De Tocqueville and the French exception


August 14, 2018

Liberal thinkers

De Tocqueville and the French exception

The gloomiest of the great liberals worried that democracy might not be compatible with liberty

 Print edition | Schools brief

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HE IS the most unusual member of the liberal pantheon. Liberalism has usually been at its most vigorous among the Anglo-American middle classes. By contrast, Alexis de Tocqueville was a proud member of the French aristocracy.

Liberalism tends to be marinated in optimism to such an extent that it sometimes shades into naivety. Tocqueville believed that liberal optimism needs to be served with a side-order of pessimism. Far from being automatic, progress depends on wise government and sensible policy.

He also ranks among the greats. He wrote classic studies of two engines of the emerging liberal order: “Democracy in America” (1835-40) and “The Old Regime and the French Revolution” (1856). He also helped shape French liberalism, both as a political activist and as a thinker. He was a leading participant in the “Great Debate” of the 1820s between liberals and ultra-Royalists about the future direction of France.

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In 1849 he served briefly as foreign minister (he died a decade later). He broadened the liberal tradition by subjecting the bland pieties of the Anglo-American middle class to a certain aristocratic disdain; and he deepened it by pointing to the growing dangers of bureaucratic centralisation. Better than any other liberal, Tocqueville understood the importance of ensuring that the collective business of society is done as much as possible by the people themselves, through voluntary effort, rather than by the government.

Tocqueville’s liberalism was driven by two forces. The first was his fierce commitment to the sanctity of the individual. The purpose of politics was to protect people’s rights (particularly the right to free discussion) and to give them scope to develop their abilities to the full. The second was his unshakable belief that the future lay with “democracy”. By that he meant more than just parliamentary democracy with its principle of elections and wide suffrage. He meant a society based on equality.

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The old regime was predicated on the belief that society was divided into fixed classes. Some people are born to rule and others to serve. Rulers like Tocqueville’s family in Normandy inherited responsibilities as well as privileges. They were morally bound to look after “their people” and serve “their country”. Democratic society was based on the idea that all people were born equal. They came into the world as individuals rather than as aristocrats or peasants. Their greatest responsibility was to make the most of their abilities.

Terror and the state

Many members of Tocqueville’s class thought that democratisation was both an accident and a mistake—an accident because cleverer management of the old regime could have prevented the revolution in 1789, and a mistake because democracy destroyed everything they held most dear. Tocqueville thought that was nonsense—and pitied his fellow blue-bloods who wasted their lives in a doomed attempt to restore aristocratic privilege.

The great question at the heart of Tocqueville’s thought is the relationship between liberty and democracy. Tocqueville was certain that it was impossible to have liberty without democracy, but he worried that it was possible to have democracy without liberty. For example, democracy might transfer power from the old aristocracy to an all-powerful central state, thereby reducing individuals to helpless, isolated atoms. Or it might make a mockery of free discussion by manipulating everybody into bowing down before conventional wisdom.

Sir Larry Siedentop, an Oxford academic, points out that Tocqueville’s contribution was to identify a structural flaw in democratic societies. Liberals are so preoccupied by the “contract” between the individual on the one hand and the state on the other that they don’t make enough room for intermediate associations which acted as schools of local politics and buffers between the individual and the state. And, he was the first serious thinker to warn that liberalism could destroy itself.

Tocqueville worried that states might use the principle of equality to accumulate power and ride roughshod over local traditions and local communities. Such centralisation might have all sorts of malign consequences. It might reduce the variety of institutions by obliging them to follow a central script. It might reduce individuals to a position of defencelessness before the mighty state, either by forcing them to obey the state’s edicts or making them dependent on the state’s largesse. And it might kill off traditions of self-government. Thus one liberal principle—equal treatment—might end up destroying three rival principles: self-government, pluralism and freedom from coercion.

