Hornbill Unleashed

July 18, 2011

Revisiting The Republic

egypt revolution mubarak steps down crowd in square 1

Sim Kwang Yang

The Republic is one of the dialogues created by Socrates, as recorded by Plato, his student.

The central issue of contention in The Republic is when Socrates and his interlocutors try to answer the question: What is justice?

Since that time, for two and a half millennia, The Republic has been a standard text for all political discussions, in all corners of the world.

In trying to answer the question, Socrates’ student, Polemarchus, proposed that justice is to the advantage of the stronger.

Throughout history philosophers and teachers of mankind have given that definition of justice, to generations of people who have enquired after the subject.

In modern parlance, it means that ‘might is right’, and the definition of justice is determined by the people with stronger muscles.

In the history of thought, the central focus of political science has been a steady refutation of this philosophy that ‘might is right’.

Diverse arguments have emerged to prove that human civilisation is an improvement on the law of the jungle and that the conquests of any powerful king are but fleeting victories for the high and mighty.

What we are witnessing today, in the toppling of powerful dictators in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Malaysia, etc, is but part of an evolutionary changing of the rulers over time.

But Polemarchus will never run short of supporters. The latest examples of believers and proponents of the doctrine that ‘might is right’ are the policemen who dispersed the Bersih rally with unthinkable violence.

‘A fate worse than death’

They did this in the mistaken belief that fear is the only thing that the Bersih 2.0 protesters have respect for.

NONEIn actual fact, the Bersih protesters did not fear the policemen. They knew they were fighting for the democratic rights of Malaysians, in demanding a more credible electoral system.

The consequence of not protesting is to surrender all rights of the citizens to authoritarian rule, and that is a fate worse than death.

Political reform in Malaysia must begin with an overhaul of the system of laws by which we elect our own government.

Unlike in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, Malaysians can demonstrate peacefully, without the fear for widespread loss of lives.

This is one advantage that we Malaysians have, and we must push it to the limit, in order to introduce institutional change in the ways in which we choose our government.

Politicians in power tend to regard such attempts to revert power to the people with great contempt. That is only to be expected.

NONEIn a repressive society like Malaysia’s, those people with power in their hands will never want to surrender that power, so that they can continue to enjoy the privilege of wealth and influence.

In trying to reform our country, we have to pry that power, that control, from the fingers of the elite group of politicians. No sacrifice is too great to achieve meaningful reform of the power relations in our country.

Over the last sixty years, I have watched how the power of the rakyat has been whittled away by the political elite of all races. Finally, the opportunity for redemption of the Malaysian political system is in the process of becoming a reality.

All we must do is to return power to the rakyat, especially by restoring the reins of government to the ordinary citizens.

We now know all the rhetoric and all the arguments from both sides of the political fence. The historic moment for national redemption is within our grasp. All we need is a change of government at federal and state levels.


Can any government be trusted?

But change of government per se is not a panacea for all our political ills. All forms of government cannot be trusted completely and uncritically, as we have been shown throughout history.

We citizens have to strengthen checks and balances, to prevent abuse of power, so that if a new government cannot live up to expectations, we can reserve the right to change the government again.

As a matter of principle, a change of government is certainly good for the growth of democracy. But the BN, in power for many years- for all those long decades – must go first.

I am sure Socrates would have approved of our aspirations to change our government at regular intervals – and to find out for ourselves, a definition of justice.




    There is nothing unusual about UMNO’s jealous grip on power. It has been in power for so long it is unable to look at the big picture that we are supposed to have a “democracy” not a “dictatorship”.

    But absolutely no dictatorship can last forever. Hitler’s dictatorship did not last a fraction of the projected 1000 year Third Reich. Nor did Suharto’s fascist regime last despite USA support. The Roman and British empires came and went.

    Unfortunately most of these dictatorship were installed through mass bloodshed. The German Nazis killed millions of people as a justification of their “divine mission” to purify the human race. Suharto assisted by the USA massacred a million people with the rivers turning red with blood. (The western alliance and UN were very quiet as Suharto was a friendly general).

