In a democracy, imperfect though it is in Malaysia, you need two legitimacies to govern: a moral legitimacy and a political one.
The moral legitimacy stems from your entire deportment whilst governing – transparency of conduct, rule of law, separation of powers, integrity of office bearers, and the like.
The political legitimacy results from your effective command of the electorate and its legislators.
The National Front of Malaysia, in power for 51 years now, has been oozing its moral legitimacy to govern for at least a decade now. The judiciary was corrupted, the police force became dysfunctional, the civil service was reduced to a rubber stamp, money politics infected political parties, and matters to do with race and religion became a minefield. The economy is sluggish, now approaching quagmire status and the government has offered no solution to the problem of widespread joblessness, rampant inflation and the decline in foreign direct investment. In sum a tragic state of affairs after 51 years of governance.
The National Front’s political legitimacy was premised on its command of a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Once before it lost that majority — in 1969 when race riots flared in the aftermath of that loss.
On March 8th this year, it lost that majority in the general election, the 12th in the nation’s history. A psychological threshold was breached and in its wake, there was mounting discovery that the emperor has no clothes.
The divestment of the moral and political legitimacy to govern has brought the National Front to the current impasse. The opposition coalition wants to end this stalemate by inviting government legislators to join in our campaign of national regeneration.
Thus democracy must be revitalised by infusing it with ethical principles (read: demand a legit government to step down) and moral uprightness (read : encourage frogs to croak and hop) derived from Asian civilisational ideals and intellectual legacies..(my revision in bold) Pg54: The Asian Renaissance
The crux of this professor’s argument revolves on the question of legitimacy, both moral and political. What the good professor does not mention is the fact that the moral legitimacy of a government is derived from its political legitimacy to govern and never vice versa. That it is possible for an entity that does not have a political legitimacy at the ballot box but yet perversely has a moral right to governance for some reason or other is axiomatically an implausible paradox . How was it possible for such a thought to cross an erudite mind as yours, Mr Professor is beyond me..but then I am a mere farmer who only knows how to till, sow and reap and nothing more..oh woe!
Secondly, moral legitimacy is not a tangible but a mere abstraction. It inhabits the invisible realm of perception to be trotted out once a while by political charlatans and choir boys alike as they meander through swamps at their leisure to snare hapless frogs of all colours and variety and to unleash them onto the mosquito kingdom and watching the demise of its mosquito population in order to fulfil some morbid desire for death and destruction. A person who invokes moral precepts must realise that they operate as a constant across time and are not confined to certain times and occasions like Hari Raya, Deepavali, Malaysia Day….u get my drift, Prof? In other words, the invoker of a moral argument must first look deep within himself to evaluate critically his motivations for invoking such a paradigm. Is it really borne by a genuine concern about moral decay in the political sphere or is it because the elixir of power contained within the gilded goblet is too irresistible in which case no amount of moralising can morally justify the usurpation of power by foul means. Hence, it follows that your argument about the moral principle of governance founders in the quick sand of that twilight zone of water and shore…. the thriving ground for certain amphibians, that is.
Finally, the good professor’s argument about moral governance hops away in angst when Mr. Ebbit Morality himself realises that he is nothing more than a perception as mentioned above. As is the case, Mrs Perceptionia is always liable to be construed as a liberal hussy by some people while others in a conservative dress may mistake her to be Miss Prim and Proper. In other words, Prof, what may be moral to you may not be so for another and vice versa as yardsticks are just that … yard sticks to flail the dog..
Next, political legitimacy as the term implies refers to the legitimisation of political power. Such legitimisation in a democratic paradigm would be through a freely and fairly conducted electoral process which in turn would produce a legitimate government based on a variety of permutations (first nose past the post, proportional representation etcetra). In the Malaysian context, nowhere is it stated (in the Constitution that is) that a government by simple majority is an illegitimate government. Hence for Prof. to aver otherwise is both preposterous and highly subversive not to mention corrosive of the notion of democracy itself.
