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Four months of waiting after the last appeal court hearing in April, justice is not delivered on behalf of freedom of association. Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) denied its right to association again today, when the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal from PSM.
This has shown that the Societies Act gives enormous power to the Registrar of Society to decide any group of people whether they can by organised or not, and it definitely becomes a major stumbling block to right to freedom of association in Malaysia.
According to newsreport from Malaysiakini, the judges satisfied with the the departmental policy stated by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) in relation to the requirement for the registration of a national political party, which is representatives from 7 states are needed. Anyway, the Court of Appeal ruled out the reason of PSM being a threat to national security, which was one of the two major points of contention.
This is a landmark case in Malaysia, where for the first time a political party takes the government to court to seek judicial review of the government's rejection of an application to register itself.
PSM is a political party evolved from the struggle of grassroots communities including plantation workers and urban pioneers. It sought to register in 1998 but rejected by the goverment. Since then, it took on a long haul struggle to register itself.
Although PSM has not been registred since its formation, and relatively a small political party, PSM itself still plays a significant and leading role in Malaysia in organising the workers and poor, to fight against neoliberal attacks, to campaign against privatisation of healthcare, anti-war movement and struggle for social justice.
Below is the timeline of the case of PSM registration:
30-4-1998: Parti Sosialis Malaysia(PSM) makes formal application to the Registrar of Societies to form a political party after 5 years of internal discussion between grassroots groups and progressive individuals.
31-12-1998: After many correspondence, letters, inquiries and after the Registrar failed to register PSM within 6 months, PSM submits a complaint to the Director General of the Societies Registration Department questioning the delay.
21-1-1999 : Another reminder letter was send.
4-2-1999: PSM receives a letter dated 27th. January 1999 from the Societies Registration Department stating that the application has been rejected. No reasons were given.
23-2-1999: PSM makes an appeal to the Home Ministry under Section 18- Societies Act, 1966
PSM sends letter to Ministry on 7 April 1999, 9 June 1999, 14 July 1999 and on 23 July 1999, asking on the status of the appeal
5-8-1999: PSM makes a complaint to the Public Complaints Bureau under the Prime Minister’s Department on the inefficiency of the Home Ministry in processing PSM’s appeal.
23-9-1999: PSM receives letter signed by the Chief Secretary of the Home Ministry dated 15th. September 1999 stating that PSM’s appeal has been rejected and this decision is final. Again no reasons were given.
26-10-1999: PSM made history for being the first party to challenge the Ministry’s decision in the Kuala Lumpur High Court. PSM’s lawyers for the case is Counsel Tommy Thomas, Ragu Kesavan and Teng Chang Khim. (recently Amer Hamzah joined the team)
The Home Minister then, and who is the current Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi gave two reasons in his affidavit on why PSM’s application was rejected. This was the first time the party got an official respond. He said that PSM did not fulfil requirements and based on feedback from the police, the party is a threat to National Security and this information cannot be revealed in the name National Interest.
21-3-2000: PSM won first round when Justice Dato K.C.Vohrah allowed for leave on the application.
The case was postponed several times on the 8-8-2000, 22-11-2000, 13-12-2000, 28-2-2001, 16-1-2002, 4-6-2002.
31-10-2002: PSM launches signature campaign to apply pressure to register the party.
13-11-2002: Case starts and goes on the 26 and 27th. of November 2002.
13-1-2003: PSM loses case in High Court. Justice Datuk Abdul Hamid Said rejected PSM’s application with cost. He maintained that National Security is the responsibility of the executive government and the responsibility does not rest in the courts of justice.
7-2-2003: PSM file an appeal to the Appeals Court.
28-1-2004: A notice of urgency was filed
27-7-2004: Another notice for an urgent date was filed
26-3-2005: 36 Organisation including major Human Rights Groups, Grassroots Coalition and MTUC called for PSM to be registered. A memorandum was submitted to Datuk Azmi Khalid, the Home Affairs Minister.
