by K. Siladass
The fear factor has finally caught up with Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. The fact that Dato Ambiga Sreenevasan, a former President of the Bar Council and currently the co-chairman of Bersih Movement, has been making constructive suggestions for the clean and proper conduct of the forthcoming general elections is well known. Mahathir, alike all his cronies and supporters fearing that the wind of change in the thought process of the Malaysians is actually blowing, had begun to make frantic undemocratic demands-one among them is the call for the revocation of Ambiga’s citizenship. Does this remind of Idi Amin of Uganda?
Has Ambiga said anything that would constitute as an attempt to overthrow the government? Hardly so. All her comments, suggestions, criticisms were objectively aimed at improving the standards of the voting procedure. Any citizen could make suggestions so long it is not contrary to law. Neither she nor Bersih advocate the transformation of illegal immigrants to legal immigrants with voting rights. It is those who violated the Country’s citizenship, immigration and election law, who should be dealt with according to law.
It is also hardly correct to assume that Ambiga alone had formulated all the comments, suggestions and criticisms; instead, she represents a movement and her expressions are those of the movement, hence, would it not be appropriate that all those who are linked with her and the Bersih Movement should receive like treatment? All who support the Bersih Movement should have their citizenship revoked. If this sounds very puerile, then, why single out Ambiga? When we are talking about democracy and democratic government we are indeed talking of Government by discussion. This does not mean discussion only amongst ruling party members but must also include the views from the public, of which the opposition and civic movements are a part.
From the Mahathir’s outburst it could be discerned that he and his followers are unable to match up with reasonable, rational and sensible argument, and argument has always been the core principle in democracy.
Calling for the revocation of Ambiga’s citizenship seems to indicate that Mahathir had become barren with ideas to resist her criticisms and of her movement. Thus, the attempt to seal her lips. How often can the voice of the people be muzzled? For how long must the Malaysians suffer the ignominious treatment by Mahathir and his supporters? Should not the law take care of this type of people whose main aim is to widen the polarity among the various races?
Mahathir also laments that the present Federal Constitution does not contain provisions to revoke the citizenship of those who speak against the Government. He, therefore, calls for an amendment to the Federal Constitution. Here comes the real threat; for any amendment to the Constitution could only materialize if two-third majority is there.
Malaysians would recall how the ruling party under the leadership of Mahathir with two-third majority had amended the Federal Constitution resulting in grave injustice to families where one spouse elected to convert to Islam leaving the non-Muslim spouse with no justice or remedy at all. Those who were affected by the amendment to Article 121 of the Federal Constitution are still languishing in infinite agony. The silence maintained by those who could find an end to their suffering is indeed baffling.
The judiciary is in a predicament as far as the cases of conversion are concerned, because the civil courts, at the mention of Islamic element, drop the case as if it is a hot brick. In other words, abdicate from their constitutional duty as judges.
Malaysian voters should abandon the idea of two-third majority for good, for it had caused tremendous harm. Two-third majority means absolute power and absolute power corrupts absolutely is the famous nineteenth century advice by Lord Acton. Earlier, in eighteenth century William Pitt speaking in the House of Lords said: “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”
If Malaysians are wary of the ruling party it is because of the painful experience they had to endure during the Mahathir’s tenure as premier. It is that wrath which his successors had inherited. And by constantly making statements about the superiority of one race and the inferior position of the minorities, Mahathir is indeed losing BN’s fight.