Najib must offer more seats to Indianmuslims they stand better chance of winning then the Hindus against the PAS


hi mr taxidriver…

wat u had done is good job…

but my question is y we must fight for bumi status… we have our own identity.. y we canx stick wit tat identity…INDIAN MUSLIM…

i agree with wat u say.. even my father aso gone thru tat..

im the victim aso… even have a good result, i canx get a good course in public varsity…

ukm student…

remaja said…


first of all congrates.

i juz want to know wat is the duty of indianmuslim society. i think in malaysia itself have around 10 society for indian muslim.

y tey never fight for our rites?

wat tey do siting ter?

September 21, 2008 6:39 PM

Anonymous said…

Yes, we can stick to our identity but if the constitution says that people who are born as muslim and practicing malay cultures should be given rights same as malay, why not? The people from Jawa, indonesia are enjoying the rights. Why not we? Is it because the colour of our skin does not look the same as malay? In Malaysia, people think only fair skinned people can be muslims and dark skinned people are automatically thought of as hindus unless you can prove otherwise. Even after I told them I am a muslim, some of them have the tenacity to ask me whether I celebrate Deepavali. Such is the ignorance and arrogance of our malaysian muslim. Have they forgotten the teachings of Rasulullah s.a.w ??



Good to see that someone from our community (Indian Muslim) up here sharing his opinion and view about our community status, progress and etc. While I regard this suppose as social responsibility of each member in our community but in reality, people are only comfortable to express their views and frustration when they meet through social functions or during their coffee / tea breaks. Effort undertaken to call upon our community folks to share their views and opinion through this channel would certainly create more values to the subject as well to the participants. Changes must start from somewhere and let this become one of the medium to begin with. Our younger generation must break this barrier and the mentality inherited from the past generation and be the driving force moving ahead. I certainly hope that this media of communication can really be an informative and useful to everyone regardless of their social and educational background.
As I am proud to be an IM. I value and take pride of our traditions and cultures as along it’s never against the teaching of our religion – Islam.

I don’t think for us as IM hoping or fighting to be classified as Malay should be our main agenda in that context. My believe as always been if you can really excel and be outstanding in what you do, you don’t need to go looking for anyone. People will come looking for you. Again whatever we do or wherever we are at that moment. We must not forget who we are actually.
Do you think that the present division and separation between races in politic and social will still always be the way going forward???. Do you think that even by retaining those benefits enjoyed by certain quarters as opposed to the other is going to be that significant anymore???
One will start to realize the answer for these questions by looking from the happenings around u

Posted by taxidriver at

When I say Indian Muslim, I mean born in Malaysia, from the period Tun Mutahir to Tun Mahatir.Whose origin trace to the Indian Sub- Continent. We can claim as Malay, try to look like a Malay, present as Malay but end of the day we have to go back to roots, if we want our honor respect from other races in this country. Indian Muslims, though statistically the tiniest of the minorities in Malaysia, totally visible, according toZulkifli Othman the editor. Heck, try going through a day without interacting with an Indian Muslim. This is the realty, then why we are ignored ,why Samy Vellu did not offer one seat to an INDIAN MUSLIM.
The answer to this lies with society itself, their arrogant attitude refused to face reality, but past leaders work for their self interest. One leader sold passage ticket to his country men, how can he tell them that their future is here, then his ticket sale will drop, this group are the tiniest of the minorities.

We are the fourth largest group in term of population, but not one is a member of the house. whose fault is this? when we have leader who themselves don’t know who Indian Muslims. For them they think that the people living in Selangor and Malayan Mansion in MASJID INDIA are the only people only Indian Muslims in Malaysia. They are wrong because 90% of them are vistors who work illegally. They set up NGOs to get financial aid from government to promote themselves.
The GEPIMA,wanted to be known as Malays and not as Indians. but another NGO,PERMIM says ‘it must be made clear that they are not asking to be to be Malays, that be changing their race and challenging the constitution. Which constitution he is talking about, this what happens when you put a square peg in a round hole

Since the first Indian Muslim stepped on these shore and spread the religion of Islam, have manage to preserve their culture and assimilated with Malays so this has be come the Malay culture. It was Munshi Abdullah who gave us the modern bahasa Melayu.They say our children are at the a crossroad ,a unique dilemma—are asking whether they are Malay or Indian Muslim? Those who are born after 1957, by the letter of CONSTITUTION you a Malay don’t ask for Bumiputras status cos it is granted to non Muslims, there is nothing wrong to say your roots are INDIAN MUSLIM NOT INDIAN, because The word Indian is subjective. The Javanese still preserve the their roots yet they called themselves as Malay.

