Socialist Party of Malaysia strides on: 16th national congress report

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June 17, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM, Socialist Party of Malaysia) ended its June 13-15, 2014, 16th national congress at Port Dickson on a high note, pledging to continue to play a dominant role in Malaysian politics as well as working towards a transition program to enable new leaders to take over and continue the task of building a strong party rooted in socialist ideology.

Yes, the atmosphere was already set. The red flag leading the way to the venue was greeted by left leaders like Samsiah Fakeh, Lim Chin Siong and Veerasenan. The PSM continues to remain relevant in a country that at one point had a very strong left presence. Today the PSM continues to shoulder this enormous task.

The party’s opening rally (pictured above) was attended by, among others, Dr. Rohana Arifin, Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM, Malaysian People's Party) president; Muhammad Sabu, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) deputy national chairperson; Maria Chin, BERSIH chairperson [Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil in Malay) or Bersih (meaning clean in Malay); Chegu Bard, head of the youth grroup Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia; Wathamoorthy, HINDRAF president [Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) campaigns for the rights of poor Indian Malaysians];and YB Ravi, the state assemblyman for Teluk Kemang.

The strong presence of these leaders signifies the growing influence of PSM in the local arena. Besides them, the PSM also received solidarity messages from all over the world. From Organisations in South East Asia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand as well as solidarity messages from left parties in Australia, Germany, Greece, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Venezuela.

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PSM chairperson Dr Nasir Hashim (pictured above) opened the 16th party congress at NUBE Training Centre, speaking passionately about the role of activist, the state of affairs in the country and internationally, and things to build on from our experience. He said that we have moved far in our role in building socialism in Malaysia and key to this is to understand ideology and to be sensitive to the dialectical developments around us as we move on. Twenty-five delegates addressed and critiqued the party chairperson's speech. Many agreed with his points, while some criticised, saying that the paper did not cover issues such as climate change.

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The first panel discussion, on the post-Soviet Union, took place with Koh Kay Yew from the Socialist Club Singapore and Fajar Generation, coming all the way from California. He was also a former ISA detainee in the 1960s. He spoke with our own comrade Choo Chon Kai about situation in Ukraine as well post-Soviet Union – its relevance and its consequences.

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The next day, June 14, PSM secretary general S. Arutchelvan (pictured above) reprted on the year's progress for the party. In the last year, party membership has increased by 33% and out of this, 75% of new members were Malays, compared to 7% Chinese and 18% Indians.

Arutchelvan spoke about the ongoing effort tobuilding the Left Coalition, which would be the first left coalition since the demise of Socialist Front in 1967. The coalition also sees the two socialist parties, Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) and PSM, for the first time involved in a formal political coalition, a desire expressed by many people. The coalition also boasts the support of prominent activists like Dr Kua Kia Soong, Irene Xavier, Fuad Rahmat, Anas Abdul Jalil, Kia Meng and Aziz Suraini. Other member organisations of the coalition are non-party groups such as SAMM, Collective Intelligence and the Workers Organisation.

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Arutchelvan also spoke about some of the successes and initiatives of the last one year. This included PSM winning the EO6 defamation case, helping to organise the biggest May Day in Malaysia's history, the fight against Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, and the formation of a new campaign the fight house-price increases. He also reported on the starting of the PSM‘s own bookshop called Tinta Merah (Red ink).

Arutchelvan warned about the growing political crisis that is expected, especially on the future of the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) if its leader Anwar Ibrahim is imprisoned. There is growing frustration within Pakatan over its handling of the Hudud (Islamic law) issues.

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Another interesting panel was on the question of political Islam. Three panellists, Dr Fuad Rahmat, historian Aziz Suraini and Dr Nasir, spoke about political Islam and the role that the PSM can play. The debate ended after the PSM members took a new policy decision and revised its policy of non-interferences on religious issues. The current PSM congress decision now allows the party to participate and give its perspective and views on such issues. The party has also decided to hold a one-day national discussion to discuss the implementation of Hudud and the PSM’s position on this....

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Thirteen critical motions were discussed and it went on until 2.30 am; motion relating to the youth wing were postponed. The critical motions passed included that the PSM should have an orientation and internship program for young members. A new body will also be set up to oversee branch development. A motion that PSM should critique the interference of the monarch in cases of exploitation of the poor or involvement in business ventures that will make the poor poorer was passed. Another motion was for the PSM to come out with a left economic manifesto with a Malaysian left agenda.

