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Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) delegates to the party's 34th national congress today backed by a two-thirds majority, a resolution to dissolve the 46-year-old party and join Keadilan, paving the way for the leaders of both parties to complete the merger.

After a five-hour heated debate, which party leaders termed as 'emotional' and 'sentimental', 80 percent or 109 delegates reaffirmed through a secret ballot the party's decision to merge with Keadilan.

Of the total 136 delegates present for the congress in Kuala Lumpur, 74.5 percent or 101 delegates accepted the second resolution which concerned conditions agreed to by both the parties' technical committees which had met for about 30 times over the past year to discuss the merger issue.

On the third resolution, 78.7 percent or 107 delegates gave the mandate to PRM's central committee to go ahead with the merger.

Sixty-nine percent or 95 delegates voted in favour of the party to be dissolved in order to merge with Keadilan after the Registrar of Societies (ROS) approves the new party's constitution. The new party will be known as Parti Keadilan Rakyat Malaysia (PKRM).

All resolutions, except for the last, needed a simple majority to be passed. A total of 155 delegates were expected to be present but only 140 turned up. Four did not vote.

Keadilan unwillingness

The new party's constitution includes the new name of the party, Keadilan's blue-based flag with PRM's red stripes on the left and right borders and a 17-point manifesto agreed to by both parties.

The manifesto states, among others, the party's struggle for a just and democratic country, the upholding of the constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, the championing for an independent media and judiciary and freedom of speech, assembly and association, the recognition that Islam is the official religion while respecting the freedom of worship of other religions and that Bahasa Melayu is the official language of the country while respecting the mother tongues of other minority groups.

The merger which was proposed early last year saw protest from a faction within Keadilan who alleged that PRM's ideology was a 'godless' one. Several PRM members had also objected saying that the merger would cause PRM to lose its identity.

On June 24, 63 percent of Keadilan delegates at a special annual general meeting (AGM) voted in support of a key resolution to'accept and agree to the merger'.

However, the delegates did not give a two-thirds majority on a second resolution relating to altering Keadilan's constitution due to what observers said was their unwillingness to have the name of the party changed from Parti Keadilan Nasional to Parti Keadilan Rakyat Malaysia.

Third force

PRM president Dr Syed Husin Ali told reporters after the congress that the party's dissolution did not only involve PRM as Keadilan would 'also have to change' in order to merge with the former.

"Both parties are merging into one. Keadilan will have to change itself to form a new party, change its policies and symbol, and PRM too would have to change," he said.

"Only after the ROS approves the registration of the new party will the new entity be established," he added.

Syed Husin said it was now up to Keadilan to get a two-thirds majority from its members to change its constitution to suit the merger.

He also said he expected the merger to be completed in two years time in time for the next general elections in 2004.

Syed Husin said the new party would have a long term effect on the political scenario in the country as a good number of professionals and youth welcomed the merger.

"I see a lot of enthusiasm and a stronger force in the party. The new multi-racial PKRM is expected to be the third force to further strengthen the Barisan Alternatif," he said.

New vice-president

Asked how he felt personally on the decision to dissolve PRM, Syed Husin said, "emotions are one thing in politics, strategy is another".

"Sometimes, we have to suppress emotional feelings in order to move forward," he said, adding those in PRM who opposed to the merger did so due to their affinity with the party's tradition and history.

Syed Husin also announced R Sivarasa, PRM's legal advisor, as PRM's new vice-president. He takes over from Sheryll Stothard who has given up the vice-president's post due to business commitments. She remains as a central committee member.

Sivarasa was appointed to the post by PRM's central committee, he said.