WHEN they meet, trade union leaders are fond of using the endearing term “Brother” to address each other.
So it is Bro Zainal, Bro Raja, Bro 'Shafie or Bro Siva etc, etc. to show that they are members of one big, happy family.
Of late, such brotherly love is in rather short supply as such civil behaviour tends to be forgotten when their interests clashed.
This is the case in the latest battle as to who should be leading the Malaysian Trades Union Congress from this year until the next election.
The issue has split the Congress right down the middle and has put the whole organisation in ridicule with the allegations of dishonourable conduct.
The antagonists in this drama are the incumbent MTUC president Senator Zainal Rampak and his deputy Shafie Mammal.
Both signed a pact in which Zainal was to step down on Dec 31, 2002 so that Shafie could take over the helm of the nation’s umbrella body of trade unions.
However, things came to a head when at the 11th hour Zainal announced that he would stay on because this was the wish of his supporters who would like him to serve out his term of office.
This decision has so incensed Shafie and his supporters that they called a press conference to attack Zainal and less flattering terms were used to criticise the president.
To his credit, Zainal has kept a discreet silence and refused to be drawn into the verbal conflict and let his supporters do the talking instead.
Still, the two leaders were being blamed for tarnishing the MTUC’s image with their public row.
Zainal was supposed to have signed the step-down pact because he would not have won in a contest with Shafie, who is keen to be president as time, was running out for the leader of the National Union of Telekom Workers.
But until there was a contest, this would be pure speculation as to who would end up the winner.
However, there is little doubt that Zainal seemed to be isolated in an organisation he has headed for nearly two decades.
Perhaps his biggest problem is that he is perceived as too moderate and accommodating a leader for the liking of some of his more fiery comrades who prefer to adopt a tougher stance especially in dealing with the Government and employers.
What puzzles many people is the way the MTUC is being treated as the private property of certain individuals who decide who is to head the Congress.
Instead of making a spectacle of themselves in the leadership struggle, Shafie and his supporters could have used the proper channel to remove Zainal.
A no-confidence motion could be initiated against him.
The Shafie group has claimed to have the majority support of the affiliates and so should have little difficulty in calling an emergency meeting to deal with this crisis.
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