Malaysia: Socialist Party wins two seats
By Peter Boyle
The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) won two of the four seats it contested in the general elections on March 8. Dr Jeyakumar, a central committee member of the PSM defeated a senior leaders of the ruling Barisan Nasional, Minister of Works Samy Vellu, in the seat of Sungai Siput in Perak. Last August I visited Sungai Siput with Jeyakumar and other PSM comrades. Their strong base among plantation workers (mostly descendants of indentured labourers brought from India in the British colonial era) was very obvious.
PSM president Dr Nasir Hashim won the state Legislative Assemby seat of Kota Damansara in Selangor. “Today is a great day for all Malaysian opposition parties including PSM”, declared the party’s website.
``The people of Sungai Siput and Kota Damansara have shown their appreciation for the years of community work we have done there by voting for our candidates yesterday! Our candidate, Dr. Kumar defeated Samy Vellu in Sungai Siput, Perak, for our first ever Parliament seat and Nasir Hashim won the DUN Kota Damansara seat! Both ran under the Keadilan flag.
PSM supporters celebrate
``Here onwards, Parlimen and Dewan Undangan Negeri joins the grounds from here we stand up for the rights of the oppressed - from the working class and the poor to single mothers and orang aslis [indigenous
The PSM, which has been undemocratically refused electoral registration, stood its candidates under the banner of main opposition Keadilan (Justice) Party. Keadilan is led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar
Ibrahim who was framed and jailed for years by former PM Mohamed Mahathir.
Apart from the two victorious PSM candidates, Jeyajumar Deveraj and Nasir Hisham, another two progressive activists also won seats under the Keadilan (Justice) Party banner:
* Tian Chua, who began his politicalactivism while an overseas student in Sydney. His blog is here: http://tianchua.net/
* Eli Wong, a human rights activist who also began her political activism while studying in Sydney. Her blog:
"Jeyakumar, who is being flooded with congratulatory messages from all
over the country, also revealed that he had received several death
"We are concerned and are taking the necessary precautions," he said.
Samy's conqueror: It feels great! RK Anand | Mar 10, 08 4:02am
A 'confluence of forces' had made it possible to defeat MIC president S
Samy Vellu in his stronghold, said his victor Dr D Jeyakumar.
On Saturday, the 53-year-old physician staged a major upset by knocking
out the 72-year-old politician on his birthday in the contest for the
Sungai Siput parliamentary seat - which the latter held since 1974.
Asked how this felt, Jeyakumar replied: "It feels great!"
The Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leader who stood under the PKR banner
had contested against the MIC president and former works minister on two
This time around, Jeyakumar conceded that his opponent, whom he regards
as formidable, had been weakened by other factors.
The PSM pro-tem central committee member also admitted that he did not
expect to win. "We cannot take full credit for everything," he told
"We went in as the underdog but his (Samy Vellu) credibility had eroded
terribly among the Indian voters," he said.
The MIC president's influence in the Indian community had waned in the
wake of the Nov 25 rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force
Jeyakumar also acknowledged that Samy Vellu's campaign this time around
was rather low key compared to the previous elections.
He said apart from the Hindraf factor, the work PSM had done on the
ground in the constituency over the past decade as well as the hard work
of the volunteers also contributed to his victory.
On top of that, he said the strong DAP candidate for the state seat and
the cooperation from PAS also helped.
"The swing against BN (Barisan Nasional) was stronger than anticipated.
BN has been taking the people for granted," said the PSM leader who saw
an increase of support among all three races.
Jeyakumar, who is being flooded with congratulatory messages from all
over the country, also revealed that he had received several death
"We are concerned and are taking the necessary precautions," he said.
'We went all out'
On his plans for this term, Jeyakumar, who is still settling into his
new role as a parliamentarian, replied: "I intend to bring the problems
faced by the common man to Parliament."
"This elections has shown that ideology is still relevant," he added.
His wife and campaign manager R Rani said she was "delighted and
overwhelmed" by the victory in what she described as "not an easy seat
to win" due to the alleged underhand tactics employed by their rival.
However, the PSM pro-tem central committee member said that during the
course of the campaign, there were positive vibes from all the races
indicating the possibility of upstaging the incumbent.
"He (Samy Vellu) never expected to lose just like how we never expected
to win," said Rani, adding that PSM "went all out" this time around.
