Friday, July 30, 2010
Media Statement - 31/7/2010 [Bahasa Melayu, English, Chinese]
Mansuh ISA bukan pinda
Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri atau lebih dikenal dengan nama ISA harus hendak dimansuhkan, bukannya dipinda. Inilah pendirian Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) terhadap ISA semenjak ISA diperkenalkan dan dikuatkuasakan pada 1 Ogos 1960. Pada 1 Ogos 2010, ISA genap dilaksanakan selama 50 tahun. Pelaksanaan ISA sendirinya sudah memperlihatkan warna sebenar ISA.
Jika seseorang memandang balik ke masa perdebatan dan hujah-hujah perkenalan ISA pada 1960, adalah amat nyata ISA adalah untuk menangani perjuangan bersenjata komunis. Oleh sebab kerajaan Barisan Nasional telah menandatangani perjanjian damai dengan Parti Komunis Malaya pada 1989, dan Parti Komunis Malaya telah menghentikan perjuangan bersenjatanya, ISA sepatutnya sudah hilang sebab musabab dan asas untuk terus wujud.
Akan tetapi, Kerajaan Barisan Nasional tidak ada niat untuk memansuhkan ISA. Sebaliknya, Kerajaan Barisan mengemukakan pelbagai dalih untuk menjustifikasikan perlunya ISA supaya kewujudannya disambung-pakai walaupun 50 tahun penggunaan ISA oleh kerajaan Barisan telah menceritakan semuanya iaitu undang-undang boleh menahan seseorang tanpa pembicaraan itu sudah tanpa segan-silu dan terang-terangan disalahgunakan dengan sewenang-wenangnya dan ISA adalah bertentangan dengan semangat pemerintahan undang-undang (rule of law).
PRM adalah satu-satu party dengan pendirian konsisten atau tidak berubah-ubah menentang habis-habisan pelaksanaan ISA. Oleh itu, adalah tidak hairanlah dalam masa 50 tahun pelaksanaan ISA, beribu-ribu anggota PRM daripada presiden nasional ke lapisan akar umbi menjadi mangsa kezaliman utama ISA.
Pemimpin-pemimpin nasional PRM seperti Allahyarham Ahmad Boestamam (Presiden, Ahli Parlimen), Tajuddin Kahar (Setiausaha Agung), Hasnul Hadi (Presiden Barisan Sosialis, Pengerusi Majlis Perbandaran Melaka yang dipilih oleh pengundi), dan mendiang Karam Singh (ahli Parlimen), Sivasubramaniam (Adun), dan Tan Hock Heng (Adun) meringkuk bertahun-tahun dalam kem-kem tahanan, antara contohnya Tan Hock Heng telah ditahan selama 16 tahun dan dibebaskan tanpa syarat) . Bahkan kebanyakan anggota PRM sekarang seperti Pemangku Presiden Ariffin Salimon, Naib Presiden S K Song, Setiausaha Agung Koh Swe Yong dan Bendahari Teh Soon Ming juga menghabiskan masa hidup yang terbaik dalam kem tahanan.
Oleh itu, PRM mendesak supaya kerajaan Barisan di bawah kepimpinan Najib Razak memansuhkan dan bukan membuat pindaan kepada ISA, dan juga undang-undang boleh menahan tanpa pembicaraan lain. Dengan berbuat demikian, kerajaan Barisan boleh menunjukkan amalan bikin serupa cakap dan memperlihatkan kesungguhan dan betul-betul komited pada usaha mentransformasi Malaysia kepada negara yang maju dan demokratik.
Koh Swe Yong
Setiausaha Agung PRM
21B(F) Jalan SJ 6 Taman Selayang Jaya 68100 Batu Caves Selangor Malaysia
Abolish the ISA not amend
The Internal Security Act or the ISA must be abolished and not amended. This is the stand of Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) or The People’s Party of Malaysia towards the ISA since the ISA was introduced and in force on the 1 August 1960. By tomorrow, the 1st of August 2010, the ISA will have been in force for 50 years and 50 years of the implementation of the ISA truly reveal its colours.
