Siri 30 – Memperingati Perjuangan Pembebasan Aktivis PSM EO6 (2011)– Ulangtahun ke 10.
29 Julai 2011
Dr Kumar memulakan mogok laparnya pagi ini. Persatuan Doktor , Malaysian Medical Association mengeluarkan sebuah kenyataan media menyatakan kerisauan mereka terhadap kesihatan Dr Kumar yang memulakan mogok lapar. MMA juga mengingatkan pihak berkuasa bahawa mereka dilarang mengagalkan aksi mogok lapar ini dengan memberikan makanan secara paksa.
“ In this regard, the MMA calls upon the authorities to respect international human rights law and not to resort to force-feeding as a means of ending Dr Jeyakumar’s protest. The World Medical Association (WMA) – the body that establishes ethical guidance for doctors around the world – states that force-feeding by any means is considered as unethical and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”
“ In accordance with the principles of the Declaration of Malta, the MMA urges the authorities to appoint one of our MMA members as the physician involved in the management of Dr Jeyakumar during his fast, so that we can be assured of his health and welfare and can communicate this with his family and friends on a regular basis, and can intervene medically if and when appropriate, while respecting Dr Jeyakumar’s autonomy and right to carry out this form of non-violent protest”
Pada hari juga suatu memorandum diserahkan kepada Pertubuhan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu United Nations , menyeru agar badan antarabangsa itu turut mendesak penmbebasan PSM EO6. Walaupun dihalang oleh polis , tetapi akhirnya kami berjaya menghantar memorandum tersebut.
Pada jam lebih kurang 1pm, Setiausaha Agung PSM, Arul mendapat maklumat dari Pejabat Menteri Hishamuddin Hussein Onn yang PSM EO6 akan dibebaskan. Demi merekodkan maklumat ini, dan untuk mengunakannya jika mereka tidak ikuti janji tersebut, maka beliau menghantar suatu email pada jam 1.35pm.
“ Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) mengalu-alukan pengumuman Menteri Dalam Negeri dan Ketua Polis Negara atas pembebasan enam orang pemimpin PSM tanpa syarat dan kemungkinan mereka akan dihadapkan ke mahkamah kelak. Ini merupakan apa yang diminta oleh kami dari dulu iaitu – mereka dibebaskan atau didakwa di mahkamah.
Kami berterimakasih kepada semua pihak yang telah membantu dalam membolehkan 6 tahanan ini dibebaskan dan kami bergembira mereka dapat kembali ke keluarga masing-masing.
PSM memberi syor bahawa PSM akan meneruskan perjuangan politik berdasarkan lunas-lunas Perlembagaan Negara kita
Sekian terima Kasih
29 Julai, 2011 – 1.35pm.
Pada jam lebih kurang 3.42pm – pemimpin DAP mengeluarkan kenyataan mendesak Kerajaan memberitahu siapakah yang mencipta tohmahan palsu terhadap PSM EO6 itu. Lim Kit Siang dalam kenyataannya berkata
“Malaysians are entitled to ask who are the officers or politicians who had been so ‘creative’ as to concoct the heinous charge under Section 122 of the Penal Code against the PSM activists in the first instance,”
I will ask in the next Parliament session who are the officers who concocted such charges and who are their police superiors who gave the approval, and whether the advice of the attorney-general or his officers had been sought”
Pada jam lebih kurang 4pm lebih, kami diminta untuk hadir ke Balai Polis Jinjang untuk menerima komrad2 PSM EO6 yang akan dibebaskan. Pada masa itu, kami masih ragu-ragu jika makluman itu benar, ataupun mereka akan dibebaskan dan ditahan semula sepertimana yang berlaku pada 2 Julai , 2011 di Kepala Batas Pulau Pinang. Maka kami tidak mengumumkan lagi berita tersebut kepada media ataupun komrad-komrad PSM yang lain.
Pada jam lebih kurang 5.30pm, akhirnya kami berjumpa dengan PSM EO6 dibalai Jinjang dan membawa mereka keluar. Suatu himpunan segera dianjurkan di Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall KLSCAH pada malam itu juga memgumumkan kejayaan kuasa rakyat yang dapat membebaskan PSM EO6.
Siri #HariIniDalamSejarah ini akan menjejaki usaha PSM dalam Perjuangan Membebaskan Tahanan PSM EO6 sehingga hari mereka dibebaskan pada 29 Julai, 2011. Ini merupakan hantaran terakhir dalam siri ini.
20th July, 2021 – 10 years ago today – Remembering the turbulent political times, here we share writings from various from activist, academics, supporters and many others that demanded the release of the PSM EO6.
NH Chan, a much respected former Court of Appeal Judge expresses in the blog as follows ;
“ The regime and its underlings the police behaved as expected of tyrants – typical of all bullies they were afraid of their own shadow – they saw the ghosts of the insurgency of Chin Peng and the CPM (Communist Party of Malaya) being revived…..Returning to the hullabaloo of the police on the involvement of national security and public order, don’t they know, as all of us already know, that communism as an ideology had collapsed with the fall of the Berlin wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union? There is no more threat from any idea of communist expansionism from Chinese communists as China has turn to capitalism and has prospered as the world’s second largest economy next to America..”
The then DAP chairperson Karpal Singh also lambasted Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz for getting his facts wrong in seeking to defend the detention of six PSM activists under the Emergency Ordinance. “ As the de facto minister of law, much more is expected of him than “irresponsible and inaccurate” statements over the law as well as his defence of its application against the ‘PSM Six’ as the activists have been dubbed” , Karpal added that out that the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance No 5 of 1969 came about following the May 13 riots, not for the purpose of combatting communism.
