From authoritarian rule to liberalisation — Lim Sue Goan
APRIL 20 — The government has finally admitted that Operasi Lalang in 1987 was a biased arrest and history should not be repeated.
Would Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak follow his predecessor’s footsteps to pay compensation to the judges dismissed in 1988, or apologise to all former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees? His moves would reflect the government’s tolerance.
Compensation and an apology are not the main points to be discussed today. The focus here would be how should the country proceed with its democratisation progress after putting an end to authoritarian rule?
The country plunged into a white terror 25 years ago when young people dared not express their opposition. Today, however, some undergraduates had openly lowered flags printed with the prime minister’s portrait and even occupied Dataran Merdeka.
What has actually contributed to the liberalisation? It is not only a contribution of the 2008 general election, but as well the international political climate changes.
The Reformasi movement was triggered when former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sacked his then deputy Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The former suppressed with tough measures and after experiencing a defeat in the 1999 general election, the reform movement fell silent.
Some people have actually tried to use repression measures on the Bersih 2.0 rally in 2011 but found later that such a high-handed approach no longer works in deterring civil society forces from penetrating into every corner of the country.
Eventually, the government changes its course, gives up repression, amends laws and allows peaceful assembly.
Najib said recently in Parliament: “We believe the days when ‘a government knows everything’ are over.” He added that the government does not fear to compete in the arena of democracy and the government is not timid to compare ideas and politics with anyone.
Such an idea is correct as in the globalisation era, the government is no longer an authority. It must learn to listen and adjust policies from time to time to push the country forward.
The government has recently been amending some outdated laws, including the Printing Presses and Publishing Act, which has been more stringently controlled after Operasi Lalang. The alternative coalition thinks that there are still weaknesses in the amendments with harsh provisions. The most important thing is, however, the country is moving in the right path and the laws will continue to be gradually amended.
From another perspective, could the people adapt to it after greater room for freedom and expression is granted? Or would it confuse them?
The government is no longer an authority and many people have become “experts” themselves. They dared not speak in the past but are now blindly criticising and swearing.
Many people have gone wild after political loosening and lost their judgment. They do not care whether a good guy has done something bad or a bad guy has done something good. All they care about is, just oppose to whatever bad things the bad guy has done!
It might be a temporary pain in the process of transforming from authoritarian to liberalisation, just like Taiwan. During the administration of Chen Shui-bian, values are confused and distorted. However, it returned to the right track after the people gradually restored their rationality.
Amidst the strong wind of anti-incumbency, the ruling party has to do better and establish prestige to resist the torrent. Otherwise, it will sooner or later be knocked down.
Young people need to take some time to correct their thinking and judgment. It is the cost of a full-fledged democracy.
No matter how confusing the current situation, only having a clear understanding on the target of building a democratic system can help us to achieve the country’s democratisation. — mysinchew.com
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.