If one were to look back into the debates surrounding the arguments for the introduction of the ISA in 1960, it was very obvious that the ISA were meaned to deal with the communists’ armed sstruggle. Since the Barisan Nasional or National Front government had signed a peace accord with the Communist Party of Malaya in 1989, and the Communist Party of Malaya ceased its arms struggle, the ISA has lost the very pretext and reason for its continued existence.
But, the Barisan Nasional Government has no intention to abolish the ISA. Instead, the Barisan Government looks for excuses to justify the need of the ISA and its continued existence eventhough 50-year of the uses of the ISA by the Barisan Government tells all that this peace of the detention without trial law has been grossly and starkly abused and against the very spirit of rule of laws..
PRM is the only political party that has consistently opposed the ISA and it is no wonder that in the past 50 years thousands of PRM members right from the top national presidents to the very grass roots were the main victims of the ISA.
PRM national leadership like the late Ahmad Boestamam( President, MP), Tajuddin Kahar (Secretary General), Hasnul Hadi (President Sosialis Front, elected Malacca Municipal Council Chairman) , Karam Singh (MP), Sivasubramaniam ( State Assemblyman), Tan Hock Heng (State Assemblyman) have spent years in the detention camps, some as long as 16 years like Tan Hock Heng who was finally released unconditionally after spending 16years under the ISA detention. Presently, even many of the present members like acting President Ariffin Salimon, Vice President S.K. Song, Secretary General Koh Swe Yong and Treasurer Teh Soon Ming and many others have spent the best part of their life in detention camps.
Thus, PRM demands that the Barisan Nasional Government under Najib Razak leadership to abolish and not amend the ISA together with the other detention without trial laws to show that the Barisan Nasional Government walks the talk, and is seriously and genuinely committed to wanting to transform Malaysia into an advance and developed democratic state.
Koh Swe Yong
Secretary General PRM
21B(F) Jalan SJ 6 Taman Selayang Jaya 68100 Batu Caves Selangor Malaysia
21B(F) Jalan SJ 6 Taman Selayang Jaya 68100 Batu Caves Selangor Malaysia
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Media Statement 26/7/2010
's Emergency Decree On Public Administration In Emergency Situation Thailand
Asia Pacific Research Network Burma Campaign Malaysia Migrants Center in Gyeonsan, South Korea Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia Tenaganita, Malaysia
REVOKE EMERGENCY DECLARATION & RESTORE HUMAN RIGHTS AND RULE OF LAW IN
We, the undersigned 30 organizations, groups and networks, are extremely perturbed about the deterioration of human rights and universally recognized freedoms in
In response to people’s exercise of their freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful protest, the government of Thailand had responded with force and violence, that to date has resulted in about 88 deaths, majority of whom were civilians, and injured some 1,800 people.
On 7/4/2010, the Thai government invoked Thailand's Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation, B.E. 2548 (2005), and placed Bangkok and 23 other provinces under a State of Emergency, allegedly to deal with the anti-government peaceful protests led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship(UDD). The ‘red-shirt’ protest was crushed by the Thai government using the military on 19/5/2010. On 6/7/2010, the Thai government has unreasonably extended the state of emergency in 19 provinces, including
citing, the reason for doing so was "to prevent possible violent or unlawful activities." Bangkok
On 13/7/2010, the Thai government announced that the emergency decree in the three southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat for another three months, from July 20 to Oct 19. These regions have been under a state of emergency for the last 5 years.
The declaration of a state of emergency allows the Prime Minister and his Council of Minister wide powers that include prohibition of movement, assembly, peaceful protest, freedom of expression, flow of information, restriction on press freedom, arrest and detention without trial for up to 30 days, power to summon persons to go to the authorities and/or to produce documents, power to violate privacy of personal communications and to suspend any contact or communications.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee that considered Thailand’s Emergency Decree, and in their report [CCPR/CO/84/THA/2005] did say that it , “….does not explicitly specify, or place sufficient limits, on the derogations from the rights protected by the Covenant [International Covenant on Civil and Political rights] that may be made in emergencies and does not guarantee full implementation of article 4 of the Covenant. It is especially concerned that the Decree provides for officials enforcing the state of emergency to be exempt from legal and disciplinary actions, thus exacerbating the problem of impunity. Detention without external safeguards beyond 48 hours should be prohibited (art. 4)….” As the Emergency Decree has not been amended, these observations are still valid today.