Tocqueville feared his own country might fall into the grip of just such an illiberal democracy, as it had in the Terror, under Maximilien Robespierre in 1793. The French revolutionaries had been so blinded by their commitment to liberty, equality and fraternity that they crushed dissenters and slaughtered aristocrats, including many members of Tocqueville’s family. His parents were spared, but his father’s hair turned white at 24 and his mother was reduced to a nervous wreck.

He was worried about more than just the bloodshed, which proved to be a passing frenzy. The power of the state also posed a more subtle threat. The monarchy had nurtured an over-mighty state, as French kings sucked power from aristocrats towards the central government. The revolution completed the job, abolishing local autonomy along with aristocratic power and reducing individual citizens to equal servitude beneath the “immense tutelary power” of the state.

By contrast, the United States represented democracy at its finest. Tocqueville’s ostensible reason for crossing the Atlantic, in 1831, was to study the American penal system, then seen as one of the most enlightened in the world. His real wish was to understand how America had combined democracy with liberty so successfully. He was impressed by the New England townships, with their robust local governments, but he was equally taken by the raw egalitarianism of the frontier.

Why did the children of the American revolution achieve what the children of the French revolution could not? The most obvious factor was the dispersal of power. The government in Washington was disciplined by checks and balances. Power was exercised at the lowest possible level—not just the states but also cities, townships and voluntary organisations that flourished in America even as they declined in France.

The second factor was what he called “manners”. Like most French liberals, Tocqueville was an Anglophile. He thought that America had inherited many of Britain’s best traditions, such as common law and a ruling class that was committed to running local institutions.

Of liberty and religion

America also had the invaluable advantage of freedom of religion. Tocqueville believed that a liberal society depended ultimately on Christian morality. Alone among the world’s religions, Christianity preached the equality of man and the infinite worth of the individual. But the ancien régime had robbed Christianity of its true spirit by turning it into an adjunct of the state. America’s decision to make religion a matter of free conscience created a vital alliance between the “spirit of religion” and the “spirit of liberty”. America was a society that “goes along by itself”, as Tocqueville put it, not just because it dispersed power but because it produced self-confident, energetic citizens, capable of organising themselves rather than looking to the government to solve their problems.

Sleeping on a volcano

He was not blind to the faults of American democracy. He puzzled over the fact that the world’s most liberal society practised slavery, though, like most liberals, he comforted himself with the thought that it was sure to wither. He worried about the cult of the common man. Americans were so appalled by the idea that one person’s opinion might be better than another’s that they embraced dolts and persecuted gifted heretics. He worried that individualism might shade into egotism. Shorn of bonds with wider society, Americans risked being confined within the solitude of their own hearts. The combination of egalitarianism and individualism might do for Americans what centralisation had done for France—dissolve their defences against governmental power and reduce them to sheep, content to be fed and watered by benevolent bureaucrats.

Tocqueville exercised a powerful influence on those who shared his fears. In his “Autobiography” John Stuart Mill thanked Tocqueville for sharpening his insight that government by the majority might hinder idiosyncratic intellectuals from influencing the debate. In 1867 Robert Lowe, a leading Liberal politician, argued for mass education on the Tocquevillian grounds that “we must educate our masters”. Other Liberal politicians argued against extending the franchise on the grounds that liberty could not survive a surfeit of democracy. In the 1950s and 1960s American intellectuals seized on Tocqueville’s insight that mass society might weaken liberty by narrowing society’s choices.

More recently intellectuals have worried about the rapid growth of the federal government, inaugurated by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programme. Transferring power from local to the federal government; empowering unaccountable bureaucrats to pursue abstract goods such as “equality of representation” (even if it means riding roughshod over local institutions); and undermining the vitality of civil society tends, they fear, to destroy the building blocks of Tocqueville’s America. A recent conference, organised by the Tocqueville Society and held in the family’s Normandy manor house, dwelt on the various ways in which democracy is under assault from within, by speech codes, and from without, by the rise of authoritarian populism, under the general heading of “demo-pessimism”.

