Twenty-eight-year-old Malaysian activist Sivaranjani Manickam will be a special guest at the "Towards Justice, Sustainability and People's Power: Fighting for Socialism in the 21st Century" conference in Sydney in January.
Manickam will attend the Socialist Alliance's national conference on behalf of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM). She told Green Left Weekly she looks forward to the "opportunity to learn more about socialism and share knowledge" with activists in Australia.
Manickam became involved with activism as a university student in 2001. She described how at first she was interested only in "social service".
However, her involvement in a student campaign to provide free tuition to the children of poor plantation workers who lived near the campus changed her mind.
"[I] realised that fundamental problems such as poverty cannot be solved by education alone", she said. "This was when I started to be more actively involved in fighting for workers' rights and took a class approach the understanding suffering."
Manickam joined the PSM in 2004. She completed her degree in 2005 and became active in the broad-based Oppressed People's Network (JERIT). She is now JERIT's treasurer.
Manickam has been an activist in the anti-war movement, and in the mass campaign against the Internal Security Act — a draconian, 49-year-old law that has allowed Malaysia's security forces to imprison people without trial.
She was also a member of the organising committee of the factory workers' minimum wage campaign, and was the national coordinator of last year's national May Day celebrations.
She is also an experienced election campaigner for the PSM, which in March 2008 shocked Malaysia's political establishment by winning a seat in the national parliament and in the Selangor state legislative assembly.
Manickam will address the public meeting to open the Socialist Alliance conference, at 7pm on January 2 at the Women's College, University of Sydney.
Other speakers at that meeting will be: Richard Downs, spokesperson of the Alyawarr people's walk-off at Ampilatwatja in the Northern Territory; Dave Kerin, Victorian Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union mining and energy division organiser; Bea Bleile, Socialist Alliance national co-convener; and Peter Boyle, Democratic Socialist Perspective national secretary.
The following three days of the conference will discuss a wide range of issues confronting humanity and the planet. These include from building the climate action movement, the anti-war movement and a democratic, class-struggle trade union movement, refugee rights, justice for Indigenous people, women's and queer rights, and the Latin American revolutions and solidarity campaigning in Australia.
Manickam will conduct a workshop on the political situation in Malaysia and the PSM's campaigns during the conference.
[The full conference agenda and registration forms are available at