On 18/7/2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, issued a press release calling on
"to repeal emergency regulations that violate human rights law". The Special Rapporteur also noted that the government had "failed to act on previous calls to bring its emergency regulations into compliance with human rights law" and that, "The emergency decree makes it possible for soldiers and police officers get away with murder… Impunity for violence committed by the security forces has been an ongoing problem in Thailand , but the emergency decree has gone even further and makes impunity look like the official policy." Thailand
Arrest & Detention
The government, using the powers it has under the Emergency Decree, have arrested and detained over 400 persons without charge for up to 30 days in unofficial places of detention. The Emergency Decree removes the right to challenge a detention before a court (habeas corpus). Moreover, the Emergency Decree fails to provide sufficient protection to prevent abuse and mistreatment. Unlike
's Criminal Procedure Code, the Emergency Decree provides no assurance of prompt access to legal counsel and family members, or effective judicial and administrative safeguards against the mistreatment of detainees, as required by international law. Thailand
What is most disturbing is that these arrests are still continuing, and it has now extended to persons who were not even directly involved in the unrest but also persons who have expressed some opinion on the situation in
. Human Rights Watch recently also stated that they have “…received disturbing reports that journalists, photographers, and medical volunteers have also been ordered to report to the authorities after they publicly stated that they witnessed abuses committed by the security forces.” Thailand
The numbers of persons that have been arrested by reason of a violation of a Regulation, Notification or Order under the Emergency Decree, which is an offence that, if convicted, carries a penalty of ‘…imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not more than forty- thousand baht, or to both…’. is also not known.
Press Freedom & Freedom Of Expression
The right to freedom of expression is essential for the functioning of democracy and guaranteeing other fundamental human rights. However, section 9(3) of the Emergency Decree allows censorship for extremely vague reasons such as "causing misunderstanding of the emergency or affecting the public morals of the people", which can easily be used to limit legitimate political expression. We are troubled by the fact that the government’s Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) has applied restrictions on free expression rights both in the area where an emergency situation has been declared and throughout the entire country. There are reports that more than 1,000 websites, a satellite television station(PTV), online television channels, newspapers, magazines, and community radio stations have been closed down.
PTV (also known as People Channel), a satellite TV station, has been closed under the state of emergency.
The government had also blocked at least 36 websites under the state or emergency including Prachatai (www.prachatai.com), Sameskybooks (www.sameskybooks.org), Norporchorusa (www.norporchorusa.com) and Weareallhuman (www.weareallhuman.net). It is said that the order came from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (MICT). Any attempt to access the affected sites from within
yields the message “This website has been blocked by ICT & TOT.” Thailand
The recent violence has also resulted in the deaths of 2 foreign journalists, Hiroyuki Muramoto and Fabio Polenghi and injuries to at least 8 other journalist. The recent Investigation Report issued by Reporters Without Borders in July 2010 entitled ‘Thailand License to Kill’ raises much unanswered questions about actions of the Thai military and other unidentified persons during the recent unrest. It is disturbing to note that to note that autopsies are still not available, and investigations into these incidents have yet to be completed.
On 13/7/2010, Prachatai said that as the government was hunting for people making comments online, it had decided to close the web board for the safety of users. This is yet another example of the killing freedom of expression and violation of privacy in
using the Emergency Decree. Thailand
Transparency requires that the Thai government reveals in detail the list of websites, blogs, e-mail accounts and other internet services that they have invaded, hacked and/or tampered with in its exercise of the powers it has under the Emergency Decree.