It is worth adding that the threat to liberty today does not stem just from big government. It also comes from big companies, particularly tech firms that trade in information, and from the nexus between the two. Gargantuan tech companies enjoy market shares unknown since the Gilded Age. They are intertwined with the government through lobbying and the revolving door that has government officials working for them when they leave office. By providing so much information “free” they are throttling media outfits that invest in gathering the news that informs citizens. By using algorithms based on previous preferences they provide people with information that suits their prejudices—right-wing rage for the right and left-wing rage for the left.

Today’s great rising power is the very opposite of the United States, the great rising power of Tocqueville’s time. China is an example not of democracy allied to liberty but of centralisation allied to authoritarianism. Its state and its pliant tech firms can control the flow of information to an extent never dreamed of. Increasingly, China embodies everything that Tocqueville warned against: power centralised in the hands of the state; citizens reduced to atoms; a collective willingness to sacrifice liberty for a comfortable life.

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Before the revolution in France in 1848, Tocqueville warned that the continent was “sleeping on a volcano…A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon.” Today democracy in America has taken a dangerous turn. Populists are advancing in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Authoritarians are consolidating power. The most pessimistic of great liberal thinkers may not have been pessimistic enough.

Read more on classical liberal values and thinkers at  Economist.com/openfuture

This article appeared in the Schools brief section of the print edition under the headline “The French exception”

Tribute to ‘legal lion’ Sir Eusoffe Abdoolcader


August 12, 2018

Tribute to ‘legal lion’ Sir Eusoffe Abdoolcader

British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell describes the late judge Eusoffe Abdoolcader as an individual the country should be incredibly proud of.

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KUALA LUMPUR: British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell has hailed the late Eusoffe Abdoolcader, one of the senior judges suspended during the 1988 judicial crisis, as a man of integrity and said he was held in high regard not only in Malaysia but also internationally.

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British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell at Kinokuniya, Kuala Lumpur

She said Eusoffe, who died in 1996, was a witty and wise man. “Integrity, wisdom, humour, passion, romance are the words I came up with (to describe Eusoffe),” Treadell said at an event to pay tribute to the late judge at Kinokuniya Book Store’s Merdeka month celebration.

Eusoffe was lauded as “The Legal Lion of the Commonwealth”, first coined by The Times of London. The “The Legal Lion of the Commonwealth: Judgments” book is the first in a series to revive the history of a man who has been called “Malaysia’s greatest judge”.

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Malaysians, Treadell said, should be “so incredibly proud” of Eusoffe as his judgments were also respected by the international legal community.”

As a jurist, Eusoffe – who graduated with First Class Honours from University of London – was “second to none” and his laser-like intellect and photographic memory would often put someone on the spot.

Treadell also pointed out that Eusoffe was the first Malayan to be given the Keys to the City of London in 1950. “I can assure you not everyone is given the Keys to the City of London. He must have stood out.”

Treadell went on to talk about how Eusoffe was a courageous man who was prepared to stand up to the government of the day or to senior figures in the government.

“If he felt the government had strayed beyond their constitutional place, he was not afraid of doing so and pointing out that actually, they were breaching the constitution and the law.”

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This Judicial Crisis was created by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his capacity as Prime Minister No. 4 in 1988. Sir Eusoffe was one of the 5 Judges. After that, the Judiciary became an appendage of the Executive Branch

Eusoffe was among the five Supreme Court judges who were suspended after granting the then Lord President Salleh Abbas an interim order against a tribunal for misconduct.

This after Salleh opposed a bill – that sparked the judicial crisis in 1988 – which sought to divest the courts of the “judicial power of the Federation”, giving them only such powers as Parliament granted them.

 

Salleh went on to express his disappointment with the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a letter that was addressed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and other state Rulers. Salleh was suspended two months later before being removed as Lord President in August of that year.

Inspired by Eusoffe’s life and legacy, his judgments will be used as a teaching tool for young people in a series of human rights writing workshops called “VastWords”, part sponsored by Think City, a subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional.

Between Nov–Dec 2018, the VastWords programme will train 400 students in Kuala Lumpur.The best essays from the initiative will be published in a book, promoting diverse opinions and giving voice to young people’s perspectives on human rights issues in Malaysia.

