View Full Version : PSM: BN won't go if it loses

12th May 2011, 06:09 PM
‘BN won’t go if it loses’ (http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2011/05/12/‘bn-won’t-go-if-it-loses’/)

G Vinod | May 12, 2011

Only people power can save democracy, says PSM’s Arutchelvan.

KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) fears that Barisan Nasional (BN) will resist giving up power even if it loses the next general election.

“No way will BN respect the election result if it is against them,” PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan said in a wide-ranging interview with FMT.

In such a scenario, he added, it would be up to the masses to ensure the survival of democracy.

“The next general election will not be smooth,” he said. “So we need to empower the people so that they will stand guard to protect any democratically elected government.”

Arutchelvan said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak might use his influence with the armed forces to keep Putrajaya for Umno. “We must remember that we will be dealing with Najib, who was defence minister for many years before becoming the premier.”

For that reason, he said, it was urgent for Pakatan Rakyat to empower the people. It was its failure to do so that rendered it helpless in the face of the BN coup in Perak in 2009, he added.

“People turned up on the streets to demand that the democratically elected government be restored, but the numbers were not large enough. Pakatan had not built that strength among the people.”

Arutchelvan gave an example of how the masses could be empowered. In Semenyih, where he is a municipal councillor, there was a housing area that needed a street light. “I told the residents who complained to get signatures from all their neighbours and send a petition to the local council. When the street light was put up, I reminded them that it was their effort that made it happen.”

Grassroots work

Giving another example, he said the Selangor government could have settled its dispute with the Public Services Commission last year by calling for a referendum on Mohd Khusrin Munawi’s suitability as state secretary instead of allowing itself to be forced to accept him.

“If (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez was menteri besar of Selangor, he would have called for a referendum in the state to decide on Khusrin’s fate. That is how Pakatan should involve the people in the decision-making process.”

On PSM’s preparations for the coming general election, he said the party’s focus was to ensure Pakatan’s victory over BN. The party is not a member of Pakatan, but Arutchelvan said it would continue to work closely with the alliance. It would negotiate for seats to contest.


“We are only eyeing 10 seats or less,” he said. “We prefer to focus on areas where we have done substantial grassroots work.

“However, all our candidates will have to go through a vetting process. The community they are serving must endorse their candidacy. We have also stipulated that any PSM member wanting to contest in elections must have done a minimum of five years of grassroots work in the area they plan to contest.”

He said the election would see some three-cornered fights. “Parties like Kita and the Human Rights Party will be contesting as well.”

Arutchelvan offered an advice to election hopefuls: they will not get their victory on a silver platter because the result of the 2008 general election has given voters a taste of their own power.

Politicians from both sides of the political divide were now trying their best to please the masses for their own survival, he noted.

“It’s a good scenario for the people,” he said with a smile. “Politicians are doing extra work now out of fear they may lose their seats the next time around. For example, I have seen 10 MIC fellows working just to get one person’s MyKad done.”

Sex video scandal

He also called upon the masses to see beyond personalities and focus on what he called “real issues”.

“For some reason, issues like rising costs of food, education and healthcare do not capture mainstream politics.

“We are more concerned over Anwar (Ibrahim), Najib and Rosmah (Mansor). We have also become a society that tolerates corruption and think every problem in Malaysia is somehow racially motivated.”

But he acknowledged that there had been some changes in the Malaysian mindset, especially among youths.

“And change will come when youths get involved. The revolution that ousted dictators in Egypt and Tunisia were spearheaded by youths. They will decide the future.”

Arutchelvan also had some comments about the controversy surrounding the pornographic video being used in BN circles to portray Anwar as a sex fiend.

According to him, Anwar is an obvious target of BN attacks because he is the “unifying persona” for the opposition.

“Anwar is the key figure who is holding the opposition pact together. The pact may have problems finding another of his calibre to lead them. That is why BN is trying to finish him off by throwing severe accusations at him.”

He said it was good that Anwar still had Muslim friends who feel nothing but disdain about the accusations.

“But the concern is it may affect the rural voters’ perception of Anwar as the mainstream media is playing the issue to the hilt.

“That is why we should get the people to be involved in politics.”

12th May 2011, 07:05 PM
Getting to know PSM, the grassroots party

G Vinod | May 11, 2011

PSM leader Arutchelvan talks about the party’s struggle and shares some interesting ideas about helping the poor and combating racism.

KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) is a vibrant but low-key political party that gives more attention to grassroots work than brawling in the national political arena.

“We prefer working with the grassroots as that is where we derive our strength from,” said its secretary-general, S Arutchelvan. “Maybe that is why we are not really good at giving political speeches.”

In an interview at the party’s modest office in Brickfields, Arutchelvan gave FMT a brief history of Malaysian socialist groups since the 1970s and the formation of PSM.

“In the 1970s, we had three left-leaning groups in Malaysia,” he said, referring to movements that operated as NGOs and leaving out Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (PSRM), a political party that contested in elections.