How dare they say we camouflage ourselves as Malays, we are born as Muslim, our culture has assimilated with the Malays from the period Tun Mutahir to Tun Mahatir we speak Malay yet they say our origin too obvious, the Malays whose roots from Java are no different from the Malays whose roots are from the
Sub-continent. In the past concept of race is not viewed as a definition of ethnic chauvinism but was viewed a cultural or civilsation entity.
The Indian Muslim-nised Malay the problem lies not in legislation but in the attitudes of the people and their NGO each organization representing their interest groups
Engrossed in protecting their own interest group. How can they fight for us, SO WE CAN NO MORE TRUST THEM.
So the Indian Muslim-nised Malays in Malaysia are slowly beginning to exert their political power after all they are not the tiniest of the minorities as made to be.
Now that the government is in the processing of Drafting the Race Relation Act, as the editor of voice from the streets I call upon all of there to give your suggestion
What you consider as derogatory words used on us, it will be submitted to government for more detail on this act refer to the article on this in this blog.


After Akhilesh Yadav rewrote history books by becoming the youngest chief minister of India’s most populated state, it’s now the turn of UP’s 16th legislative assembly to boast of another high – the all-time high number of Muslim legislators.

The Congress move to give 4.5 per cent quota to minorities on the eve of elections is clearly aimed at softening the stand of community which had deserted the party in the wake of demolition of Babri masjid leading to its rout from the state. But the party’s hopes to secure the community votes were revived after 2009 parliamentary elections when annoyed with Mulayam-Kalyan tie-up, a section of Muslims voted for it. The Congress’ move may or may not succeed in breaking the ice but the question that arises is for how long the Muslims will allow themselves to be treated as vote bank by the so called secular parties? We should not forget that the contemporary Indian politics has fallen to such a low as every party is ready to do anything-fair or foul- if it only ensures its success. In this scenario only the community or group succeeds that puts it demands unitedly and forcefully. The 4.5 per cent quota is inadequate by all standards. But who is responsible for it? Not the bickering in our ranks? This percentage can go up only if we realise the strength of unity. For now by giving 4.5 per cent quota, even if with an eye on elections, the Congress has made a beginning.

With 68 Muslim MLAs, excitement is visible among the community members, who have always played a crucial role in tipping the scales in the cow-belt politics. In 2007, it propped up the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and this time, it swung in favour of the Samajwadi Party. A miffed Mayawati publicly attributes her rout and rival’s victory to “70% Muslim votes in Samajwadi Party’s kitty”. And, 43 Muslim MLAs of Samajwadi Party only support her claims.

The Congress move to give 4.5 per cent quota to minorities on the eve of elections is clearly aimed at softening the stand of community which had deserted the party in the wake of demolition of Babri masjid leading to its rout from the state. But the party’s hopes to secure the community votes were revived after 2009 parliamentary elections when annoyed with Mulayam-Kalyan tie-up, a section of Muslims voted for it. The Congress’ move may or may not succeed in breaking the ice but the question that arises is for how long the Muslims will allow themselves to be treated as vote bank by the so called secular parties? We should not forget that the contemporary Indian politics has fallen to such a low as every party is ready to do anything-fair or foul- if it only ensures its success. In this scenario only the community or group succeeds that puts it demands unitedly and forcefully. The 4.5 per cent quota is inadequate by all standards. But who is responsible for it? Not the bickering in our ranks? This percentage can go up only if we realise the strength of unity. For now by giving 4.5 per cent quota, even if with an eye on elections, the Congress has made a beginning.

SP had fielded 78 Muslim candidates, against 58 in 2007, and 43 of them romped home. BSP gave tickets to 85 (it had fielded 61 last time). However, only 16 won. Riding high on Rahul’s mission-2012 euphoria, Congress had fielded 62 Muslim candidates (the tally last time was 49), but only four registered win. The victory graph of these parties showed the same trend in the 140 Muslim dominated constituencies across the state.

