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The Crisis of Democracy in Malaysia

Posted: 30 May 2013 11:08 AM PDT


The successful working of the democratic system depends obviously upon the acceptance by the minority of the decisions of the majority.
Haji Kamaruddin bin Syed Muhd 
The evolution of a democratic society in Malaysia from a feudalistic monarchic system of government can be attributed to the worldwide discontentment with monarchic or oligarchic system of rule. 
Democracy denotes that form of government in which the ruling power of a State is legally vested, not in any particular class or classes, but in the members of the community as a whole. This means, in communities which act by voting, that rule belongs to the majority, as no other method has been found for determining peaceably and legally what is to be deemed the will of a community which is not unanimous.
Democracy, as the rule of the Many, was by the Greeks opposed to Monarchy, which is the rule of One, and to Oligarchy, which is the rule of the Few, i.e. of a class privileged either by birth or by property. Thus it came to be taken as denoting in practice that form of government in which the poorer class, always the more numerous, did in fact rule; and the term Demos was often used to describe not the whole people but that particular class as distinguished from the wealthier and much smaller class.
Moderns sometimes also use it thus to describe what we call "the masses "in contradistinction to "the classes." But it is better to employ the word as meaning neither more nor less than the Rule of the Majority, the "classes and masses" of the whole people being taken together.
Lord Bryce in his work on "Modern Democracies"says that a working definition of Democracy "as a government in which the will of the majority of qualified citizens rules taking the qualified citizens to constitute the great bulk of the inhabitants, say roughly at least three fourths, so that the physical force of the citizens coincides (broadly speaking) with their voting power.
The successful working of the democratic system depends obviously upon the acceptance by the minority of the decisions of the majority.
That acceptance can no longer be relied upon when all of the following conditions are present: 
(a) the majority has ceased to be desirous of conciliating the minority and securing Its acceptance of the majority decisions by making them as tolerable as possible;
(b) the minority has a sufficiently strong objection to the majority decisions; and the minority has sufficient reason to hope that it may achieve by force what it cannot achieve by votes.
All of these conditions are widespread in the surviving democracies of the world to-day, and they are unfortunately much enhanced by a further condition, namely the lively willingness of Organized and government-supported societies in various countries to go to the aid of rebellious minorities of their own economic creed in other lands. This lends an international character to rebellion Which it has never possessed before, since the rise of the modern nation-state.
A fundamental principle of the democratic form of constitution is liberty that is what is usually asserted, implying that only under this constitution do men participate in liberty, for they assert this as the aim of every democracy.
But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, and if this is the principle of justice prevailing, the multitude must of necessity be sovereign and the decision of the majority must be final and must constitute justice, for they say that each of the citizens ought to have an equal share; so that it results that in democracies the poor are more powerful than the rich, because there are more of them and whatever is decided by the majority is sovereign.
This then is one mark of liberty which all democrats set down as a principle of the constitution. And one is for a man to live as he likes; for they say that this is the function of liberty, inasmuch as to live not as one likes is the life of a man that is a slave. This is the second principle of democracy, and from it has come the claim not to be governed, preferably not by anybody, or failing that, to govern and be governed in turns; and this is the way in which the second principle contributes to egalitarian liberty.
This is a principle of democracy because it is essential to the open intellectual life upon which a vibrant democratic political culture is built and maintained.
It's been said that the strongest power is that which can forbid its own mention. Anybody who attempts to suppress political debate should be suspected of trying to defend illegitimate power. 
This is where the people, as a whole, are the government, and where the people retain and exercise their governing authority on a perpetual basis. 
In a Popular Democracy -- rather than a Representative Democracy -- the people retain and exercise the policy-making and law-making initiative, rather than being subject to it. 
In a Popular Democracy, the government is the servant of the people, not their master. Its job is to listen, respond and deliver to that which is demanded by the people. 
These is no suggestion however, that this concept, or any political concept, should be imposed upon other peoples or cultures, or that it is in any sense a morally "superior" system.
The national mass media is crucial to the national democratic process. 
It is the national mass media which forms and validates most people's understanding of what is "real". 
It is the national mass media which holds the key to reaching the millions of voters. If you control the mass media that informs the voting choices of the people, then you can control the democratic process.  
It is essential therefore that the mass media is:
Open -- transparent -- so we may know the people behind it and their agenda. 
Accountable to the public, so we may acquire a remedy when it is inaccurate. The "freedom of the press" must be balanced with its accountability. 
Diverse in the sense that media monopolies should not be allowed to develop and dominate. 
The best way each of us can help build a diverse media is to support alternative media projects. 
Economic Democracy is the ddemocratizationof economic power. 
This requires ddecentralizingeconomic power, and economically empowering smaller units -- whether it is the individual, or the community, or the people collectively -- through democratic mechanisms.
The present method of money creation, whereby virtually all money comes into society as an interest bearing debt owed to the private banking system is contrary to the democratic imperative that the creation of money should be a public service, under public control for the public good.
The present method of money creation gives great power to those private individuals and oorganizationswho create the money.
Economic Democracy would empower the people with the means of creating and controlling their own money supply. It would ddemocratizethe creation and control of money. 
Economic Democracy for the people complements the state's Economic Sovereignty.
Much is made of "the rule of law". This means that jjudgmentsare made in accordance with a written law, rather than being made in an arbitrary manner. 
Just as important as "the rule of law", however, is equality before the law -- meaning each citizen has an equal ability to seek and receive justice.
In our society, the ability of a person to defend himself successfully may often depend upon his ability to pay for his defense. It often seems that there is one law for the rich and one law for the poor.
A democratic society would ensure each citizen is truly "equal before the law". It would ensure that everybody has free access to the law, just as we have free access to health care.
The jury system can also help to ensure equality before the law by defending the common man against an unjust legal order. 
This is because a randomly selected jury of common people act as the final arbiters of the "rule of law". 
Only a jury can make Parliament's laws meaningful by convicting transgressors. There is no requirement for it to convict, even when the "rule of law" has been broken. By refusing to convict, a jury makes a stand against bad law and can force a change in legislation.
Thus the jury system, and its expansion, is an essential element of a healthy democracy.
The impending calls for "reform" or re branding or re-engineering in UMNO/BN may be a step in the right direction. Already, there are detractors saying that the reforms are meaningless as corruption is deeply entrenched in our country. What is more serious is Malaysia's democratic deficit which undermines the citizens' basic democratic right to choose our representatives without being gerrymandered out of it
Malaysia has become a dysfunctional democracy. The Pakatan Rakyat is under siege from the Barisan Nasional that is "corrupt to the core". All the component parties are scandal plagued and corruption is blatant. Yet, nothing can be done by us legitimate citizens democratically as its institutions are compromised. The flip side is that the UMNO/BN has an excellent track record of nullifying any form of opposition through measures that lack scruple. UMNO/BN is able to do this with impunity as it controls all arms of what is a dysfunctional democracy and Malaysians know that.