“We had Suara Warga Pertiwi (SPW), led by the current PSM chairman, Nasir Hashim, who was working with urban settlers. We had Dr Michael Jeyakumar’s movement in Perak, called Alaigal, which is Tamil for ‘Waves’. And there was the Community Development Centre (CDC), which was active in estates and rural settlements.”

Nasir was also a member of PSRM.

“After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, there was widespread resentment against left-leaning parties all over the world,” Arutchelvan said. “Realising this, PSRM changed its name to Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM).

“As PRM lacked support at the grassroots level, Nasir left the party to work more closely with the masses.”

Mass gathering

On Labour Day in 1994, the three groups, along with other small NGOs, held a mass gathering to discuss poverty in the country in the wake of rapid economic development in the Klang Valley and the marginalisation of the urban poor and plantation workers.

“Many were surprised that we held this gathering only few years after the Operasi Lalang,” Arutchelvan said, referring to the 1987 government crackdown that resulted in the imprisonment without trial of scores of political dissenters.

“However, we were confident of the people’s support.” Indeed, about 3,000 people turned up, most of them Malay urban settlers and Indian plantation workers.

At a follow-up meeting in 1995, the assembly suggested the formation of a political party that would field candidates in elections. The suggestion was more thoroughly discussed in a 1996 meeting in Hulu Langat.

“We were deliberating on whether we should incorporate the word ‘socialist’ in the new party’s name,” Arutchelvan said.

“While the educated groups were not comfortable with the word, the grassroots had no problems with it.

“However, we only decided to form PSM in April 1998, five months before the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim from the Cabinet.” However, the Registrar of Societies (ROS) would not approve of the party. It claimed, said Arutchelvan, “that we were a threat” to national security.

“So, we took the ROS to court in 1999 on grounds of freedom of assembly.”

However, PSM lost the case.

It was not until 2008 that PSM was finally registered. The general election of that year was disastrous for Barisan Nasional, prompting Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to try to make good on some of the reforms he had earlier promised to institute.

“Among the things he did was to give us approval to be registered officially,” said Arutchelvan.

Referring to social problems plaguing Malaysia, he said most of them boiled down to the uneven distribution of wealth.

He said the capitalism practised in Malaysia benefitted only a select few.

“The struggle here is between the rich and the poor. So we are mobilising the poor for a better life.”

Monopoly of resources

One of the problems, he added, was that private entities were controlling the nation’s resources.

“It is not that we are against private companies, but we do not want the big corporations to monopolise our resources.

“With a socialist system, our resources would be distributed evenly and we would have not only a better social environment, but a better natural environment as well.”

He cited Venezuela as a country where socialist policies had made life better for the masses. The government under socialist leader Hugo Chavez provides free education up to tertiary level. It has nationalised its healthcare and transport systems to make the associated services affordable to ordinary people. It has also built “community supermarkets” that sell essential goods at subsidised prices.

“Private supermarkets there have to compete with the government-run supermarkets, which sells at cheaper prices,” Arutchelvan said.

He praised the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia’s second prime minister, for his people-oriented policies.

“However, when Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over, he practised Thatcherism and Reaganism,” he said, referring to Mahathir’s privatisation policy.

Things had become worse under Najib Tun Razak, he added. He claimed that the rate of privatisation was escalating and will cause suffering among the masses.

“At the rate our government is going, the state would eventually not have any control over anything,” he said.

“Umno is not even loyal to the Malays. Who sold off Malay reserve land to big companies? It is definitely not the Chinese or other races.”

He said racial politics was the main obstacle to bringing about a class struggle in Malaysia.

“Socialism is a concept which expounds the people’s power and our struggle is class-based. Unfortunately, Malaysian politics is very racial in nature. That is why we prefer to work with the grassroots.”

Sharing his views on the New Economic Policy (NEP), Arutchelvan said that although its original intention was noble, the policy had opened a Pandora’s Box of race-based politics.

“When you have a policy that is skewed racially, the after-effect is that more and more race-based parties will emerge to protect the rights of their communities.”

Multiracial defence force

Racial politics, he added, was a boon to the ruling elite. Whenever an economic crisis hits, the ruling elite would fan racial polemics to ensure the people were at each other’s throats, he claimed.

“This is a way for them to subdue any possibility of a mass revolt, which will be a threat to their positions. The government will then use the ISA to crush NGOs and opposition leaders and to silence any resistance.”

He said the people should set up a multiracial defence force to protect one another from any sort of attack from those bent on creating racial discord for their selfish agenda.

“For example, if a temple or a church is attacked by some fanatics, the defence force must mobilise the Malays to protect the religious houses.

“Similarly, when the Malays are attacked, the non-Malays must be mobilised to protect them. I have spoken to PAS about this and they think it’s a good idea.”

Explaining PSM’s relationship with Pakatan Rakyat, Arutchelvan said: “For now, we are working with Pakatan to topple BN as we see the latter as a capitalistic party.”

He said PSM, being a small political party, could not attain federal power on its own and therefore needed to work with other “progressive forces”.

“And we will push for a welfare state programme with Pakatan.”

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