The Congress move to give 4.5 per cent quota to minorities on the eve of elections is clearly aimed at softening the stand of community which had deserted the party in the wake of demolition of Babri masjid leading to its rout from the state. But the party’s hopes to secure the community votes were revived after 2009 parliamentary elections when annoyed with Mulayam-Kalyan tie-up, a section of Muslims voted for it. The Congress’ move may or may not succeed in breaking the ice but the question that arises is for how long the Muslims will allow themselves to be treated as vote bank by the so called secular parties? We should not forget that the contemporary Indian politics has fallen to such a low as every party is ready to do anything-fair or foul- if it only ensures its success. In this scenario only the community or group succeeds that puts it demands unitedly and forcefully. The 4.5 per cent quota is inadequate by all standards. But who is responsible for it? Not the bickering in our ranks? This percentage can go up only if we realise the strength of unity. For now by giving 4.5 per cent quota, even if with an eye on elections, the Congress has made a beginning.

SP won 72, BSP emerged victorious at 27 seats, while BJP and Congress bagged 25 and 11 seats respectively. Ironically, it was Maya who paved the way for Akhilesh Yadav’s bicycle ride to 5 Kalidas Marg in July 2011, when she faxed a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded a constitutional amendment to expand quota for backwards among the Muslims.

Swinging into a damage control mode, an alarmed Congress cleared the 4.5% sub-quota almost immediately to outshine Maya, while an overjoyed BJP raised the pitch for an urgent roll back. Mulayam Singh Yadav was perhaps the last to join the quota bandwagon, but raced up to the top of the popularity chart and stole the rivals’ thunder by promising “18% reservation to Muslim brethrens, if voted back to power. This proved to be the proverbial game-changer, claimed Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahali.

“To the unemployed and desperate youth, this was something completely unexpected. It meant prosperity and secure future, and overnight SP emerged as the most favourite choice,” said Firangimahali. No one cared to pay heed to the frenzied rebuttal by Digvijay Singh and Salman Khurshid who explained that the move entailed a constitutional amendment, for which SP lacked requisite support on the floor. “The dream instantly clicked and the rest is history,” said the Muslim cleric. His compatriots list other sops like Urdu medium school in every Muslim dominated locality, or a speedy implementation of the recommendations of Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission, but agree that the clincher this time, was decidedly the extra mile walked by Mulayam’s party.

Significantly, 64 Muslim candidates turned out to be runner-ups this time, a fact which proves the might of a community, which has 19.8% presence in the state. Senior member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board Zafaryab Jilani sees the phenomenal success of SP this time as the outcome of a clear shift of Muslim-Brahmin combination in their favour.

“Both communities had been traditional votebank of the Congress in past, but seem to have shifted their allegiance to SP and thereby boosted the number of Muslim wins,” he said.

The group of 68 also includes many giant killers like Shakir Ali (SP), who trounced UP BJP state president Surya Pratap Shahi in Pathardeva seat. In Azamgarh’s Didarganj, SP’s Adil Sheikh defeated speaker of state assembly Sukhdev Rajbhar. Former minister in Mayawati’s cabinet Nand Gopal Gupta ‘Nandi’ was drubbed by SP first-timer Haji Parvez Ahmed ‘Tanki’. Four-time BJP MLA Inder Dev Singh lost the battle to Mohammad Ghazi in Barhara. Mohammed Rehan registered the first victory of a Muslim candidate from Lucknow west by defeating BJP veteran Suresh Kumar Shrivastava. Interestingly one of the two seats out of 10 in Gandhi bastion of Amethi and Rae Bareli was won by Mohammed Muslim after he wrested Tiloi from SP’s Mayankeshwar Saran Singh.

Muslim resistance in western UP adversely affected poll prospects of RLD-Congress combine. RLD had fielded nine Muslim candidates in the region, and all of them lost.

For Congress, the lesson proved to be harsher after Salman Khurshid’s wife Louise finished fifth and lost her deposit despite the minister’s public pledge to raise the sub-quota to 9% after election. Congress also lost credibility after the Batla house slip up particularly Salman’s assertion and retraction of how Sonia cried over the encounter. BSP always seemed indifferent to the community and had always been wary of Muslim support, therefore SP was the only winning option left. Meanwhile, Peace Party claimed 4 seats and failed to cut much ice with voters. Before elections, president Dr Ayub had claimed that Peace Party would be in a position to join the government.

