In June/July 2011, in anticipation of the Bersih 2 rally, the police under the direction of the UMNO-BN government detained 6 PSM leaders under the Emergency Ordinance (EO). For this 10-year-anniversary of this detention, Thinkleft will run a series of articles documenting the struggle to free the six from unlawful detention.
Click here to read part 2 of the series
On the 26th of June 2011, at around 3.30pm., we got news that our comrades traveling on a bus through the northern states of the peninsula were going to be charged for waging war against the King. The same law used against the Al-Muanah where the top leaders of that movement were subsequently hanged and some detained for life. PSM 30 will go in history to be the second such group were there was an attempt to charge them under that similar law. Soon this news about PSM trying to revive communism spread like wild fire. The news said that police found materials containing among them t-shirts of Communist leaders such as of Chin Peng, Rashid Maidin and Suriani and subversive leaflets trying to revive the old communist ideology. The news was bombarded in the mainstream media and soon the same news seems to have spread on Twitter and Facebook.
A cold sweat hit me as I was traveling in the bus – south league of the Udahlah campaign with 25 other PSM comrades and supporters. The Government propaganda against the only remaining socialist party seems to show only one direction – a crackdown, perhaps leading to a larger crackdown. A crackdown before the BERSIH rally and yes- the PSM or rather the socialists will once again be used as a pawn in this latest crackdown against BERSIH. The Government script is not a new one but yet – when it really hits you, wild thoughts seems to bother your thoughts.
Being the Secretary-General of PSM, I tried to come to terms with the situation. It was around 3.00pm and we just escaped an arrest in Banting and was heading towards Klang. I immediately spoke to some comrades and aborted our next destination of the Udahlah campaign to Klang. I called for an immediate Central committee meeting at the Kota Damansara PSM office where the closing ceremony of the southern league of the udahlah campaign is supposed to take place nearby. The news of things in the north slowly started to spread among members in the bus and we were also aware of the presence of unmarked cars believed to be members of the Police’s Special Branch trailing us. At this time of despair, at a time of great challenges, a participant who was a non-member suddenly passed a PSM membership form to declare that she will join the PSM. That good news excited the gloomy air around us and was greeted with a big applause in the bus.
This good news was short-lived – when I was reminded by party comrades that some of our leading CC members were in fact in detention. Taking things in stock – Yes – 6 central committee members were already detained. That is a huge number for a small party like PSM. Among those detained were PSM’s National Deputy Chairperson M.Saraswathy, PSM’s sole Parliamentarian Dr. Jeyakumar, PSM’s International Coordinator Choo Chon Kai as well as the Party’s Youth leader Sarath Babu. Besides that, many among those arrested in the bus totaling 31 people included bus drivers, key local leaders and branch office barriers.
The drive to Damansara office seemed longer than normal. Once at the office, we immediately unpacked all our materials. Then we got news that the final destination of our campaign – a Malay Kampung – Kampong Melayu Subang had been seized by the police while roadblocks were erected to the kampong. Hundreds of policemen made three rows and blocked completely the stage where the closing ceremony was to take place. Police has already declared to the local people that no event would be permitted there.
We decided not to go there and at that time, we felt that we need to get things organized before more leaders get arrested. In spite of that, Dr. Nasir –PSM’s Chairperson, Sivarajan- National Treasurer and V.Selvam, Central Committee (CC) member went to the Malay village because they did not want the fear to creep into the heart of Kota Damansara – the constituency of PSM’s only State Assembly seat. The bravery of the trio is something we have no doubts about, but to go there under such a scenario was commendable. It is in fact a trademark of the PSM… of not running away from danger and to confront issues as they develop.
The emergency CC meeting was finally held. We had to take some drastic decisions. Our decision was crucial in determining the survival of the PSM. We had to decide between the two – going slow and assessing the situation or go on the offensive and take on the might of the UMNO-BN who were already paranoid with the BERSIH rally. The CC immediately took the latter and the decision was unanimous. The central committee decided that PSM would take on its enemies and go on the offensive. At the same CC meeting, we decided to release a press statement and to hold a press conference the next day. We then appointed an acting International coordinator as we felt the need to take this battle at all fronts. We also sent an important SMS to all party branches, front organizations and State liaison chiefs. The message said- do not believe in rumours, do not export any fear and always check with the leadership on any news which comes out. The message also expressed the CC’s decision to fight on. The branches were also told to hold similar meetings to strategize at branch level what needed to be done. We also appointed a team of second liners as well as third line leaders to take-over leadership in case the top leaders of the party get picked up.
That night – PSM was the top news in all TV stations and the next day – news of Communism and t-shirts of Chin Peng etc was flashed in all the newspapers. The State was going all out against BERSIH and this was their latest plot to declare a state of emergency. PSM was targeted because they felt that we were a small party and that they would not face resistance. I think this was a mistake the police realized later and have regretted. The police definitely did not do their homework on how PSM works – on how PSM survived 11 years when the party was not registered. They forget that we had operated openly for 11 years as an unregistered party compared to the 3 years we had been registered.
We had two theories on why PSM was targeted. The first being that PSM is a small party and the resistance would be small compared to other Pakatan Component parties and second was it was the personal agenda of the Deputy IGP Khalid to punish PSM which the police have seen as a thorn in their flesh.
To be continued…
Parti Sosialis Malaysia