Parti Rakyat Malaysia

The Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM, Malaysian People's Party) is a democratic socialist political party in Malaysia. Established on 11 November 1955 as Partai Ra'ayat, it is one of the older political parties in Malaysia and traces its pedigree to the anti-colonial movements from the pre World War II period like the Kesatuan Melayu Muda. After being politically inactive for a long time, the party contested in Penang, Kedah and Selangor in the 2018 elections. However, the party failed to win a single state or parliamentary seat. It is unrepresented in the Dewan Rakyat and state legislative assemblies of Malaysia.

Malaysian People's Party
Chinese name马来西亚人民党 Mǎláixīyǎ rénmín dǎng
Malay nameParti Rakyat Malaysia
Tamil nameமலேசிய மக்கள் கட்சி Malēciya makkaḷ kaṭci
PresidentMohd Hashim bin Saaludin
Secretary-GeneralTan Hiang Lye
Deputy PresidentJenice Lee Ying Ha
FounderAhmad Boestamam
Founded11 November 1955
Preceded by
  • 1955 - Partai Ra'ayat (People's Party; PR)
  • 1965 - Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (Malaysian People's Socialist Party; PSRM)
  • 1989 - Parti Rakyat Malaysia (Malaysian People's Party; PRM)
HeadquartersMenara PRM,
21B(F) Jalan SJ 6,
Taman Selayang Jaya,
Batu Caves, Selangor
NewspaperSuara Rakyat
Democratic socialism
Left-wing nationalism
Political positionLeft-wing
National affiliationMalayan Peoples' Socialist Front (1957–66)
Barisan Alternatif (1998–2004)
Colours     Red, black, white
AnthemDemi Rakyat
Dewan Negara:
0 / 70
Dewan Rakyat:
0 / 222
Dewan Undangan Negeri:
0 / 587
Party flag



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The founder of PRM, Ahmad Boestamam, was an activist of the leftist Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) movement. During the Japanese occupation of Malaya, he had briefly served as with the Japanese sponsored militia known as the Pembela Tanah Ayer (Defender of the Homeland; PETA) and later helped to organise co-operative communes run by the KMM.[1][2]

With the capitulation of the Japanese in 1945, movements that collaborated with the Japanese like KMM likewise collapsed and the leftist Malay activists regrouped to organise various political movements, such as the Malay Nationalist Party (Malay: Partai Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya; PKMM) led by Burhanuddin al-Helmy, the Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (Awakened Youth Organisation; API) led by Ahmad Boestamam and the Angkatan Wanita Sedar (Cohort of Awakened Women; AWAS) led by Shamsiah Fakeh. Boestamam was part of the PKMM and API delegation that participated in the Pan-Malayan Malay Congress in 1946 and was instrumental in keeping the Malay leftist movements out of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) that resulted out of the congress.[3]

Growing opposition to the Malayan Union confederation led the British colonial authorities to consider an alternative constitutional framework for the country. A proposal known as the "Constitutional Proposals for Malaya"[4] was developed in co-operation with UMNO and representatives of the Malay rulers. This proposal was opposed by a large segment of the non-Malay population of the country who saw it as discriminatory as well as a sizeable portion of the nationalists who saw it as delaying the self-determination and independence of Malaya.

A combination of anti-British sentiments and economic hardships saw the coalescing of the various political movements representing the Malay and non-Malay populations and eventually led to the formation of a broad coalition with the Malay movements represented in Pusat Tenaga Ra'ayat (People's United Front; PUTERA), itself a coalition of movements like PKMM, API, AWAS and others, and the non-Malay movements represented in the All-Malaya Council of Joint Action (AMCJA), another coalition of movements such as the Malayan Indian Congress, Malayan Democratic Union, and others.[5]

The PUTERA-AMCJA tabled an alternative proposal known as the People's Constitutional Proposal[6] and attempted to lobby for a Royal Commission to be formed to review the original proposals. The PUTERA-AMCJA also launched a successful nationwide hartal was organised on 20 October 1947, the same date where the constitutional proposals were due to be deliberated by the House of Commons in London.[7]

Despite these efforts, PUTERA-AMCJA failed to overturn the decision to adopt the Constitutional Proposals which led to the formation of the Federation of Malaya on 31 January 1948. API was banned on 20 March 1948, gaining the distinction of being the first political movement in Malaya to be banned by the authorities[8] and Boestamam was arrested on 1 July 1948.[1] A declaration of emergency was extended nationwide on 12 July 1948 in what became the Malayan Emergency and resulted in the arrests and incarceration of many leftist and nationalist activists. Many who managed to escaped the dragnet joined the armed rebellion coordinated by the Communist Party of Malaya.