 

Fact-checked journalism must endure


August 12, 2018

Fact-checked journalism must endure

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“There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn’t mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.”–CNN’s Christiane Amanpour

 

COMMENT | If the media are to be socially constructive, they must rely on the journalist’s intelligent understanding and reporting of issues. This can only come about if journalists are themselves intelligently informed.

That’s the basic premise of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) seminar on media training in Kuala Lumpur in June 1973.

Journalism has changed radically since then – from the makeup and digital literacy of the readers to the multitasking required of journalists to write for a newspaper and produce an online package for the same story on the same day.

Journalists are no longer the main purveyor of news. Readers are now able to circulate their version of the same story on social media sites, which add another level of complexity to today’s journalism – the tussle between “journalistic truth” and “fluid truth”, “real news” and “fake news”. Do we even care about the truth these days?

The line separating “truth” and “falsehoods” is constantly shifting, depending on who you ask. And, the difference between real and fake news is unclear – so vague that “fake news” has become a catch-all term to mean anything that we don’t like, particularly information that strikes at our core values.

US President Donald Trump (photo) has appropriated the term to demonise the media that are hypercritical of his presidency. Trump has wilfully engaged in deceptive political tweets to mislead and disinform, as do many conspiracy theorists.

POTUS 45 is the Slayer of American Journalism–Putting Josef Goebbels to shame

Rookie and poorly trained journalists are not immune to the fake news phenomenon either. J–ournalists do misinform when they report inaccuracies because they did not do their research or quote a source out of context.

But when sources knowingly circulate false information and dress it up to look like real news to mislead and manipulate, that’s disinforming.

That’s pandering to the inherent biases we hold of particular issues and people. Herein lies the “fake news” menace – to deceive for political ends.

The spread of disinformation has caused the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) to jointly declare on May 10 a framework to stem the flow of “fake news”.

The Poynter Institute has also initiated an International Fact-Checking Network to counter the “fake news” phenomenon .(https://ifcncodeofprinciples.poynter.org/ )

April 2 was even named as a global fact-checking day. Computer programs are being designed to help readers sieve falsehoods from the “truth”.

Restoring public trust

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Ultimately, fact-checked and research-based journalism must endure, especially in the Malaysian media context. Pakatan Harapan’s ousting of decades of BN rule has given our journalists a shot at doing their job better.

The nascent freedom to speak truth to power, the freedom to critically report and boldly investigate should ideally lead to a positive change in Malaysian journalism. Greater freedom, however, does not necessarily lead to quality journalism.

 

Higher standards can only be achieved if the editorial leadership and newsroom environment are firmly committed to fair, accurate, contextual and investigative reporting. Journalists must be led by the facts. Only then can the mainstream media reclaim what they have lost – their public trust and credibility – during decades of acting as BN’s lapdogs.

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Malaysiakini–Malaysia’s Foremost Web-Paper–refuses to be intimidated by Najib Razak’s UMNO-BN Government

Decades of BN’s hold on the media and political affiliations of the top brass in the mainstream media have for too long stifled the advancement of Malaysian journalism. For too long, the mainstream media have aligned its op-eds and narratives with the BN agendas. They have pandered to the interests of those in power rather than address the concerns of the people.

Returning media to people

Which reminds me of what the former rural affairs editor of Indian newspaper The Hindu, P Sainath said about returning the media to the people.

I met Sainath at his home many years ago in Mumbai during one of my research trips. In a 2016 lecture he gave in New Delhi, he said: “We have a media (in India) that is driven by revenue, not by reality; by commerce, not by community; by profit, not by people; by narrow corporate greed, not by news judgement. Media, journalism, art and literature did not come out of corporate investments, they came out of communities and societies, we need to return them to the people.”

To return Malaysian journalism to the people, the first step is to appoint an internal readers’ advocate, or a “public editor” as The New York Times once named it. The advocate will act as an internal media watchdog of fair, ethical and accurate reporting.