15-11-2005: A demonstration was held at the Palace of Justice and a memorandum was submitted to the Chief Justice Tun Dato Seri Ahmad Fairuz bin Dato Sheikh Abdul Halim. Ten days after that, our lawyer get a date for case management
8-12-2005: Case Management
10-4-2006: APPEALS COURT HEARD PSM’s case
Press Statement released by PSM today in response to the appeal court's decision
RESS STATEMENT: 16 AUGUST 2006
FEEBLE REASON GIVEN TO REJECT PSM'S APPEAL
This morning the Court of Appeal rejected Parti Sosialis Malaysia's (PSM) appeal
and upheld the High Court decision on 13 January 2003 which denied PSM's right
to be registered as a Political party.
Justice Dato Gopal Sri Ram delivered the judgment in front of a packed
courtroom. He said there were two reasons given to deny PSM a registration. The
first being that the party did not comply with a seven state regulation and the
second being that the party is a threat to national security.
The court today dismissed the National Security argument which the court felt
was a bad reason and said there were no argument to substantiate the allegation
but the court held on to a more feeble reason to deny PSM the right to be
registered. The Appeal court felt that when two reasons are given- one bad and
one good, you just need one reason to dismiss the case.
Justice Dato Gopal Sri Ram said that the Registrar of Society(ROS) was
reasonable because they allowed PSM to be registered as a State Party and the
requirement of seven state members was a reasonable policy for a party aspiring
to be a National party. The court also said that the ROS had meetings to explain
to the party.
PSM is deeply disappointed with the judgment as the reason stated for PSM's
rejection was disgraceful and appalling. In the first place, PSM was never given
a license to operate as a State level party. Secondly, PSM has on numerous
occasions stated that the party has no problem in fulfilling the seven state
requirement but the criteria of seven state members were never given to us in
spite of numerous efforts. The ROS also failed to give an explanation and
dialogue with PSM though there were many efforts being taken by PSM. These
arguments were clearly put forward in an additional submission to the Courts of
We view today's decision a step backward to democracy and Freedom of association in Malaysia. The court held on to a feeble reason to deny a political party the right to represent the people in a democratic system. The court failed to see the agenda of the State when it called PSM a threat to national Security. It was clearly a political reason not an administrative reason for not registering the party.
The decision today is not going to shake us nor is it going to stop us from forming a socialist party in Malaysia. The party would be filing an appeal to
the Federal Court- the Highest court in the country to exhaust its legal battle.
We thank all our members, supporters and all the support locally and internationally. We thank our legal team who did the entire case free of charge.
With so much of solidarity, support and goodwill, we can only move forward.
We are now more than determined to pursue our struggle and our destiny. The strength of a movement does not depend in the license given to it by the ruling masters but by the masses of people.
We would continue to fight the system - in the courts or in the streets till we win.
LONG LIVE SOCIALISM !
LONG LIVE PSM !
On Behalf of PSM Central Committee Members
Amnesty International Malaysia also released a statement today responding the the court's decision on PSM's appeal
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MALAYSIA PRESS STATEMENT
16 August 2006
PSM rejection a blow to freedom of association
Amnesty International Malaysia regrets the decision of the Court of
Appeal's to uphold the High Court ruling to reject Parti Socialist
Malaysia's (PSM) application to be a registered as a political party.
The decision is serious blow to the notion of freedom of association in
Malaysia which is a fundamental right guaranteed in Article 20 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Part II of the Malaysian
We also concerned about the use of national security as an excuse to
deny the formation of the party. Issues of national security should only be invoked for specific reasons and have to be deliberated and proven in an open and transparent manner. It seems that the Executive has been given unfettered discretion to determine, according to their subjective description, who might pose a potential threat to national security.
This rejection also illustrates a systematic pattern by the Malaysian government of using the Societies Act as a means to block or impede the formation of societies, organizations and political parties which it considers undesirable. The Act's intimidating effect, along with its numerous bureaucratic requirements of the Registrar of Societies, has had a negative impact on freedom of association in this country.
Josef Roy Benedict
Amnesty International Malaysia
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