Malaysia: Political Parties, Trades Unions and Pressure Groups Material

Scope and Content

Constitutions, manifestos, conference reports, histories, speeches, pamphlets, posters, letters and leaflets, from 1958 onwards, issued by the Alliance Party (Malaysia), the Barisan Nasional (Organization), the Democratic Action Party, the Malayan Chinese Association, the Malayan Communist Party, the Malayan Employers' Consultative Association, the Malayan People's Afro-Asian Solidarity Committee, the Malaysian Chinese Association, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, the Parti Islam Semalaysia, the Parti Progresif Penduduk Malaysia, the Pemuda Sosialis Malaya, the Socialist Party (Malaysia), and the United Malays National Organisation. The materials originate from parties both inside and outside the Alliance/Barisan Nasional, and deal with the achievements of the governing parties and their failings and the failings of the democratic system from the perspective of opposition groups. There are also a small number of trades union and pressure group materials, the latter exclusively concerned with opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Administrative / Biographical History

The politics of the areas now known as Malaysia have been dominated since independence by ethnic divisions which have permeated the economic as well as the cultural and political spheres. While the Malays form a majority of the population under the British they were largely excluded from urban roles and economic ownership in favour of the large Chinese minority, while the Indian community largely worked in serflike conditions on the peninsula's rubber plantations. The Federation of Malaya was created in 1952, and the aforementioned differences were initially resolved by the formation of the Alliance Party comprising the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the Malayan - later Malaysian - Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan - later Malaysian - Indian Congress (MIC). This multi-racial umbrella organisation presided over independence in 1957 and the merger with Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah which created the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 (Singapore left in 1965). Yet subsuming potentially antagonistic groups inside the Alliance almost guaranteed that the challenge to one-party rule would draw on the dissatisfaction of ethnic groups which no longer felt the original parties were representing their interests, and so new parties emerged in opposition, most notably the largely Malay Parti Islam-Se-Malaysia (PAS) and the predominantly Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP). The advances of the latter in the 1969 elections led to communal rioting and the two-year suspension of parliament, which was dominated upon its recall by a new coalition, the Barisan Nasional, based upon the Alliance but with a greater Malay dominance. This party has remained in power since, presiding over the impressive Malaysian growth of the New Economic Policy period of the 1970s and 1980s but also over a democratic process which looked increasingly unlikely to offer any possibility of a change of government.


Alphabetically by group, and then in rough chronological order.

Access Information

Open to all for research purposes; access is free for anyone in higher education.

Acquisition Information

Institute of Commonwealth Studies


The Political Archives Project was a 2.5 year project to catalogue political archive material held in the libraries of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the Institute for the Study of the Americas to the University and present it as a cohesive virtual collection. The project was successfully completed in July 2005. Descriptions of all the documents may be found by searching the library catalogue at, or via the Political Archives website:

Other Finding Aids

Records at item level on library catalogue (SASCAT).

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Daniel Millum, Political Archives Project Officer at the Institutes of Commonwealth and Latin American Studies.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies can usually be obtained - apply to library staff.

Custodial History

The ICS political parties collection was begun in 1960-1961, with special emphasis being placed on primary material such as party constitutions, policy statements, convention reports and election manifestos. Since then, the main method of gathering material has been to appeal directly to political parties throughout the Commonwealth, though contributions from Institute members and staff following visits to relevant countries have been significant. More recently material has been collected by means of downloading documents from the websites of the major parties.


Further accruals are expected, some in electronic form.

Related Material

See also Political Party, Trades Unions and Pressure Group Materials for other Commonwealth countries and related material in the library's main classified sequence, all held at the ICS.

Geographical Names