Corrected on 2 Dec 2008 at 11.30am
PETALING JAYA, 3 Dec 2008: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is staking its claim on the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat in Perak and the Kota Damansara state seat in Selangor although the elected representatives are from Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).
Dr Syed Husin AliPKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali said this even though PSM has been a registered political party since 19 Aug 2008.
Additionally, Parliament has identified the Sungai Siput Member of Parliament (MP) as being from PSM, including in the name plates that are placed where the MPs sit in the Dewan. At the same time, when Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj stands up to speak, PSM is the party name that is displayed on TV monitors.
However, Syed Husin said this did not mean Sungai Siput was no longer a PKR seat. “He went into Parliament as PKR candidate, so it is still PKR’s seat,” he said.
PKR’s official position is that it remains the largest opposition party with 31 parliamentary seats, including Sungai Siput. “What is the issue here? What is the confusion? These are originally PKR seats,” Syed Husin said in a phone interview.
He explained that the opposition parties of PKR, PAS and DAP had agreed before the 8 March elections that the Sungai Siput, Kota Damansara and Semenyih seats would be allocated to PKR.
Hence, these seats were “originally” PKR’s. “But we allowed PSM candidates to contest there out of good will after they wrote to us and discussions were held. Other parties were unwilling to concede any seats to PSM,” he said.
PKR’s logoBoth Jeyakumar and Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim, who is the state assemblyperson for Kota Damansara, won the 8 March elections under the PKR logo and banner because PSM was not yet registered then.
(Corrected) PKR also allowed PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan to contest in the Semenyih state seat in Selangor under the PKR banner but he lost.
To another question, Syed Husin said: “It is not true that we gave the seats because we were desperate for good and eligible candidates. We had our own candidates but, like I said, we did it out of good will.”
Asked if this meant PSM had no state or parliamentary seats, he said: “Strictly speaking, the three constituencies belong to PKR. The PSM does not have a constituency of its own. The seats it won were also given to PSM to indicate PKR’s support for the party’s efforts to gain registration then.”
Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj“No big deal”
When contacted, Jeyakumar said the matter was “no big deal” as long as he was recognised as a PSM representative in Parliament.
He confirmed that he had to stand for elections under the PKR ticket because PSM was not registered then, adding that PSM was grateful for PKR’s support.
“Many of us (opposition candidates) won not because of our party alone but the support of other parties, too.
“When I campaigned for the seat, (PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim) came and spoke at my ceramah for me,” Jeyakumar said.
Jeyakumar said PSM believed that PKR was playing a positive role in Malaysian politics by focusing on socio-economic issues such as repealing the Internal Security Act and other unjust laws.
PSM, however, has said they would not join the Pakatan Rakyat coalition as there were some areas of disagreement.
(Corrected) In the 1999 general election, Jeyakumar contested unsuccessfully under the DAP banner against incumbent MIC candidate Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu in a three-cornered fight that included Malaysian Democratic Party candidate Mohamad Asri Othman.
In the 2004 elections, Jeyakumar again contested unsuccessfully against Samy Vellu but under the PKR banner. Also contesting the seat then in a three-cornered fight was DAP candidate Sanmugam Ponmugam Ponnan.
Besides the quandary that PKR and Kumar now find themselves in, there are other related matters.
It is a known fact that a few activists formally joined registered political parties in order to have a decent chance at winning. In reality, these activists are more passionate about specific issues e.g. globalisation or the environment.
Registering a political party which is not BN-friendly takes too long, if it happens at all. Then there are our current election processes which do not enable independent candidates (who may wish to stand for elections on a specific platform e.g. gender) to do so with a realistic shot at winning. Some of the barriers include unclear election date, short periods for campaigning and high deposit requirements.