Jeyakumar had defeated Samy Vellu with a 1,821 majority. In the 2004
polls, he lost to the MIC president by more than 10,000 votes.
Socialists make come back in Malaysian Parliament after four decades
PSM, Kuala Lumpur, 9 March 2008
After four decades, two members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
finally won elections and would be sworn in as State Assemblyman and
Parliamentarian. PSM National Chairperson, Dr. Nasir Hashim won the
Kota Damansara State seat in Selangor beating National Front UMNO
candidate Zein Isma Ismail by 1,075 majority. Dr. Nasir secured 11,846
votes compared to Zein 10,771. Meanwhile Central Committee Member, Dr.
Jeyakumar created a major upset by beating MIC's Datuk S.Samy Vellu
who is a senior minister and the leader of the third largest component
party in the Barisan National. Dr. Kumar obtained 16,458 votes
compared to 14,637 votes obtained by Samy Vellu. Kumar would now
become the first Socialist Parliamentarian after more than four
decades in waiting.
The last time Socialist won a Parliamentary seat was in 1964 when
Socialist Front won two seats whereby the last time the Socialist won
a State Assemble seat was in 1969 when Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia
(PSRM) won four state seats in Penang (Teluk Bahang and Balik Pulau)
and Pahang (Terentum and Temerloh).
Now almost four decades later, PSM finally won two seats. One in
parliament and one in State Assemble. PSM contested in four seats
using the PKR's logo since the party could not use its own logo as its
registration as a political party has been denied. It used a separate
7 point manifesto while endorsing the Opposition front (PKR and PAS)
manifesto. All party and campaign documents carried the party's logo
as well as the flag which was used along with the PKR's flag.
The party contested in four seats. PSM Secretary General S.Arutchelvan
lost narrowly to BN candidate JohaN Abdul Aziz in the Semenyih state
seat. Comrade Arul garnered 10,448 votes against Johan 11,588, losing
by less than 5%. Meanwhile PSM Deputy Chairperson M.Saraswathy lost in
the Jelapang state seat by a huge margin. Her defeat was due to the
failed negotiation with DAP which resulted in a three cornered fight.
Comrade Saras had to use an independent logo which was confirmed only
on nomination day. It was also a message to the party that the general
sentiment was to go for a straight fight with the BN.
The party central committee would meet in two weeks time to decide on
the party's line especially in states where the opposition has won.
Meanwhile a code of ethics will also be drawn out on requirements of
the elected representatives and their role in Parliament and State
Assemblies. The general sentiment and the expectation after the
victory is that the PSM's reps would have to champion to rights of the
workers and the poor. The party would also try to establish people's
council in areas it has won to ensure total participation from the
people and to ensure the people continue to play a critical role in
ensuring their rights as well as building the working class movement.
Letter of congratulations to Socialist Party of MalaysiaComrade S. Arutchelvan
Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM)
Dear PSM Comrades
On behalf of the Democratic Socialist Perspective in Australia, I extend the warmest congratulations for your successful election campaign which culminated with the PSM winning two seats on March 8. This is a great victory for the PSM but also a great victory for socialists all around the world.
The election victories by Comrade Kumar in Sungai Siput and Comrade Nasir in Kota Damansara were wonderful but the near win by Comrade Arul in Semenyih (10,448 to the winning ruling party candidate's 11,588) was also fantastic. These votes are a powerful testimony to the brave and consistent political work of the PSM with the poorest sections of the working class in Malaysia.
Socialists all around the world have a lot to learn from the PSM's fine example.
We can learn from your comrades' patient and unstinting work done with the masses especially the plantation workers, the urban poor, industrial workers and peasants. We can learn from your conduct of these work through the various sectoral organisations which have drawn in thousands of the oppressed into political struggle at various levels.
I was privileged to see firsthand your comrades' brave leadership during the nationwide protests for a minimum wage in August 2007. I also witnessed the deep respect for the PSM from the plantation workers of Sungai Siput and from the urban poor squatters in the outskirts of Ipoh.
Socialists around the world can learn from your ongoing struggle to have the PSM legally recognised. Malaysia's still ruling Barisan Nasional continues to refuse the PSM's application to register as a political party and claims that the PSM is a threat to national security. While fighting this anti-democratic decision in the courts the PSM has continued its activities in a bold and open way, leading street demonstrations, pickets and land occupations - with comrades often hauled off to jail for the simple exercise of the political right to protest.
