The People’s Judge reflects on the turmoil in the Middle East – a people’s revolution inspired by the power of the new media on the internet such as Facebook and Twitter – and the lessons for us in Malaysia. He ends with a personal note of his own political awakening, and a call to action for all of us who care for this country.
The uprising in Egypt, the uprising in Tunisia, the uprising in Yemen and even in Jordan there are rumblings in the kingdom. The message is clear. The people do not want their dictators.
And what is the difference between kings, dictators and oligarchs? They are all totalitarian regimes – this means a system of government consisting of only one leader or party and having complete power and control over the people.
But the people do not want that kind of government; they want democracy – this word means a form of government in which the people have a say in who should hold power; they do not want despotism. And this wish of the people could only mean that they want a government of the people, by the people and for the people which is what a true democracy actually is.
In other words, they do not want repressive rule in any shape or form. They want human rights. They do not want draconian and oppressive laws.
In short, they do not want to live under a perennial state of emergency because all emergency laws are only excuses for tyranny. They also want freedom of speech and a free press.
In other words they want a government which is accountable to the people. They want change from authoritarian – this word, which is an adjective, means demanding strict obedience of authority – rule.
And what is the antithesis of totalitarianism? It is democracy, which is what the people really want. In a democracy, the people can choose their own representatives in government. If the people’s choice did not perform up to their expectations they could be replaced by the people.
In a true democracy, there will be no such thing as intervention from an illegitimate source to hijack the people’s choice of representatives in their government.
What has happened in Egypt and in the Middle East was a people’s call for regime change. The dictators there who have clung to power should have seen the writing on the wall; it was time for them to leave. The people, especially the young people because they are educated and well informed, did not want them. They have overstayed their tenure.
They became corrupted by power; there is a well known adage which says power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Any dictatorship is tyrannical – the word means ‘using power in a cruel and oppressive way’ – as was seen in Egypt under Hosni Mubarak who had clung to power for 30 years. In recent events there, we have seen water cannons and tear gas being used on peaceful protestors by the regime. Mubarak’s Gestapo like police have tortured and killed dissenters: I saw a peaceful protestor exclaim on TV “They have shot me! What am I? The enemy?”
In this country we have been governed by the Barisan Nasional (BN) for some 53 years. This country is supposed to be a democracy. But it is not. Guided democracy is nothing more than an excuse for tyranny. We still have draconian laws. People are still being incarcerated under the ISA which is detention without trial. There is police brutality which seems to be endemic in the force. The people’s fundamental freedoms have been muzzled; they have even used the Sedition Act against the country’s citizens.
Respect cannot be forced. If you are good respect comes naturally. The people do not want their legitimately elected state government to be hijacked by the autocrats. What happened in Perak and in Selangor are the clearest examples of governmental wrongdoings. So that if these autocrats are not careful, the tyrannical happenings in this country could easily turn into a catalyst for change.
But we do not want to follow the trend as played out in the Middle East. It is necessary, therefore, that we earnestly take steps to make the change from the BN regime at the next general elections by replacing it with a democratic one.
We do not want autocrats – the word means ‘rulers or persons with absolute power who expect obedience’ – to tell us with supercilious arrogance what is good for us, for that is another excuse for tyranny.
We want our rulers to be answerable to us, the people. Despots are not needed to run this country because they will always be corrupted by power – that is the reason why the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet should not be allowed to stay in office for more than two terms. The same should apply to the Menteri Besars and the Excos.
If you have read Animal Farm – a novel by George Orwell, published in 1945 – you will know what I mean. The book is a satire in fable form. The pigs (whose leader is Napoleon) become corrupted by power and a new tyranny replaces the old. The ultimate slogan runs ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others‘.
The BN has been with us for 53 years and on each succession of the BN government a new tyranny replaces the old. I say this because nothing has changed since the BN came to power. We have the same repressive laws. But there is now a new tyranny. The new evil is the hijacking of a legitimately elected state government in Perak and this, in my estimation, is the last straw for the people of Perak to tolerate. For the rest of the country, remember this, if it can happen in Perak it could happen again elsewhere in this country.
This was mainly the reason that made me change my mind from being apolitical to decide to vote for the underdogs because what the BN had done to Perak was wickedly unfair and unjustifiable.
After reading the book Perak: A State of Crisis I realized that these people do not even know right from wrong. They even gloat in their wrongdoings. We do not want the oligarchy – this word means a country governed by a small group of people – to be more equal than us.
I don’t have to tell you who they are – even in the BN some ‘animals’ are more equal than others. Look at their opulence.
It is a good thing if every member of the Cabinet and every member of the Exco are investigated as to their financial status and assets before they can assume office. And when they leave office they are to be investigated again. They are to be accountable if they are found to be richer than what they could have earned while in office when they leave.
That is why democracy requires the representatives of the people to be accountable to the people. Look at Mr Lim Kit Siang, he has been in politics for as long as I can remember and his son is currently the Chief Minister of Penang. Another was the late Dr Lim Chong Eu. The Perakians and the Penangites know that they are not rich.
One should be in politics to serve the people, not to get rich.
Part 2 will be published tomorrow.
NH Chan, a much respected former Court of Appeal Judge, is a gavel of justice that has no hesitation in pounding on Federal Court judges with wooden desks for heads. Retired from the Judiciary to become the People’s Judge. Wrote the explosive “Judging The Judges”, now in its 2nd edition as “How To Judge The Judges”. Once famously hinted at a possible “case match” between lawyer and judge by remarking that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (see Ayer Molek Rubber Company Berhad & Ors v Insas Berhad & Anor  3 CLJ 359). We need more people like NH Chan. That’s why you should buy PASOC and his book.