Friday, May 1, 2009

Democracy Unsuitable for Malaysia?

Letter sent to Malaysiakini & Malaysia Today:

Dear Sir,

I refer to Mart Garbera’s letter, Call to reject Malaysiakini and Western stupidity of Apr 29. I won’t respond to it here, as I would rather draw your attention to a disturbing phenomenon in Malaysian society & politics, of which Mr. Garbera’s letter is just one manifestation: ever since the 12th General Election, when Malaysians used the ballot box to send a message to the powers that be, there has been an increasing number of blog postings & comments, letters to editors, articles & speeches, all pushing the idea that democracy, justice, human rights, equality, good governance & freedom (Democracy) are undesirable in Malaysia.

They do not all take the form of screeds & rants such as Mr. Garbera’s letter. Some are much subtler arguments by ostensibly educated Malaysians, and even come with charts, diagrams and scholarly references to back them up. Among the more common objections against Democracy in Malaysia (that I have seen in our blogosphere), are that Democracy:

I have two observations on these arguments:

  • They usually do not propose any alternative to Democracy, and I often sense a certain coyness about their system of choice. However, I have seen some prescribe an attenuated or “guided” democracy for Malaysia.

  • It’s ironic that the people who run down Democracy the most are the ones who insist on making full use of the space for free speech, and even employ the language & idiom of Democracy itself.

Let’s be very clear: everyone has the right to criticize democracy or any other idea in politics & government. Open criticism & debate will only strengthen & refine good ideas, and we all need opportunities to exchange ideas on Malaysia & our future.

Keen as I am to understand Mr. Garbera’s ideas better, I tried searching for him online. Assuming that all the Mart Garberas unearthed by Google are one and the same person, I see that he has:

  • Expressed misgivings about justice & freedom here

  • Expressed support for (what I think is) violence in aid of Palestinians here

  • Made (what I consider are) comments that support racism here and here

  • Suggested that P. Uthayakumar be deported to India here

  • Referred to democracy as an invention of Greek infidels here

Unfortunately, this still does not tell us exactly what he proposes for Malaysia. Would Mr. Garbera like to share his thoughts with us?

If the idea that Democracy is undesirable in Malaysia is allowed to go unchallenged, it may become accepted without question by Malaysians. While it may not be part of a concerted "conspiracy" by BN, I still think that we should contest it. I propose that we who are concerned about the future of Democracy in Malaysia take every opportunity we have to write, speak & blog about it; a “Promote Malaysian Democracy” campaign, if you will. Besides starting off a healthy discussion as we head towards GE-13, it will also make us rethink & clarify the role of Democracy in our own lives.

As I see it, our mission (should we choose to accept it) should be to:

  • Restate & clarify the principles & basis of Democracy & build a case for it

  • Show its relevance, feasibility & viability in a Malaysian context & its compatibility with our environment, culture & beliefs

  • Rebut the arguments against Democracy, perhaps by exposing their underlying assumptions & logic

  • Show why their alternatives to Democracy will have negative consequences for Malaysia

  • All this needs to be done in simple, understandable language, in all Malaysian languages.

  • All this needs to be done with humility & in the spirit of true enquiry, understanding & respect for the viewpoints of those who disagree with us.

Kudos to Art Harun for writing a very inspiring post (of his own accord) here. Are the rest of us up to it?


Malaysian Heart


  1. Democracy is definite not the perfect system. It is only what is ACCEPTABLE by the majority. It is not about right or wrong. It is about what is perceived as right and agreed to be accepted by majority. Thus voters;s opinion can be swayed by propaganda and often propaganda is financed by those with the biggest finacial muscle. In the recent GE, many do not support PR, they voted PR merely due to their frustration of BN.

  2. Hi nckeat88,

    To quote a much wiser man than I:

    "Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

    Sir Winston Churchill, speaking in the British Parliament in 1947.

    - To prevent tyranny of the majority, Human Rights must be established & protected, so that what is wrong does not become right, no matter how many say so.

    - to prevent propagandists & demagogues from manipulating voters, a free, independent media must be established & protected, and most of all used.

    - Yes, PR has a lot of work to do before GE-13, especially on creating & communicating a shared vision for Malaysia that all will want to share in.

    Democracy is hard work, huh?

    Thanks for dropping by,
    Malaysian Heart


How to Paste Text into Comment Boxes

Google seems to have disabled pasting text (including ctrl-v) into blogger comments boxes in Firefox. The good news is that:
1. You can still copy paste using Internet Explorer (I successfully tried it with IE7)
2. With Firefox, you can still "Drag and Drop" text into the comment form. I have successfully dragged and dropped text from MS Word, websites (HTML) and from ScribeFire (plain text and HTML). Just do the following:

a) reduce the size of the window you want to take the text from, and place it near the comment box
b) Highlight the required text with cursor
c) Click on the highlighted text and drag it over to the comment box and drop it there.

Happy commenting!