Power to The People-Malaysia should be a Direct Democracy | Malaysian Sentinel : Malaysia's Politics from a Malaysian Citizen Blogger

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Power to The People-Malaysia should be a Direct Democracy

Scan the media, be it Malaysiakini, The Star, New Straits Times, Utusan Malaysia, The Sun; you would noticed the word "democracy" being mentioned over and over again.

It has been used pompously to justify most of what has happened in the aftermath of the 12th General Election. A dejected looking Pak Lah, upon hearing about the massive winnings of the opposition, used it to tell the world that "democracy" was being practice to the fullest in Malaysia.

(So if the BN won all the seats in Malaysia would that be a sign that "democracy" is not practice to the fullest?)

Both camps (opposition and government) claim their take on democracy. Both camps have their own idea what the democratic process should be like. We are a democratic country, one can argue. For 50 years we have been a democratic country but in truth, only in the 12th General Election do we get a real taste of democracy.

The brand of democracy practiced in Malaysia is a mix of Representative and Parliamentary democracy. Representative democracy involves the selection of government officials by the people being represented. Parliamentary democracy is where the government is appointed by parliamentary representatives. What's the danger in these two brands of democracy? Power tend to sway away from the people into the hands of the elected thus creating a dictatorship model.

It has been a case of over-saying the word. Say "democracy" long enough and you would get the idea that you know so much about it yet you actually do not know the real meaning of the word. Sometimes we overuse a word to the point that it becomes meaningless. It becomes cheap and it's true value is lost in the swirl of media spin and collective idiotic consensus.

Yes, sometimes we all decide to be stupid at one time. It has been like this for Malaysia for the pass 50 or so years. Yes, we have progressed from a backwater country to one that is a champion among the developing world.

But have we truly practiced democracy?

Everyone from those who walk the corridors of power to the guy making my teh-tarik has an idea of what democracy is in their own context. But in order to truly know what democracy it, we have to take a step back into history.

First and foremost, democracy is a Greek idea. Democracy is not western but rather mediterranean. One of the greatest legacy the Greeks left the world besides hot baths and the names of planets.

Secondly, there were no political parties in the original democratic practice. The people elected Senators who then made up the senate and from the senate was elected a man to lead the state. The senate moved as one body for the good of the nation. It was a simple arrangement.

Note that the people elected the senators not the PM.

Note too that there were no party affiliation. In fact the senators stood for the people. It was the earliest form of representative democracy. Further more, slaves could lead a revolt and effectively change the government, this almost happened during the time of the Romans by a slave called Spartacus. Poor fella got stopped by the Roman army but he sure created havoc along the way. Anyway, back to my take on democracy.

The Oxford Dictionary gives us a clue to the origins and meaning of the word "democracy":

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French démocratie, via late Latin from dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule.’
So democracy can basically be translated as "the people's power or rule". Folks, it is the people who rule, it is the people who has the "kratia". It is the people's will that the Senators have in mind. They were Wakil Rakyat and not Wakil Party.

Fast-track to present day Malaysia and we see a totally different picture. We have Members of Parliment who kow-tow to party rules. They have to keep the party stand rather than what the people within their constituency want. The party leader runs the show, whether or not the people agree. In short, the focus is more on the "kratia" and everyone forgot about the "demo".

We tend to remember the "demo" when it comes to demonstration, which leads to arresting of the people whom the government should be listening to.

The beauty of democracy was lost during the era of the Romans. The Romans believed in a Caesar to rule the empire. Yes, there were still Senators but absolute power belonged to Caesar. Sounds familiar?

The democracy Malaysia practice is this form of democracy. The draconian-Caesar-like kind cloaked over by a blanket of terms that suggest we practice both representative and parliamentary democracy.

But all that is about to change. The people have risen to take what rightfully belong to them and all elected members of parliament should understand this. There should not be any grumbling or murmuring from the elected or dejected ones. Instead they should humbly bow to the will of the people upon whose hands rest real power.

Each time the word "democracy" is mention, it is an endorsement of "The People's Power/Rule". So when the people demand change, then that demand should be respected regardless if you win or lose. This should be drummed into the minds of all Malaysians. The elected government needs to respect and appreciate the role the people had in empowering them for service. The people chose to hand down authority to a select few. Power to serve the state and country and not to be a means for their personal gains.

It is the people who rule and hold real power in Malaysia. So it is very democratic to call for the a leader to step down. This form of democracy is called Direct Democracy where the citizens participate in decision-making personally contrary to relying on intermediaries of representatives. Such decision making comes in the forms of referendums for instance Switzerland has on national referendums and initiatives two to four times a year.

So lets ask that out government (whether Pakatan or BN) to practice your Representative/Parliamentary Democracy but add another element - Direct Democracy. Remember, it is demokratia - The People's Rule and power".


A Democrat said...

I hope to see, in time to come, let Rakyat elect Prime Minister and Chief Minister through general elections. Then the elected PM and CM will form their respective cabinet and exco.

Currently, PM and CM was nominated by political parties which won the majority seats. There are flaws in the current system as:-

a) the one nominated have to be consented by the Yang Dipertuan Agong and respective Sultans. The ones who nominated may not be agreed by YPA and Sultans as what we seen in Perlis and Trengganu;


b) the PM and MB ultimately appointed may not be true refection of the Rakyat's choice. This is due to concentration of voters varies vastly.

True democracy will only be there if PM and CM are elected from direct voting from Rakyat.

Maclean Patrick said...

a democrat,

I would agree with you. Let the people choose whom they want so the people are directly responsible for the welfare of the nation.

The PM and MB should reflect the choice of the people because ultimately it the people who would be on the receiving end of any policy made.

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