On the basis that the right to form a political party is a constitutional right, the PSM became the first party in Malaysia’s history to take the ruling party and the Home Minister to court for abusing their power.
Socialists around the world can learn from the PSM's open championing of the revolutionary socialist ideas of Marxism in the face of entrenched "anti-communist" laws and prejudices in Malaysia. But we can also learn from your non-sectarian, principled and politically independent participation in various broader alliances.
With its recent electoral victories, the PSM has declared that it will use the parliamentary arena as a new terrain for the struggle for the rights of the oppressed - plantation and industrial workers, the poor, single mothers, the aborigines and progressive student movements. We look forward to learning from your experience in this new arena of struggle and your comrades in the DSP pledge our continuing revolutionary solidarity for your struggle.
Workers of the world unite!
Yours in solidarity
DSP National Secretary
Terence Netto | Mar 12, 08 11:09am
Mohd Nasir Hashim, newly-elected state assemblyperson for Kota Damansara
in Selangor, will have to buy a pair of leather shoes and baju melayu
hitam for the upcoming oath-taking ceremony - the customary attire for
Malay legislators upon induction.
It will be no swanky place from which Nasir will obtain his outfit.
“I’ll probably get it from Chow Kit,” offered the first-time legislator
who, with the rest of the winning assemblypersons of PKR, DAP and PAS,
was holed up in a hotel in Subang yesterday, sequestered from ‘crossover
Chow Kit is the bazaar-quarter of Kuala Lumpur famed for cheap buys;
Nasir won’t purchase costly Malay ceremonial attire or an expensive
Western suit for the swearing-in and sittings of the Selangor
legislative assembly. Hence an outfit from Chow Kit must suffice.
The leader of the as-yet unregistered Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and
a former deputy dean of the medical faculty of Universiti Kebangsaan
Malaysia, has always been shod in sandals.
Frequent changes to domicile have forced a spare wardrobe and simple
footwear on this fighter for the rights of the inadequately housed, who
has lived his life as spartanly as the people he campaigns for.
Nasir, 61, like his younger PSM comrade Dr M Jeyakumar (right) - who
dethroned MIC president and Sungai Siput parliamentary incumbent S Samy
Vellu in the polls last Saturday - contested under the PKR banner
because of similarities in party manifestos that made the people’s
welfare a paramount goal.
“That’s what we must concentrate on once we take office. I hope all my
colleagues in this coalition will focus on measures that will help the
poor, preserve the environment, and empower people in the decisions that
affect them,” said Nasir.
His comments were an obliquely reference to the possibility that
differing political ideologies may engender intra-coalition conflicts.
Veteran of a three-decade involvement in the fight for squatters
threatened with eviction by developers of commercial and residential
schemes Nasir, held that if PKR, DAP and PAS legislators place people’s
welfare above ideological compulsions, things would be smooth sailing
for the loose coalition.
“If our focus is the people’s welfare as the manifesto of each party in
the coalition has emphasised, then we will proceed without ideological
wrangles. We must seek the greatest good for the greatest number.”
Malacca-born Nasir, holder of a doctorate in international nutrition
from America’s Cornell University, is of a linage (he’s first cousin to
Umno’s Rahim Thamby Chik, former chief minister of Malacca) and from an
academic milieu (he was a student at the elite Royal Military College
(RMC) in the mid-1960s.
At Cornell, he had Umno’s Afiffudin Omar, Napsiah Omar and Siti Zaharah
Suleiman as peers. All this ought to have propelled him to conventional
pathways in Malaysian politics rather than the quixotic struggle for a
Detained in late 1987 for 18 months under the draconian Internal
Security Act, convention-flouting Nasir, upon his release, gained the
recognition of his peers at RMC.
They chose him ‘Old Putra of the Year’ in 1989, a signal honour - and
implied rebuke to his jailers - from an establishment-leaning fraternity
renowned for supplying the personnel that drives government, business
The experience of detention without trial and the unexpected honour that
followed it did little to alter Nasir’s political flight path.
