Boestaman had been a young follower of the Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) from the late 1930s in Perak, emerging after the war as the militant youth leader of Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (API) to the older and more moderate Dr Burhanuddin Helmi and Ishak Haji Muhammad (Pak Sako) of the Malay Nationalist Party (PKMM).
PKMM, in turn, led Pusat Tenaga Rakyat or Putera to join the All Malayan Council of Joint Action (AMCJA), which was then led by the Malayan Democratic Union (MDU). AMCJA crafted the People’s Constitution in 1947 as the basis for Malayan independence, years before the United Malays National Organisation switched its slogan from “Hidup Melayu” to “Merdeka” under Tunku Abdul Rahman’s leadership.
Boestaman was detained without trial for seven long years from early 1948, before the Emergency was declared in mid-1948, together with thousands of other Malay youths demanding independence. This pre-emptive repression by the colonial power was to ethnically colour the subsequent anticolonial resistance.
Soon after his release in 1955, he set up the Partai Rakyat Malaya with other independent fighters on November 11, 1955. Inspired by anti-colonial and socialist struggle in Indonesia led by Sukarno, the party in its formative years subscribe to a Pan-Malay/Indonesia nationalism. Unlike its contemporary UMNO (which later became the ruling party until today), Parti Rakyat demanded total independent from British colonialism.
The party later joined with the Labour Party of Malaya (Parti Buruh), chaired by Ishak Haji Muhammad, to create the Socialist Front, which dominated the local councils in Peninsular Malaysia. The growing power of the left resulted heavy crackdown by the UMNO government.
In 1963, soon after the outbreak of the Konfrontasi between Malaysia and Indonesia, the Alliance government began yet another massive round up of politicians and activists among the opposition. Among those arrested and detained were Boestaman, Ishak Haji Muhammad, Abdul Aziz Ishak (head of GERAM), Datuk Kampo Radjo (later the president of PRM), Tan Kai Hee, Tan Hock Hin, Dr. Rajakumar, Hasnul Hadi, Tajuddin Kahar and hundreds of others.
The Socialist Front eventually dissolved under strong state repression. When racial riot broke out in 1969, the ruling UMNO consolidated its grip and local council election was abolished. Parti Rakyat lost it prominence in parliamentary politics. Boestaman eventually faded from the headlines of Malaysian politics.
Boestaman's son, Rustam Sani would later become the deputy president of the party his father founded.
Ahmad Boestaman died on January 19, 1983.
- Chuan Siu Li, An Introduction to the Promotion and Development of Modern Malay Literature, 1942-1962, Yayasan Kanisius, 1975
- Farewell to a true Malaysian, The Star, April 26, 2008.