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Malaysian socialists say Anwar Ibrahim by-election victory a 'marker of massive change'

The landslide victory by Justice Party leader Anwar Ibrahim in the August 26 Permatang Pauh by-election is welcomed in this commentary by Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, the first federal parliamentarian of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), as a "marker of the massive change" and another development that will open up democratic space in Malaysia.

By Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj
Dr JeyakumarThe by-election results in Permatang Pauh, a semi-rural constituency in the northern state of Penang, is yet another marker of the massive change that is taking place in Malaysian politics. Usually by-elections are won handsomely by the Barisan National (BN) government because the BN will approve millions of ringgit in development projects, deploy all its main leaders in the campaign and use the subservient media to the fullest. This was attempted in Permatang Pauh this time around.

The deputy prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak, camped out in Permatang Pauh for the entire course of the campaign, leading a team of leaders from various BN component parties.

The BN campaign portrayed Anwar as someone who would sell out Malay interests in his hurry to become the sixth prime minister of Malaysia -- that he would roll back the affirmative action policies, trade off important cabinet positions to non-Malays. The BN also used the media to play on non-Malay fears that the presence of the Islamic Party (PAS) in the opposition coalition would accelerate the Islamisation of Malaysian society.

Normally, such arguments, coupled with the million-dollar goodies thrown in the way of voters would be sufficient to win handsomely in by-elections. But it failed woefully in Permatang Pauh.

Anwar, and the other leaders of the Pakatan Rakyat (the Peoples' Pact), campaigned on a non-racial basis. The Pakatan Rakyat would look after the poorer sectors of all the communities; there would be a new agenda to help all the needy and not merely the well-connected cronies and the economy would be reprioritised to meet the needs of the people.

However on polling day, Anwar received 31,195 votes to the BN candidate's 15,524. The voters of Permatang Pauh rejected the racial politicking that has worked so well for the BN all this while. This is the significance of the Permatang Pauh victory – the people are no longer responding to the ethnic divide-and-rule tactics that the ruling coalition has used all this while.

How is the PSM positioning itself?

Anwar is not a socialist by any stretch of the imagination. He does not see the need to challenge the existing relations between the advanced economies and the developing regions of the world. He believes that an efficiently managed Malaysia would be able to thrive in the globalised economy. He does not see any contradiction between his often repeated promise to attend to the needs of the poorer sectors, and his party's stand that Malaysian economic development should be driven by private-sector investment.

However, at this point in time, the coalition led by Anwar (PR, the Pakatan Rakyat) is by far the more progressive of the two factions within the Malaysian elite which are now engaged in a life-or-death battle for federal power. In addition to the PR's relatively non-racial stance, the PR has promised that it would dismantle some of the more draconian laws curtailing human rights in Malaysia, such as the dreaded Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Act and several others.

The PR leaders are not yet tied into the system of lucrative crony contracts to keep their business conglomerations thriving.

At the same time, we have to accept the fact that the left in Malaysia today is not in a position to proclaim: ``Neither the BN nor the PR. Both of them have capitalist orientations. Choose the PSM, we are the only force with a socialist alternative.''

This slogan would sound nice but would not reflect the actual situation. Having said that, PSM would also not just join the bandwagon; we would go into a minimum program.

For these reasons, the PSM welcomes a transition from BN rule to PR rule at the federal level. It would open up the space for the political work that we need to do. The displacement of the BN at federal level will also emancipate Malaysian society from the deeply ingrained misconception that Malaysia cannot manage without BN rule.

The PSM therefore endorsed the PR campaign at Permatang Pauh and at the national level. Mohd Nasir, the PSM chairperson, led a group of PSM members to support Anwar on nomination day. As the PSM's sole federal parliamentarian, I went with a contingent of 15 PSM stalwarts to campaign for Anwar for a day. Another team from Subang went there for two days. Our Penang branch also distributed leaflets as well as sold party newspapers.