Secondly, the notion of moral legitimacy is born from the pregnancy of political legitimacy. In other words, the electorate who vote in an election are by nature also inspired to a certain extent, by the need to do moral good. This good is symbolically associated with the accoutrements of the participating parties such as their leadership, manifestoes, actions etcetera. That being the case, the will of an electorate to elect the leaders of their choice is also ultimately decided by other factors such as material, racial, altruism, ideology and the like. Within the democratic construct, very rarely are electorates moved to choose an immoral leadership or leader (though exceptions to the rule are there eg., the Nazis of Germany being a prime case in point). So if a slight majority of Malaysians choose the BN to run the ship of state in March, it follows that either they agree with the proposition that the BN has the moral right or they had not much of a choice anyway or even, the peculiarities of the system allowed this turn of events to come about. In your historical analysis of the situation, Prof mentioned of a decay that commenced ten years ago, so there was ample time for the electorate to form a moral judgement, yet they voted as they did. What does this say? Your esteemed spittle is as good as mine……
Thirdly, to claim that the BN has lost the moral and political right to rule is, I am afraid, a tad(pole) bit erroneous. Why? The latter’s right to legitimacy is still alive and kicking although at last count it has gone down by two. If as the Almighty portends, there is a seismic shift beneath Parliament and in the tumult, 30 or so back benches are flung across the aisle into the front bench of the opposition and in a state of inebriation they remain there, then legitimacy will fly the coop and the head rooster will indeed have to surrender his harem. However, if the 30 were seduced by a Siren to abandon ship, then any such seduction would be ethically immoral and we would be confronted with a government that is politically legitimate but morally corrupt! Taking it further, if any such political legitimacy was wrested via subterfuge, then the very essence of that political legitimacy itself becomes questionable. In which case, we will be saddled with a politically and morally immoral government!
Fourthly, to deny the right of the electorate to decide upon the validity of any cross over on Passover would tantamount to coercion. In other words, the electorate would have to submit and consent to the frog princes making that mighty leap even if it flies against their principles and beliefs. Such a move would amount to legitimising treachery. Whom are future electorates to trust? Wouldn’t party hopping and seducing legislators be part and parcel of the future political landscape? Who is to say, that such antics would not be repeated in the foreseeable future and you would have heard of precedent, wouldn’t you? Set it now and condemn the country to the dustbins of democracy!!( I am not bothered anyway). I read this somewhere. Remember Prof.. your Indian Summer..cool at night, warm at day…….:rings a bell:
Much too often these days the leitmotif of leadership is to do what is politically expedient rather than morally right…………… (Page 58 : The Asian Renaissance)
Finally, you carefully state that the canker spreading within our body politic commenced 10 years ago. A good one, doc. for what happened before that was a Shangrila of blue skies everything nice and the halcyon days of our lives. Judiciary? 1988 remember? Race politics 1987..remember the Chinese schools issue? Money politics? Harks way back to the Razaleigh vs Musa days and remember the Ghaffar diary circa 1993. economy? The mother of all battles with Tun 1997/98 …..IMF and Capital Controls et al. Printing Press Act, OSA, AUKU all under your nose…..So you see Prof, as you throw stones, the glass is shattering all over and the shards are bound to cut both ways .
And now in the wilderness, your forest purgatory, as any hero in many a Hikayat is bound to sojourn through in his quest for redemption, you surround yourself with acolytes like this: http://harismibrahim.wordpress.com/2008/09/18/are-you-on-this-list/#comments
A pity isn’t it Prof, for you once wrote :
A case can be easily made, not for mere tolerance, but rather for the active nurturing of alternative views. This would necessarily include lending a receptive ear to the politically oppressed, the socially marginalised and the economically disadvantaged……… ( page 58 : The Asian Renaissance),
Just shows that in some of us, Prof, there is a penchant for our thoughts to get into their running shoes and sprinting away before our cerebrums can gather themselves……But then again, you had the good fortune of having your moment of epiphany amidst the serene and rolling hills of the Georgetown campus..Mine was somewhere atop the craggy and denuded escarpment just behind Kuala Kangsar where I reverted and began my journey through the valley of pain till I reached the fields of joy in Bagan Serai, Alhamdullillah
Buffalo : Oh no.. the wakil is on the warpath.. am I and farmer revert on the list too? Shiver me timbers..what am I gonna do and me thought blogosphere was free. Master, what should I do now……..
Revert: Patience my dear buffalo. The Oracle of the Hills and Caves has spoken when it means the opposite.. a certain cave is being emptied of a Sheila and being furnished for a dandy! If we are on the wakil’s hitlist..so be it.. its Allah’s Will.. kita tawakkal aje and you buffalo should be prepared to be sembelihed for the wakil’s V-day feast..ah! a worthy martyr you are!
Buffalo: real martyrdom…aw shucks (blushing).. this is better than my cyber martyrdom in a certain blog, 3 moons ago!!