 

He or she will receive and examine complaints of unfair reporting from readers and assess such complaints. The news organisation will then publish the assessment in either the letters or op-ed page.

The advocate will write a monthly summary to be published by the respective paper, and at the end of the financial year in the annual report to inform their shareholders. That’s a form of media audit.

The second step is to integrate stringent fact-checking into the daily news reporting and production. True, reporters are expected to check their stories, and have them checked again by their news editors.

With the fast turnover of news, however, this task should be delegated to fact-checkers. Their main job is to check the veracity of statements, claims and opinions of various sources multiple times. Self-regulation in the newsroom is certainly preferred to government legislation – and it works better in raising standards.

Malaysian journalists should also undergo continual professional training to enhance their skills in critical observations and analyses of issues to serve the public interest.

Training should focus on developing proactive reporting or solutions-oriented journalism, probing interviews, fact-checking, data analyses, and in depth research. An in-house training curricula can be designed alongside local and regional media training organisations.

If the mainstream media initiate these internal reform measures, we may see some improvements in the quality of news coverage and analyses. The media will in good time earn back the public trust, and consequently maximise its profitability.


ERIC LOO is Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Thailand’s Coups Politics


August 3, 2018

Thailand’s Coups Politics

by Pithaya Pookaman

http://www.asiasentinel.com

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There have been 18 military coups d’etat in Thailand, of which 12 were successful, since 1932 when Phraya Pahol Polpayuhasena, leader of the People’s Party, led a group of military and police officers and civilians to proclaim the establishment of democracy in Thailand.

The latest, of course, took place in 2014 with the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who presently holds a dual position as junta leader and prime minister.  Although Thailand ranks fourth in the world in the number of coups, trailing Sudan with 31, followed by Iraq and Bolivia, military coups are deeply ingrained in the Thai psyche and tolerated by some Thais, particularly the elite and urban middle class.

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What sets the Thai coups apart from the coups in other countries is their variety, sophistry and creativity. In what is considered a variation to the classic military coups, we have had “silent coups” in which street mobs were employed by opposition parties with the connivance of the military in lieu of raw military force, and ”self-inflicted coups” perpetrated by the military government in power to rid itself of democratic and dissenting elements within the government apparatus.

New Model

However, what is at work at the moment is a new model, a “permanent coup” designed to span more than 20 years, elections or no elections.  In March, the junta laid out a plan under which any future civilian government would be “legally bound” to follow its two-decade “masterplan that would outline six “strategic areas including security, competitiveness enhancement, human resource development, social equality, green growth and rebalancing and public-sector development.  Not unnaturally for this version of the junta, “national security” is the key focus.

The present junta considers the 2006 military coup which unseated the popular government of Thaksin Shinawatra to be a “wasted coup” because the then-junta leader allowed a general election to take place without instituting adequate safeguards to prevent the recurrence of a government committed to a genuine democratic process, an anathema to the military-cum-elite establishment.  With such hindsight, the present junta has devoted more time to crafting a constitution to guarantee the continuance of the junta’s power after the election, to make sure it won’t happen again.

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The new constitution contains many novel but undemocratic features such as wholly appointed senators, an unelected prime minister, and a bizarre and complicated proportional system designed to limit the power of the politicians, weaken established political parties and marginalize the power of the people. The new charter also violates the principle of checks and balances by ceding disproportionate power to the judicial branch and so-called independent organs that actually are under the control of the junta.

Democracy’s Fate Sealed

On July 6, the fate of democracy was finally sealed with the rubber-stamp approval by the junta-appointed national legislative assembly that functions as the parliament by a vote of 179 to 0. The deliberation lasted only an hour before the vote was called, an exceptionally amazing feat which should an envy of the US lawmakers in Congress.

Once it receives the expected royal endorsement, a drafting panel will prepare a master plan for six strategic areas encompassing national security, good governance, as well as economic and social matters.  When in force, all government agencies and public organizations must comply with the 20-year master plan, including budget allocation. Compliance will be monitored by the national strategy committee.