As the de facto minister of law, much more is expected of him than “irresponsible and inaccurate” statements over the law as well as his defence of its application against the ‘PSM Six’ as the activists have been dubbed
– Karpal Singh
“This ordinance (EO) has all along been used to quell gangland activities. It has never been used to combat communism,” said Karpal in a statement today.
The use of the EO amounts to “unadulterated abuse of it” and the six persons detained should be released immediately, he said.
International support demanding the release of the PSM EO6 comrades continue to pour in. MP in Australia from The Greens David Shoebridge. Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council writes as follows to the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak.
Besides the pressure from local and international leaders, our lawyers kept the pressure by exposing all police conducts against the PSM EO6. In a press conference, the lawyers further exposed the government’s tactics in trying to justify the arrest of the EO 6. Lawyer Arumugam whom met Letchumanan to get his signature of the affidavit informed that Letchumanan was subjected to polygraph test by the police. This action by the police is definitely a form of mental torture and an attempt to break the mental strength of the detainee. Whether it is also used on other detainees he was unable to confirm at that time.
Regional left parties also issued solidarity statements demanding that the PSM EO6 be released as soon as possible . The statement is reproduced here as follows;
Regional left statement in solidarity with PSM: Free all political prisoners! Democracy for the Malaysian people!
July 8, 2011 — On June 19, 2011, a campaign called Bersih 2.0 was called by the Malaysian people for a free and fair elections in the country with the 13th General Election around the corner. Bersih 2.0 also called a gathering for July 9, 2011. On June 24, the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM, Socialist Party of Malaysia) launched a Udahlah BN, Bersaralah (Enough BN, retire now) campaign. The PSM campaign aimed to expose the corruption of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government and also to drum up support for the Bersih 2.0 rally.
Since June 22, more than 100 individuals have been arrested because they have expressed their support for a mass rally on July 9, called for by the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih). As of now, 81 people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained by the police at various locations in the country before the Bersih 2.0 rally. A further 15 people have been called or summoned by the police for their statements to be recorded in relation to the Bersih 2.0 rally. The police harassment and intimidation included arresting people for wearing Bersih 2.0 T-shirts, distributing Bersih 2.0 leaflets, holding and carrying Bersih 2.0 T-shirts, taking 112 statements for more than one time, denying access to lawyers and medication during the detention period and the sexual harassment of women activists.
On July 3, six PSM members, including Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj (a member of parliament), have been rearrested under the Emergency Ordinance (EO), which allows for 60-day detention without trial, renewable for up to two years at the discretion of the home minister. The six were part of a group of 30 PSM activists who were remanded on June 25 for allegedly “waging war against the king”.
We view these acts of the Malaysian government as the suppression of the democratic rights of the Malaysian people. This is part of an attempt to protect the elite power that has been in power for years in Malaysia through the United Malays National Organisation-Barisan Nasional (UMNO-BN) regime.
We strongly condemn the Malaysian government for using harassment, arrest and intimidation as a method to try to silence opposition to the anti-democratic, anti-poor and anti-working-class policies of the Malaysian government.
That the government of Malaysia immediately and unconditionally release all the PSM activists in detention.
That the government of Malaysia must stop all forms of repression and intimidation against the Malaysian people from expressing their democratic rights.
We call on all the socialist and pro-democratic movements, in South East Asia and all the world, to build and give solidarity to the PSM and to the Malaysian people who are being repressed and arrested.
We also declare our fullest support for the ongoing campaign and the struggle of the Malaysian people for democracy.
Socialist Alliance (Australia), Reorganize Committee-Working People Association (KPO-PRP Indonesia), Resistance (Australia), Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Party of Labouring Masses (PLM, Philippines), Socialist Aotearoa (New Zealand), Solidarity (Australia), Peoples Democratic Party (PRD Indonesia), Political Committee of the Poor-People’s Democratic Party (Indonesia), All Pakistan Federation of United Trade Unions, Radical Socialist (India), Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP, Sri Lanka), All Together (South Korea), Revolutionary Socialist Party (Australia), Australia Asia Worker Links, Vi Pham (Vietnam), Partido ng Manggagawa (Philippine), Herlounge (Indonesia), Empower Foundation (Thailand), Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance (KASBI), Vipar Daomanee, Turn Left Organisation Thailand, Turn Left Organisation Thailand, Socialist Alternative (Australia), Socialist Worker-New Zealand.
Left Party (Sweden), Communist Party of Sweden (SKP), Partido Obrero Revolucionario (POR, Spain).
Union de Militantes por el Socialismo (UMS, Argentina).
10th year Commemoration of the detention and the struggle to release the 6 PSM activists from Emergency Ordinance. (2011-2021).
19 July 2011
I write with great concern over the incarceration of Sungai Siput parliamentarian Dr D Jeyakumar, or Kumar, under the Emergency Ordinance. It is mystifying to me how the authorities can construe Kumar’s commitments and political activities as either waging war against the Agong or subverting the nation.
What has become of the Malaysian power structure that such an individual, widely seen as brilliant and deeply caring, can be so cynically arrested by using the bogeyman of communism? As an old friend, it is equally worrisome to hear that he has been admitted to the National Heart Institute (IJN), with the possible harm to his health brought about by this outrageous action.
