It’s the nature of a working democracy where divergent views, including dissenting ones, are articulated and exchanged in the public domain.
At times, you get an individual or a group you least expect to express a particular viewpoint that would make others sit up and take notice or even feel astonished.
A case in point is the concern for democracy and freedom of expression expressed recently by Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan, which resonates with other Malaysians who value democracy as well. It came like a gush of fresh air.
However, such a statement is ironic because it was articulated by a man whose party is not known – at least in the past – for its democratic credentials, as demonstrated by the Umno-led Barisan Nasional when it ruled the country over the years prior to its collapse in the last general election.
Like many insecure regimes in the world that fear transparency, the previous BN government saw to it that the media, particularly the mainstream ones, always toed the government’s line so that sugar-coated truth could be delivered for public consumption.
The Najib Razak administration did not take kindly to even the mildest of criticisms. One would not forget, in particular, the incident where dancer Bilqis Hijjas dropped yellow balloons, on which words such as “justice”, “democracy” and “free media” were written, at an event attended by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife.
Bilqis was hauled up to a high court, but later acquitted under the Minor Offences Act.
Just to be sure that Mohamad is on the same page as many other Malaysians who value democracy, he and his party colleagues, as well as other concerned politicians, must make a commitment towards helping to initiate or strengthen laws that ensure civil liberties, media freedom, as well as freedom of information. Dissent is crucial as well.
He should also be devoted to the notion of separation of powers to prevent abuse of power, particularly by the executive branch of government, for such abuse could lead to an erosion of democracy.
The former menteri besar of Negri Sembilan and politicians of his ilk should also get used to the idea that a change of government – and not a supposed entitlement to uninterrupted years of rule – is part and parcel of democracy.
At the very least, being out of power may provide the much-needed opportunity for soul-searching and an appreciation of the importance of a level playing field, such as an equal allocation of development funds for all MPs irrespective of their party affiliations and no political interference in the registration of new political parties which could otherwise delay or worse, put paid to the process.
Malapportionment and gerrymandering, associated with the malpractices of yore, must be stopped to ensure free and fair elections.
Mohamad should also be in consonant with other Malaysian democrats in demanding that any government of the day be transparent and accountable to stem abuse of power and corruption.
Race and religion should not become the toxic tools of political expediency, especially in a diverse Malaysia as they are socially divisive and can corrupt democracy.
Finally, politicians such as Mohamad must wrap around their heads the important idea that politicians by definition are to serve the interests and concerns of the people they claim to represent. Politicians who prioritise their own interests are effectively betraying the people’s trust.
If these are the aspects of democracy, among others, that Mohamad and like-minded friends intend to promote and protect, it would go a long way towards the kind of political and social transformation that most concerned Malaysians have been yearning for all these years. – The Malaysian Insight