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Choices that M’sians must grapple with
Published on: Saturday, August 05, 2017

By Datuk John Lo
‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” – Abraham Lincoln “Democracy Dies in Darkness” – The Washington Post’s front page new motto in 2107.

The first quote of Abraham Lincoln is the most famous ever on democracy. USA has become the most powerful country in the world, to a large extent, due to this philosophy. The Washington Post’s new tag line is in direct contrast to Lincoln’s statement. I do not know if Washington Post, one of the most respected American mainstream newspapers, has been driven to this new tagline by the inapt and bumbling Donald Trump.

This august newspaper may be driven to think that American democracy will enter into an era of darkness or perish eventually!

Democracy can be all things to all countries, even the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [North Korea], considers itself a democracy which is quite laughable. North Korea is nothing but a “family-business-dictator-dynasty”, from grandfather, to father and now the grandson. Many leaders of pseudo democratic, communist, socialist countries have abused the word for their own selfish benefits.

Irrespective of political philosophy, governance should all be about the benefits of the governed [people].

In reality, this is seldom true. Once election is over, the people are soon forgotten. In many countries, the leaders begin to plunder and steal, introduce a network of monopolies and “special privileges” for their benefits and their cronies. Democracy is supposed to be able to best deliver these benefits, not crumbs, to the people.

China has proven that good political leaders in a seemingly undemocratic socialist country can perform just as well and in many cases, better than democratic ones.

As our GE14 is approaching, Malaysian voters should examine whether democracy, as practised in our country by our political leaders in government and opposition, is benefiting us as it should be.

Hopefully, some of the points below will assist you to make up your mind.

Is the opposition effective in its roles of checks and balances and alternative government?

The W Malaysian opposition parties are only good in exposing cases of bad governance and corruption.

This is only part of checks and balances and is not sufficient. They have insufficient thoughts of what would and what can they do to right the wrongs. If they desire to be voted into power, they need to do lot’s more convincing. Criticising is the easiest part. Much more difficult are the production of solutions and implementations thereof.

In Sabah, the numerous and fragmented opposition parties have been fighting among themselves, no time to act like real opposition. They have grouped time and again, breaking up soon after each time.

There is no real common political direction, no clarity in leadership and definitive economic programmes for Sabahans to understand and appreciate their intentions. How can they assure us, if we were to vote for them, that they will not push us from the “frying pan into the fire”? As now, they are not a viable alternative government.

Is political discourse in Malaysia descending into the gutters? In a democracy, political discourse should be devoted to the economic and social welfare and future of the voters. It was like this in the past.

Now it is gutter politics, pervasive use of religion, race, language, and lately, even one’s ancestry is being abused.

If a leader is good, does it really matter he/she has Indian blood, Bugis ancestry or half Chinese?

In the 21st century, quality of leadership should be more important than race as in the case of Obama.

Obviously not so in Malaysia. Using these sorts of unsavoury slander is not the way of a gentleman.

Rational and logical political debates are being abandoned by government and opposition leaders.

When gutter politics cannot achieve their political aims, likelihood that political violence will follow.

Few ugly incidences have already occurred. Do you want your MP to talk religion and race incessantly and ignore your future?

Are you concerned whether W Malaysian leaders, government and opposition alike, can ever overcome their obsessions and greed for power and money at the expense of national interest and our interest?

Democracy=freedom of speech+freedom to pursue one’s happiness+freedom to criticise political leaders.

Democracy is not the only way to bring economic progress. China is a good example. However, the distinguishing differences in a democracy are these three freedoms. Is there freedom of the press and internet?

Are there too many rules and regulations that are blocking you from pursuit of happiness?

The acid test of freedom to criticise political leaders is simply this – Have the authorities used laws to muffle and silent legitimate criticisms by the opposition and ordinary people? Can your freedoms match those countries which are leaders in democracy?

Is the government system a solution or a problem? When a government official cannot offer solutions within his jurisdiction or tells you he does not know or give you the run around or ask you to come back without promise of giving you the solution, then the system has become a serious problem. Some areas of government have definitely improved like the UTS and hospitals. How many departments or agencies are like them? When was the last time a government official has made you welcome in his office?

What is the quality of Malaysia’s financial management? Are you concerned with the insistent falling value of Ringgit against major currencies and those of our economic competitors in the last few years?

Also, the size and ballooning of the national debt? From less than 100 billion some years back, it is now near a trillion. Leaders in government and opposition have not expressed much concern. I am very concerned as this will be a drag to our future economic growth. National debt of RM1 trillion will mean each man, woman and children will have debt burden of about RM32,000. Are you worried? Do you know how many zeros in 1 trillion?

Then there’s 1MDB, the French submarines, Felda and extension and reappointments of the two tops judges.

Though Malaysian economy is still growing, the long-term implications of these cases cannot be good.

They will haunt us especially if the delay to pay IPIC becomes a full-blown default. Malaysia’s past high credit standing will be destroyed. Some doubts have already been created by the delay.

Much more worrying is the manner in which these cases are being handled. It smacks of cover ups, less than satisfactory management and worse.

All was well when there was boundless oil money. The selected ones were given rights, privileges and cash handouts. The disadvantaged were still able to make a living. The good days are over.

Rights, privileges and cash handouts don’t make a country strong. On the contrary, they will weaken it, creating wrong expectations of never ending freebies, irreconcilable social and economic differences between those who are recipients and those deprived. Recipients of privileges and rights suck out financial resources and create a class of non-productive but demanding, pampered people, getting rich for doing nothing.

Never is enough, greed cannot be satiated, when there is no risk, no effort and accountability for all the unearned privileges. The Malaysian wealth distribution model is definitely on the wrong path and if not corrected, can bring many untold economic, social and political problems in the era no easy oil money. In fact, a few of these problems have already arrived! Nothing can beat hard work, financial prudence and greater productivity.

Are you concerned that no politicians are worried about these basic fundamentals?

The list of ills plaguing Malaysia is long. W Malaysian politicians, I think, are taking us down the wrong road, not the road of Abraham Lincoln. If Malaysians are not more vigilant in protecting democracy, then the fear expressed by Washington Posts may well come true – “Democracy dies in Darkness”.

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