Poor PSM! - Obstacles after obstacles the Parti Socialis Malaysia has to face before it could be officially recognised as a political party.
The latest hitch is expected to make its recognition more elusive - the authorities are now saying that the party’s logo - a white coloured clenched fist against a red backdrop - has “connotations of violence” and is “morally unsuitable”.
This issue of a ‘violent logo’ has never been brought up in the decade-long PSM-ROS (Registrar of Societies) tussle for registration. Prior to this, PSM was also denied registration from 1998 to 2008 as it was regarded as a threat to national security.
This morning, PSM leaders submitted a memorandum to Election Commission (EC) chairperson Abdul Aziz bin Mohd Yusof to appeal for registration.
According to the memorandum, the party was finally approved by the Home Ministry on August 19, 2008 and registered by the ROS in accordance with the Societies Act 1966.
On September 18, 2008, PSM leaders submitted copies of their registration certificate, party constitution, organisation chart and coloured party logo as required by the EC in order to register as a political party.
When the party did not receive a response from the EC, the documents were re-sent.
On Jan 3 this year, the party was informed that their registration was still being processed by the Home Ministry.
On Feb 13, the EC announced that the registration has been rejected because its logo is "morally unsuitable" and "has connotations of violence".
The commission also stated that it has the discretion to approve or reject the registration of political parties according to the Election Act 1958.
EC's role questioned
PSM has since questioned the commission's decision, noting that “the Home Ministry and ROS should be the main authorities in determining the legitimacy of political parties”.
“The role of the EC is purely administrative and it should not interfere with decisions that have been approved by the Home Ministry and ROS. Secondly, the reason given for PSM's 10-year denial to registration by the Home Ministry was that the party posed a threat to national security.
“In the case of PSM versus the Home Ministry, the Court of Appeal had since held that the party did not pose any security threats to the country.
“However, the party logo was never brought up by the prosecution throughout the duration of its litigation.
“Thirdly, the party has never received any complaints from the public with regards to its 'violent imagery'."
The memorandum also stated that if a fist could be interpreted as a symbol of aggression, so could a keris or a rocket. In addition, it stated that the fist was a popular symbol used by socialists and socialist organisations all over the world.
According to Wikipedia, "The raised fist may represent union, as 'many weak fingers can come together to create a strong fist', and is also used to express solidarity, generally with oppressed peoples. This symbolism may have sprung from usage by trade unions."
In addition, PSM stated that because of the non-registration of the party, its members have not been able to contest in the up-coming elections.
The party viewed this situation as a form of status discrimination that infringed upon the democratic rights of the party as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
Lastly, the memorandum noted, "If truly, the symbol of PSM is perceived to be immoral and violent, then the people of Malaysia will reject it through their votes.
“However, that decision should be made by the voters and not the Election Commission."
PSM, led by Selangor state assemblyperson Dr Nasir Hashim (photo), was founded in 1998 and is the only socialist party in Malaysia. The party also has a member of Parliament in Dr D Jeyakumar who represents Sungai Siput. The two seats were won on PKR tickets in last year’s general election.