PSM owes supporters explanation for seeking to join PH
From Kua Kia Soong
The recent announcement by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) that they are willing to join Pakatan Harapan in GE15 is surprising after all that has transpired in past elections and after the record of PH’s stint in the 2018-2020 government.
At the very least, PSM owes their supporters an analysis of the current situation and an explanation for them wanting to join PH, a party that might now be more accurately called Barisan Nasional 2.0.
In GE14, voters were focused on defeating BN and, in the process, PSM was sacrificed. Consequently, PSM not only lost in all the seats they contested but lost all their deposits as well. This included Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj’s seat in Sungai Siput.
PSM is known for its commitment to socialism and its grassroots work across all communities. Nonetheless, this alone, as we saw in GE14, does not mean success at the polls.
There are three key considerations around whether and how PSM participates in elections on which the party must be accountable to all its supporters.
1. Is PSM ready for elections?
From past and current experience, to take part in elections, the question PSM must ask is whether it has left an impact on all voters and not just a section of the Indian working class. Yes, PSM has made an impact on some Chinese farmers in Perak and Malay settlers, too. Is that sufficient to win an election?
What does PSM offer the middle class, which is quite big in Malaysian society? Has PSM made an impression in the Chinese and Malay media?
Before deciding to take part in the election, will PSM conduct a rough poll to ask how voters intend to vote or at least sense voters’ inclinations? Do PSM candidates reach a broad range of people in all parts of their constituency? Otherwise, it may be premature to take part in those constituencies when elections come.
PSM should set out the criteria for deciding to take part in any constituency. If those criteria are not met for any constituency or if a rough poll shows that PSM has yet to receive the peoples’ support, maybe it would be wise not to stand in that constituency. Or is PSM hoping to ride on the PH brand again?
Surely socialists must uphold their dignity if nothing else.
2. PH has become BN 2.0
When PH had the chance to show that they are different from BN, they failed. Among other things, they appointed their own leaders into top GLC positions and local councils. So where was the political will to bring back local government elections that they had promised long ago?
Perhaps the strongest reason for voting against BN and PH is the fact that they are dominated by race-based political parties to gain votes and popularity. This is what we thought we voted against in GE14.
In the 2018-20 PH government, Mahathir’s “Parti Pribumi” considered itself the “real” champion of the “Bumiputera Agenda” in contrast to Umno. And while they were in power, DAP forgot their “Malaysian Malaysia” dream because they considered Mahathir the “game changer”.
Consequently, none of the political parties in either of the two coalitions raised the question of when the racially discriminatory New Economic Policy (NEP), originally scheduled to end in 1990, will end.
Likewise, PSM must tell their supporters whether and when they want to see the end of the racially discriminatory NEP, which has kept the nation polarised and led to the catastrophic brain drain through the years.
The 2018-20 government also showed a lack of commitment and urgency in implementing manifesto promises such as the recognition of Chinese independent schools’ Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). This was a serious breach of promise in the PH GE14 manifesto since more than 80% of Chinese voters voted for PH because of this promised reform.
How can PH claim to be a credible progressive force? It has shown it has no political will to redistribute wealth to benefit the 99%. In contrast, both BN and PH are competing to see which coalition can outdo the other in neo-liberal policies that offer investors attractive opportunities that they can’t refuse, implementing “development” projects that involve carving out forests, reclaiming land and colonising other assets in our public commons.
The latest scandal of the destruction of the mangrove forest in Johor is but one example. It is the same in Selangor. We do not see these coalitions putting forward sound policies to redistribute wealth in this country.
Do they propose progressive fiscal policies to tax the top 1% who own more wealth than the bottom 40% and the middle 40% in our country, such as higher marginal tax rates on income, capital gains, inheritance and luxuries? The wealth of the richest 50 Malaysians (top 0.00017%) amounts to nearly RM300 billion, which is a quarter of the country’s total gross domestic product of RM1 trillion.
Most serious of all the manifesto promises that were stalled was the repeal of our laws that violate basic human rights that include abolishing laws that allow detention without trial, namely, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015. These continue to be used against Malaysians, including human rights defenders.
3. PSM needs to be patient in building a third progressive force
Having gone through our first experiment with the “two front system”, Malaysians ended up with the same autocrat who was trying to implement the same policies he had introduced in 1981. Furthermore, PH has succeeded in forcing PAS to ally more closely to Umno especially after GE14. It is time for all who have hoped for real reforms in Malaysia to build a “third progressive force” for a truly just, democratic, and sustainable future that BN and PH have failed to provide.
Besides ensuring an end to racial policies and critically needed wealth redistribution, we want affordable public housing, health, transport and education. A just, democratic, and progressive alternative calls for a living wage and rights for all workers; a reasonable pension at retirement, for all; affordable and liveable public housing; affordable and efficient public health and transport; free tertiary education (means tested for the well-off), etc.
We want to reclaim our public assets from privatisation, halt any further privatisation of public assets, nationalise public utilities such as water and energy and democratise the GLCs; apportion more revenue from oil and gas resources to the oil and gas-producing states and ensure Petronas’ oil and gas production and investment records are transparent and accountable to Parliament and the public.
Thus, with PH becoming BN 2.0, only by building a third progressive force can we take our country into a brighter future based on equality, justice, democracy, and human rights.
This has always been PSM’s socialist vision. We have supported PSM because of its socialist agenda. At the very least, PSM leaders owe their supporters an analysis of the current situation, how it is different from GE14 and give us a convincing explanation for wanting to join PH.
Kua Kia Soong is a human rights defender and a former MP.