Kumar and I go back a long way. There is a family picture of him and me when we were one year old, but I do not remember the encounter. We became friends in Penang Free School, where Kumar spent more time in community and educational projects than in class, though still managing to become the top student in our school.
After the Higher School Certificate exam (HSC) in 1973, we travelled together for two months in India. I wished to be far away from home when my HSC results came out and Kumar wanted to understand why so many people were poor in India.
Later both of us went to the United States to study, he at Yale and I nearby at Wesleyan. To my surprise, but totally consistent with his desire to lead a socially meaningful life, Kumar decided to return to Malaysia to do medicine as this would enable him to understand and serve his fellow beings, especially the weak and marginalised, better.
Although I would be based mainly in Singapore and the US subsequently, I would meet Kumar from time to time, and learn of his political and community service activities and his thinking on Malaysian society.
Much has been said already in Malaysiakini and elsewhere about Kumar’s amazing range of public health and social projects, so I need not be redundant.
All I wish to say is that in all the time I have known Kumar, I have never seen any violent streak in his person, he being constitutionally incapable of such behaviour. And being a very gentle person, he is averse to forcing his ideas on anyone or to act against basic democratic norms. He has been an enabler all his life, not a subverter.
So let’s get a few facts straight. Kumar is a self-avowed socialist and is totally transparent about it. He is suspicious of the profit motive, believes that rampant capitalism has led to environmental disaster and sees a moral link between capitalism and selfish behaviour in society.
He believes that in many contexts, such as in Malaysia, the capitalist system can by-pass the needs of poor communities. He would like to see a more equal society. That entails not sitting by and idly wishing for it or just talking intellectually about it, but actually working to ensure that the poor are organised and have strong leverage in society.
Kumar might have a dream of more equality and a less materialistic life, but it is not a violent dream. It is not a dream that denies religion and/or the value of democratic processes. In the meantime, he and his colleagues are serving the poor in meaningful ways, though constrained by available resources, and groups across ethnic lines have approached them for help.
No decent society arrests such an individual. And from my viewpoint, it can in fact be argued that increasing the social power of the marginalised and weaker segments of society is not just a matter of justice, but is necessary for a productive and progressive capitalism.
For example, in European social democracy, high productivity capitalism coincides with enormous social sharing and low corruption. This system, which I admire, has been underpinned by the strong mobilisation and representation of the working and subordinate classes in politics.
It did not come about from the top-down favours bestowed by the elite, but from the increased social power of the lower classes, through unionisation and political mobilisation, which forced capitalism to be more equitable and, ironically, very dynamic as well. Here’s where Adam Smith, the proponent of free markets, meets Karl Marx, the proponent of a socialised economy.
There is nothing alarming in this formulation. It’s just conventional social science. One can disagree with Kumar’s socialist ideas, but the point is to engage him, debate with him, or to challenge him by providing an even better deal for his party’s would-be supporters. But to arrest him?
Either the authorities do not understand the basic logic of how societies work, or they actually want to block a more moral form of capitalism from taking root.
This leads me to another deep worry. I used to write and lecture on Malaysia, arguing that its governance system was able to survive for a long time because of its flexibility.
I called the Malaysian system a “syncretic state” by which I meant the regime was able to balance capitalism and a decent deal for the weaker sectors, democracy with selective coercion, secularism with religious identity, and nationalism with controlled ethnic mobilisation.
I fear that over time, politics in Malaysia has taken on more predatorial features. Political power is sought to serve narrow self-interests, whose maintenance has resulted in the undermining of institutions. The negative side of the balance is becoming dangerously entrenched. Coercion becomes the easy recourse to political challenges.
Unheard of levels of ethnic and religious brinkmanship become acceptable as a means to maintain power. How much easier to mobilise group emotions on the basis of perceived and concocted threats than to deliver tangible benefits or a high-skilled economy?
And amidst growing alienation, the regime finds itself widening the circle of subversives – it’s no more real threats such as communist insurgents or Islamic terrorists who become targets, but now democratic activists and educated professionals are seen as a danger to society.
This unhealthy milieu has even alienated some of my outstanding Malay students, who are having second thoughts about returning to Malaysia.
There comes a time, in the interest of the nation, for political leaders to understand that social forces and ideas in society have gone beyond the framework imposed by them. Preserving the status quo imposes huge costs on society and tears it apart.
The Singapore government, for example, which used to claim that only its leaders represented rationality and intelligence, leading to much political alienation, have now faced up to the fact that there are many smart people in society with valid ideas who have to be listened to.
In Malaysia, there are now many multiracial coalitions standing for universal principles of freedom and tolerance. There are capable people willing to be MPs and state assemblymen who don’t seek anything more in office other than their official salary to serve the rakyat. And opposition parties are proving that they can run society quite well, certainly no worse than Barisan Nasional.
These are developments which any true nationalist would celebrate. Kumar’s arrest represents a long process of institutional decay and the narrowing of political vision in Malaysia. It is a blatant sign of the inability of the regime to engage with ongoing changes in society or to reform itself.
Recent government actions have undermined all past efforts to make the country look good in the eyes of the world. My Middle Eastern Muslim colleagues and friends think it is laughable when the word ‘Allah’ cannot be used by Christians in Malaysia. And what if I tell them now that yellow shirts are banned in Malaysia? Even Queen Elizabeth would turn yellow.
Enough is enough. Let’s get on with building a real knowledge-based society that is tolerant of a broad variety of ideas in society. The government can take the first step toward reform by releasing Kumar and his colleagues.
