‘Too much democracy’ hampers progress, says Dr M
KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — Democracy only works when the people understand its limitations, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said.
He said democracy would not bring the goodness that it promised when people thought only of the freedoms of democracy and knew nothing of the implied responsibilities.
“Instead, it will result only in instability, and instability will not permit development to take place and the people to enjoy the benefits of freedom and the rights that democracy promises,” he said.
Dr Mahathir, who was Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years before stepping down in 2003, said this in his keynote lecture at the University of Santo Tomas’ (UST) special convocation in the Philippine capital, Manila.
He was conferred with an honorary professorship by the university. The honour is bestowed on distinguished foreign individuals who have achieved exceptional distinction in their respective fields of expertise.
Previous recipients include a Nobel laureate in chemistry and a chancellor from the Vatican, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
In his speech, the text of which was made available to the media here, Dr Mahathir spoke at length about the possible setbacks of democracy as he referred to a country which had been unable to progress because of what he described as “too much democracy”.
“No sooner is a government elected when the losers would hold demonstrations and general strikes, accusing the government of malpractices.
“The government has to deal with these disruptions and neglect the work of governing and development that it is expected to carry out. The disruption could be so serious as to force the government to resign,” he said without naming the country in question.
Dr Mahathir said no doubt democracy was being practised by this particular country but he questioned whether this was really what democracy was all about, posing the question, “Is democracy the end or the means?”
Noting that Malaysia was not a liberal democracy, he said democracy was viewed principally as providing an “easy way” to change governments.
“No revolution, no civil wars, no Arab spring. Just vote and the government will be brought down or re-elected according to the wishes of the people,” Dr Mahathir said.
He drove home the point that in the Malaysian elections, candidates from opposition parties could win and they had indeed captured a number of state governments.
On leadership, Dr Mahathir said it must not be corrupt and need vision about the development of the country.
“A leader is as good as the ideas that he has. To bring prosperity to the country, he must know what policies to adopt and what strategies to employ,” he said.
Turning to the economy, Dr Mahathir, who has been courted by Yemen to be its special economic advisor, said he believed that in this troubled economic climate, Asean should co-operate more productively and make use of its market of half a billion people.
“Really the countries of Southeast Asia have great potential for growth, prosperity and empowerment. All we need is people and leaders who love their country and people more than they love themselves,” he concluded.
The Foreign Ministry said Dr Mahathir and his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, were received on arrival in Manila yesterday by the Malaysian envoy to the Philippines, Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad, and other embassy officials.
Dr Mahathir attended a gathering with the Malaysian community as well as delivered a keynote speech on “Nation Building and Economic Development” at a dinner organised by the Asia Society at a leading hotel there. — Bernama