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If the government is guilty of what the military considers to be malfeasance, the prime minister and concerned cabinet members can face suspension from public office or expulsion. In addition, the junta-appointed senators will also monitor the compliance.  Although the 20-year strategy is to be reviewed every five years, any changes to the strategy will be difficult and are subjected to prior parliamentary review.

Since the junta’s 20-year vision has the force of law, it may be construed as an instrument of a “silent coup” which enables the military to force the duly elected civilian government to carry out the policy previously dictated by the junta under the threat of expulsion without resorting to deploying the tanks.  In short, it is an instrument to legally bring down a government without resorting to a classic military coup as has been the case so many times over the past eight-plus decades.

In a true democratic system, the political parties present a political platform to the people during electoral campaigns.  When an electoral victory is achieved based on sound campaign policy, the winning party will form a government to deliver on its campaign promises.

Electoral Platform Binned

However, under the junta’s 20-year strategy, the government’s electoral platform can be thrown into a garbage can and the government must dutifully carry out the junta’s 20-year plan or face legal consequences.

This plan is ingeniously conceived to project the junta’s policy well into the next five government tenures. It immortalizes the present military junta whose body will cease to exist after the election, but its spirit will still live on. Hence, the hope that the military will fade away after the election is only a pipe dream.

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Sadly for the country, the 20-year plan is but another toxic fruit of a poisoned tree planted by the coup plotters.  In an ever-changing world, it would become an outdated commodity as it would deep-freeze the country for at least two decades. The globalized world necessitates a degree of flexibility and adaptability in order to be competitive.  To change the course set by the junta by any future government or political movement would be tantamount to challenging the military dominance resulting in major political and social upheavals that could entail violence and loss of lives.

Implacable Resistance to Democracy

For the past 86 years since the inception of democracy in Thailand, the military and the elite establishment have resisted democracy. They have created a hostile environment to inhibit the development of the democratic process. To them, democracy must not be allowed to succeed.  This is reminiscent of the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution that swept across China from 1966 to 1976, unleashing destruction and misery upon the Chinese population.

While China under Chairman Mao Zedong wanted to revive the spirit of the communist revolution to root out bourgeois elements, the military-cum-elite establishment in Thailand wants to inculcate medieval Thai traditional values and rid the country of” corrupt politicians” engendered by the democratic process, which it views as a dangerous foreign import.  While the Red Guards were mobilized as the tool to cleanse the society of “imperialist” influence, the Thai semi-fascist mobs were used to destabilize democratically elected governments by seizing international airports, ransacking government offices, terrorizing the people, and shutting down the capitol city.

Ten years before the military coup to oust the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand also underwent a period of political liberalization and democratization made possible by 1997 constitution which is considered the most democratic charter to date.

Prosperity for the Peasantry

Relative prosperity and economic progress during the Thaksin administration – although it, like most Thai governments, was hardly corruption-free (but matched and exceeded considerably by the junta’s own reputation for corruption), during this period were underpinned by the phrase “edible democracy” which went to prove that democracy was not just a lofty principle but that it actually worked for the Thai people. The elitists feared that their power was being eroded by the empowerment of the mass.  Moreover, Thaksin’s effort to “drain the swamp” as part of the country’s structural reform did not sit well with the elitists.

In one swift stroke, the military coups of 2006 and 2014 reversed the democratic trend and put the country back on a semi-fascist track.  The constitution of 2017 and the junta’s 20-year strategy guarantee that the country must never again deviate from the path. With the departure of Thaksin and his sister Yingluck, the elitists and the Thai urban middle class are caught in an epidemic of “Thaksin Derangement Syndrome” as the self-exiled former prime minister still commands considerable admiration from the Thai populace and, therefore, constitutes a threat to the elite establishment.