Ulema Council, another Purvanchal-based party, floated in reaction to Batla House encounter also bit dust, as all candidates lost deposit. Ittehad-e-Millat Council came up with a surprise win when Shazil Islam, former minister in Maya cabinet and dropped during her clean-up drive, clawed back to the assembly from Bhojipura. The members of the community now expect the payback time post March 15, the day Akhilesh takes chief minister’s oath.

Quoting a letter sent to him by Mulayam on October 21 in response to an invitation to a Muslim reservation conference, Jilani said, “It promised us implementation of recommendations of the reports of Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission, if voted to power.” Maulana Abdul Qasim Nomani, rector of Darul Uloom Deoband too hailed Samajwadi Party’s victory and hoped that “it fulfils all promises made to the minorities in its manifesto.”

 Compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s politics is more institutionalised than in the neighbouring countries. We have operated under a single Constitution for more than 50 years (although it has been amended more than 60 times).

Elections have been held continuously as scheduled (although local level elections have been suspended, and then abolished in 1976). The major ethnic-based parties have been in existence since Independence in 1957. Indeed, the same coalition has ruled multi-ethnic Malaysia since 1957.

Hence much discussion of Malaysian politics has centred on elections, the ebb and flow of the ethnic-based political parties, and on the ethnic factor that undergirds these parties and politics in Malaysia generally.

Perhaps influenced by these institutional continuities, amidst political turbulence in neighbouring countries — Red shirts vs Yellow shirts and a potential coup d’etat in Bangkok, apart from the continuing violence in southern Thailand; reformasi in Jakarta and other major cities in Indonesia but ethno-religious violence in many outer islands; martial law, then People Power, then a sequence of presidents including one who was impeached and a former president currently accused of corruption — there has been a touch of Malaysia Boleh, and perhaps too much feel-good about our democratic credentials.

Competing definitions of democracy

For former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia is a democracy plain and simple because we hold regular elections. For him, all those criticisms from within and abroad are irrelevant because there is no need to imitate “western-style democracy”. On October 1, 2011 (The Star), A. Rashid Rahman, the former Election Commission chairman, also insisted that Malaysia is a democracy because our leaders are elected and our elections “free and fair”.

However, Bersih 2.0, a coalition of 62 NGOs, finds Malaysia’s practice of electoral democracy wanting. So they submitted their “Eight demands for electoral reform”. And when the Malaysian government refused to listen to them, they called for a Walk for Democracy on July 9, 2011.

The way the Malaysian government dealt with this call — by resorting to arrests of supporters, banning the wearing of yellow T-shirts, declaring Bersih 2.0 and their proposed Walk illegal, banning some 98 Malaysians from entering Kuala Lumpur on that eventful day, and then arresting Bersih leaders and other Malaysians who took part in the Walk — highlights that Malaysia’s “democracy” is flawed.

Indeed, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Malaysia time and time again have highlighted not only the shortcomings of the electoral system, but the coercive legislations — the ISA, the Societies Act, the Trade Unions Act, the Police Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the UUCA, etc — that essentially stymie any form of effective opposition. Here, their focus is on the denial of fundamental liberties — the right to assemble, to associate and to express one’s self — to ordinary citizens in between elections.

Accordingly, the State overwhelms civil society, while within the State, the Executive dominates over the other branches of government, namely the Judiciary and the Legislature. Nor is the press and mass media a check on the Executive; the latter via the major political parties own and control the mass media, hence the appellation, “the mainstream media”.

For Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), six of whose leaders were arrested and detained under the Emergency Ordinance in June 2011, their dissatisfaction goes beyond calling for electoral reform. Their overall goal is to usher in a more egalitarian society wherein the lower classes are awarded decent living wages and better working conditions by employers, while the State looks after their other basic needs like housing, education for their children and health services.

As well, they strongly oppose the neo-liberal economic policies that the BN government has adopted which has led, among others, to privatisation of public amenities and social services. For the PSM and its supporters, indeed for many in Malaysia, economic democracy at the workplace is vital too.

