Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bringing democracy all the way down

JULY 25 ― First, I have to admit that this article is not unbiased. No, it’s not because I lack any objectivity per se, but it is because we have had the same government for so long that there is pretty much no one else to blame.

If we were to look at the current state of affairs in both federal and local government, and even the sad state of classrooms, we can undoubtedly detect that democracy seems to be on its way out. Let’s start with some history.

Does everyone know that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad assumed the presidency of Umno without an election? If history were to be read properly, Tun Hussein Onn basically lifted his arm and stated, “Here’s your new president” to thundering applause. And as Senator Amidala quips in Star Wars: “So this is how democracy dies. With thunderous applause.”

If we go further down memory lane, we can see how the local council elections in Malaysia ended due to the fact that the government wanted to stem leftist influences. In this sense, it was typical Orwellian “Animal Farm” tactics. I would have said “Nineteen Eighty-Four” but then there wasn’t really a Big Brother complex. Yet.

And now, a surprise move by the Ministry of Education headed by no less than the deputy prime minister to disallow the democratic election of class monitors. It would seem that this time democracy died silently in the press while the Fifth Estate blared the message loud and clear.

While I will admit that the voting of a class monitor is very often a popularity contest, it is not the fault of the students. Instead, this would be the fault of the teachers for not bothering to even explain what a class monitor does and the fact that it shouldn’t be about popularity but more the ability to serve as well as be responsible for the class. Why this was not included as part of the curriculum, God only knows. Perhaps even the teachers are disillusioned by such a menial task.

Elections, be it part of the multiple levels of government or even that of schools and universities, should be done in order to instil a sense of civic duty in every student, citizen and child. It encourages patriotism and a sense of value in their actions, and in some cases a sense of pride about what they believe in.

It wasn’t too long back that my friend, Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar, sat me down and told me the lengths that Western governments take in order to ensure democracy for the masses. This actually includes (which I had to Google to believe) the voting for new individuals to be accepted in a district. Their profiles are posted up in a local council hall and people are asked to vote whether to let them in or otherwise.

Considering my residence in Shah Alam and the scandalous cow head protest, I’m pretty sure many residents here would have loved to have had the power to deny those racists access to the area in the first place. But we were not granted such power.

As my father continually educates me, Malaysia and her people have yet to graduate to becoming people who make decisions objectively. We are still an emotional population influenced by Bush league politicking of “you’re either with us or against us”, which is true if you read the comment section of Dina Zaman’s thoughts on Bersih or even my own when it comes to people being “Racist in Translation.”

The question of council level democracy is not a question of how or why and why not. It is a more a fervent question of when. And with society, mainly the 60 per cent majority, still not being able to even deal with political, religious and even racial topics through intellectual discourse without getting all hot and bothered, it may still be a long ways to go before we can fully claim to be a fully democratic people.

But rest assured, as the Malaysian people are bombarded with internationally written news, television programmes and social media entries, we will mature. And we will reach a point where politics and sensitive issues will no longer be discussed in whispered voices among our culturally diverse citizens at the mamak, kopitiam and even Starbucks can and will be brought up to higher levels and even the authorities.

Then, and only then, can that dream of being a united Malaysia, or 1 Malaysia or just being the Malaysia of the good old days, be fully accomplished.

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