Malaysia was modelled on a Westminster style Parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. It has the semblance of a democracy. But over the past 55 years, Malaysia's system of government has become dysfunctional concentrating power in the hands of a select few from mainly UMNO. The 'Doctrine of Separation of Powers'the hallmark of a mature democracy began to erode almost immediately after independence.
The basic principle of one person one vote was compromised almost immediately after independence. The first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, found the Election Commission too independent for his liking and through the two thirds majority that BN's predecessors the Alliance held, amended the Constitution that gave powers to the Election Commission to delimit constituencies and put it under Parliament in 1962 where the ruling party had a majority. UMNO and its cohorts have since used the Election Commission to stage manage elections giving UMNO supporters such as rural Malays disproportionate weight in the electorate compared to urban voters where the opposition tends to be focused.
A byproduct of controlling the Election Commission is the ability to maintain two thirds majority in Parliament which by Constitution is required to amend it. However this advantage was lost in 2008 when massive discontentment and "street protests" led to an overwhelming surge at the poll booths beyond the expectations of the ruling BN govt The EC is now under the purview of the PM's Dept When it had two thirds majority BN amended the Federal Constitution in its favour at will so that it ceased to represent the letter and the spirit of Malaysia's founding fathers. The constitution has become far more repressive by concentrating power in the Executive.
The Judicial Crisis of 1988 destroyed any semblance of democracy in Malaysia when UMNO under Mahathir sacked the Lord President as a way of controlling the Judiciary the body that is meant to interpret legislation and defends the rights of citizens whom he thought had become 'too independent' The Constitutional amendments made the Judiciary subordinate to the Executive.
Civil liberties in Malaysia have been severely curtailed to protect UMNO's dominant position. The Internal Security Act (ISA) and now SOSMA allows the government to hold anyone suspected of threatening 'national security without charge or trial. Together with other repressive legislation such as the Emergency Ordinance (has since been repealed in 2011), the Official Secrets Act which bans public discussion of most government and parliamentary affairs as it allows the government to classify documents as secret (including government tenders for public works). The Sedition Act includes vague provisions that ccriminalizes any discussion by citizens that question the primacy afforded to Malays (Malay special rights, the Monarchy Malay language). The Societies Act limits citizens constitutional right to freely associate as it gives the government the right to refuse to register a new society (including legitimate political parties). The Peaceful Assembly Act requires citizens to apply for a permit 10 days before a public gathering (thereby making any peaceful public demonstration illegal). The Universities and University Colleges Act disallows tertiary students from participating in political activities (unless of course you're an UMNO supporter) and allows UMNO almost complete hegemony in Malaysia by controlling the discourse and punishing contrary views.