The PSM's support of the PR will continue, and might become crucial if there is any attempt by desperate elements within the BN to attempt a coup to suspend the parliamentary process by declaring a national emergency and rule through a joint police-military council. This is one of the possible scenarios, and the PSM has already begun discussing with the political parties within the PR how we could respond to such an attempt should it occur.

However, if and when the PR succeeds in capturing power at the federal level, the differences between the PSM and the PR will become more apparent, and we will then need to re-position ourselves as the nucleus of a critical caucus within the ruling coalition. No doubt this will require deep and on-going discussion regarding tactics.

We will have to cross those bridges when we come to them.

Comments

Malaysia: PSM now officially recognised

Kuala Lumpur, 10 September 2008

This morning, Parti Sosialis Malaysia's National Chairperson Dr. Nasir
Hashim officially announced PSM's registration and proudly held a
certificate from the Registrar of Society dated 19 August 2008. The
certificate is given to Parti Sosialis Malaysia (New) giving an
impression that it is a new party, which is being registered when the
whole world knows about the discrimination and unconstitutional attitude
of the ruling party in denying PSM a registration for the last ten
years.

Also present along with Party leaders were, Mohd. Sabu, the Vice
President of PAS, and two of PSM lawyers, Counsel Tommy Thomas and Ragu
Kesavan. Besides that around 200 people attended and witnessed the
historical press conference. Among them were grassroots community
leaders, NGO and political activist and the media.

Dr. Nasir thanked the many people, the lawyers who did the case for
free, the founding members and many others who stood the ground with the
party in the last ten years. Many friends locally as well as
Internationally campaigned for PSM to be registered.

He said that we never let the registration hamper our spirit but now
with the registration, we will move on.

PSM Secretary General, S.Arutchelvan listed the party's achievement and
said that PSM is an extension of the great and gallant struggle of the
left over the years from the Socialist Front to the Peoples party to the
MCP. He said that PSM would continue to be relevant as long as
exploitation exist.

Mohd. Sabu who Arul introduced as the socialist in PAS said that he
hoped that PSM joins the Pakatan Rakyat but said that if Pakatan merely
replaces Barisan Nasional and and adopts pro-capitalist policies and not
bring about change, then it is better for PSM to fight PR. Tommy Thomas,
PSM's lead counsel said that the courts have disappointed us but it is
peoples verdict on 8 march which allowed BN to make some reforms
including giving PSM a registration.

The Internationale was then sung to end the program but yet to begin a
new chapter in the socialist struggle in Malaysia.

During the press conference, the media asked the following questions and
answers given by Comrade Nasir Hashim and S.Arutchelvan.

On Pakatan Rakyat:

PSM said that the party would continue to work with Pakatan Rakyat on a
minimum program. PSM endorses the PAKATAN call to end the NEP to a
policy which will benefit all irrespective of race, abolish the ISA and
supports the many pro people and workers initiative like the Minimum
wage act etc. On the other hand, the party would oppose any
pro-capitalist, neo-liberal and any racist policies.

If the party is invited to PAKATAN, then we would look at the PAKATAN's
program and decide in the party's Congress to join or decline.

On PSM's MPs and State Assemblyman

PSM stood in the 1999 election using the DAP logo and in year 2004 and
2008 election, the party used the PKR logo. The understanding is clear
that PSM is using these logos because its own registration is denied.
PSM used its own manifesto and propaganda materials during the
elections. There is mutual respect among the parties.

PSM would be writing to the Speakers at the Parliament as well as the
Selangor State Assembly asking them, that in wake of the party's
registration, our two MPs and ADUN must be referred as members of PSM.
Meanwhile we will also ask the speakers not to change their current
sitting position, as we are comfortable in opposing Barisan Nasional and
its Government.

On Anwar's September 16:

The entire election system is farce. BN has previously used undemocratic
means to undermine democracy in Sabah and Kelantan. Today they are
seeking justice when similar possible crossover is taking place against
them.

