believes this should be the clarion call to set the wheels of change in motion.
“Take for example the Taman Bukit Semenyih issue. The residents are dead-set against the construction of a permanent telecommunications tower opposite their flats.
“They had embarked on a signature campaign and had held protests to voice their discontent.
“At the end of the day, the residents should feel that they are the ones who stopped the telco company from disregarding their rights.”
The frequent flooding in Bangi Estate was addressed by the estate workers drawing up a budget for drain-deepening work and hiring a contractor to do the job themselves after submitting the proposal to the state government through the Selangor health, plantation workers and caring government committee chairman Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, after his visit.
“This is empowerment because they are not relying on elected or appointed representatives or councillors to fight their case,” he added.
Arutchelvan hopes to bring the empowerment ideal into the council. “My appointment as a councillor is only temporary.
“Proper change will only be brought about through a system where councillors are elected by the people, from my viewpoint,” he said.