17
Aug
15

Street protests are not undemocratic

A democracy thrives on people’s participation, whether it is via voting or via street protests

COMMENT

By Simitha T.Singam

We all tend to think of Malaysia as a democratic state. We smugly parrot our government in announcing that Malaysia is a multi-ethnic democratic nation with moderate Muslim views.

Yet, the fact that so many Malaysians view street protests aimed at pressuring the government into making necessary reforms, as undemocratic makes me wonder if we truly understand what democracy is. Even our Inspector General of Police, seems like he must have flunked out of Politics 101 and Democracy 101.

How is it that so many of us hold such inaccurate views of democracy? Could it be something in our water, or in our hazy air or is it simply just a strange genetic mutation that has plagued Malaysians?

Democracy, simply put, is the rule of the people. In a representative democracy, the people grant elected representatives the power to represent them and make decisions with the people’s opinions and interests in mind. It must be understood that representatives do not rule the people but merely make decisions pertaining to state-governance on behalf of the people.

This is necessary if for nothing else than functionality. Can you imagine 30 million people sitting in Parliament to govern a state? I imagine it to be something like a chaotic Chinese Whisper game; the message starting out with “we must fight corruption” and ending in, “we’re out of nasi lemak!” and we Malaysians know how much chaos the latter can cause.

But coming back to representative democracy, representatives do not rule the people. They rule the state on behalf of the people.

Given that, in a functional democratic state, the people and elected representatives enter into an agreement. In exchange for representational power, elected representatives are required to provide information to the voters and carry their opinions and interests to Parliament, where decisions regarding the state and people’s wellbeing are made.

If or when elected representatives behave in a manner that opposes or breaks the abovementioned agreement, the people are conferred the right to demand justice. This right is granted in Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution.

This is precisely where street protests come in. Bersih 4 and its participants are merely exercising their constitutional right.

On the flip side, preventing people from exercising their constitutional right to assemble peacefully in order to demand reforms or a change in leadership, is absolutely undemocratic.

In a nutshell, a democracy thrives on people’s participation, whether it is via voting or via street protests. Without a bottom-up participation, there is no democracy, only an authoritarian system, where a dictator and his flock oppressively rule the people rather than govern the state on behalf of the people.

…more
Street protests are not undemocratic
August 1, 2015 – FMT

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