His party’s struggles for those at the bottom rungs of the
socio-economic ladder - Indian Malaysians, mainly, who inhabit the
squatter settlements on the fringes of urban centres pushing outwards in
an insatiable quest for land - is by no means an election-winning
‘No-work, no contest’
In the 1999 general election, PSM asked for but were refused a chance to
contest in Subang. As a matter of policy, PSM only asks to contest seats
in which they have done work for the poor. In 1999, Subang was allocated
to PKR’s Irene Fernandez under a seat-sharing arrangement between PKR,
DAP and PAS.
Nasir could have been given the chance to contest in another
constituency but the PSM policy of no-work, no-representation, dictated
that he sat out the election. He campaigned for Jeyakumar in the
latter’s stirring but unsuccessful bid to unseat MIC boss Samy Vellu.
In the 2004 general election, Nasir was allocated the Subang
parliamentary constituency. He lost by more than 15,000 votes. For last
Saturday’s poll, Nasir readily accepted the smaller responsibility of
contesting in Kota Damansara, which falls under Subang.
A 15-year championing of the rights of squatters to low-cost housing in
the constituency had given PSM a credible presence and visibility in the
This enabled them to ride on the waves of discontent generated
successively by electoral reform group Bersih, by Hindu Rights Action
Force, and by PKR’s indefatigable campaigner Anwar Ibrahim, who blended
popular anger with rising prices and corruption into a potent call for
“The BN claimed that Anwar is a has-been. They underestimated him though
their decision to call an election before Anwar qualified again to
contest was confirmation of their fear of him,” said Nasir.
“He’s still a force as it was he who was mainly responsible for steering
all streams of popular discontent into a concerted torrent for change.
His campaigning fired the public imagination that change was possible.”
Nasir admitted that PSM would have found it difficult to attain
parliamentary and state legislative representation without the benefit
of the waves marshalled by Anwar (left).
“It takes many ripples to build a wave. PSM has contributed to the wave
that swept so many candidates of the opposition to victory,” he
Nasir cited his tally of 700 of the 3,300 postal votes in Kota
Damasara’s nearly 30,000-strong electorate.
“Tell me, have opposition candidates anywhere obtained more than
one-fifth of the postal tally?” asked Nasir with a hint of subversive,
though not boastful, laughter.
His postal tally is rare among a count thought to be the monopoly of the
BN. It only means, in Kota Damansara at least, that PSM’s long day’s
march in behalf of society’s poor has resonated in unlikely recesses.
The party’s struggles may not be so quixotic after all.
The giant-killerWho is the man in the beat-up car that defeated a political stalwart?
Stories by MARTIN VENGADESAN
THE news, when it was first announced, was almost unbelievable: Datuk
Seri S. Samy Vellu, an undefeated titan of the Malaysian political scene
for more than three decades, had lost his parliamentary seat in Sungai
Who had defeated MIC’s president, a man who had been a minister in the
Cabinets of Tun Hussein Onn, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and Datuk Seri
Ahmad Abdullah Badawi?
Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj.
That was a common reaction on March 8, that historically unprecedented
general election that saw so many big political names toppled by
complete unknowns and neophytes. Not that Dr Jeyakumar, as he is known,
is the latter. This was the third consecutive election in which he stood
against Samy Vellu, although he is still a relative unknown.
One of the more confusing factors is that Dr Jeyakumar contested the
1999 general election under the DAP logo, but contested in 2004 and this
March under the Parti Keadlian Rakyat (PKR) banner. Yet, he actually
belongs to neither party, and is in fact a founding member and central
committee member of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).
Known in his community simply as Dr Kumar, the silver-haired,
soft-spoken Dr Jeyakumar, 53, explains the reason for the confusion:
“Because of PSM’s legal struggle to be registered (see sidebar on next
page), I decided to contest under the PKR banner.
“When you don’t have registration, it makes it difficult to contest
elections, as independents have to use different logos.”
So why was such a small party able to topple the giant?
“There was a confluence of factors. There was a big swing against
Barisan Nasional, bigger than in 1999’s post-Reformasi election, and
even bigger than in 1969. Also, we have been consistent over the last
nine years. We work with squatters, plantation workers, factory workers,
and the people can see that.”
(In the 1969 general election, Gerakan, which was then an Opposition
party, won Penang, Kelantan was retained by PAS, and Selangor and Perak
also nearly went over to the Opposition.)