JAMES V JESUDASON has a PhD in Sociology from Harvard University and has written broadly on Malaysian politics and economics. He is currently Teaching Professor at the Colorado School of Mines, having previously taught at the National University of Singapore.
10th year Commemoration of the detention and the struggle to release the 6 PSM activists from Emergency Ordinance. (2011-2021)
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10th year Commemoration of the detention and the struggle to release the 6 PSM activist from Emergency Ordinance. (2011-2021).
Remembering the turbulent political times, here we share writings from various from activist, academics, supporters and many other that demanded the release of the PSM EO6, – Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj (the current PSM Chairperson), Sugumaran , Letchumanan, Choo Chon Kai, Sarasvathy, and Sarath Babu.
Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, or Kumar as I call him, is a public figure of enormous stature. Very much respected for his achievements and contributions to medicine and public health in Malaysia, he was the recipient of the Malaysian Medical Association’s 1999 Award for Community Service.
As a government physician, Kumar served many years in hospitals in Penang, Sarawak and Perak, and chose optional retirement when he ran in the 1999 general elections. In addition, Kumar is a tireless social advocate and activist.
Kumar and I were classmates from Form 1 to Upper Sixth Form in the Penang Free School between 1967 and 1973. In subsequent years, while we attended universities in the United States (and, for Kumar, Universiti Malaya as well), and after we began our own careers, we maintained frequent, though irregular, contacts.
Some people may think of the dispossessed and marginalised communities as simply being ‘unfortunate’ in that they have neither benefited from booms nor been protected from slumps. Others consider them to belong to the past – to sunset sectors and redundant labour ready to be dumped by globalisation’s sunrise industries, new technologies and emerging divisions of labour.
I believe Kumar’s reply would be: the history of marginalisation covers the past, present and future. If our economic system and structures of power are not significantly changed (for the better), then we already have a very good idea of how an entire developmental process will reproduce our treatment of the marginalised of the past and present as our treatment of the dispossessed of the future.
Both doctor and social critic
Precisely for the above reason, one has to understand and act. Kumar’s insistence on uncovering the roots of economic deprivation and his refusal to rationalise away the causes of social injustice supply the radical edge to his activism.
Above all, it is Kumar’s willingness to do something about the injustices he encounters, and to do so here and now, that is the hallmark of his blend of personal conviction, intellectual criticism and activist intervention.
Kumar has never treated people as ‘topics for research’. He did choose, out of a sense of professional responsibility and social concern, to be posted to Sarawak after his housemanship at the Penang General Hospital in 1983: ‘All my three posting options were for Sarawak.’
Kumar spent seven months in Kuching, and then requested a posting to Kapit, a ‘more rural, more remote’ location. That was in 1984, and Kumar was stationed there for the next one and a half years.
Kapit was remote – ‘the last boat for Sibu left at 2pm and you couldn’t send any patient to a bigger hospital after that’ – and ‘challenging for someone in his third year out of medical school’. The doctor in Kapit had his or her hands full since, for instance, ‘one had to do surgical procedures even though one wasn’t a surgeon’.
But one had considerable freedom, and there was the chance of working with the Flying Doctors Service that sent doctors by helicopter to clinics in the remote interior twice a week – a service that Kumar praised.
Kumar found his posting in Kapit and his experiences with the Flying Doctors ‘very challenging’. Besides the medical work – ‘immunisations, examinations, treatments’ – there were opportunities to observe at first hand even more remote areas, around Belaga, for example. Kumar saw ‘areas that had been logged’ but noted that in areas that had not been logged, the ‘waters were still blue’ and the ‘rivers full of fish’.
Being a doctor in those remote parts – ‘a very high position’ – and especially being the humble, likeable and curious individual that Kumar is – opened doors, brought invitations and eased conversations. Kumar could talk with people from all walks of life – longhouse residents, headmen and logging camp managers.
He asked questions and made comparisons: why were there ‘more cases of protein malnutrition in logged areas’ in contrast to unlogged districts whose rivers were ‘still blue’ and ‘full of fish’?
Kumar heard stories and made connections: how could it be that ‘six villages unsuccessfully applied for land for 20 years, while local politicians obtained logging concessions which they passed onto businessmen, in return for royalties and payoffs? He was shown letters by headmen, and maps and data by camp managers, and drew his own conclusions.
Towards the end of his Kapit posting, Kumar was sometimes worried, ‘even paranoid’. The stories he had heard and the things he had learnt were politically ‘sensitive’ and potentially damaging to people with vested interests.
Nonetheless, he wrote about the effects of the Batang Ai dam construction on longhouse residents, logging accidents ending in terrible injuries or fatalities and suspected corruption in the awards of timber concessions to the politically influential and commercially powerful.
Kumar would be the last person to romanticise the things he did while he was in Sarawak. I have related Kumar’s Kapit experience at some length because it shaped his modus operandus, which was to detect the ‘social dimensions of health’, when other similarly conscientious and caring doctors would have contended merely with medical problems.
The privatisation of healthcare
Re-posted from Kapit to the District Hospital in Teluk Intan, Perak, Kumar treated a number of cases of beri beri (thiamine deficiency) among migrant workers of East Timorese origin and especially among those detained in immigration detention centres.
He sent letters to the Health Ministry, general hospitals in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, and to all government clinics and hospitals located close to said detention centres to alert them and to ask for feedback. Subsequently, ‘sad to say, a spate of beri-beri deaths in the Semenyih Camp was exposed by Tenaganita in 1995′.
