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Is endorsing Harapan a support for Dr M?

S Arutchelvan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | In the last one week, two issues involving PSM had courted many reactions from the public, as well as from friends and foes. They were PSM's support for Pakatan Harapan to form the government, as well as Dr Michael Jeyakumar’s seat in Sungai Siput.

Let me address some of these issues.

Firstly PSM is not part of the Harapan coalition or PAS' coalition. Both these coalitions can form the government, because based on the numbers of seats they are contesting, they can do so if they get past 112 seats, or at least, form a minority government. PSM does not have the numbers to form a government as we are not part of any of these coalitions.

PSM, on the other hand, can be said to be Harapan friendly, but we are not a member of Harapan. Harapan has decided not to invite PSM when they initiated the coalition in 2015. PSM has also not set any condition in participating in Harapan because some parties claim that it is because of strong PSM conditions, that we are left out.

Perhaps it is more of our strong political convictions on issues such as neoliberal capitalist policies, strong ethical guidelines, party principles etcetera, which may be the reason why Harapan is not comfortable in bringing us into the coalition. If you ask some honest Harapan leaders, they will tell you the actual reason for not accepting PSM is that Harapan is not ready to share seats.

It must be noted that historically, the main opposition in the country was Barisan Socialist made up of Party Rakyat(People's Party) and Labour Party. Only after Barisan Socialist was clamped down and banned, did parties like DAP and Gerakan fill the vacuum. So it is not difficult to understand why DAP, for instance, would have a tough time accepting PSM because we may be working on the same constituency compared to Amanah or Bersatu who work in rural Malay areas, where there will not be DAP competitors.  

This is the same reason why MIC will not permit IPF (Indian Progressive Front) to be a formal member of  BN and how previously, Umno would not allow Semangat 46 to be part of BN.

Excuse me, who do you blame for three corners?

So most Malaysians just look at the small picture and discuss the big picture. For example, when they ask us, since you are only standing in three percent of seats, who do you support? Our option is limited to BN, Harapan or PAS. So we take a position that we reject BN totally, we say the first choice is to vote PSM, if we are not standing, vote for Harapan, but if you think the Harapan candidate is a terrible one, then the voters have an option to choose the best opposition candidate, or even abstain.

At the end of the day, PSM, being a national party which has branches in all states in Malaysia, must have a national position when it comes to the 97 percent of seats we are not contesting in.

Then the second question comes on the three percent, where you are splitting the votes. There is no more three corner; in places PSM is contesting, it is normally four corners with PAS and PRM (Parti Rakyat Malaysia) fielding candidates against PSM.

So the three or four corners are caused by the major split between DAP and PAS, and they should take the blame or remedy the situation rather than pointing the finger at PSM. It is also unbecoming of some civil society members to attack PSM – a small principled party, rather than taking on the bigger parties which created the split, like DAP and PAS.

These activists take the easy route by asking PSM to withdraw, rather than asking the bigger parties to give in. Shouldn’t their conviction be on which is the better candidate, or the party with the better track record? Shouldn’t social activists fight for bigger things rather than general propaganda?

Does endorsing Harapan mean PSM's endorsing Dr M?

The next issue is, that in our view that if we win, we will help Harapan form the government. Then there is a group which says by supporting Harapan, we are endorsing Dr Mahathir Mohamad. They are not happy. Nasir Hashim, PSM chairperson said that our support is not blind. If Harapan goes against some of the core issues PSM is fighting for, we will oppose them.

Support to Harapan does not mean an endorsement to Mahathir. For example, many people may support Jeyakumar and Nasir but not PSM. On the other hand, there may be people who support Harapan, but not Mahathir. Our principle position on why we disagree with Mahathir has been articulated before.

But it will be very arrogant of PSM, if, in a very odd situation, where we can decide who is the prime minister (PM), people say our position should be to ensure Mahathir cannot be the prime minister.

Let me say that the PM is chosen by the party with the largest number of seats. Therefore, these parties decide who is the PM. They can decide if they want Mohamad Sabu or Mahathir, Najib or Hishammuddin Hussein. I feel that it will be quite insane for PSM to make such a call.

It is also not democratic for a small party to determine the will of the majority in a democracy. Many times, when we send memorandums to the PM on many issues, some do ask us if that means we are endorsing Najib…definitely not.

It is a process. Empowerment comes when the majority of the people say no and we have to work hard towards it. Empowerment is not a few people using a technicality to bring about change.

Similarly, it is up to the parties to decide if Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail or Mohamed Azmin Ali should be the menteri besar. That is why when Wan Azizah was not chosen as the MB, we in PSM, issued a statement that the royalty should not decide the democratic will of the party with the majority. We have to be consistent.

Therefore it is sad that people can equate a vote for Harapan to a vote for Mahathir. The sadder situation is we don’t have the numbers ourselves, to form a government, and name our own PM candidate. Therefore it is better to be realistic, and humble.

Why don't PSM stand in many seats?

Many people in the social media want us to stand in many seats. The real situation is that we are not ready. All these people who believe in this should join us in building the third alternative. Giving us likes in Facebook will not transform things. We need you to be working on the ground, becoming candidates, being the change you want us to do. Election is big business and big parties get big corporate funding.

Jeyakumar - common Logo, PSM and decisions

On the question of Sungai Siput and Jeyakumar, he is not only a main leader of PSM, he is also a founder member of the party. In most big parties, the members don’t have much say in major decision. You can see how PKR chooses its candidates with such a top-down approach. This is similar to BN chairperson Najib Abdul Razak and Mahathir. Most party members have to work hard to be loyal and do all sort of things to get a seat.

In PSM, we truly believe in a democratic process of our members. In our congress, it was decided that PSM should stand in its own logo and if at all we need to change this decision, another congress with all the members can discuss again and overturn this. So when PKR asked Jeyakumar to use the PKR logo, he was very polite to say that only the party congress can decide this and not him.

For the matter, even the all-powerful central committee, in which I sit, cannot overturn a congress decision. PSM is a party which believes in party democracy. If we cannot practice democracy within our own party and with our members, how do we then administer democracy in a country?

There are some quarters who try to imply that Jeyakumar is being forced by the PSM to use its own logo. This is totally false and just an attempt by people trying to create disunity among the strong PSM members, who believe in the need for collective decision and implementation of party policies and future. Jeyakumar himself has on many occasions, blocked if anyone was to by bypass due process.

Most people get sucked in and are willing to sell out principles and basic human rights to get things going. Two wrongs do not make a right. As we have a day more for nomination, I am sure more manure will be thrown at us. In two weeks' time, the election will be over and we believe things may change for the good or the bad. The struggle will have to go on beyond the 14th general election.

Our election theme is- Together we build People's Powers. If the election is stolen from us – we will be on the streets!


S ARUTCHELVAN is PSM Central Committee Member.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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