PSM has no knowledge nor is it part of this initiative. If the people
are against the crossover they will go to the streets. Currently it
seems that the people and the civil society is reluctant to come to UMNO
and BN's rescue because the Government themselves are corrupt and not
popular. If BN is a popular party, we are sure the masses will come and
protest any form of take-over, which is seen as undemocratic. Let us
wait and see.

On PSM's immediate plans:

We would be holding a victory celebration on the 17 October and plan to
go on a nationwide road show to promote the party. The party also plans
two big campaigns. One is on the current fuel, food and economic crisis
while the second campaign would focus on the local council elections.
Until local election was banned 40 years ago, the left and Socialist
were the main parties winning elections at the council level.

Would [PSM MP] Dr. Kumar support PAKATAN in Parliament:

As a block, we stand with the opposition in opposing the BN. But if
there are policies or laws, which goes against the interest of workers
at large and goes against socialist principles, we will oppose it. PSM's
MP and State Assemblyman would not follow any Pakatan decision blindly.

How about PAKATAN policies, which goes against PSM interest?

We would work and look for common grounds to advance the struggle.
Meanwhile we will not abandon basic socialistic principles, which the
party holds.

On PSM current membership:

Technically we cannot have members. Currently we have party office in
seven states, we have state representatives in all states except Sarawak
and Terengganu. Our support base on people committees is around 10,000.

 * * *

From Malaysiakini, online independent news service (subscription only)
http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/89428
Sep 10, 08 4:15pm

PSM, which is now an officially recognised political party, will
continue to cooperate with the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat on a
'minimal programme' basis.

On the same note, it's secretary-general S Arutchelvan had reporters and
party members in stitches when he declared: "We will never join BN
(Barisan Nasional), we can guarantee you that."

He said if PSM is invited to join Pakatan Rakyat, the matter will have
to be discussed by its congress before any decision can be made.

Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, he also stressed that
the socialist party, which claims to have some 10,000 members, will
remain as opposition.

After a decade long struggle to obtain official recognition as a
legitimate outfit, PSM received the green light from the Registrar of
Societies (ROS) in a letter dated Aug 19.

Given PSM's new status, one question expected to be addressed is the
status of its elected representatives: Kota Damansara state
assemblyperson Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim and Sungai Siput member of
parliament Dr Michael D Jeyakumar.

'Continue to fight for justice'

Commenting on this, Arutchelvan said both the representatives will
remain independent in their views and continue to raise issues that are
inline with the party's beliefs in their respective avenues.

"They will continue to fight for justice and for the people, a belief
that defines PSM. Just because we contested under the PKR flag does not
mean we have to carry their views," he said.

"We already sent letters to the Speakers from both the Parliament and
the state assembly to have their party's name changed to PSM now that we
have the official status," he added.

In the March 8 polls, both Jeyakumar and Nasir had to stand under the
PKR flag as election laws state that only parties recognised by the ROS
can contest.

The change of name will not affect the opposition numbers in Parliament
and the Selangor state assembly since PSM made it clear that it would
remain as opposition.

Currently the opposition, comprising PKR, DAP, PAS and PSM, have 81
seats as opposed to BN's 140 in Parliament. In the state assembly, the
opposition controls 36 state seats while BN has 20.

Differences in opinion

During PSM's recent congress in Port Dickson, one of the resolutions
proposed by members was not to join the Pakatan coalition due to
ideological differences.

Speaking on this, Arutchelvan said PSM and other Pakatan parties have
always had differences in opinion on economic matters, in particular the
issue of free trade.

PSM has always been against the free trade market ideology advocated by
certain quarters within the ranks of other Pakatan parties.

"We believe that the free market ideology is here to crush and enslave
workers. We have different perspectives (from other Pakatan parties) on
policies of economics," said Arutchelvan.

However, he also noted that PSM recognises the existence of certain
'progressive elements' that share similar views with the socialist party
in other Pakatan parties and will continue to cooperate with these
elements.

Malaysia: Anwar’s Troubles Grow

Anwar’s Troubles Grow
JED Yoong
26 September 2008

Despite public promises of a political takeover, Anwar Ibrahim is still but a voice in the opposition wilderness

After months of eager anticipation, September 16 came and went like any other ordinary day in Malaysia.

