Desi had the honour of interviewing PKR Deputy President Dr Syed Husin Ali for a substantive article to mark Malaysia's 50th Merdeka anniversary. Please note the article was prepared for an inaugural edition in English of a Suara Keadilan Digest, which is a major commitment from Desi as from January 2007, I decided to spend more time and efforts promoting what I believe in is the PARTY FOR THE FUTURE, with its motivating force: ITS TIME FOR CHANGE!
Only a mutlti-racial party striving for Social Justice and Economic Progress under its NEW ECONOMIC AGENDA as envisaged by the party leaders led by de facto chief DS ANWAR IBRAHIM can bring about the option of an alternative coalition to replace the present Barisan Nasional government. And it's now in the hands of the electorate to strive for that change with PKR playing the lead role as it makes concerted efforts to lead the various Opposition parties in a viable front to overthrow the BN, around too long, too jaded, too corrupt, and with a CEO too sleepy-eyed on the job.
Let's hear it from Dr Syed Husin, who's a politician with a difference -- base on principles and unwavering championing of the masses' cause and welfare, well known for his socialist political struggle, and some three years back, marking a turning point when he led Parti Rakyat Malaysia into a merger to form the present Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
______________________ INTERVIEW STARTS HERE _________________
The Government has reneged on many election promises,
especially its anti-corruption fight, says Syed Husin
KUALA LUMPUR: The present Government led by Datuk Seri
Abdullah Badawi has not fulfilled practically all that
he promised during the last elections, said PKR deputy
president Dr Syed Husin Ali in an interview with SK
He mentioned as examples two important issues.
Firstly, Pak Lah has completely
reneged on his promise to fight against corruption,
which has deteriorated since he became PM.
"There is grave suspicion of political interference
that led to
the instructions by the AG to close investigations on
corruption charges against a serving Deputy Minister,
the present police chief and an ex-Director of ACA,"
Syed Husin said.
The acquittal of Eric Chia has also raised many
question marks, he added.
Secondly, media control has never been as bad as it is
now, said the former academic.
"The media are often instructed what to publish and
what not to. There is a standing directive to
mainstream media, owned, controlled or influenced by
government parties not to give any publicity to Anwar
Ibrahim and keADILan," said Syed Husin, who had
turned to become fulltime politician when University
of Malaya authorities terminated his lectureship on
alleged infringement of the Universities and
University Colleges Act in 1990.
Bloggers who take independent and critical positions
are hounded and detained by the
police, as testified by recent police actions against
Raja Petra Kamaruddin and wife, also against a PKR
webmaster Nathaniel Tan, plus civil suits of
defamation against Jeff Ooi and Ahiruddin Atan aka
Rockybru by a government-linked mainstream newspaper
"Although the PM had promised about eight months ago
in Parliament to issue KDN permit to Suara
Keadilan, the party newspaper, he has conveniently
ignored it, despite constant reminders," he added.
SK Digest observed that in March 2004, there was
general acknowledgement of
a "feel good" factor given that it was Pak Lah's first
GE he was leading as UMNO and BN chief, and asked Syed
Husin about the current sentiments from the grassroots
for the forthcoming General Elections.
Syed Husin stated that the popularity ratings of both
Abdullah and UMNO have
slipped since the last GE, although apparently more
with the latter than the former.
※Generally, the public has become more disappointed
with Abdulla's leadership, that is perceived to be
weak, ineffective as well as without any clear policy
direction, and also with the government, which is seen
to be not sensitive to the plights of the ordinary
Furthermore, the cost of living has gone up, largely
as the results of increasing prices of food and
petroleum, higher charges for tolls, water and
electricity, and other factors affecting the common
"In the run up to the next GE, the government is
trying to buy votes, by introducing all kinds of
financial incentives e.g. through pay rise of
government servants and hurried introduction of
development projects," he added.
Despite all these, overall, from independent polls
carried out especially by Merdeka
Centre and results of the four previous by-elections,
there appears to be voter shift to the opposition now,
especially among the Chinese, although the situation
remains almost constant among the Malays.
"The presence of Anwar Ibrahim provides an added
advantage. Even if he is not allowed to stand as a
candidate, he will be free to campaign actively during
Indications now show that keADILan and the other
opposition parties will fare better in the forthcoming
general elections, Syed Husin predicted. (The GE is
expected to be held by
year-end or latest by March 2008 as PKR de facto
leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would still be barred
from contesting till mid-April 2008.)
SK Digest also posed to the well-respected veteran the
question that after 50 years of Merdeka, of the state
of nationhood today as compared with the first decade
on achieving Independence -- Sept 1957-1967,
requesting him to summarise the main challenges facing
Malaysians as we
march towards the year 2020.
Syed Husin acknowledged that there is undoubtedly some
economic development, but
the progress made by Malaysia is way behind that
achieved by Singapore, Taiwan and Korea, although they
started almost on par in 1960.
"The per-capita income of these three countries is
respectively 5 to 3 times bigger than that of
"Although incidence of poverty has been reduced,
income and socio-economic
inequities have widened, as a result of concentration
of wealth in the hands of a few through cronyism,
corruption and commission. Despite all the government
talk about it, environmental pollution and destruction
continue without control," he lamented.
The national unity agenda mooted as one of the
objectives of the Merdeka struggle can be said to have
failed; ethnic tensions and divisions have become more
marked as a result of racial and divide and rule
policies. Standards of education, from the lowest to
the highest levels, have gone down; there is huge
number of graduate unemployment.
