A tribute to Puan Nurashikin, former Transport Workers Union president

In the morning of 24.12.2021 I was informed of the demise of Puan Nurashikin, the former President of the Transport Workers Union. She was 89 years old. She is survived by relatives and friends – her husband and only son having returned to God’s abode in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
I am sure many of you are wondering who she was and why she is deserving of a tribute.

She was a ticket conductor working with a bus company in Penang when she became involved with the Transport Workers Union which was then helmed by V. David and Zainal Rampak. From the humble job of a ticket conductor, she ascended to the top position of the national President of the Transport Workers Union sometime in the 1970’s.

That was a remarkable feat considering the transportation sector was male-dominated. To the best of my knowledge she was the first and only woman, to have been elected to the office of the President of a national trade union.

She was a down-to-earth person liked by all who had the privilege to have known her. She was, fondly, addressed as “Kak Nurashikin” as she had that sisterly, even a motherly, disposition. But, beneath that appearance there was this straight talking, blunt and frank approach in addressing issues concerning the welfare of the workers. She spoke from her heart without sugar-coating issues confronting the workers.

I, for one, had the good fortune to have known her since 1978 when I first started my full-time trade union work. Though she was the national President of the TWU, she elected not to uproot herself to Kuala Lumpur but to function from a small office in Bishop Street, Penang together with the union’s Industrial Relations Officer, the late Bro. V. Gopal.

To almost all of us newbies in the movement, then, that office was our “port” on our learning curve. And, never once were we made to feel unwelcome there!

Kak Nurashikin was actively involved in the MTUC Penang Division, going on to be elected as the Chairperson of the Division sometime in the 1980’s. From our recollection she was the first woman to lead a division of the MTUC then.

Even after her retirement, her heart was still with the workers movement. She was a true unsung hero of the workers struggle. To her family who stood witness to her immeasurable contributions to the working class struggle, we say thank you, thank you very much for gifting her to the worker’s movement. May her soul rest in peace in the arms of God almighty.

K. Veeriah
Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Penang Division

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