That was the day opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had repeatedly promised he would overthrow the Barisan Nasional, or National Front, federal government, ending over 50 years of rule following independence in 1957. On the eve of the what-should-have-been a momentous day, the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, or People’s Alliance, held a Malaysia Day celebration in Kuala Lumpur. Reportedly about 20,000 people turned up, eagerly awaiting the dramatic unveiling of the identities of at least 31 defecting Barisan lawmakers. But when the event came Anwar revealed only that he had the “numbers” to topple Barisan, and nothing more. The proof that he had the means to take power, remained firmly under wraps.

The next day, Anwar held a press conference to postpone the deadline further, pending Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s approval of an emergency parliamentary session to allow a no confidence vote against him by September 23. Expectedly, Badawi ignored the request and this week the Tuesday deadline also came and went.

By Wednesday, Anwar was clearly singing a different tune. He urged Malaysians to be “patient” because Pakatan “do(es) not want to transgress the constitutional rules and procedures”.

On accusations calling him a “liar” for failing to meet his self-imposed deadlines, he blamed Badawi for refusing to meet him, jeopardising his plans. “They have called me a lot of things before (but) the point is, if they really believe I am a liar then put me to (the) test and have a (no-confidence) vote taken (in parliament),” Anwar told reporters.

Moreover, Anwar has more to worry about than luring lawmakers to his side to form a government. He also faces fresh allegations of sodomy, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail. Saiful Bukhari Azlan, a 23-year-old one-time aide has accused Anwar of sodomising him in an apartment in the posh neighbourhood of Mont Kiara. A medical report and a statutory declaration by the doctor who examined Saiful says no medical evidence of sodomy was found. Yet, the government is rushing through a DNA bill that will allow it to compel Anwar to give a DNA sample. Anwar refuses, saying there is no case against him and that the sample will be used to fabricate evidence against him.

The government is also trying to move the case from the Magistrate Court to the High Court, although such cases are normally heard in the former. Anwar’s lawyer has protested, observing that the transfer sheet was signed by Attorney-General Ghani Patail, whom Anwar is suing for fabricating evidence in the 1999 case which saw him imprisoned for six years for corruption. In 2000 he was jailed a further nine years for sodomy, but this conviction was reversed in 2004 and he was released from jail after serving his abuse of power sentence.

Anwar and his supporters have always maintained that the charges were “trumped up”, part of a “political conspiracy” to end his political career by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who famously sacked Anwar, his former political protégé, as Deputy Prime Minister.

But while Anwar’s latest case is being put on the fast track, other more serious allegations against those in government are being swept under the carpet.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have been linked to the gruesome death of a 28-year-old Mongolian translator, Altantuya Shariibuu, in 2006. Witness testimonies in court have identified Najib in a photograph with the deceased and her lover, Abdul Razak Baginda, Najib’s close friend and advisor who is on trial for her murder. In a statutory declaration, P Balasubramaniam, a private investigator and retired policeman hired by Razak Baginda, alleged Najib not only knew the murdered woman but had an affair with her, was involved in her disappearance and introduced her to Razak Baginda. Another statutory declaration by Raja Petra Kamarudin, editor of the political news portal, Malaysia Today, claimed that Rosmah was present at the crime scene where Altantuya was blown-up with military explosives after being shot twice. Despite this, Najib and Rosmah have not been charged.

Raja Petra’s constant exposure of Barisan’s dirty deeds, have landed him in jail again. The government on Tuesday locked him up under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial, for two years. The Home Minister Syed Hamid Syed Albar reportedly said that Raja Petra was jailed because some articles had “ridiculed Islam, which could arouse anger among Muslims.”

International organisations have condemned the detention and called for his immediate release.

“A two-year jail term imposed at the government’s sole discretion against one of its known critics is cause for real concern,” Bob Dietz, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia Program Coordinator, said. “We call on the home minister to overturn this sentence immediately. No online commentator should be jailed because of the articles they have published.”

