Our democracy is working

— Darren Nah
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 29, 2012

APRIL 29 — There were fears that the Bersih rally would not go according to plan. Soon enough, tear gas and water cannons had beaten back the tide of yellow in the nation’s capital. Many, emotionally restive, came back from yet another Bersih rally which seemed ineffectual in holding Putrajaya accountable. As Datuk Ambiga, under the sweltering Saturday sun, failed to call for crowd dispersal, the governmental security apparatus quickly finished off the crowd of peaceful protestors, using less than savoury means.

Nevertheless, the lessons we can take from this gathering are that, amid the slander and libel floating in the air, our democracy is working. We are beginning to see a maturation of the democratic process, the incipient emergence of political awareness, and the competition of ideas. These are all crucial for the proper functioning of the Malaysian project started in 1957. But some argue that such rallies only cause disturbance, hamper stability, and create undue unrest. Let us now comfort this contentious group.

These people fail to realise that the democratic process needs the occasional take-to-the-street protest and the joyous participation of youth. Ever since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, Malaysia’s economy has suffered from a lack of innovation, and many of the young have fled to better prospects abroad. The political indifference of the young and the lack of ideas in governing has hampered our democracy. We need a jolt of innovation.

The Bersih rally must be seen as a channel of new ideas of government and economic progress. While the calls for free and fair elections are sacrosanct in any functioning democracy, let us peel back the false accusations and emotionally charged lies, and look at what the concept of free and fair elections actually means.

By having elections that are free and fair, the people are able to reward Putrajaya for what it does right (growth and prosperity, usually) and to punish Putrajaya for its incompetence (stagnation, etc.). It is not so much about getting our favoured political parties in power, but helping (yes, I said ‘helping’) the ruling party to be more competent in ruling this country.

Democracy is nothing but a trade-off between the elites and the governed. The elites stay in power so long as they continue to provide benefits to the governed. The governed punishes the government by voting the ruling elite out.

PAS, DAP and PKR have many interesting ideas (some valid and some academically astonishing) on how Malaysia should be run; but, the expertise of running the complex government machinery belongs to Barisan National. Like all firms that face no competition, however, Barisan National has become an indolent sloth. Civil unrest, represented by Bersih rallies, attempts to wake Putrajaya up to the need to innovate and change.

It is wrong to believe that the Bersih rallies will ‘change the world,’ but it is right to believe that they have motivated a whole slew of the young to want to think better, and participate in politics. Yes, there will be slander in some of the partisan newspapers, but such news outlets report gossip at their peril, and will sooner or later lose accountability. A lie or two will not destroy Malaysia, fear not.

Now, let us climb the ladder of abstraction and see what Bersih also means. All is well! Bersih rally organisers must devise new and innovate ways to make their voices heard without their rallies becoming violent protests (which only helps Putrajaya’s resolve to crack down on them).

On the side of the ruling party, by having a mass group of politically aware youth, Malaysia should be happy. New ideas of how our democracy should be run can only mean a better standard of living and a better economy, which for the most part has been stagnant since 1997.

Competition amongst the political parties, news outlets, Bersih supporters and detractors, young and old, should be encouraged. This will mean people will create organisations and help build a network of crucial support for each other. Also, to foster the competition of ideas, like firms competing for customers, can only mean more democratic innovation and prosperity for the masses. It doesn’t matter if it is Islamic PAS or Chinese MCA, so long as civil society flourishes, it is good!

Barisan National is not the enemy. Barisan National’s guidance has helped Malaysia reach its current state of development. What it needs, however, is a little vigour from the birth of a dynamic, idea-filled, politically motivated Malaysian society. Bersih is only the beginning of better things to come!

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Sunday, 29 April 2012 - 11:37 am

    After Najib had his reform credentials tarnished by yesterday’s Bersih 3.0 rally, this time he will have to give each family RM2,000 (instead of RM500) to prop his popularity back to 69%.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 29 April 2012 - 11:38 am

    I say it again, the issue is not the exact details of what happened yesterday. The issue is while things were happening, Najib continue to go about selling the same losing message he has been selling since he started his job.

    The man simply keep proving again and again, what his worst critics have said from the start, he is not the man for the necessary work that need to be done.

    No real leader will claim he is responsible for freedom of assembly today when not that long ago, he tried to thwart them. No real leader will claim he gave them a venue when the last time he when back on his word for one. Worst of all, no real leader will claim that he is responsible for ‘tranformation’ of 40% of per capita increase when at least half of it was US$ depreciation and the rest, mostly because of China and India growth.

    Only a fake one do the things Najib does and the time for faking is over..

  3. #3 by cseng on Sunday, 29 April 2012 - 12:28 pm

    Optimist sees yesterday’s lesson learnt would improve the democracy space. Declare BN is not enemy of the nation, they just raped the nation, raped the governance, situation would get better if every ms’ian slowly realize raping is wrong and BN would reduce rates of rapes.

    Pessimist feels it would degrade M’sia into Zimbabwe, the gov is using all the means, machineries, process preventing m’sia from knowing raping is wrong, they would never change.

    BN, on the other hand, allow you to feel what you like, think what you like. They are going to rig and win the GE and ‘rape’ as much as it could, before it bankrupts.

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