Looking beyond elections

Hence over-confidence in our democratic credentials is misguided; for we should subscribe to a wider notion of democracy. Although our procedural democratic institutions — especially the regular holding of elections — are in place, we might in fact lag behind some of our neighbours in terms of economic democracy and a more participatory democracy in between elections. Put another way, the be-all-and-end-all of democracy is not elections. Accordingly, Dr Mahathir’s notion of democracy is found wanting.

To understand the relationship between elections and democracy better, let us look at the book Elections and Democracy in Malaysia, edited by Mavis Puthucheary and Norani Othman, (Bangi: Penerbit Uniersiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 2005), for me, the most comprehensive volume currently available on studying elections and the electoral system in Malaysia

This volume is divided into four parts. Part I investigates the nature and scope of competitive electoral politics in the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak, and at the local government level (before local authority elections were abolished).

Part II looks beyond formal electoral politics to discuss how human rights, environmental and other civil society organisations engage with the electoral process. Other chapters then discuss the relationships between the women’s movement, the Chinese education movement, and the Islamic NGOs with electoral politics.

Part III then studies the constitutional provisions and other legal arrangements which circumscribe the electoral process in Malaysia. Specific chapters investigate the role of the Election Commission, the electoral delimitation exercises, and the extent to which the electoral rolls may be considered clean and up to date.

Part IV considers how elections are conducted elsewhere and proposes ‘an agenda for reform’ so as to enhance prospects for democratisation.

The structure and organisation of the chapters in the volume, as well as the substantive contributions themselves, stress two related points. Here, I paraphrase from Professor Mavis Puthucheary’s excellent Introduction.

First, elections should not be regarded as separate discrete events but as components of a political system that is dynamic and changing. And second, while elections have to be seen within their legal framework, those electoral laws themselves need to be seen within their broader political context. Election studies that neglect this wider socio-historical context tend to assume that, provided electoral laws are strictly followed and there is a competent and honest Elections Commission to manage the elections, democratic elections and democratic governance will follow as a consequence.

By contrast, successful elections cannot be separated from the basic principles and wider issues of good governance, accountability or transparency, and human rights (p. xix).

Significantly, the contributors to the book avoid a formalistic and legalistic approach to the analysis of the electoral system. Instead, attention is also given to the struggle between the incumbent to use the electoral institutions to their advantages, but also resistances to that from the opposition and other social groups outside the system.

Elections can domesticate and deny democracy

This is a good reminder that elections are not the be-all-and-end-all of democratic governance. Although a crucial aspect of promoting democracy, we need a wider perspective of what democracy entails. Indeed, in a comparative study of elections in Southeast Asia, the influential political scientist Benedict Anderson has highlighted how elections are Janus-faced, meaning two-sided.

When preceded by democratic ferment, there develops much expectancy and the people believe that they can influence the political situation for the better. By participating in elections and sending their representatives to parliament, they hope to influence policy-making in their favour. This is the bright side of the coin.

The shadowy side, however, is that elections can be used not only to legitimise those in power, but they can be used to domesticate, to institutionalise and make routine demands for democratic politics. Put another way, elections can be used to deny us democracy!

Moreover, elections also reduce us down to the level of individual voters, negating the collective power of the social movement. In this regard, recall how Dr Mahathir, during the height of Reformasi, associated the social movement with chaos and instability, and challenged those involved in Reformasi to form a political party and to contest against Umno-BN in the polls.

This distinction between engaging in the polls as individual voters and via political parties versus engaging in the struggle spontaneously as part of a protest movement is beautifully captured in the title to Hishamuddin Rais’ collection of essays in a volume entitled Pilihan Raya atau Pilihan Jalan Raya.

Bersih 2.0, Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring

The insights mentioned above are reminders on how elections, like parties, are located in between the State and Society. It is the Umno-BN State’s desire to institutionalise participation into “sites” and procedures that are constrained and well-defined, which the State can also control and dominate via laws and regulations. Electoral laws and procedures, the electoral contest between the different parties, and the ballot box, therefore, circumscribe the scope of our engagement and participation in politics.

At this point, it is evident that the State, rather than Civil Society, has the upper hand. Due to several Constitutional Amendments since 1957, the Election Commission has lost its autonomy and consults the prime minister before it conducts electoral delineation exercises.

Nowadays, it is Parliament that amends that part of the Constitution to increase the overall number of seats for each state which the Election Commission then re-delineates by shifting the boundaries. The numerous amendments to the five election-related laws have resulted in an electoral process that is bias and pro-incumbent, namely Umno-BN.