“As well as being issued arbitrarily, behind closed doors and without informing Raja Petra’s lawyers, this detention order is devoid of any legal basis as it violates the constitutionally-guaranteed right of religious freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The interior minister clearly wants to silence RPK for good and to keep up pressure on bloggers who dare to criticise the increasingly fragile government. We call for his release.”
JED Yoong
From Asia Sentinel. http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14...

Socialist Party Malaysia MP's car torched

[MIC = Malaysian Indian Congress, one of the parties in the ruling
National Front (Barisan Nasional) government of Malaysia]

Dear Comrades,

PSM view the recent attack by a group of people, believed to be
affiliated with MIC in threatening our full time staffs, our Sungai
Siput branch leaders and our sole MP very seriously. This is not an
isolated incident. We believe the attack was planned and calculated to
distrupt our work in Sg. Siput which has been gaining momentum by the
day. We will not be cowed by this incident. We will take all measures to
protect our members but no way do we plan to slow down

S.Arutchelvan - Secretary General

The below article is from malaysiakini
Sungai Siput MP's car torched

Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Oct 17, 08 4:34pm
Sungai Siput parliamentarian Dr D Jeyakumar's car was partially damaged
in a suspected act of arson early this morning in his constituency.


When contacted, the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leader accused his
rivals in MIC of being responsible for this.

In the March 8 general election, Jeyakumar had defeated MIC president S
Samy Vellu in the parliamentary constituency in Perak, which the latter
had controlled for more than three decades.

The PSM leader said he believes that the same group that had set fire to
his Volkswagen Beetle was also behind the harassment of his party
members in the area.

The harassment, he added, has been happening for more than eight years.

Commenting on the incident which happened around 1am, Jeyakumar said:
"(Some) neighbours saw four young males breaking the window of my car,
and torching it. The interior of my car is badly burnt."

Jeyakumar explained that it all started three days ago when a female
party member was alone at the party office, when a group of drunken
males in their early 20s came in.

"She told me that the group had asked for money and when she refused,
they threatened to whack her," Jeyakumar said.

The PSM leader said he then lodged a police report, which was followed
by the arrest of three of the group members.

"I believe it was after I had lodged the police report that others from
the group were angered and set fire to my car," Jeyakumar said, added
that another police report has been lodged.

He said he would leave it to the police to investigate the matter and
that PSM activists in Sungai Siput will continue to do their job and not
be deterred by intended intimidation.

Police finally take action

According to Jeyakumar, PSM has been providing social services and
empowerment programmes in the Sungai Siput constituency for more then
three decades.

However, PSM activists have claimed that their work has been affected by
incidents of physical and psychological harassment by groups they
claimed to be affiliated to MIC.

Despite lodging numerous police reports, Jeyakumar said no action has
been taken against them until three days ago.

"At least now the police have made arrests. I'm glad about this," he
added.

DSP condemns attack on PSM MP

October 18, 2008

To:

PSM Secretary General S.Arutchelvan
22A, Jalan Vivekananda,
Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, 50470
Malaysia

Dear Comrade Arutchelvan

The Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) in Australia condemns the recent arson attack on the car of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) MP, Dr D Jeyakumar's and the eight years of political intimidation and harassment of PSM activists in his Sungai Siput constituency.

The DSP offers its solidarity to the PSM against all such attacks, particularly those coming from the ruling Barisan Nasional and its constituent parties, including the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

Dr Jeyakumar decisively defeated MIC president S Samy Vellu in Sungai Siput in the last elections and the defeated BN candidate and his supporters must respect this democratic decision. This victory reflected years of work by the PSM in championing the interests of the working people in the area. Any attack on Dr Jeyakumar or any other PSM activist is an attack on the working masses.

In solidarity

Peter Boyle
National Secretary DSP

DSP National Office
23 Abercrombie St, Chippendale
Mail: PO Box 515, Broadway 2007
Ph: (02) 9690 1230 Fax: (02) 9690 1381
Email: dsp@dsp.org.au

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