While some analysts are now claiming to have predicted the sweeping
gains made by Opposition parties in the recent election, Dr Jeyakumar
makes no such pretensions.
“I thought I’d lose. I expected a closer fight than before, but I
thought that money, the media and the desire to maintain the status quo
would be too much to overcome. It has been a pleasant surprise, but I
would not say I am unprepared for it as I have been working with the
people for the last 30 years.”
That work seems to remain true to his party’s name, the socialist party;
but surely Dr Jeyakumar is aware of the negative connotations that
leftist monikers can have in Malaysia?
“I didn’t start off thinking 'I’m a going to be a socialist'. I wanted
to help at the grassroots level, and I realised that the capitalist
system cannot meet the aspirations of the people. This is felt on
estates, the factory floor, in kampungs, places where people struggle to
survive despite working hard. When it is realised not just
intellectually, but actually felt by the people, it becomes more
So why did this Universiti Malaya medical college graduate decide to
pursue this course in life.
“I think it might be my Christian upbringing,” the doctor says with a
laugh. “I was brought up to belief that health, wealth, intelligence are
all gifts, and the more you get, the more you should give back. I was
very lucky because I was given a lot. I became active in social work in
the late 1970s, and as I saw the struggles of the poor, I became more
committed. I believe that in a world filled with poverty and injustice,
it is obscene to live opulently.”
The man doesn’t just talk the talk, he lives it: One of the common
sights in Sungai Siput is that of Dr Jeyakumar and his wife, R.
Moharani, driving around in a beat-up car doing social work on the days
when he isn’t busy as a medical practitioner (he specialised in internal
“I think my car is not so beat-up, but there is some truth to that. I
met my wife as part of the struggle. As students in Universiti Malaya in
1977, we took part in an anak angkat (adoption) programme in Sungai
Siput, and that’s how we met.”
Moharani is now a full-time volunteer with PSM and secretary of its
Buntong branch (in Perak) as well as being a member of the party’s
central committee. The couple have a 15-year-old son.
A Penang native, Dr Jeyakumar, who is the oldest of four siblings, can
be viewed as continuing a family tradition; his father, Datuk Seri T.P.
Devaraj, runs the Hospis programme in Penang (Hospis is a charitable
organisation offering professional palliative care to terminally-ill
patients) while Dr Jeyakumar’s mother was involved with women’s groups
and child protection work.
Crucially, perhaps, his parents have always worked without looking at
race, which might have had some influence on Dr Jeyakumar’s
determination to break race-based politics. However, he does admit that
the Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force) demonstrations also played a
part in his electoral victory.
“In my opinion, it was a very spontaneous cry of frustration. The
frustration can be seen by the fact that in every election, I got more
and more of the Indian vote. In 1999, it was 17%; in 2004, it was 36%;
but on March 8, I got 60% of the Indian vote.
“However,” he stresses, “Socialism is not based on race. It is an
ideology based on overcoming barriers between races to help one
So, ultimately, how does Dr Jeyakumar view the future of the country
after the elections?
“This is a very significant time. Hopefully, (the election) has opened
the door towards a two-party or two-coalition system. This is good for
the country, as both sides have to prove themselves, and the competition
will be good for the people.
“For example, if on the Opposition side, we all declare our assets
publicly every year and start local council elections, this will put
pressure on the other side to be more transparent and democratic.
“But there is a lot of work to be done. Even to achieve a consensus
among Opposition parties will be tough. In the BN, Umno has the whip,
but on our side, no one has that dominance.
“I am also worried that the world economy may go into recession and this
will have a big impact on Malaysia, and the public may not understand
and blame the downturn on the political changes.”
* * *
On the fringe
PARTI Sosialis Malaysia’s (PSM) entry into Parliament, albeit under a
PKR banner, calls to mind the many fringe parties that have existed in
Malaysia over the years.
Very often, smaller parties, such as the Socialist Democratic Party
(SDP) and Malaysian Democratic Party (MDP), emerge as splinters from
established ones. Both are splinter groups of the DAP that formed after
prominent Parliamentarians (notably Fan Yew Teng and Wee Choo Keong
respectively) became dissatisfied with DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang’s
Parti Rakyat Malaysia is another party that formed from a larger one:
most members of the original PRM voted to consolidate into Parti
Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), but a few refused to do so.