It is therefore expected that, in a free and fair election, Thaksin’s surrogate party, the Pheu Thai Party, would win a plurality vote, if not a majority vote.  Pheu Thai win would put the junta’s 20-year strategy in jeopardy and would present a threat to the military’s stranglehold on power.  The military coup of 2014 will not be consummated until the threat of Thaksin’s political movement is permanently removed.

Pithaya Pookaman is a retired Thai ambassador living in Bangkok and a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel

The Fight for Democracy in Asia Is Alive and Well


July 3, 2018

The Fight for Democracy in Asia Is Alive and Well

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For decades, Asian values, under the guise of Confucianism, have been used by the region’s autocrats to ward off criticisms, mainly from the West, about their undemocratic ways. This argument’s most artful proponents are Singapore’s former Prime Minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, and Malaysia’s Dr. Mahathir Mohamad during his first stint as the country’s leader.

With the region in the thrall of dictatorships – from Korea’s Park Chung-hee in the north to Indonesia’s Suharto in the south – there seemed to be a seductive ring to the uniqueness of the Asian political culture.

But there is nothing quite like a few revolutions, mainly peaceful ones, to debunk the no-democracy-please-we’re-Asians theory. Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Myanmar, Mongolia, and Thailand overcame repressive governments to establish democratic systems. The extent of reform may be limited, as in the instance of Myanmar, or has backslid, as in Thailand. But the trend toward democratic change has been unmistakable.

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The New Democrats in Malaysia headed by former Asian Values proponent, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad took over Putrajaya after resoundingly defeating UMNO-BN in GE-14

The most recent example is, of course, Malaysia where after 61 years of one-party rule, Malaysians staged an electoral revolt of their own and sacked the Barisan Nasional government.

So, have Asian peoples jettisoned Asian values and adopted Western ones? Of course not. Remember that for the better part of the last two centuries, much of Asia toiled under the subjugation of Western colonialism, where the concepts of freedom and universal suffrage were as alien as the languages imposed on the natives.

The truth is that, regardless of the part of the world they inhabit, man has always sought to lord over his fellow beings. But it is just as ineluctable that the masses will, at some point, rise up to show despots the boot and claim their freedoms.

To avoid sounding simplistic, however, let me point out that the factors contributing to the demise of autocratic regimes in Asia are varied. Distressed economic conditions in the Philippines and Indonesia contributed massively to the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos and Suharto. In Taiwan and South Korea, it was the burgeoning educated middle-class that grew intolerant of the oppressive military regimes.

Even so, these revolutions were not a result of spontaneous combustion. There were years of relentless campaigning and sacrifice by individuals who saw the need for change and, more importantly, found the courage to stand up and rattle the authoritarian cage. Regional organizations like the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, a body comprising political parties (both ruling and opposition) committed to advancing democracy in Asia, have been keeping freedom’s agenda on the front burner.

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The 1998 Reformasi paved the way for Malaysia’s New Democracy of 2018

Again, take the most recent case of Malaysia. Those who cried reformasi and fought corruption and abuse of power did not just surface during the historic elections this year. It was a struggle that spanned two decades, one which saw the opposition leaders and activists harassed, humiliated, and jailed. In the end, like in the other countries, the democrats prevailed.

The mother of all ironies is that it was Mahathir, the leader of the opposition coalition that toppled incumbent Najib Razak, who wrote in 1995 that Asia’s rejection of democracy came from the “Eastern way of thinking.”

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Singapore’s current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, unwilling or unable to read history, continues this charade. In a recent interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, he denied that his administration is repressive. Politics in Singapore, he insists, is the way that it is because Singaporeans voted for it. Of course, he did not mention that he had to change the rules for the presidential elections so that only his party’s nominee qualified as a candidate. There are elections and there are free and fair elections.

The not-so-hidden message for autocrats and democrats alike is that the mood in Asia has irrevocably altered. The idea that democracy is ill-suited to the Asian mind has been exposed for the propaganda that it is.

No wonder the fight for democracy is alive and well.

Chee Soon Juan is the secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party and former chairperson of CALD.  

Top 10 Malaysian Political Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018


Malaysia’s Top 10 Political Bloggers

Top 10 Malaysian Political Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018

Malaysian Political Blogs List.

