Democracy Unsuitable for Malaysia?

I refer to Mart Garbera’s letter, “Call to reject Malaysiakini and Western stupidity published in Malaysiakini on 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:

– is something Malaysians are not matured enough to handle and will cause disorder
– is incompatible with love for Malaysia
– is a Zionist, western, infidel or human creation, therefore bad
– is irreligious or anti religion
– is incompatible with Malaysian Monarchy
– is incompatible with Malay interests or “Ketuanan  Melayu
– is incompatible with Malaysia’s “social contract” or “socio-political structure” 

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