People Power

Below is a comment made by a JebatMustDie reader that I think worth sharing here. Much have been said about freedom of speech, democracy etc. in Malaysia but I think most followers of certain political leaders do not see the bigger picture. It is best for the followers to understand the real issues rather than following just for the sake of following. The comment goes:

“I feel compelled to comment only because i find it difficult to comprehend the sheer naiveté or perhaps it is the scarily fervent belief of the followers of certain political leaders in the almost messianic qualities of those leaders, who in the eyes of their followers can apparently do no wrong.

To those few who are so ‘taksub’ or fixated on the exaggerated and over-rated concept which is ‘ketuanan rakyat’, i wish to offer my take.

Going back to the original conception of democracy by the Greeks, the etymology of which comes from 2 words, i.e. demos (people) and kratos (initially power, force, strength, etc. Over time, evolving to mean rule or government), it would appear that the precedent for ‘ketuanan rakyat’ is clearly established.

However, even the brightest of them, i.e. Socrates, Plato and others were united in their belief that to hand over rule to the people would result in utter chaos for the greek city states. In essence, they considered that rule or governance was best exercised by a group of learned men. Of course, this may be simplifying this account to a great extent – but the foundations and precedents laid then reverberate and continue to ring true even today.

Thousands of years later, and in Malaysia no less, the prescience concerning the fallacy of rule by the people is being played out.

Unfortunately, the serious lack of political and administrative leadership of the present administration has resulted in a vacuum in which a pretender – supported by a cadre of fearsome and narrow-minded enforcers, purports to be the only saviour of the country to bring about a so called new dawn for Malaysia. The cult of personality around this person defies belief, which urgently brings to my mind the important lessons of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

I do not claim to have any solution to the seemingly intractable differences at home, only wishing to share my observations. In my view, the leaders of PR, despite the public shows and utterances of solidarity with the man in the street are in my humble opinion no different than the so-called crooks which they claim to have been in power for too long. It is now their time they say, their time to perhaps plunder and drive even deeper divisions.

It should not escape attention that the rise of violence in Malaysian politics coincides with the rise of PKR. Instead of cooling down the flames of animosity, certain PKR leaders appear to be fanning those flames, with scant regard for the consequences of their actions, as long as it yields them the seat of power.

In terms of what i believe constitute the primary elements of democracy, i am of the view that its definition hinges on its interpretation and more importantly, its implementation. I believe that we first need to have a clear idea of what democracy itself should mean for us. In our case, i believe that the best democracy for Malaysia takes into account the particularities of Malaysia’s social, economic, demographic and political landscape, among others.

In this regard, i am of the view that the kind of democracy that Malaysia should be is the one that has been decided by our leaders who negotiated Malaysia’s independence. I believe that the agreement then was acceptable to and endorsed by all communities and stakeholders.

The success of the approach mapped out then, particularly in terms of balancing and accounting for the interests of all communities is evidenced by the fact that now, 50 or so years on, Malaysia is no longer the colonial backwater it once was. Equally important is the fact that since independence, Malaysia as a country has been able to maintain a more or less independent approach, both in terms of its economic planning and foreign policy. In this context, you will find me staunchly opposing any section of our society that seeks to renegotiate the terms agreed by our founding fathers.

I do not pretend that the prosperity which has and continues to be bestowed on Malaysia has benefitted all communities equally, some have benefitted more than others. However, the fact that there remains pockets of marginalised and underdeveloped segments of society do not in any way justify the blatantly racist, poisonous and prejudiced accusations such as those espoused by HINDRAF leaders.

In my humble view, People Power, wielded injudiciously as we have witnessed in the Philippines and continue to witness in Thailand, cannot work. I believe that while it can function as a preliminary catalyst, it ultimately fails when its principles eventually need to be translated into practicable policies and actions. To me, people power inevitably spawns populist policies and measures which in turn require and rely on populist politicians to see them through. Given the flip-flopping posture and populist pandering, and not to mention the divergence and inconsistencies in positions among PR components themselves, i’ve become even more convinced that it would be an unmitigated disaster if PR were to helm the federal government .

However, the catch is this, Malaysia IS a democracy-for better or worse. As such, should any party come to power through the popular vote, then i believe that should be accepted as the people’s choice. My single most abiding fear is that, through all the ‘wayang kulit’ that is being acted out by politicians on both sides, the rakyat will become more confused. Add to the mix irresponsible politicians who are blatantly racist and prone to stoke and fan communal fears and feelings, the end result could very well be explosive. Seeing the increasingly frequent street demonstrations in Malaysia, i believe that moves to drive even deeper divisions among the communities are being actively undertaken by these same irresponsible people.

Given the delicate nature of democracy in Malaysia, I am equally convinced of the need for strong leadership. For all of the faults of our previous Prime Ministers, they have managed to maintain the delicate communal balances, thereby allowing for Malaysia to develop in her own mould. What the current PM (At this point of time, Pak Lah was still the PM) has done should also be lauded, as he has attempted to open the space to allow for deeper, more meaningful inter-communal dialogue and understanding. Unfortunately, certain quarters have seen fit to take advantage of the openness and sincerity of the current administration as a signal that everything is up for negotiation.

In a nutshell, I believe that democracy is both a means to an end and an end in itself. I strongly believe that for it to work in a country like ours, a strong, clear and united leadership is needed. Taking into account all that Malaysia is and has been through, i do not think that the so-called democracy as promoted by PR will ensure that Malaysia can remain as peaceful, stable and prosperous as it once was, at least before their brand of alienating and personality-centred politics was introduced.”

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