PKR vice-president R. Sivarasa, newly elected MP for Subang (Selangor),
is one of those who has worked to consolidate multi-racial Opposition
“Frankly, in the landscape today, the relevant parties on the Opposition
side are PKR, PAS, and DAP. For the time being, while it is not
registered, PSM is parked with us.
“As for PRM, we don’t recognise it because it remains a renegade group –
at PRM’s last congress (in 2002), a significant majority of delegates
agreed to merge with Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN), and the remaining
small group of members defied the discipline of the party as a whole.”
When PRM secretary-general S.K. Song speaks to us, he does confess that,
with the unexpected emergence of PKR as a strong “third force” among the
Opposition parties, it is going to be much hard for smaller parties such
as his to attract voters.
“The reason some of us did not join PKR after the merger was that we
were suspicious that (PKR advisor and de facto head Datuk Seri) Anwar
Ibrahim and his gang would eventually return to Umno, and the new party
would be smashed.
“We were right in that people like Ezam Mohd Noor (former PKR Youth
head) and Ruslan Kassim (former PKN Information chief) did leave PKR.
However, the recent election shows that people of all races can now
accept PKR as a viable Opposition force. This actually makes it even
more difficult for other Opposition parties to survive, and it is
something we in PRM have to address very soon.”
Another interesting factor is that MDP president Wee Choo Keong was
elected to Wangsa Maju (KL) on the PKR ticket. Regarding the future of
the MDP, Wee says he wants to focus on building up his service centre
and serving his constituents before dealing with smaller political
issues such as mergers with other parties.
Tuesday March 18, 2008
ON April 30, 1998, a number of activists formed a new political party.
Coming from a variety of grassroots organisations that centred on improving the lot of squatters, and plantation and factory workers, the activists who formed Party Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) seemed like throwbacks to the days of the Cold War, freely using Marxist rhetoric in the course of pursuing their struggle for a more just Malaysia.
Unsurprisingly, despite PSM’s repeated commitment to non-violent means of political expression, the party has struggled to have its existence recognised by the Registrar of Societies. In fact, it has yet to be registered.
Amazingly, the 12th general election saw PSM win both the Sungai Siput (Perak) parliamentary seat through central committee member Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj and the Kota Damansara (Selangor) state seat through chairman Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim, albeit on the ticket of kindred Opposition party, PKR.
Does this mean the party will finally be registered? PSM’s secretary-general, S. Arutchelvan (better known as Arul), 41, doesn’t think so.
“We have lost at the High Court, and lost at the Court of Appeals. Our case is coming up in the Federal Court on June 16, but I don’t see much reason for renewed hope. At most, the general election results might give the judges the extra confidence to make a bold decision ... but I am not hopeful,” he says, adding that the party has heard all sorts of excuses denying registration, from being a threat to national security (no evidence was provided) to not having members in the minimum seven states (it does) and being already registered in Selangor (it isn’t).
PSM’s birth has its roots in the decision by another party to drop the word “socialist” from its name: Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (which has a long, convoluted history of name changes, but which took on that name in 1967) was restructured into the Parti Rakyat Malaysia in 1990, leading to several members, including former ISA detainee Nasir, to leave the party.
“I left the party because it decided to drop the socialist tag,” explains Nasir, 61, in a phone interview. “The idea under the leadership of Dr Syed Husin Ali then was that the policies would continue to be progressive but without using socialist terminology because that would seem out of step with the times. However, my feeling was, ‘Why be ashamed?’ We are socialists and proud of it!”
At first, Nasir decided to concentrate on his social work with Suara Warga Pertiwi. Eventually, though, he teamed up with like-minded activists Arul (whose Community Development Centre operated in the Kajang-Semenyih area in Selangor) and Dr Jeyakumar (whose group, Alaigal, was working with plantation workers in Perak).
Arul says that, “We decided to be ideologically committed because we noticed that once parties started watering down their philosophies, they soon strayed from the cause of the struggle.”
In keeping with its leftist ideology, the party is not a top-down organisation in which leaders issue orders to be carried out by the rank and file: “We believe that leaders are there to carry out the wishes of the members, for that is true democracy,” explains Nasir.