The media is fully controlled by the government. All the major newspapers, television and radio stations are controlled by UMNO/BN and its cohorts. The printing Presses and Publication Act requires any publication to obtain a license from the government which needs to be renewed on an annual basis (and puts pressure on publishers to toe the government line), enabling the government to control public opinion as news is essentially government propaganda.
UMNO also controls all use of legitimate force as it controls the Police, and the armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) and other paramilitary units and uses it arbitrarily against us citizens. Torture/death in detention is common and opposition politicians and civil society members are routinely rounded up and beaten. A new strategy employed by BN is to use the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission to undermine opposition legislators with trumped up charges. This has also led to the death of an opposition aide from torture allegedly perpetrated by MACC officers.
UMNO's most powerful tool is the ability to cut federal funding to regions or states or channel development projects away from opposition held areas. Conversely, it provides development projects as bribes to constituents to vote for BN. Opposition legislators and states have found themselves choked of constitutionally guaranteed federal funding.
The year since the heady days of March 8, 2008 when Malaysians hoped that change would come seems to be receding. UMNO's tactics as well as its blatant abuse of democratic institutions points us to a bleak future.
Mass Rallies and street protests seem to be the order of the day as we disclaim the results of the recent GE-13 elections, The EC's claims of "voters being "inked" so that they cannot re-vote seem to be the biggest scam perpetuated in the history of Democracy.
The"divide and rule" a policy of the British Raj seems to be emulated by the PM when he blamed a Chinese Tsunami for losing the two thirds majority again this time, He talked so much about 1Malaysia for the past years and now he blames the Chinese for the failure of 1Malaysia pitting one race against another so that he can still rule by dividing.
The more than 100,000 strong who gathered at the Kelana Jaya Stadium to question and protest the election results less than 48 hours after the results were announced were told to "migrate" if they are not happy with the results and this by the newly minted Home Minister
The legitimate electorate whose grouses if not heard by an independent body is leading to Anarchy in this country, the numbers of angry and disappointed legitimate Malaysian voters are answering the clarion call of the Magical Pied Piper Anwar Ibrahim to gather "one Million strong in the streets of Kuala Lumpur for Bersih 4 and this will never end unless Real Democracy is restored in Malaysia and The Original Constitution of our founders is respected and honoured.


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