There is a need that there be an independent inquiry into all the deaths, injuries and damages to property caused during the recent unrest. It is not proper and will be unsatisfactory for the Thai government to have their own internal investigations, given also the fact that many of the accusation of wrong doing seem to be levied against the current government and its military. It may be best that the United Nations or the ASEAN, be called to conduct an open public inquiry into the unrest, which must definitely include separate inquiries into each of the deaths and serious injury cases. Alternatively, an international panel of reputed persons could be tasked to do this.
This inquiry must also try to identify the alleged armed persons, who the Thai government claims are part of the red shirt protesters, and is the justification for the use of live bullets in the crackdown on the protesters. The inquiry must also identify those responsible for the actions of damaging public and private property. The possibility that ‘agent provocateurs’ were involved must be considered.
In the interim,
must assure that the evidence is not tampered with and/or destroyed. Proper autopsies need to be conducted. It was disturbing to note that in the case of Fabio Polenghi, the Italian photographer, his body was cremated even before the family members were supplied with a thorough autopsy – thus, depriving them the right to request/conduct a second autopsy. Thailand
Adequate Compensation For Victims
Whilst the Emergency Decree states the officials protects from ‘civil, criminal or disciplinary liabilities’, it ‘…does not preclude the right of a victim to seek compensation from a government agency under the law on liability for wrongful act of officials…’ A closer reading states that these persons are not protected if their actions/omissions were not done in good faith or was discriminatory or excessive or unreasonable. There should be no protection certainly for those who shot unarmed persons, and in some cases more than once. There should be no justification for the shooting of medical personnel and members of the press.
As such, we the undersigned organizations, groups and networks called upon the government of
to :- Thailand
* Immediately revoke the declaration of emergencies in
* Immediately and unconditionally release all persons detained under the Emergency Decrees;
* Restore full press freedom and freedom of expression by allowing all television/radio stations, publications, media portals, blogs, etc, especially those that were shut down by reason of the Emergency Decree and/or the recent fiasco in
, to immediately function normally without any conditions and/or restrictions. Thailand
* Reveal in detail the list of websites, blogs, e-mail accounts and other internet services that they have invaded, hacked and/or tampered with in its exercise of the powers it has under the Emergency Decree, and provide adequate compensation.
* Constitute an independent international panel of inquiry to conduct an open public inquiry into the unrest, which must definitely include separate inquiries into each of the deaths and serious injury cases.
* Pay adequate compensation for the loss of life and injury to victims and/or their families/dependents during this fiasco,
* Pay adequate compensation for the deprivation of liberty under the Emergency Decree,
* Pay adequate compensation for loss and damage of property, including also loss of business and/or income which was caused by reason of actions and/or omissions of the government and its officials during this fiasco and/or during the period of Emergency,
* Repeal immediately the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation, B.E. 2548 (2005)
For and on behalf of the following 30 organisations
For Migrants Mission
Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA)
Association Of Indonesian Migrant Workers In
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC),
Clean Clothes Campaign - International Secretariat
Community Development Centre (CDC),
Friends of Asia,
JERIT (Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas),
Labour behind the Label
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
Migrant Forum in
Migrants Trade Union( MTU),
Network of Action for Migrants in
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS),
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor,
Shan Refugee Organization (SRO)
Solidarity with Migrants,
The Filipino Women's Organization in
UCCP CO-mission worker with PRRK,
Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Malaysia
Workers Hub For Change (WH4C)
Working People Association,
Thursday, July 22, 2010
|Human Rights Party, PRM should join others in the struggle|| || |
|Saturday, 26 June 2010 00:00|
In the absence of a proportional representation system, the best strategy for any small party is to work together with other parties under a collective desire to get rid of injustices - and in the process touch the hearts of the long-suffering poor, says Choo Sing Chye.
As the general election looms closer, I would by most humble means try to provide some comments on the Human Rights Party’s (HRP) and Parti Rakyat Malaysia’s (PRM) strategies in the coming elections.
Your party's 15/38 strategy "to create, win in and create politically empowered 15 parliamentary and 38 state Indian majority seats" and Koh Swe Yong, secretary-general of PRM's plan (The Star, 7 June 2010) to contest as many seats as possible in the coming elections will test or better still crack the iron-clad feudal first-past-the-post electoral system to ‘empower’ the minorities – this had never happened before in history, either in Malaysia or in Great Britain.