In a replication of his work in Kapit, Kumar established connections between the medical and the social problems of the Orang Asli. Working in a state which has one-third of the Orang Asli population, Kumar called on healthcare professionals to understand that the ‘health problems of the Orang Asli are but the epiphenomenon of their progressive marginalisation’, and to ‘urge a strict prohibition of all economic ventures that impinge adversely upon Orang Asli’.
As a chest physician in Ipoh Hospital, Kumar wrote of the ‘increased transmission of tuberculosis in Malaysia and the weakening of the existing TB control programme’. This was an unfortunate development because the incidence of TB in Malaysia had fallen from more than 150 cases per 100,000 people in 1960 to 61 cases per 100,000 people in the late 1990s.
The re-emergence of the dangers of TB transmission was definitely linked to the ‘cramped and unhygienic living conditions … malnutrition and heavy physical labour’ that contributed to the ‘reactivation of … latent TB’ in poor migrant workers.
But Kumar also traced it to the deleterious outcome of ‘the government’s fascination with corporatisation and privatisation’ which would sacrifice ‘one of the few success stories of TB control in the Third World’ at ‘the altar of market economics’.
From these kinds of positions, it was a small step to critiquing the dangers privatisation posed to the state of public health services. Together with his medical colleagues in public hospitals and NGOs, Kumar organised opposition to the ‘corporatisation of government hospitals’, ‘the privatisation of the Government Medical Store’, ‘the dismemberment of the Malaysian health services’, et cetera, each time making linkages amongst health services, economic policies and political priorities.
It was not the first time that a medical doctor, with primary responsibility for the treatment of the human body, came to be just as involved with the reform of the body politic. Of course, there have been doctors before, indeed other professionals too, who, while devoted to their areas of specialisation, have found it impossible to resolve their concerns without referring to ‘society as a whole’.
They began as technical experts and ended up as social critics. But this tradition of integrating social criticism with professional work has sharply declined.
I cannot imagine that Kumar would regard his experiences to be unique. But I think of Kumar’s approach as being different from that of the ‘public intellectual’ who first picks a cause, an issue or a concern – human rights, the environment, consumer protection – and then adds said cause to his or her intellectual pursuits.
For Kumar, professional work, intellectual criticism and activist mobilisation were inseparable, wherever he found himself. As so often happened, such a critical and activist approach led directly to ‘politics’, as most people would understand the term.
An outsider who wants to be a credible organiser among marginalised communities must have several virtues, among which are an ability to render needed services and a readiness to stand by people in times of trouble.
Estate communities in Sungai Siput
The story of Alaigal is a case in point. Alaigal was founded by several social activists, including Kumar and his wife, Maharani Rasiah, an activist in her own right, after they had worked with five estate communities in Sungai Siput for several years. Alaigal is a community organisation that grew out of years of selfless, voluntary services that won the confidence of workers and their families.
Initially, the main form of service was educational in intent and approach – the activists held extra-curricular tuition classes to improve the academic performance of estate children. There was then a strong sense that educational achievement, family-supported but individually attained, was the answer to the poverty prevalent in the mostly Indian estate communities.
But the workers, their families and communities also made wider connections – between, say, their children’s low educational attainments and their income levels and housing conditions. They began to understand that, if their children failed to make the cut, the failure was not theirs and theirs alone, which was what certain organisations argued.
In short, the communities discovered ‘structural’ problems – their ‘unfavourable’ position in the economy and society – and this realisation helped to alleviate the ‘blaming-the-victim’ syndrome under which they had laboured for generations.
Around 1993, a network of likeminded NGOs, including Alaigal, began an estate-based campaign to upgrade estate living conditions. The main demand of the campaign was that the government should categorise estate quarters as ‘rural’ so as to bring them under the responsibility of the Rural Development Ministry.
In this way, facilities and utilities provided to traditional kampungs could also be enjoyed by the estate population. The campaign actively sought to make these issues known to Malaysian society at large and to obtain public backing via petitions, postcards and other forms of publicity.
At the end of 1994, a second campaign was launched to ask Barisan Nasional as well as opposition party candidates in the 1995 general election to include the demands of the estate communities in their election pledges.
These campaigns brought estate problems to national attention. But, apart from causing a shift of official responsibility for estates of less than 1,000 acres from the Labour Ministry to the Rural Development Ministry, the campaign brought no tangible benefits to the estate communities. In 1996, another campaign was initiated to demand monthly and minimum wages for estate workers across the country.
Accusations of outside agitation always missed the point. It was never a question of anyone brainwashing entire communities. The estate communities did not lack self-reliance or independent thinking.
They organised themselves and mobilised to overcome shared obstacles. They networked with groups having similar concerns. The wage campaign networks stretched from Kedah to Negeri Sembilan and, at a critical point, sent 1,000 workers to gather before Parliament.
Other voluntary organisations had previously helped estate communities to articulate their grievances and problems. But powerful commercial and political interests were alarmed when the communities moved beyond a narrow focus, say, on education. And then the vulnerability of marginalised communities became evident: again and again, their activities were paralysed by overt and covert police action.
The ‘coalition of the marginalised’, as Kumar called it, expanded: estate workers, urban pioneers, Orang Asli, displaced vegetable farmers, retrenched factory workers, van drivers facing harassment from the authorities, stall owners threatened with eviction, and others.
The point was that ‘our team had a lot of credibility’ for being ‘sturdy and reliable’ and ‘people trusted us; they knew we would not leave them when the going got tough’. Soon ‘people stood by us’ because ‘we had stood by them’, and a very helpful network of the various groups was established.