"Corruption is undermining the whole fabric of
society; social and ethical standards are sliding
down; there is increase in criminal and immoral
activities. The future of the country and the people
has become more uncertain," Syed Husin said with deep
Following are Dr Syed Husin's answers in Q and A
format to other issues:
Q1. From your vast political experience and long
university career -- an academic involved in partisan
politics -- can you identify if our campuses and
academic staff and the undergraduates have become
constrained and cocooned from playing a meaningful or
effective role in national affairs ...with respect to
the Universities and University Colleges Act, Akujanji
The standards of all public universities have
deteriorated. Among factors causing it: (a) quality of
student entering university has slipped owing to
falling standards of primary and secondary education,
despite more students scoring more s; (b) appointment
of VCs, majority of whom are
pro-government and of questionable academic merit, who
are only too keen to serve their political masters as
government servants or even as policemen at the
expense of academic autonomy and excellence; c)
promotion as professors/ associate professors and
deans/ heads on the basis of their political positions
and administrative loyalties, rather than recognized
scholarship and good administrative skills; (d)
constant interference if not control of the
universities through a direct political master, in the
name of Minister for Higher Education, to such an
extent that there is no more semblance of university
autonomy left; and (e) stranglehold on staff and
students through UUCA and Akujanji, for example, which
render them to be ※cademic eunuchs§ stripped of
academic creativity and critical mind.
Small wonder that the universities as academic
institutions -- owing to the quality of teaching,
research and publications as well as the crippled
minds of the students -- are slowly going down the
Q2. Briefly outline your political journey in
chronological order. Elaborate on some "key" turning
points eg your ISA detentions, change of name of PRSM
to PRM, and also the background leading to PRM merger
with Keadilan Nasional.
1958, Joined PRM while student at University of Malaya
1965-68: Secretary General of PRM, while lecturer at
1968-70: Deputy President of PRM;
1970: Parti Rakyat Malaya's (PRM) original name of the
party, changed name to PSRM (Parti Sosialis Rakyat
Malaysia), under the leadership of Kassim Ahmad;
1974-80: Detained under ISA, following Baling peasant
and student protests;
1990: PSRM reverted to its original name Parti Rakyat
1990: On being elected President of PRM, asked by UM
to leave post of Professor of Anthropology and
Sociology, for breaching UUCA;
1990-2003: President of PRM;
2003- : Deputy President keADILan.
The idea of merger was mooted by Anwar Ibrahim, who
was then in jail, and first discussed through secret
communications with Syed Husin Ali, as President of
PRM. The idea was deliberated upon several times by
the PRM leadership and tabled at two National
Congresses of the Party. Finally, the merger of PRM
with Keadilan Nasional to form Parti Keadilan Rakyat
was agreed upon by about 80% of delegates present at
the PRM Congress in 2002. It was accepted that through
the merger, the alternative force would be stronger to
challenge Umno-Bn, and the struggle for social justice
and democracy could be more effectively carried out.
Q3. "Socialism" as an ideology did not make headway
for decades within Malaysia's parliamentary system,
yet there are pockets of believers still travelling
that path. Any messages to your (former) party mates
like those still trying to get PSM registered? What
were the chief reasons leading you to spearhead PRM's
merger with Keadilan Nasional to form the PKR just
three years back?
The PRM-PKN merger was a historical necessity, I felt.
It provided a bigger platform to fight for justice,
democracy, national unity, transparency and welfare of
the people. It was supported by vast majority of PRM
membership. The few people who are trying to continue
PRM now are going against the majority decision of the
Party Congress. Indeed a good number of them, as
delegates, voted for merger during the Congress in
2002. In fact, the person who now claims to be their
leader shed tears during his speech to persuade
delegate to support the merger plan as tabled at the
Congress. He later assumed position as Deputy
Secretary-General of Keadilan Rakyat, after merger.
But suddenly and surprisingly he changed direction.
They are not making any progress. I would advise him
and his handful of friends to carry out their struggle
through the bigger political vehicle of keADILan.
Q4. In the lead up to Aug 31, 2007 celebrations
planned by the BN government, year-in-year-out we hear
minsiterial exhortations to the rakyat, corporations
and SME businesses to fly the national flag?
Are there some underlying causes that prevent a
spontaneous demonstration of such perceived
"patriotic" spirit? -- To the extent when the
Informatin Minister has to resort with threats to
capture on camera those business establishments NOT
flying the Jalur Gemilang.
I think that they are demonstrating their opposition
to and disappointment with the government policies and
leadership. By the way, patriotism is not something
that is nurtured or obtained through threats and
Q5. Some of your comrades eg Kassim Ahmad, were wooed
over by UMNO. Were you ever in two minds about joining
the establishment UMNO party/any of BN components?
Will you offer yourself as a Candidate for the
forthcomg General Elections? I will understand if for
strategic reasons you may not want to detail such GE
plans, but a general sharing will do.
A number of Umno leaders (including Musa Hitam) tried
to persuade me in the sixties to join UMNO. Once I
convinced them of my principled pro-people,
pro-justice and pro-democracy stands, they never
bothered me any more.
____________________ Ends Interview __________________
DESIDERATA: Some additional Thinking Allowed tomorrow as Desiderata also throws a Merdeka Challenge to my Esteemed Readers. Stay toned. ~~ YL Chong