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Syed Hussein Alatas (Arabic: سيد حسین العطاس Sayyid Ḥusayn al-ʿAṭṭās; 17 September 1928 – 23 January 2007) was a Malaysian academician, sociologist, founder of social science organisations, and politician. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya in the 1980s and formed the Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (Gerakan). Syed Hussein wrote several books on corruption, multi-racialism, imperialism, and intellectual captivity as part of the colonial, and postcolonial, project, the most famous being The Myth of the Lazy Native.
Syed was born in Buitenzorg (now Bogor), Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). His grandfather, Sayyid 'Abd Allah bin Muhsin al-Attas (Arabic: سيد عبد الله بن محسن العطاس Sayyid 'Abd Allāh bin Muḥsin al-ʿAṭṭās), was a Hadhrami from Hadhramaut, Yemen and settled in Bogor. Syed Hussein is the older brother of Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas and the father of Syed Farid al-Attas.
Syed Hussein was among several intellectuals who formed Gerakan in 1968 as an offshoot of the defunct Labour Party. Gerakan was successful in the 1969 general election, where it campaigned on a platform of social justice and the reduction or elimination of Bumiputra privileges outlined by Article 153 of the Constitution. Gerakan held a victory rally in the capital of Kuala Lumpur to celebrate. However, it deviated from its planned route into Malay areas of the city, where party members jeered at the Malays. Although an apology was issued the following day, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), a major component of the ruling Alliance coalition government, held a retaliatory rally. This rally degenerated into a riot with at least 180 people killed (other estimates put the death toll substantially higher). As a result, a state of emergency was declared, and Parliament was suspended; it did not reconvene until 1971.
When Gerakan joined the Alliance coalition government in 1972, Syed Hussein left to help form PEKEMAS (Parti Keadilan Masyarakat Malaysia, or Social Justice Party of Malaysia), based on similar principles that Gerakan had been formed on. However, the party collapsed in 1978 due to massive defections to the Democratic Action Party (DAP).