One of the main factors that makes British politics lag behind other European countries is the first-past-the post electoral system.
Many political scientists had described this first-past-the-post electoral system as faulty. Is this the reason why: in the 1983 British General Election, the Conservatives won only 40 per cent of the votes but obtained 60 per cent of the Commons seats. 
The first-past-the-post electoral system is the most undemocratic electoral system ever devised and it is ludicrous that it is still in existence today. It has never given the minority a voice like yours a chance to flourish in our political system. It should have disappeared long ago along with the ending of the feudal system in Great Britain.
Any good electoral system should encompass the principle of ‘one person, one vote, one value', but unfortunately it is not to be in the case of first-past-the-post system. Sadly we are stuck with this deformed electoral system, which we inherited since Merdeka from the British.
In Great Britain, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - or as most Malaysians might call ‘the third force’ - has been consistently unrepresented, "gaining about 30 per cent of the votes in some elections but no more than just over 1 per cent of the seats (in the region of 20 to 30 seats") 
The 1992 British general election saw the LDP securing more than 20 per cent of the votes, winning only a measly 20 seats. Ironically, the Labour Party, which secured only 34.4 per cent of the votes, won 271 seats in the House of Commons. 
If the principle of one person, one vote, one value were to be applied to this election, LDP should have got around 130 seats instead of 20. It thus lost out on a whooping 110 seats in the 1992 general election alone. In turn, the Labour Party should have got around 224 seats and not 271.
Apparently it took less than 40,000 votes for one Conservative MP to be voted in, slightly more than 40,000 for a Labour MP but for the Liberal/Alliance (only in 1983) it needed more the 338,000 votes (seven times as many votes) just to get an MP into the House of Commons. 
In Pennsylvania, USA, in 1924 the Republican Party won about one million votes and took 36 seats in the state election, while the Democrat Party won over half a million votes and took not even a single seat. 
In the case of Malaysia, where the first-past-the-post system is coupled with the lopsided media, the biased Election Commission has kept Barisan Nasional in power for the last 50 over years.
In our country, as it is known that there is not a single Indian majority seat. Not because it has none. It is the product of Barisan Nasional’s gerrymandering.
Here is one example, the Buntong State seat (Perak) has a voters’ population of 21,682 (Malays 6.1 per cent, Chinese 47 per cent, Indians 46.2 per cent). Compare this with the Pengkalan Hulu seat won by Former Menteri Besar, Tajol Rosli which has only 11,717 voters (Malay 72.6 per cent, Chinese 12.1 per cent Indians 9.3 %). In other words, the vote value of Pengkalan Hulu is twice that of Buntong’s.
If the concept of one value is applied, Buntong should be split into two constituencies – one with a Chinese majority and the other with an Indian majority. In the Indian majority seat, there would be at least 50 over per cent of Indian voters.
With the Barisan Nasional’s gerrymandering and the unfair first-past-the-post system what chance have we got? Our voices will always remain unheard. In contrast, this unfairness benefits the super rich Malays, Chinese and Indians.
To replace the first-past-the-post system with a Proportional Voting system is near impossible. Although this system sees a fairer distribution of votes and the votes cast reflect closely with the seats won, nobody in Barisan Nasional wants it for it will spell the end to its monopoly on political power.
The only way out for any party is to evolve into a coercive group and to move forward under one collective desire to get rid of injustices and in the process, similar to Mahatma Gandhi’s direct democracy, touch the hearts of the long-suffering poor Malays, Chinese, Indians and the East Malaysians with compassion, sincerity, openness and fairness, without planting the seeds of hatred along the way.-
Monday, July 12, 2010
This is an article from ALIRAN that reminds us not only about what happened to Local Council elections, but also about significant role played by Parti Rakyat Malaysia(PRM) as a political party, and as part of the Socialist Front together with the Labour Party of Malaya. Let us not forget history...and let history renew our commitment in our struggle for a better Malaysia...
|Restoring the Third Vote, reclaiming our democracy|
|Friday, 09 July 2010 18:31|
The fate of local elections in Malaysia is a sad reflection of the state of democracy in the country. Never having had the chance to be firmly rooted, it was rudely trampled upon when it attempted to grow, leaving it mangled, hidup segan mati tak mahu.