“It will be very interesting to see how this philosophy will work now that I am representing the people of Kota Damansara because I intend to go to the people to find out what their grievances are, and what they want done. So far, this has worked within the party, but it will be a great opportunity to practise citizen’s democracy with a larger group of people.”
It remains to be seen how PSM’s relationship with PKR, DAP and PAS will function, but Nasir feels that the parties are on common ground on many important issues. His view is shared by PKR vice president R. Sivarasa.
“Co-operation between PKR and PSM is nothing new. It started in 2004, and it was just a question of recognising that they were having difficulty being registered. We have plenty of common ground and their policies were very unlike those of the Barisan Nasional.
“I am sure they will prove to be valuable assets; and they have a long-standing record of service to the people.”
So why do men like Dr Nasir (who has a PhD in nutrition but who prefers to practise acupuncture, which he learnt from fellow ISA detainees), Dr Jeyakumar, and Arul (a trained economist) give up lucrative careers in Malaysia’s consumerist economy to partake in a thankless struggle?
“I for one feel that I have to give something back,” says Nasir. “I was sent overseas by the Government, and I wanted to come back and serve the people. I don’t want the people to serve me. This work has its own reward.”
Arul agrees: “I have rarely been tempted to give up because each small success means so much. When you see downtrodden, honest men, women, and children finally get a house, or a little bit of land, or a cash settlement that has long been denied them unfairly, that sort of joy is priceless.”
Malaysian socialist on undemocratic laws
13 March 2008
Malaysia’s National Front (BN) government continues to refuse the Malaysian Socialist Party’s (PSM) application to register as a political party, claiming that the PSM is a threat to national security.
On the basis that the right to form a political party is a constitutional right, the PSM became the first party in Malaysia’s history to take the ruling party and home minister to court for abusing their power.
While fighting this anti-democratic decision in the courts, the PSM has continued its activities in a bold and open way, leading street demonstrations, pickets and land occupations — with PSM comrades often hauled off to jail for the simple exercise of the political right to protest.
Prevented from contesting elections under its own name, PSM contested the March 8 general elections under the banner of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), led by former deputy prime Anwar Ibrahim.
Green Left Weekly spoke to PSM General Secretary
S. Arutchelvan about how they got around this undemocratic restriction.
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Was the PSM left with no choice but to run its four candidates under the banner of another party?
Our party was torn between running as independents or using a friendly opposition party logo. The problem with running under an independent logo is that our candidates would have only got their symbol on nomination day and so it would an incredible task to print the posters, flyers, flags, etc, unless the campaign period was longer than the mere 12 days that was allowed in this election.
What was the arrangement with the PKR? Did you have an agreed common platform and shared campaign material?
The arrangement was simply that we borrow its logo — that’s it. We had previously also stood under its logo in the 2004 elections. There were no conditions set and we had to fight hard on the negotiation table to get these seats.
All our election campaign material was done by ourselves.
We had our own seven-point election manifesto because the PKR even has some common political policies with the BN. These points were:
• Workers’ rights to be safeguarded (e.g. minimum wage, automatic recognition of unions and 90 day maternal leave).
• Eradicate neoliberal policies (e.g. halting privatisation of health care, education and other public necessities).
• Stop the Free Trade Agreement with Western imperial powers.
• Provide comfortable and humane housing for both rural and urban inhabitants.
• Stop racial and religious politics in order to foster greater unity.
• Eradicate corruption and abuse of power.
• Stop the destruction of the environment.
I saw both PKR and PSM flags in some pictures of your campaigns.
Some of PKR's supporters wanted us to use the PSM flag less or the PKR flag. Their reasoning included not confusing the voters as the only flag which would appear on the ballot paper was the PKR’s. The other factor was fear — fear of losing votes because of being branded socialist and members of a non-registered party.
The PSM’s position was that elections are means to popularise the party, therefore we used our own logo and flags. The official attire worn by party workers was red, while the PKR’s was light blue.
The PKR has an alliance with the fundamentalist Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) and in previous elections this has lost them some voters, particularly in the non-Muslim communities. The BN sought to cultivate this fear in its election campaign.
In this election, that BN tactic failed. In fact many non-Malay voters even voted PAS directly. It was a clear protest vote against Prime Minister Abdullah Radawo and the BN. PAS also changed its battle cry from a call for an Islamic state to a call for a welfare state, which was received well by many voters.
From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #744 19 March 2008.