    UMNO under Najib’s father Razak established its dictatorship also through major bloodshed by using the May 13 Massacre of over 6,000 innocent victims to rule by emergency power. UMNO had deliberately created the emergency. Again the western alliance and UN were very quiet over the official sanctioned killings as UMNO was a friendly government. Everything was covered up. [Only in the case of Hitler that the western alliance when under real threat of a Nazi takeover fought back and crushed the Nazis].

    It is strange that the victims’ families have not organised to seek an inquiry into the whole matter and seek compensation from the UMNO government or establish some sort of committee to investigate as in the case victims of war crimes.

    Najib has displayed similar tendencies like his father. But this time round Bersih 2 have thoroughly exposed the apartheid lies his party and PERKASA have been propagating. The rejection of the racial divide and rule is seen in the balance of forces on 9th July. 60% of the 100,000 marchers were Malays as against a few hundred UMNO “Patriots” and even fewer PERKASA members. UMNO and PERKASA have been discredited to this extent.

    The scent of the freedom was felt in the air on Bersih Day. This is in part thanks to UMNO who stirred it up more successfully than anyone could.

    People of all races (many for their first time) stood up and went for the march. They were released from their fears of “might is right” and hopefully from their racial prejudices. They will hopefully see each other in a new light and not see others as competitors for the national wealth and land. They all own it equally. This is the democracy we should look forward to but yet to be achieved.

    This feeling will only be positive for the future of the Malayan nation and one day for the Sabah and Sarawak colonies when they become free and independent.

    The question of whether there should be a Monarchy or Republic was fought over in Malaya from 1948 to 1960s. This was not seen as this issue or put as such at the time.

    In fact the British and UMNO never bothered to debate this issue. They simply emotionalised the whole matter into the false issue of “democracy” versus “communism”. Now what is democracy and communism is a vexed subject. Each display certain similarities. In fact if communism were to be practised not in the style of Eastern Europe or Russia, communism could be a more “democratic” system as it would then be a system of the people for the people and by the people. This is the ideal.

    But then having digressed there will be many out there who will disagree. It would be an interesting debate if we can conduct it intelligently without getting emotional!

    Back to in Sarawak. Those who joined the march and experience a real mass demonstration were ecstatic. They never breathed the air of democracy as they had experienced in KL. They smelt what the air of freedom is like- to be able to express one’s views without fear. Now want their own march in Kuching.

    The usual responses from the Man with White Hair is a barrage of abuse as to who is the real power.

    Question: Taib cheated to get into power. Is this a real mandate?

    Do the masses who wish to express themselves with a march have no say in their governance and welfare?

    In order words do people have a say in a “democracy” on how their so-called elected representatives would run the country?

    Most of us would say “yes” to the last question and “No” to the first.

    Comment by Sarawak Patriots — July 18, 2011 @ 1:51 PM | Reply

  2. The definition of Justice rightly deserves discussion and analysis, but let me share a definiition of justice from a mechanic who was called as a witness to a recent trial.

    ” Q. You said that you are here to testify and to do justice, what is justice to you? ”
    A. It is simple, wrong is wrong and right is right”

    No doubt the lawyer examining him had a convoluted sense of the word Justice and was hoping to catch the man out, but Justice as defined by that mechanic clearly shows what the common man thinks. That if it is wrong it must be wrong, and if it is right it is right. It becomes therefore a question of morality (very deep waters there!). Iin the context of Bersih 2.0 , it was wrong to use force when the Citizens just wanted to express support for clean elections. It was wrong to use harsh lannguage, fire tear gas, employ water cannons when the Citizens were peaceful in every sense of the word.

    ” Government should be afraid of the people and NOt the people to be afraid of the government ” V for Vendetta.

    Comment by homeboy — July 18, 2011 @ 12:15 PM | Reply

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