Upon his release from incarceration in 1955, Boestamam regrouped his supporters to form Partai Ra'ayat (People's Party; PR). The new party was inaugurated on 11 November 1955 embracing a philosophy of nationalistic social democracy focussing on the poor known as Marhaenism, a phrase coined by Sukarno. PR formed a coalition with the Labour Party of Malaya led by another PKMM veteran, Ishak Haji Muhammad on the merdeka day 31 August 1957. This became known as the Malayan Peoples' Socialist Front (Malay: Fron Sosialis Rakyat Malaya) or the Socialist Front (SF) and was officially 26 August 1958.[9]

Branches of PR was formed in the neighbouring British protectorate of Brunei and the colony of Singapore in what eventually became the Brunei People's Party and Partai Rakyat Singapore (Singapore People's Party (PRS) – not to be mistaken with the current Singapore People's Party). Both these branches eventually disappeared from active politics by the mid 1960s with the PRB banned in 1962 and the PRS never sufficiently gaining enough support in Singapore for electoral success. The PRB is believed to be still operating in exile[10] and the PRS remains a registered political party in Singapore.[11]

Early successes

The SF participated in both municipal and legislative elections and successfully captured significant number of seats in the urban areas where SF won Parliamentary seats in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru in the 1959 general election and the SF as a whole successfully garnering 13% of the votes becoming the third largest party in Parliament after the Alliance and the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PMIP). The SF further consolidated its gains in municipal elections including the City Council of Georgetown, Penang where it won 14 of the 15 seats in the Council during the 1961 Local Elections.[9] The SF was further strengthened when the former Minister of Agriculture, Aziz Ishak, brought his National Convention Party into the coalition.[12]

Tunku Abdul Rahman's announcement for the expansion of Malaya into a larger federation known as Malaysia in 1961 galvanised the co-operation between the various Opposition parties in the Parliament. The SF found itself working on the same side as Parti Negara, the People's Progressive Party (PPP), the United Democratic Party (UDP), and the Pan-Malayan Islamic Party (PMIP), in opposing the proposal due to the perception that it was being formulated by the Alliance without the consent of the people of the territories.


However, with the onset of the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation in 1962, opposition to the new federation came to be seen as being pro-Indonesia and anti national. This caused significant rifts among the Opposition parties. Many party leaders were also arrested and incarcerated including Boestamam, Ishak Muhammad and Aziz Ishak under the Internal Security Act (ISA). These factors cost the SF significant losses in the 1964 general election where PR and the NCP failed to gain any seats at all and the LPM lost significant number of seats.[12]

With most of the senior leadership of the SF incarcerated, the SF eventually collapsed when PR announced its decision to withdraw in December 1965.[9]

Scientific socialism

In the leadership vacuum, a group of young intellectuals led by Kassim Ahmad took over the reins of the party in 1965 and it underwent a radical change. The party was renamed Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (Malaysian People's Socialist Party; PSRM) and it officially adopted scientific socialism as its ideology. Despite the reorientation of the party, the post 1969 political scenario meant that the party remained in the sidelines.

Other leaders were also arrested under the ISA like Syed Husin Ali in 1974[13] and Kassim himself in 1976.[14] This cost the party significant organisational cohesiveness that continued to plague it right into the next decade. Leaders like Kampo Radjo and Syed Hussin helped keep the party intact over the next decade.


In the party's congress in 1989, the PSRM decided to revert to its previous name but retaining the term "Malaysia". A new leadership was also elected and Syed Husin was named party president while academic Sanusi Osman was elected Secretary General. The reversion to the name Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) was not without controversy and a group led by Mohd Nasir Hashim left the party. This group eventually formed the core that founded the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM). The reorganised PRM contested the 1990 general elections as part of the Gagasan Rakyat coalition with the Democratic Action Party (DAP), Parti Melayu Semangat 46 (S46), All Malaysian Indian Progressive Front (IPF) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS). Although PRM failed to win any seats, it marked the beginning of the reversal of the party's fortunes.