A comradeship of humanity
One might call this approach a non-standard way of entering politics. Kumar did not become a politician by joining a party, accepting its programme and obeying its leaders’ instructions.
From Kapit to Sungai Siput, Kumar was compelled to address real situations and genuine difficulties experienced by different communities of people. For a long time – and even now – his politics consisted of learning from these people, offering them a voice, solidarity, and setting an example.
In the context of the 1990s, that seemed to be the most sensible way of struggling for social justice. But notwithstanding the apparent triumph of global capitalism, Kumar and his friends decided that questions of ideology could not be simply set aside. They, and Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim ( right ) and friends, believed that socialism should remain the alternative to capitalism.
At the same time, the ‘grassroots’ pushed for a party, ‘our party’ – ‘instead of always supporting the opposition parties’. That was how Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) came to be formed. For 10 years, the government refused to register it as a lawful political party. Characteristically, PSM took the government to court.
Kumar is realistic: PSM has ‘no ghost of a chance of forming a government’. But the unlikelihood of a grand triumph should never stop anyone from posing alternatives to injustice.
In this case, Kumar and his friends pose socialism as a moral alternative to BN’s unfettered capitalism that has undermined what had been ‘an equitable healthcare system’, and other improvements to social services and social security that had provided significant benefits for common working people.
To me, that is a responsible assessment of current political realities in Malaysia. More than that, such an assessment affirms the core of Kumar’s politics. I am not suggesting that Kumar embarked on his activism with no more than goodwill. When he started, he already possessed more than an intelligent grasp of political economy and socialist theory.
However, his socialism was never based on doctrines, abstractions and propaganda. Today, Kumar ‘speaks truth to power’ with the kind of courage and sincerity that Malaysian politics has rarely seen with the passing of Dr Tan Chee Khoon, himself a labourite and Christian.
At heart, Kumar’s socialism derives inspiration and sustenance from the moral principles, values and examples of ‘liberal Christianity’ that were, to put it simply, ‘found at home’.
These were the moral principles and ethical values of the Devaraj family – Dr T Devaraj and his wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Kumar, Sheila, Rajen and Prema, and their spouses.
Those who know the Devaraj family are aware of how its principles and values have been expressed in a long list of social commitments: National Cancer Society, Hospice, Children’s Protection Society, Aliran, Women’s Crisis Centre, et cetera.
With his family, Kumar shares a humble yet compelling combination of moral conviction, professional dedication and social duty. The combination expresses itself now in social work, now in activism, and, when the times call for it, in politics, too.
In it, you and I will not find sectarian tendencies, or dogmatic dependence on ideological lines, or textbook fetishes. Nor will we find arrogant and easy assumptions about what to do with the lives of people with whom one finds a comradeship of humanity.
Instead, we will discover a deep and intuitive awareness that marginalised communities live in our midst, dispossessed by progress, expropriated by capital, and neglected by the state.
Is that enough of a summons to a struggle for justice? For Kumar, it is. And if he calls such a struggle for justice ‘socialism’, who are we to differ?
KHOO BOO TEIK is the author of ‘Paradoxes of Mahathirism: An Intellectual Biography of Mahathir Mohamad’ and ‘Beyond Mahathir: Malaysian Politics and its Discontents’.
The above is an abstract from an introduction by Khoo in ‘Jeyakumar Devaraj, Speaking Truth to Power: A Socialist Critique of Development in Malaysia’.
Jeyakumar, Sungai Siput MP, is currently being detained without trial with five others under the Emergency Ordinance on suspicion of “causing civil unrest by any means”.
I am writing this urgent letter to all Malaysians to be aware of the suffering that all the 6 PSM members are going thru. Isolated from loved ones and family they will have to beg to go to Toilet, or shave or bathe and hence the mental torture starts. I am writing on behalf of Dr Jeyakumar as I am a part of his family. I hope and trust that the family members of the others will start writing too to urge people not to stand for the utterly stupid charges against the 6. If in fact there was a T shirt or poster of “former” CPM leader Chin Peng, how is it wrong. ???
The National Libraries and most libraries in Universities have many books on communism for reference and reading. There are even books with his pictures as well as other involved in the struggle at that time. Is Hishamuddin going to remove all reference books in all the libraries ?? Is he going to have all the Librarians arrested or having reference material on communism ??
Hishamuddin calls the Bersih Rally illegal and as such justifies the wearing of bersih T shirts illegal also and had the 30 peole arrested. If so, the Perkas rally and UMNO Youth rally was also illegal, can we assume as such that wearing Parkas shirts and UMNO Youth Illegal. Hishamuddin is the most shameless politician for using such a stupid comparison. He takes us ordinary Malaysians as stupid but we have to show his in a clear, non violent and reasonable way that we will not accept this action.
I know Dr Jeyakumar personally. His father is also a doctor. Let me first tell you some childhood stories that will capture your imagination of this simple yet strong willed but gentle person.
1st personal story
In his teens
One day he went to to town to buy some items. He simply wore slippers and told his mum that he will be back later.A few hours later he called and asked his mum to please come and fetch him back. His mum was busy and asked him to take the bus but he pleaded with her to just come this time. She relented and went to pick him up and found him without slippers !!! standing on the inside of the pavement in a shop away from the heat of the midday sun.
Looking relieved he quickly jumped into the car. People had been staring at him whenever they passed by and wondering what was wrong with this boy. In the car he explained that he saw an old man shuffling about without slippers and could not stand it anymore and just gave him his own slippers to walk.
