PETALING JAYA: Trade union members are mourning the loss of an influential leader who, they said, fought tirelessly for workers’ rights until his very last breath.
Former Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary-general G Rajasekaran died on Aug 6 after being hospitalised for a lung infection. He was 82.
National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) general secretary J Solomon, also a former MTUC secretary-general, described Rajasekaran as a resolute leader who pursued his goals persistently and successfully navigated numerous challenges in his advocacy work for trade unions.
“It is with profound respect and gratitude that we cherish the memory of his service and the remarkable legacy he leaves behind,” said Solomon.
Rajasekaran’s devotion to the cause of trade unions began in 1963 when he became the founding secretary of the Metal Industry Employees’ Union.
He was elected MTUC deputy secretary-general in 1980 before becoming the longest-serving secretary-general from 1994 to 2010.
On the international stage, Rajasekaran was selected as president of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions-Asia and Pacific Regional Organisation (ICFTU-APRO) in 2005 for a four-year term.
“His spirit and contributions will forever be etched in our hearts, inspiring all of us who continue to fight in the best interest of trade unions,” Solomon told FMT.
After eight terms in office, Rajasekaran decided to step down from his role as MTUC secretary-general in 2010, but that did not stop him from contributing to the trade union movement in a training capacity.
“I used to ask him to come and give presentations (to union members) every other week,” said K Somasundram, Rajasekaran’s close friend of 30 years.
Loss of a great friend and leader
For 10 years, Somasundram worked by the union leader’s side as his assistant secretary until Rajasekaran left MTUC in 2010.
Somasundram said he first met Rajasekaran in 1993 when, as leader of the Pos Malaysia union, he attended one of his training sessions.
“I lost a very good teacher, who taught us discipline and integrity,” he said.
He said he last saw Rajasekaran a month ago when he invited him to present a paper on ways to increase union membership.
Somasundram said every decision Rajasekaran made was with the best interests of union workers in mind.
“He was the kind of person who speaks without fear. He knew everything that was happening in other unions and about current affairs in general,” he said.
Although Rajasekaran was prudent financially, Somasundram said he never held back when it came to supporting the development of MTUC.
“He was good at saving money for MTUC,” he said, adding that Rajasekaran had previously helped raise a significant amount of money for the organisation’s education fund.
Somasundram, who now works for MTUC as a paralegal, will honour his close friend by always remembering the advice he shared: “If you are representing a union or an organisation, make sure that you are representing the people who voted for you.”