Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Strong Government, or Good Governance?


"A weak Government would not be able to deal with the quarrelling between the races, which is the natural tendency of most multiracial societies. Indeed in some multiracial countries violence and fighting are common. Witness the countries around us."
- Dr. Mahathir, CheDet.com

"You definitely wouldn't desire a harmonious state, where the government is controlled by the people who are confident of themselves.
In fact, you would prefer "strong government" that requires repressive laws to control an irrational and emotional people prone to "perceived insecurities", as a result of "fear mongering"."

- Reply to TDM's Criticism on CheDet.com


Dear Tun,
Once again you speak of a “strong Government”, which you believe in.
Accordingly, I would like to comment on it, just as I did previously (even if you don't read it).

As you can see, from the comments on MT, there aren't many who would oppose the idea of a strong Govt for the sake of stability. (The comments on CheDet.com however, would of course would shower you with accolades even if you said that the tooth fairy exists)
While everybody in his right mind would love a “strong government” that provides proper leadership with sound judgment, not many will agree with your definition of a strong government.
There is a flaw in your argument, dear sir..... as flawed as the “strong opposition” in your previous entry on this matter.

You claim that “In a single ethnic country it does not matter if the Government is weak because...” does not hold water – would you say that of the many third world/ 'Islamic' despotic regimes or countries like Italy?
Probably not.
How about India?
It is a sub-continent, with in actual fact, many races/ “nationalities”/ religions to begin with.
It embraces pluralism and practices a secular constitution. Governance is complicated, but is a challenge which politicians have risen to.
Its successive governments have been “weak” (as per your definition), but have had sterling economic performance since they opted for it, as opposed to the “strong governments” of semi-fascist, isolationist Indira Gandhi's Congress rule which was impoverished, had a government controlled economy, an enslaved media & civil service, suffered economic malaise, endemic corruption and frequent unreported conflicts.
With this “weak government” with and a liberalized economy though, private enterprise is healthy, the economy is resilient, the country is in relative peace and the living standards have dramatically improved.

From the article you wrote, it appeared to me that what you advocate is a “powerful government” with "strong arm leadership", and not exactly a “strong government”.
A "powerful government" is able to keep the peace with “strong arm tactics” like barbaric laws and subservients instruments of state, while a truly “strong government” is able to convince the electorate of their credibility despite not having a majority.
A strong government is one that would dare to transcend partisan politics in order to safeguard the rule of law - whereas, a government that that demands power to rule, would seek to rule by intimidation.
While they can be both (powerful & strong or vice versa), they are rarely so, dear Tun.
You cannot always equate the two.
Likewise a strong leadership does not necessarily translate into good governance.

If you were to look at our politics (your politics, actually), the definition of a strong govt is "strong arm Govt" as a result of the state sanctioned corruption that's required, in order to perpetuate the agenda of greed. It means unquestioning obedience - right or wrong.
The 58% majority would be considered a "landslide", in a healthy democracy with strong institutions of state that provide adequate checks & balances. This however, is not be in a state run under the ideology of "Ketuanan Melayu" using NEP as a pretext for robbing the nation's wealth, where the subversion of the rule of law is a prerequisite for being a strong Govt (as under your rule). It is for this very reason that “powerful governments" have high stakes in the economy/ “private enterprise”.

This government (you propose and we had) has been inextricably linked to, and controls all sectors of the economy and institutions. As such, it is vulnerable when the economy suffers due to external influences. The economy/people would also suffer when the government has poor leadership, when the pie shrinks or there is a prospect of change in government. This is far from what one might call a “strong government” - the evidence can be seen from the economy of the Suharto regime or even Zimbabwe, for that matter.
Such a govt can never withstand the ideological onslaught of any right thinking people - and hence would resort to strong arm tactics to bully them into submission (read RPK/Hindraf/ISA). The other option would be to warn the people not to speak of "sensitive issues" and stifle the media.

It is what we have seen successive governments under BN do to opposition controlled states, civil rights leaders, academics or political dissenters. In the Umno leadership, due to lack of ideas & principles, it is imperative that they propagate a racist siege mentality, so as to shore up 'credibility' that rides on fascistic ideas of a "strong government".

That, dear Tun, is your idea of a strong govt - a govt that has the ability to hold the state at ransom - subvert the economy, the institutions of state, the constitution, disregard human rights and destroy the rule of law. A govt that dictates to an economically enslaved citizenry under the guise of democracy. The reason for this is simple - the Umno/ BN regime is philosophically/ideologically bankrupt, and would resort to anything (from religion to subversion) to maintain its grip on power and its "right to rule".
Umno doesn't see the need to be accountable or articulate in the actions or ideas. It therefore is unable to communicate coherently enough to convince its "opponents" of its ideas of nationhood. The objective & incentive here is only one thing - the freedom to squander the wealth of the nation (legally) created by the people, and not the well-being of a nation.

What you speak of Tun isn't exactly democracy - you speak of a "benevolent dictatorship" that dictates terms to the subservient people it professes to serve.
What you don't seem to advocate is a govt that is strong on principles of justice and rule of law. Nor do you advocate strong institutions of state that provide alternatives to the politicians who rape the land.
Even pirates can set up strong governments, so as to impose their will upon others with scant regard for intellect, truth and justice. For this, all you need are unreasoning automatons who'd would shudder at the thought of questioning the decision of the “leadership”.
That I presume, might characterise what you advocate in a “strong government”.

A strong government does not stifle voices of democracy.
True strength, dear Tun, comes from intellectual prowess and excellence- not the barrel of a gun. A strong government is one that's secure in its national ideology/ agenda, and is able to tolerate dissent, debate ideas and open to change and progress. It wouldn't propagate a siege mindset nor resort to threats - open or subtle.
It would not resort to punishing voters who exercise their democratic rights, does not “steal” elections, or punish “opposition” ruled states. It doesn't resort to gerrymandering either. It would graciously relinquish power should it lose in elections and is confident that the nation as a whole wouldn't suffer.

A strong and ethical government dissociates itself from excessive involvement in business interests, lest it breeds corruption and greed. It is paramount that it has a pool of intellectuals who can guide a state through challenges of the future, as opposed to the current crop of Umno leadership. While you admit that “a powerful Government, if it is incompetent and badly led would not manage to govern a multiracial country well”, you deny the fact that it is the bigotry, religious chauvinism and racism which the Umno/ BN regime practices, is what creates the need for a “strong government” you seek. Nothing else.

Dear Tun,
Your line of reasoning is deeply flawed, dear Sir.
What we need isn't a "strong government", but "Good Governance" - and it isn't about race or religion.
It's about an electorate having options to governments.

It's about good education in humanities. It's about building trust, and not suspicion, fear of dispossession or a siege mentality among an insecure electorate.

It's about confidence building, dear Sir - not fear mongering, or stifling dissent.