Only after doing that he realised that the pavement was very hot and couldn’t walk to the bus stop and also was receiving strange stares from passerby and decided to call his mother.
Such is the heart of this gentle man who has been arrested by Hishamuddin and the police saying he is a communist and was carrying Bersih T shirts.
2nd personal story
When he was in University Malaya he constantly involved himself in the plight of the estate workers. I know personally of how he started tuition classes in many estates from Sg Siput to BUTTERWORTH for poor students during his semester breaks. His legacy still continues till today with Indian students still sacrificing their important time during their breaks to tutor underprivileged students in estates till today.
When he became a doctor, he requested his posting to be in Sarawak interior where many places had no electricity and reachable by boat to treat orang asli and start education programmes for kindergarten aged children. He stayed for many, many years in Sarawak doing selfless work among the poor and destitute.
Such is the heart of this gentle man who has been arrested by Hishamuddin and the police saying he is a communist and was carrying Bersih T shirts
3 rd personal story
Once when I was in Ipoh few years ago, way before he became Member of Parliament (and like David beating Goliath –won the Parliamentary seat from Samy Velu) saw me and asked me if I was free. I replied that I was and and in the night approx 9 after he had finished his hospital rounds picked me up and we drove many miles and reached a large squatter area. The old blue rickety Volkswagon tumbled and tossed in the uneven mud road and there were no streetlights at all and we ere driving in the dark.
After a long time we reached a broken down hut and inside was an old Indian lady on a makeshift bed. Dr Kumar listened for a long time to her crying and after sometime he gently talked to her and gave her some painkiller injections and she soon slept off. On the way back he told me that she was in the end stage of her cancer and was dying and in so much pain. He made this trip twice or 3 times a week as she could not come to a hospital for pain medication. I sat quietly reflection how much just one person can do and how we who are so blessed do so little.
Dr Kumar is my cousin and I am proud to know him. !!! My relationship throughout the years have enriched me tremendously. I hope that reading this that you will not believe the lies that the mainstream newspapers is trying to tell you.
All of the 6 deserve our support and love – more so at this time, This is my simple testimony. I am sure that many, many more people will be able to share more experiences that they have had with Dr Kumar.
His gentle heart, his ready ear for listening even to the smallest complaints. I am enraged that they have locked him up without his seeing his wife and son and parents and friends. It is said that he is in solitary confinement. His 19 year old son who was also on the bus was arrested with him and kept in the lock up.
Please read and pass to friends if you can. Remember – All it takes for Evil to Triumph is for good people to do nothing !!
Proud to be his friend,
10th year Commemoration of the detention and the struggle to release the 6 PSM activists from Emergency Ordinance. (2011-2021)
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Remembering the turbulent political times, here we share writings from various from activist, academics, supporters and many others that demanded the release of the PSM EO6 , – Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj ( the current PSM Chairperson), Sugumaran , Letchumanan, Choo Chon Kai, Sarasvathy , and Sarath Babu.
Choo Sing Chye, a former Perak state assembly member, served as politcal secretary to the late P Patto writes about Dr Jeyakumar.
Dr Jeyakumar is a pleasant and a gentle person whose passion to help the poor had always been laced with compassion. Not a strand in him that suggests he is a violent person. Whatever he does transcends well beyond race and religion. He is a true Malaysian without the Indian adjective.
About three weeks ago, I received two books from him, Maaf Tuan Speaker, Saya Tidak Dapat Menyokong which is written by him and the other, Socialist Perspective 3 by Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s selected writers.
I read them both, but when he was charged with ‘waging war’ against our King and reviving the Communist ideology, I felt that we are living in a deflated democracy in which the government has gone overboard with its arrest of its citizens.
Violent inclination? It definitely does not show in his character or in his book.
His book is not seditious nor have any tendency towards violence. His book does not insinuate violence or the call for an armed uprising against the government. His writings showed none of these.
Even the choice of words in the PSM’s banner calling for the removal of the BN government were mild – I mean extremely mild. The choice of the keyword was ‘retire’ not ‘destroy’. ‘Retire’ does not conjure up any image of violence or aggressiveness. It is more of a call for the BN government to ‘leave-in-peace’ rather than a call for its destruction.
His ideas and belief-system that he had expounded in his book do not stray away from the very position of the left-of-Centre which the present British Labour Party resides and for that matter, the Liberal Party (the present ruling government coalition partner in UK).
If the Malaysian government insists on calling PSM communist than it is safe to call three quarter of Western Europe as Communist.
Generally, Dr Jeyakumar as I have known him is a soft-left Social Democrat rather than a hard-left Communist.
The Malaysian Government must not dwell in the past, grow up please! Communism is fast fading away from the world political scene. In China, the teens are queuing up to buy the latest Apple’s I-Pads rather than queuing up to buy Mao’s little Red Book.
The world has changed and the most unambiguous change is from the Land Above the Wind (Middle East).
Now the only decent thing the government should do is to release Dr Jeyakumar and his colleagues without any precondition.
Martin Jalleh, social activist and writer.
JULY 13 — Bersih 2.0 laid bare the fact that Umno is politically bankrupt. It brought out the same old bag of tricks, treats and threats. It looked like a party in a sordid state of denial and beyond redemption.
Alas, the BN went berserk over Bersih! The coalition continues to be the bane of democracy in Bolehland as it resorts to political moves most base in stifling and stopping Bersih!
The Prime Minister now tries desperately hard to redeem his battered image — which he has largely brought upon himself! Time and again he blundered — and very badly too.