A testimony of our failed state is how our democratic rights are reversed rather than advanced. The third vote, our constitutional birth right as a nation, was forcibly taken away - no, not in the interest of the citizenry, but as a political expediency by the ruling coalition to cripple the legitimate Opposition. More than half a century after Independence, we are battling to get back to square one – to get back this third vote.
Much of the recent discourse on how to restore local elections revolves around what the law allows and what it doesn’t. “Does Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 (LGA) override the Local Government Election Act 1960 (LGEA) and thus prohibit all local elections?” “Does Section 1 of the LGA exempt the State Governments from the restrictions imposed by Section 15 of the same act and thus allow them to invoke the LGEA to restore local elections?”
This legal conundrum appears to have got the Pakatan Rakyat State Governments tangled in knots for a while. The Perak and Selangor state governments attempted to cut the Gordian Knot by asking the Elections Commission (EC) to conduct local elections in their respective states, only to be told by the EC that this would be against the law.
The question is: why are we allowing ourselves to be dictated by a piece of legislation of such questionable legitimacy?
A look at the process that culminated in the promulgation of the LGA will lay bare the many anti-democratic acts that abetted it.
Thirteen years of local elections
It is the height of irony that the Umno-MCA coalition (the precursor to the Umno-MCA-MIC Alliance and subsequently the Barisan Nasional) first laid claim to fame in the 1952 Kuala Lumpur municipal elections, when it won nine of the 11 seats. The Alliance continued to perform well for the next few years because the opposition parties had yet to consolidate themselves. The tide began to turn by the end of 1956, however, when the Alliance suffered unexpected defeats in local elections in Penang and Melaka. The Penang debacle, in which the Alliance failed to win a single of the eight seats contested, was attributed primarily to the harsh action taken to crush the Chung Ling High School students’ protest against the conversion of their school into a national-type school.
The downward slide continued and by the December 1957 local polls, the Socialist Front (SF) – a coalition of the Labour Party of Malaya (LPM) and the Party Rakyat Malaya (PRM) – had gained enough seats to take over the Penang City Council. In this series of local elections, the Alliance garnered 18 seats, less than half of the 37 contested. A year later, the trend was reversed, with the Alliance doing better than they themselves expected, clinching victory in four of the five contested seats in Penang. But how credible were these wins? The names of so many previously registered voters were missing from the electoral rolls in George Town, Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam that the EC contemplated postponing the elections for these councils. To be fair, though, the raising of assessment rates by the SF-controlled Penang City Council and the splitting of opposition votes by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) contributed to the Alliance success.
The Alliance achieved a similar apparent triumph in the Kuala Lumpur local elections of 1958, winning three out of four wards. However, the total opposition votes in the four wards were greater than the Alliance votes. Once again, dissipation of votes among the opposition parties had handed the victory to the ruling coalition. Overall, the Alliance took 43 of the 57 contested seats as well as 19 unopposed ones in the 1958 series of local elections.
On the face of it, this ostensible Alliance dominance continued through to the 1960s – with them winning 430 seats to the Opposition’s 148 in the 1961 local elections and 449 seats to the Opposition’s 184 in 1963. Examining the popular vote garnered, though, tells an entirely different story. In 1961, the Alliance obtained 218,428 of the votes cast compared to 227,104 for the Opposition; in 1963, it was 251,970 votes for the Alliance versus 263,000 votes for the Opposition. In both cases, the Alliance had won less than half the popular vote but more than double the number of seats. Gerrymandering was already well entrenched within a few years of Independence.