On the final day, June 15, of the congress the PSM discussed the need for transition within the party to enable young comrades take over the current leadership. The members resolved to have a gradual transition in which the continuation and strength of the party must always be taken into consideration. The PSM remains the only left party in South East Asia currently that has yet to face a split since its formation 17 years ago. Its success is due to the party's handling of internal contradictions and strict discipline on the question of democratic centralism.

The last session was the resolution for the congress. The party debated and endorsed 18 resolutions and, among others, called for the government to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement talks, oppose the goods and services tax (GST), improve health, education, workers' rights and housing rights.

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The three-day congress ended with the singing of the "Internationale". Most members felt the PSM has definitely grown and has become more multi-racial and stronger.

It was a fitting birthday present for Che Guevara, who was born on June 14, 1928. His spirit continues to inspire the young and the old.

Resolutions of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia's 16th national congress, June 13-15, 2014

1. Stop the implementation of the GST on April 1, 2015. Tax the wealthy and retain corporate tax instead of shifting the tax burden to the poor.

2. Implement a minimum or living wage of RM1500 for the entire workforce, including workers in Sabah and Sarawak. Abolish the cheap labour policy.

3. Do not sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Quit the partnership now! The TPPA is a global corporate agenda and a US-sponsored neocolonial economic scheme.

4. Stop all discrimination based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Abolish the “race” column in all government forms. Enact the Social Inclusion Act to ensure assistance to the lower income group is channelled in a fair manner.

5. Allow automatic registration of trade unions and enact laws to enable trade union formation without any restrictions and obstacles.

6. Protect the people’s right to a clean water supply. The water crisis and drought in the country are the effects of the global climate crisis that has resulted from irresponsible capitalist development that only pursues profit.

7. Save the Earth by stopping deforestation. Preserve the forests in order to protect the natural environment. Incinerator construction should also be stopped across the country and replaced with a serious and aggressive recycling campaign.

8. Solve the housing price crisis by freeing housing from market speculation. The government should establish a non-profit trust to build reasonably priced, comfortable homes. A savings scheme should be set up, to which 10% of all loan repayments are channelled. This fund should be made available during economic crises to house buyers facing falling incomes. An agency should also be set up to provide low-rental council homes for families earning less than RM2000 a month.

9. Withdraw the amendment to the Employment Act 1955 regarding the Contractor for Labour. Restrict contract work to work of a seasonal and temporary nature only.

10. Eliminate unemployment and guarantee employment opportunity for all. Initiate a pension scheme for workers in the private sector. Issues and problems pertaining to the rights and welfare of security guards should be given serious attention due to the widespread exploitation of workers in that sector.

11. Build more government hospitals in areas with large populations. Restrict the building of private hospitals.

12. Control and reduce the rising domestic electricity tariff. Review the Independent Power Providers (IPP) concession agreement with the TNB so that it doesn’t burden the rakyat [people]. The more than 20 billion gas subsidy which is given to the IPPs only profits the capitalists and government cronies.

13. Increase professionalism in the police force. Implement the Independent Police Commission of Misconduct (IPCMC) now.

14. Freeze the establishment of private schools, and increase the quality of government schools by reducing the number of students in each class especially for LINUS students. Increase the number special schools for students with learning disabilities.

15. PSM opposes the military coup in Thailand. PSM demands democracy be revived by ending emergency laws. Stop stifling the freedom of expression and release all political prisoners, and have elections immediately.

16. PSM reaffirms its support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to determine their future as a fundamental right that cannot be violated. PSM supports the reconciliation efforts among the different political entities in Palestine towards strengthening the Palestine national liberation movement.

17. Abolish the cabotage system which requires imported goods containers to be taken to Port Klang first before being sent to the ports in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. The abolishment of this system will help reduce prices of essential goods in Sabah and Sarawak, where currently the prices of such goods are much higher than in Peninsula Malaysia.

18. PSM fully supports the demand of the non-government organisation, Royalti, for petroleum royalties to be given to the Kelantan State and increase the royalty from 5% to 20% to other oil-producing states like Sabah and Sarawak.