Najib puts on a brave front whilst playing his blame game. He has been blindly led by his advisors and now finds himself in a bind, with a bruised ego and sounding very much like a broken record!
This time a humble woman lawyer of substance and a non-politician outshone him. Each time he attacked her, he reduced himself to a small boy begging for attention and looking for a fight.
The Home Minister did what he is most at home with — he bellowed with rage, and blared out the most bizarre and unimaginable balderdash. But no one bothers anymore with his bark and blather!
Of course the men in blue who looked as though they made up a branch of the Government (or a component of the BN), bowed, bent and did the bidding of their political (pay)master. A bunch of bullies, their brutality was captured on bountiful clips on the Internet. Yet they unashamedly bulled about their innocence, and the PM and Home Minister added to the bunkum!
Whilst Malaysians refused to buckle, the bosses of the servile mainstream press continued to suck up to their political masters, giving stories a spin and slant that served the government The beleaguered BN continued to bluff itself– all the time! The rakyat refused to buy what it (and its newspapers) were selling!
The Bersih 2.0 march is over but its spirit lives on in many Malaysians – in spite of it being branded “illegal”. The Government can ban all it wants, but the rakyat will not be browbeaten!
The BN’s image has hit rock-bottom. It should begin cleansing its stained credibility and integrity by releasing all who are still “illegally” detained (as a result of their involvement with Bersih)! Till to date, there is no solid and substantiated basis for the continued detention in particular of Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj and five of his colleagues of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).
The Government has reduced itself to a political buffoon by resurrecting the“communist” and “foreign” bogeyman in the arrest and re-arrest of Dr Jeyakumar and the rest. For a Government that brags so much about transformation and change, deploying Cold War tactics on political rivals in these days only reveals how far behind the times it really is!
Expecting the public to believe that Jeyakumar is trying to revive communist ideology is as ridiculous as saying that Deputy PM Muhyiddin Yassin is intelligent!
Those who know Jeyakumar personally readily vouch for his integrity, his passion for the poor and his principled, patient and peaceful approach. The MP is truly a rare breed politician!
The judiciary has just betrayed its often loud claim of being independent when it delayed today the hearing date of habeas corpus application of Jeyakumar and the five others by a month. A June 2010 court circular states that such urgent hearing dates must be fixed within a week after filing. The blunt and brutal truth — the judiciary remains beholden to the government.
The longer Jeyakumar and his colleagues remain behind bars, the longer the Government of Malaysia will look bad in the eyes of the world. It has no one to blame but itself. The Government has to clean up its act. Malaysia sits on the UN Human Rights Council with a laundry list of transgressions. It cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this daylight mockery!
Alas, the Government got more than it bargained for when trying to banish Bersih into oblivion. Najib leads the nation forward into abysmal political backwaters.
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14 Jul – Human Rights Watch urges the government to free immediately and unconditionally the 6 detained Socialist Party members, rescind the charges against another 24 party members already released on bail, and to stop using preventive detention legislation, such as the Emergency Ordinance, against peaceful protesters.
Human Rights Watch urged the government to free immediately and unconditionally the 6 detained Socialist Party members, rescind the charges against another 24 party members already released on bail, and to stop using preventive detention legislation, such as the Emergency Ordinance, against peaceful protesters.
Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) condemns in strongest possible terms the continuous brutal military assault by the Israeli armed forces against the Palestinian people.
Gaza Strip which was under siege all this while is currently under attack again by Israel, since 10 May 2021 following the vicious attacks on the Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, including a plan to forcibly evict Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah and the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque. As of 14 May, at least 126 people, including children, have been killed in the Israeli attacks on Gaza. There are also a number of Palestinian killed in West Bank in the latest episode of violence committed by Israeli forces.
The systemic ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people has been going on since the Nakba, the Catastrophe, 73 years ago. From the day one until today, the Zionist state of Israel is built on the racism, land grabbing, occupation, repression, apartheid, colonialism and state terrorism against the Palestinian people, with the support from the US imperialism. The repressive Israel’s machinery of genocidal war against the Palestinian people is powered by billions dollar of annual grants from the US government.
The militarized state of Israel has turned Gaza Strip into the largest open-air prison in the world with over 2 million population live in a situation of permanent siege and blockade besides military attacks from the Israeli forces from time to time; while Palestinians who live under dire conditions in the occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank cannot travel without having to pass through military checkpoints daily. Palestinian villages and neighborhoods are also facing increasing attacks by Israeli settler who are protected by Israeli armed forces and fueled by far-right Zionist ideology. Tens of thousand of Palestinians has lost their lives because of the atrocities committed by the racist Israeli state since the Nakba, and millions still live as refugees today. We shall not forget the very fact that Israel is the root cause of the violence in the Question of Palestine all this while.
We are deeply concern over the latest round of military attack against the Palestinian people. The latest atrocities of Israeli racist war machine is a reminder to the people of the world that the Nakba has far from ended yet after 73 years.
We call for:
An immediate end of Israeli military attack on Gaza;
An end to the Israeli occupation in West Bank and Jerusalem;
Lifting all blockade on Gaza;
International sanction against Israel for its crime against humanity.
There can no lasting peace as long as the racist state of Israel continue its occupation in the Palestinian land.
We express our solidarity with the Palestinian people who are still fighting for their liberation and dignity. The struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation is a struggle against racism, colonialism and imperialism. Their struggle deserves the support and solidarity from everyone who committed to anti-racism, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.