The Gagasan Rakyat coalition did not survive the 1995 elections after the withdrawal of PBS and the dissolution of Semangat 46. Nonetheless, this was soon followed by the Reformasi movement that saw the creation of a new coalition known as Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front; BA) that grouped PRM, DAP, PMIP (known as PAS since the 1970s) and the newly formed Parti Keadilan Nasional (National Justice Party; KeADILan).

PRM also gained an influx of younger members from the interest and political consciousness generated by the Reformasi movement during this period which rejuvenated the youth wing of the party. BA contested the 1999 general elections with PRM contesting three parliamentary seats in three state seats. The BA won 40.23% of the popular vote but PRM failed again to win any seats although it did lose one seat only by a narrow margin of 8.4% of the votes.


Following the 1999 general elections, KeADILan began to explore the possibility of merger between the two parties. However the merger was delayed by the lengthy negotiations between the two parties. The two parties only officially merged on 3 August 2003 becoming Parti KeADILan Rakyat (People's Justice Party; PKR). PRM had to contest the 2004 general elections under KeADILan's symbol as the merger had yet to be approved by the authorities.

The 2004 elections almost routed the BA with the coalition losing 22 seats out of the 42 it held in the previous Parliament. There was also growing tension between some former PRM members in PKR with the leadership over what was perceived as a growing influence of neoconservatism within the new party stemming from the personal friendship between the party's leader, Anwar Ibrahim.

Quite a number of former PRM members in PKR were also not comfortable with the merger in the first place and found a rallying point to express their dissent, particularly towards the former leadership who negotiated the merger.


On 17 April 2005, the dissidents convened a National Congress in Johor Bahru, taking advantage of the fact that the party had yet to be de-registered by the authorities, and elected a new Executive Committee led by former PRM youth leader, Hassan Abdul Karim to resume political activities as PRM.

PRM then contested in the subsequent general elections of 2008, 2013 and 2018 but have yet to get their members elected into the parliamentary and state legislatures. Despite the formation of the opposition coalitions Pakatan Rakyat (2008-2015) and Pakatan Harapan (2015-present), PRM has remained outside the main coalitions to date. All of their candidates were trounced and lost their deposits in the 2018 election.

Leadership structure


PRM is currently centre-left in orientation and stresses on the promotion of progressive values, of economic, political and human progress, democracy and basic human rights, unity of the people, ethical and cultural values, and the protection of the environment.

See also


  1. Boestamam, Ahmad; William R. Roff (1979). Carving the Path to the Summit. Athens: Ohio University Press. p. 149. ISBN 0-8214-0409-1.
  2. Noor, Farish (21 September 2006). "The Broken Dream of Malaya-Raya: Ibrahim Yaakob and the Rise of the Malay Left. (Part 2 of 3)". Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 20 June 2008.
  3. Fan, Yew Teng (3 November 2007). "Some Umno myths young Malaysians should know about". Malaysia Today. Archived from the original on 23 December 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2008.
  4. Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka: Summary of the Constitutional Proposals for Malaya
  5. Arkib Negara: List of associations invited to form the Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action – Tan Cheng Lock Papers Collection
  6. Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka: The People's Constitutional Proposal for Malaya
  7. Ongkili, James P. (1985). Nation-building in Malaysia, 1946–1974. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. p. 275. ISBN 0-19-582574-8.
  8. Harper, Timothy Norman (1999). The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 417. ISBN 0-521-00465-9.
  9. Penang Story: Facing Up to Storm Clouds : The Labour Party of Malaya, Penang Division, 1963 – 1969 Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  10. : Brunei Country Profile Archived 30 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 20 June 2008.
  11. Lianhe Zaobao: 新加坡政党名单 (in Chinese)
  12. Weiss, Meredith Leigh (2005). Protest and Possibilities: Civil Society and Coalitions for Political Change in Malaysia. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. p. 324. ISBN 0-8047-5295-8.
  13. S. Hussin Ali (1996). Two Faces (Detention Without Trial). Kuala Lumpur: INSAN. p. 169. ISBN 983-9602-04-7.
  14. Kassim Ahmad (1983). Universiti kedua: Kisah tahanan dibawah ISA. Kuala Lumpur: Media Intelek. p. 157. ISBN 967-953-000-0.
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