Who’s in charge of Malaysian democracy?

Michelle Ng wants to devote her life to speaking on behalf of those who do not have a voice. She also writes for CEKU at http://www.ceku.org.

November 13, 2012

Nov 13 ― It has been psychologically proven that it is human instinct to attribute anything bad to one’s surrounding. For example, if I baked a cake and it failed for whatever reason, I would instinctively and firstly seek out the problem from the ingredients that I’ve used, or a bad oven, or the recipe.

It will usually take a while before I would acknowledge that the failure was due to a mistake on my part, or maybe, that I simply lack the necessary skills. Again, note that the aforesaid relates to human instinct.

One may acknowledge personal fault at a later point, but the first reaction would always usually be to seek the problem in one’s surroundings.

So, coming back to the topic ― what is Malaysian democracy?

To break the question down a little ― where does Malaysian democracy take place? The first answer to this would be that it is exercised at the ballot box. The second answer to this may be that it is exercised when there is a protest.

But is that all there is to Malaysian democracy? Surely, its exercise cannot be so occasional.

Yet, if Malaysians have been exercising their right to democracy, why and how have we been subject to a degenerating regime for the past 50-odd years? We speak of change, but our concept of change can only materialise at the ballot box. In other words, we can only change once every five years.

What about protests? Must democracy only happen when a group of people decides to take the people’s voice to the streets? And say, if no one decides to rally up the people, is our only other option for change at the ballot box? Is representative democracy our only option?

Our reaction to this degenerating regime would instinctively be the fact that our leaders are lacking in competence, and that it is their fault that we are in the position that we are in. But, tying this back in with the opening paragraph of this article ― is this really the case?

Is Malaysia degenerating because of what our leaders are doing to us? Or are we degenerating because of what we fail to do?

In a situation where the Malaysian leadership does not change, what other option do we have?

A simple analysis of our leadership structure will show that there are several avenues for the lay Malaysian to be involved in our country’s policy-making decisions. All of us have been allocated one member of the state legislative assembly and one Member of Parliament to speak on our behalf at the different levels of government.

With this in sight, participatory democracy becomes far more feasible. Opinions of local communities can simply be gathered and submitted to the leader that the community has voted in. Contrasting this to our former idea of democracy, this other option forcontinual accountability would seem more manageable and therefore feasible.

Putting the effect of the aforesaid into perspective – what this means is that the needs and wants of local communities for specific policies will be heard by the designated leaders. There will be a clear request from the voters of the constituencies to hold their leaders accountable to.

And depending on what the leader says or does in reaction to these requests, local communities can then decide on what else to do – should the leader respond favourably to the request, the community would have reason to be satisfied with his leadership; and should the leader decide to not respond to the request, the community can properly seek out the reasons for such decisions and correspondingly take further action or make the necessary assessment of his leadership.

The important point, therefore, is this: that by doing so, communities will be able to measure the performance of their leaders, and leaders will be able to measure the specific needs of their communities. In relation to communities – they will then be able to determine how and why the leader has succeeded or failed; and in relation to leaders, they will then know whether or not they have failed.

As to the latter, should the leader be put in the realisation that he has failed his community, he will likewise be put in the lingering realisation that his future as a leader may come to an end.

In short, we can only say that one has failed to fulfill our request when there has been a request made in the first place. Malaysia, there is a need to depart from our unrealistic and immature ways of putting the onus on our leaders to gauge our interests and needs when we to not take the personal responsibility of voicing them out in the first place.

Democracy is a two-way communication. It is a continual two-way communication. Malaysia,we say that this is our country. It’s time to start acting as we claim.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.