No doubt thanks to the Walk for Democracy and bad publicity world-wide, the Umno-BN government was forced to set up the parliamentary select committee on electoral reform, which held public hearings in different parts of the country during 2011.

As a consequence of these hearings, the Select Committee has recommended several changes for Parliament’s consideration, including use of the indelible ink, earlier postal voting for the Army and Police, and a longer campaign period. These proposed changes — a result of pressure applied by Bersih 2.0 and other civil society groups — might facilitate the restoration of the autonomy of that ‘site’ between State and Civil Society where formal elections are held.

That said, the deepening of democracy in Malaysia requires that the NGOs and other civil society organisations continue to engage in more people-oriented participatory politics, also referred to as non-formal everyday politics. This refers to the important “small p” politics that must be consolidated in between elections. It is a continuation of the ‘big-P’ Politics of Power centred around formal elections held every four to five years to determine which Political Party comes to Power at the centre. Taken together — “small p” politics and “big-P” politics — we have a more comprehensive definition of politics, and of democracy.

It is fortuitous that the “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) movement picked up steam in several cities in the US, and in other cities beyond the US during the latter half of 2011. It needs reminding that the OWS movement emerged during Barrack Obama’s presidency. Just three years after coming to power, many young Americans who had rallied to his call “Time for a Change” came to the conclusion that Wall Street continues to dominate over policy-making in Washington.

For the OWS demonstrators, the emergence of the so-called “NYC general assembly”, was a means to move beyond the elections in order to bring back democracy to the US. The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement was ‘small p’ politics complementing ‘big-P’ politics’ in order to consolidate democracy.

And of course, there is the ‘Arab Spring’ to remind us of how the electoral process in the Middle-East was a sham. So the people had to resort to street demonstrations like in Tahrir Square in Cairo to get rid of the Hosni Mubarak regime and to bring about democratic reform in Egypt.

Five dimensions of democracy

Perhaps the last words on “elections and democracy” should be given to the Koreans who have struggled long years against a military regime before instituting a system of electoral democracy in the 1980s. Under this electoral system, the former Nobel Prize laureate for Peace, Kim Dae Jung, who had been imprisoned by the military authorities was subsequently elected to office as president of South Korea.

The subsequent displacement of the democratic forces by more conservative parties previously associated with the military regime and with big business has forced Korean academics to think vigorously of what democracy and elections mean to them. One of the most succinct and common-sensical definitions I have come across is the following: for Sonn Hochul, a Professor of Political Science in Sogang University, Seoul, there exist five dimensions of democracy.

First, there is “political democracy” as usually advocated by liberals. Here, we refer to civil liberties and political rights including the franchise for all adults, the regular holding of competitive multi-party elections, and checks and balances between the three branches of government.

No doubt, free and fair elections are important. For this reason, we should ensure that the electoral rolls are clean, up-to-date and free of “phantoms”. The postal voting system should also be made available to all, not simply those serving in the uniformed units, and their spouses.

There should also be adequate time allocated for campaigning, equal access to the usual and new media, and to electoral funds too. Of course, the independence of the Elections Commission should be restored and it should not be resorting to mal-apportionment and gerrymandering in the delineation of electoral boundaries.

Rotation of power between two major coalitions would help to deepen our political democracy. The party out of power can prepare better policies while the party in power will be encouraged to move towards good governance characterised by competence, accountability and transparency; and regular consultation. A word of warning, however, as Schumpeter once indicated: for even when the best procedures are put into place to ensure ‘free and fair elections’, it is most likely that we end up with a set of elites in power.

It is useful to cite Benedict Anderson, mentioned earlier, again; he refers to these people as “professional politicians”. Perhaps the most representative of this breed of people are the American politicians. They are well-educated, well-dressed, slick talkers and even well-informed of policy matters. They are good in fund-raising to ensure their re-election, and know the ins and outs of campaigning. Often they cater to the needs of their financial backers by lobbying for particular interests. But they also know how to address the interests of the ordinary voters to ensure their re-election. However, they have little time for reform, let alone enhancing democracy. Put another way, would there be much difference if the Opposition comes to power? In America? In the UK? In Malaysia?