The Best Malaysian Political Blogs from thousands of Malaysian Political blogs on the web using search and social metrics. Subscribe to these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information.

These blogs are ranked based on following criteria

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Best 10 Malaysian Political Bloggers

CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Malaysian Political Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Malaysian Political blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

Malaysian Political Blogs

1. Malaysians Must Know the TRUTH

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Kota KInabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, About Blog I am Mohd. Kamal bin Abdullah, who resides in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I hold a post-graduate law degree from the United Kingdom. I blog to tell MALAYSIANS THE TRUTH.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Since June 2010
Website malaysiansmustknowthetruth.b..
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

 

2. Din Merican: the Malaysian DJ Blogger » Politics

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Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog Hi, my name is Din Merican. I am originally from Alor Setar, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia. I like to use this opportunity to remind readers and commentators that this is a serious public affairs blog. Read all the latest political happennings on my blog
Frequency about 15 posts per week.
Website dinmerican.wordpress.com/cat..
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

3. OutSyed The Box

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Professionally in descending historical order a Blogger, Advisory Panel – Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, businessman, property developer, author (three books todate), company director, newspaper columnist, NEAC economic consultant and banker. Also less erratic TV appearances and political analyst. My main interest is Malaysian peoples’ scientific, industrial, economic and social advancement. Everything else is disposable.
Frequency about 21 posts per week.
Website syedsoutsidethebox.blogspot.com
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

4. Rebuilding Malaysia

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Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog Welcome to mariammokhtar.com. Like you, I am an ordinary member of the Malaysian rakyat and I am concerned about many disturbing social, economic and political developments in Malaysia. UMNO-Baru politicians use meaningless, slogans which are created by public relations companies and paid for by the taxpayer. This site hopes to unmask them and expose them for what they really are.
Frequency about 4 posts per week.
Since Apr 2014
Website mariammokhtar.com
Facebook fans 4,852. Twitter followers 233. View Latest Posts ▸

5. Lim Kit Siang

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 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog First elected Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka in 1969, Lim Kit Siang is one of the most senior members of the august house.
Frequency about 6 posts per week.
Website blog.limkitsiang.com
Facebook fans 371,388. Twitter followers 368,671. View Latest Posts ▸

6. rocky’s bru

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Puchong, Malaysia About Blog Rocky’s Bru is Malaysian journalist Ahiruddin Bin Attan, who advises the mole.my and any blogger in need of free counsel
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since May 2006
Website rockybru.com.my
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers 17,024. View Latest Posts ▸

7. Malaysia Flip Flop

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog A Homemaker with a voice. Suffered too long and am dismay at the level of corruption and flip flop laws in Malaysia and arrogant and greedy politicians.
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since Apr 2008
Website malaysiaflipflop.blogspot.com
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

8. Malaysia Chronicle » Politics

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Malaysia Chronicle was started on June 1, 2010, by a veteran journalist. The team of one has since expanded to include other seasoned and well-known editors, writers and reporters. Malaysia Chronicle focuses on Politics, with Business news also a core feature since the pulse of a nation is often its economy.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Website malaysia-chronicle.com/?cat=2
Facebook fans 30,037. Twitter followers 25,806. View Latest Posts ▸

9. CILISOS – Current Issues Tambah Pedas! » Politics

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Here at CILISOS, we believe that the only way to consume information is with a serious dose of flavour. Our aim is to make mundane things like news, current events and politics entertaining and informative in equal measure
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since Mar 2014
Website cilisos.my/category/politics
Facebook fans 66,552. Twitter followers 1,772. View Latest Posts ▸

10. The Malaysian Insight

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Kuala Lumpur City About Blog The Malaysian Insight provides an unvarnished insight into Malaysia, its politics, economy, personalities and issues of the day, and also issues sidelined by the headlines of the day.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Website themalaysianinsight.com
Facebook fans 38,344. Twitter followers 11,448. View Latest Posts ▸