Having the upper hand in the numbers game did not satisfy the Alliance; it irked them that the choice urban councils were out of their grasp. First, the Penang City Council in 1958; then, the Melaka Municipal Council in 1961; followed by the Seremban, Kluang and Bentong Municipal Councils in 1963 came under the control of the SF. The PPP had also taken a firm grip on Ipoh by 1961. Under the pretext of the volatile political climate engendered by the Confrontation with Indonesia, the Alliance Government suspended local elections on 1 March 1965. The Speaker refused to allow a motion by the SF Members of Parliament calling for a debate on the issue.
But this supposedly precarious political situation had not prevented the government from holding state and parliamentary elections in 1964. The Alliance realised that the Opposition was better able to win control of local councils than state or parliamentary constituencies and was certainly not keen to allow them free play on these platforms.
War of attrition
The foul means adopted by the Alliance to stem the challenge of the Opposition was not limited to electoral sleight of hand. Detention without trial put many experienced cadres of the SF (then the strongest opposition party) out of action, threw the party organisation into disarray and weakened its capacity to play a meaningful part in the electoral process. The first mass arrest of political opponents took place only a little more than a year after Merdeka, on 1 October 1958, with the detention of 109 persons.
The situation did not improve after the end of the Emergency in 1960 as the Internal Security Act (ISA) was introduced to allow the government to continue the practice of detention without trial. SF leaders and members were frequent victims of the ISA throughout the 1960s, in big operations or small. Among the instances of mass arrests that targeted large numbers of SF, in particular LPM, members were those executed:
• between November 1960 and February 1961, with a total of 60 persons arrested, including SF leaders and local councillors;
• in December 1962, when more than 50 persons were arrested throughout Malaya as a prelude to the formation of Malaysia and the Operation Cold Store, which decimated the Left in Singapore with the arrest of more than 120 political leaders and trade unionists;
• in March and June 1964, at the height of the Confrontation with Indonesia, when Malay leaders from the SF and Pas were the main targets, but many LPM state and branch level leaders were also nabbed;
• in the early months of 1966 when about 50 LPM and PRM cadres were arrested (SF had split up in December 1965);
• on 25 October 1966, when about 100 members of LPM and PRM were arrested following demonstrations organised by the two parties against US President Lyndon Johnson during his visit to Malaysia. Between 1966 and 1968, an estimated 250 protests and demonstrations were held in various parts of the country, each to be met with repression and arrests;
• on 9-14 November 1968, when some 140 LPM, PRM and trade union cadres were detained following the confessions of former LPM National Chairman Koh Kay Cham and Assistant Secretary-General Loh Yuen Wah upon their release from ISA detention. As in 1967, not a month passed in 1968 without the detention of dissidents.
• in the aftermath of the May 13 riots of 1969, when the government once again found the excuse to decimate the LPM and PRM further through arrests of their leaders and members.
The arrests were systematically and strategically deployed to deprive the SF of its leaders and more experienced cadres at the national, state and branch levels. This was combined with the banning of certain divisions and branches of the Front. The continuous lopping off of the leadership echelons left the organisational structure of the LPM, in particular, in shambles and a combination of bans on political grounds and deregi-strations on administrative technicalities reduced the number of LPM branches from 224 in 1967 to 24 by 1972. The party was finally deregistered by order of the Registrar of Societies on 6 September 1972.
Eleven years of suspension
Suspending local elections may have prevented the Opposition from making further inroads into the local councils, but it did not return the “lost” councils to the Alliance. How more efficiently can they wrest back these councils than by Executive decree? Whether it was legitimate did not enter into the discussion. The case of Penang was instructive.
D S Ramanathan, former Chairman of LPM and the first Mayor of Penang, peeved with the party by 1963, accused the SF-controlled City Council of corruption and malpractices. The Alliance government could not move against the council yet as it was still firmly in the grip of the SF. The opportunity arose in January 1966 when the SF lost control of the council after another of its former stalwarts and Penang Mayor, Ooi Thiam Siew, quit the party and the PRM councillor chose to align with him.
