PSM's Nasir Hashim: Success is when leaders squirm Part 2 - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Malaysiakini: “There is scarcely any passion without struggle.”- Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
INTERVIEW | Q:
As one of the founders of Parti Sosialis Malaysia, what was the
motivation behind creating a left-wing party when left-wing parties over
the years have been sidelined from the mainstream political process?
I became a socialist while studying at Cornell University in New York,
USA. I was a food technologist and nutritionist (international
nutrition), but interested to know about people's struggle for socialism
from my Malaysian friends.
a socialist was an ongoing consciousness process since my early days,
and through parental guidance. They may not use the word "socialism",
but their actions spoke louder than words. It's as if my innate
consciousness was triggered. I returned to Malaysia to do PhD
research and realised that I was especially weak in the field of
economics. When I returned to the US to defend my thesis, I found time
to do self-study, including studying the works of Karl Marx.
In Malaysia, we formed Insan (Institute for Social Analysis) and published the magazine Nadi Insan. Those involved were Jomo K Sundaram (photo, below),
P Ramasamy, Ishak Shari, Rustam A Sani, V Paneer Selvam, Rohana Ariffin
and many others, and I was the chairperson. I was further exposed to
the plight of the poor masses and had press conferences for the victims
to present their cases to the press.
the people needed more. They wanted us to organise them and later
insisted that we be with them when they demonstrated. Some intellectual
friends were uneasy with such a move, for they prefered to have press
conferences and not rock the boat. We left to join PSRM (Partai
Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia), knowing the party was not strong. But we had
to see if we could affect change. We knew that the left's truggle was
The fall of the Berlin Wall reverberated throughout
the world and Malaysian socialists decided to drop the label 'socialist'
from PSRM, shortening the name to PRM. This was finalised
when I was released from ISA detention. So we left. My contention was
that we needed socialism à la Malaysia, not à la Russia, China, Cuba. So
I regarded those who left as a filtering process for better socialism.
create a socialist state is an uphill battle. We need, by stages, to
dismantle the mindset of workers and the rakyat, to let them know there
is an alternative to capitalism. So, we analysed the capitalist system
that robotised humans and mangled the environment. We saw the emerging
faces and phases of profit maximisation (maximal exploitation), with
speculation and monopolies leading to economic crisis after crisis.
saw how the capitalists, in the name of providing development,
controlled and ganged up with the politicians and government agencies to
crush the people, who are workers and the very beings who are the
backbone of the national economy and national development. They are our
source of inspiration and through them, we will create a socialist
Even religious people indirectly supported the
exploiters by saying that they should obey the leaders, even when they
are wrong. Whereas the Quran urged people to fight against injustice
(Quran 4:135). Some even said that our move to form a socialist party was suicidal, but we have progressed since then.
Q: PSM – at least in social media – is a much “admired” party. Why hasn’t this translated to electoral success?
is a different ball game. We are not willing to play to their rules.
People are convinced that by ousting the incumbent, we will see paradise
or feel the euphoria of a new world. It’s not happening.
continue to empower the rakyat. Initially, we would channel the plight
of the rakyat through existing friendly political parties, but they
would only take it up if it jived with their political agenda. That was
one of the reasons why we decided to participate in elections.
merely means that we have to work harder to expose the hypocrisy of
political leaders and create a situation that is conducive to a change
of mindset. This will take a longer time when the so-called
'progressives' continue to flirt with race and religion for short-term
Q: Do you think the current electoral system disadvantages independent parties, and if so, how?
The two-party system dismisses other small parties having different
approaches to serve society. At present, the modus operandi for the
two-party system merely exploits race and religion for political mileage
and uses people's votes to come to power, and soon betrays them. It
uses insecurity to breed hatred, suspicion, conflict and to divide our
society. They worship vice, power and money, and have nothing to do with
the race and religion they are supposed to be championing.
should be a system whereby the minority has a constitutional say in the
Parliament and state assemblies, to participate in and contribute to
national development. If not, they will be left in a lurch.
How does a left-wing party like PSM gain traction with middle-class
voters – especially non-Malay voters – when (so far) working class
issues do not translate to votes? A: Our starting point was
to empower the poor (B40) exploited masses. We soon realised that the
middle group (M40) was also suffering from the increasing cost of
living, inflation, housing problems, transport, medical care, etc.
Pollution and denudation of hills affect the temperature, climate, cause
flash floods and prolonged droughts.
cannot win over all people overnight and must go in stages to show our
capabilities, and do not flirt with race and religion for short-term
gains. We will work with NGOs and support their programmes, offer our
help and analysis of impending problems.
Q: The perception
is that PSM is an “Indian” party. Why do you think this perception
persists and how do you move beyond labels when PSM has an extremely
small voice in the mainstream media and the alternative press?
After I was released from ISA detention, we worked on problems of
squatters in the early 1990s. At that time evictions and destruction of
properties of squatters were rampant.
I was the chairperson
of the Support Committee of Urban Pioneers (Jawatankuasa Sokongan
Peneroka Bandar). At that time we had more than 50 villagers in our
committee. They were mostly Malays, except for one estate.
We did not allow the authorities and developers to label them as squatters or setinggan,
for squatters have no rights in court. So we called them urban pioneers
because for three generations they developed the land with a promise of
permanent housing. We created havoc and since then, they have been
given compensation and alternate housing.
it came to our notice that the government was acquiring estate land for
industries. If the workers lose their jobs, they also lose their
housing. So we shifted gear and moved to estates.
we have more Indian comrades in our team till this day. We are colour
blind. We want to be with those who are at risk of losing their jobs and
homes. Recently more Malay youths are joining PSM. It’s a good sign.
Q: Why is there hostility between mainstream political parties and PSM?
PSM is not happy with the present system that strives for exploitation
and worships profits. It robotises workers, destroys humanity and the
environment. We see the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. The
legal system protects the rich, legalises exploitation. They become
rich through the blood, sweat and tears of the toiling masses. We
abhor all forms of exploitation or discrimination and will take them to
task, even if they are our friends. We prefer cooperation rather than
competition/ conflict. We prefer compassion.
We believe that
the way to save the country is by empowering the people. We do not
appreciate those leaders merely wanting to take over the government, and
later use the same administrative modus operandi, which is mere
We want to overhaul the fabric of this exploitative
economic system and have economic and social systems revolving around
the rakyat, rather than the rakyat revolving around a social economic
The poor and workers are our assets, not a liability,
and we need to train and harness their skills and energies to develop
the country. Success is when the leaders squirm when they see and hear
the rakyat articulating the needs of society.
(Part III of this interview will be posted tomorrow.Part Iwas posted yesterday.)