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What is Democracy? Who cares – I want my Judiciary!

In Malaysia on September 12, 2008 at 9:14 pm

(This post is going to require a cuppa or two for a slow read, and please remember at least one person is held under ISA because we’re not quite sure what’s going on in Malaysia at the moment.)

First, pls see my post on ‘Malaysians still blinking like Magoo‘. Note near the end I mentioned how ‘democracy’ is misused.

Second, I read an article by Irene Fernandez, whom I blogged on, here: “Malaysia – 10th Sep for Irene Fernandez“. Today, she posted an article at Malaysiakini: “Is 50 years enough“, as a reply to Dr Denison Jayasooria, Executive Director of MIC’s Social Strategic Foundation, where at the end she says:

Is it morally wrong to move forward the process so that we practice genuine democracy, we fight corrupton and instill good governance, we protect the rights of the people, we ensure our resources and our land is protected not just for ourselves but for our children and we free our women, children and ourselves from the violence of the state institutions? Is this transformation immoral?

Her argument is simply that we’ve screwed up for 50 years and we need to, morality requires us to, fix the crappy state of affairs in Malaysia.

I do not disagree with her.

But here’s the problem. Is democracy about good governance? Is democracy about protecting our resources and our land? More to the point, read what she said earlier in the article:

Dr Dennison, maybe your kind of democracy is different from Anwar and PKR’s? What Anwar and all of us believe is that democracy is about fundamental liberties and rights guaranteed in our constitution and enshrined in the international instruments. Democracy is about good governance and accountability where the pillars of democracy, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary are independent.

And this, my fellow Malaysians, is what needs to be spelled out.

Dr Irene Fernandez just asked Dr Denison Jayasooria, albeit in letter form, what kind of democracy‘ Dr Denison had in mind? And she challenged him to compare his version to that of Anwar’s and PKR’s. Actually, I don’t know Anwar’s ‘kind of democracy‘ either.

All of us have a different version of democracy.

I cannot offer an immediate solution but I can offer you this: Democracy is not liberty. Democracy is a method of selecting your leaders, your representatives in Parliament. And, under our Parliamentary system, the Westminster model, it requires a very strong set of beliefs, deep-held values and practises, which does not yet exist in Malaysia.

No, it’s not that we do not have beliefs, or that we have wrong values. I believe we all hold to quite common values, respect for another and all that, but our political system, such as the concept and role of Parliament (and government) did not have 800 years to evolve. 51 years, from this perspective, is peanuts. And that’s a massive problem in Malaysia.

For the legal minded, remember Magna Carta of 1215, the charter that forced leaders to respect certain rights of the common people (and not so common Knights). Without that old scroll, Westminster Parliament would not be so respected. And you can forget about America’s Constitution as well. Throw both out of the window.

Finally, as my point in ‘Malaysians still blinking like Magoo‘, we’re not solving problems without asking real questions and listening. Dr Irene Fernandez challenged Dr Denison’s version of democracy but then went on a good few paragraphs, arguing that morality requires PKR to act. These stuff: Ethics, Law Reform, Morality, Democray, Liberty – is not your everyday dinner conversation. And it’s not going to be solved by strong letters between respected civic leaders. No one is right, no one is wrong – all the time (unless you’re Mahathir)

Hence, I say again: we can all agree to disagree, but we cannot disagree for an indpendent judiciary.

Fix what’s needed first. We’ll have time for the rest later.

PS. I cannot resist … Anwar, you can have my vote if you can PROVE you’ll fix our judiciary, not just promise, but prove.


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