It was a godsend for Chief Minister, Wong Pow Nee, who immediately constituted a commission to inquire into the allegations brought forth by Ramanathan, although he had professed that he could offer no evidence for them. On 1 July 1966, three days before the commission was to commence its probe, Wong Pow Nee announced that the State Government would take over the functions of the City Council. The commission completed its inquiry in November 1967 and found that “although there were irregularities and inefficiencies in the council’s administration, there was no hard evidence of outright bribery”.
When calls were made for the City Council to be reconvened as the reasons for its temporary suspension no longer existed, the State Government announced that they had no intention to relinquish control of the Council until fresh elections were held. And how was that to happen when local elections had been suspended indefinitely?
Another trick deployed by the Alliance is one we are now very familiar with – enticing defections. It worked its magic in Melaka. On 24 March 1965, three SF members of the Melaka Municipal Council declared they were turning Independents; six days later, one of them was installed as the Deputy President. This was a very significant appointment as the President, Hasnul Hadi of the SF, was then in detention. But the defections were not sufficient to deprive the SF of their control over the council. The final coup took place in September 1966 with the takeover of the council by the Melaka State Government.
The respective State Governments similarly imposed their illegitimate hold over the Seremban, Johore Bharu and Bentong Municipal Councils – the takeover of the Melaka and Bentong Councils occurring after the official termination of Confrontation in August 1966.
Further, the end of the Confrontation did not mean the end of the suspension of local elections although the conflict was the sole reason cited for putting them on hold. The clamour in Parliament and State Assemblies for the reinstitution of local elections fell on deaf ears.
The Athi Nahappan Commission
The Federal Government had other plans in mind. In June 1965, three months after the suspension of local elections, they appointed the Athi Nahappan Commission to look into the functioning and administration of the local councils, purportedly with a view to improving and streamlining them. To the chagrin of the Alliance Government, the Commission’s report, completed in December 1968, strongly supported local elections. Instead of implementing the recommendations of the Commission, the Federal Government appointed a Cabinet Committee to study the implications of the Athi Nahappan Report. The Committee was also a disappointment to the Government because it endorsed most of the recommendations of the Commission, including the one on local elections.
The Alliance Government went for a third strike: instructing the Development Administration Unit (DAU) of the Prime Minister’s Department to undertake a further study. The pliant DAU, in 1971, advocated setting aside the recommendations of the Athi Nahappan Commission. With this spurious justification, the LGA was drafted and passed into law in 1976.
By that time, most of the opposition parties had been co-opted into the Barisan Nasional (BN), formed in 1973, and there was no effective voice left to raise objections against the passage of the Act.
34 years of ban
Throughout the three decades and more since the LGA denied us our fundamental right to the third vote, the issue has not died away. Unfortunately, with the BN’s overwhelming dominance in the Parliament, the demands for the restoration of local elections have been treated as mere irritants, undeserving of attention.
It was only with the tsunami of 8 March 2008 turning the tide that the issue has received a new lease of life. Hence, the momentum must not slack.
Why must we keep the issue alive? Because the chronicle of the abolition of the third vote is reflective of the larger narrative of the steady subversion of democratic institutions in the country. The underhand tactics deployed by the ruling coalition to dismantle popularly elected local governments are similarly used to undermine democracy at the state and national levels:
• The consistent use of the ISA to emasculate the Opposition;
• The tampering of electoral rolls, be it to make registered voters vanish or phantom voters appear;
• Gerrymandering to ensure that they get more seats than they deserve based on the number of votes garnered;
• The use of their strength of numbers to bulldoze through legislative and constitutional amendments which are to their advantage, no matter how undemocratic;
• The resort to Executive decree when the popular will cannot be bent to their favour.
Not to continue campaigning against the illegitimate deprivation of the third vote is therefore risking similar subversion of the first and second.
... still counting
The campaign is only just picking up momentum, the project is very much a work in progress. There is no telling how much longer it will take to restore local elections. But one thing is for sure, if we do not keep the pressure on, we will have many more years to count before the ban is lifted – or worse yet, have all hopes snuffed out.
Another thing is for sure: the LGA has no business obstructing us from reclaiming full democracy. If this law stands in the way, this law must go. It is not because we are lawless but because we value democracy.
Tan Pek Leng is an Aliran member