Second, there is “economic and social democracy”, a basic aspect of social democracy. In comparison to civil liberties, this refers to rights such as freedom from poverty, that guarantee minimum economic and social standards of living enabling a person to live in dignity.

More than that, as various social groups compete with one another in a political democracy by mobilising the power resources that they have access to, political democracy can be reduced to a non-democracy when wealth is distributed too unevenly. Economic and social democracy, therefore, should always accompany political democracy if we desire meaningful democracy. (The Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, Prof Amartya Sen has argued that political democracy, rather than undemocratic regimes, will also enhance economic and social development better)

Third, is “workers’ democracy” or “workplace democracy” that radicals struggle for. This form of democracy is often ignored in capitalist society. Hence we have a situation where all democratic principles and citizenship rights stop at the gate of a factory or firm on the grounds of private property. Consequently, the workers are denied any form of self-management. Alienation sets in.

The workers only feel liberated when they leave the workplace to go home, or when they are on holiday, if ever. From this perspective, a capitalist society which privileges private property and profit making is basically non-democratic. Realising workers democracy is particularly problematic because the top-down authoritarian social relations in the factory or firm are not even recognised to be within the ambit of democratic reform in most societies, as in America or Japan.

Fourth, there is the democracy of everyday life. The question of democracy is not confined to ‘Big P’ power relations involving those in authority in the State or in corporations. It also involves everyday forms of social relations involving ordinary people, wherein for example, women, minorities, people with physical or mental disabilities, or with different sexual preferences, are discriminated. Perhaps this dimension of democracy might be called “cultural democracy”. Our democracy will be deepened and enhanced when we begin to accord ‘others’ the same dignity and respect that we grant ourselves. Also, there is a need to persuade ordinary people to engage in politics on a regular basis.

An autonomous public sphere can facilitate a more participatory democracy and combat the prejudices that are disseminated by our schools, religious bodies, cultural organisations and mass media. Changing attitudes will take a long time, no doubt. Perhaps these initiatives towards cultural democracy can be linked up to local authorities, the lowest tier of ‘Big P’ politics?

Finally, there is a realm of international democracy. Clearly, we shall only begin to enjoy greater democracy when the global order is no longer dominated by the Western powers, particularly the USA, who with their TNCs control the global economy and international affairs generally. They establish exclusive bodies like the OECD and NATO which set the global agenda. As well, the US and its Western allies dominate the multilateral economic agencies like the WB, IMF, WTO, and even the UN.


As we approach GE-13, special attention must be given to political democracy. It is important to ensure that GE-13 is conducted “free, fair and clean” as Bersih 2.0 and the civil society organisations have advocated. For this reason, Aliran has been part of Bersih 2.0’s steering committee.

Aliran has also prepared a comprehensive submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reform (which has been reproduced in this and previous issues of Aliran Monthly). As well, we support the consolidation of a two-party system wherein a rotation of power between the Pakatan Rakyat and the Barisan Nasional occurs regularly.

But we must go beyond elections. To deepen our democracy, socio-economic justice must also prevail. There is no point in rotating power between two coalitions if the socio-economic plight of the majority is not addressed.

By this we do not mean giving out pre-election handouts of RM100 or RM500! We mean restoring the dignity of the rakyat by providing them with regular jobs with decent salaries, affordable housing and health care, access to the basic amenities, educational opportunities to the highest levels, reliable and cheap public transportation, and greener and cleaner living environments, not urban ghettoes or rural slums. There is little gained by giving the rakyat the vote if a small percentage of the population dominates the country’s wealth and financial resources.

A “cultural revolution” must also take place among the rakyat so that we are respectful of our diversity — ethno-religious, gender, regional, etc — and give special attention to the marginalised indigenous peoples, the disabled, the elderly, etc. We must learn to be inclusive, not exclusive.

The other aspect of this cultural revolution is to engage in ‘small p’ politics on a regular basis in between elections. Democracy cannot be restricted to participation in ‘Big P’ elections once every four to five years; even less overly concerned with acquiring Power by a group of “professional politicians”. Rather, it should be about conscientisation and empowerment of the rakyat.

Finally, we must also be vigilant of how the global system is structured and push for global reform too, lest the global system and the international bodies continue to be dominated by a small group of nations led by the US, the EU and Japan, and their MNCs. —

* Francis Loh is president of Aliran


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