Sunday, 20 October 2013

Liberty through Challenging Boundaries, Justice through Resisting

Liberty through Challenging Boundaries, 
Justice through Resisting
- Speech outline by Hew Kuan Yau -
自由是踩界踩出来的,公义是抗争抗出来的
[Editor’s note] This article is written by Dr. Hew Kuan Yau, political scientist specially for “NGOs・Parliamentary Struggle・ Democracy and Human Rights” forum in commemoration of the 12th Anniversary of Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee held on 20 October 2013 at Cathay Restaurant, Kulai. This text is translated by Sahabat Rakyat from the original Chinese version.

Post GE13 overview: BN takes the old route, PR loses its direction
1. UMNO takes an even hardline of Malay hegemonic rule
2. Other BN component parties fade into irrelevance; they fail to draw the attention of the public despite dramatic power struggle
3. PR is demoralised and lacks cohesion among 3 parties, and inspiring political discourse
4. PR’s representatives lack the courageous spirit to challenge the regime outside of legislative
5. Ubah polarized: “real-cynicism” and “fake-radicalism”
6. Credibility of mainstream media plummets while internet and social media cool down.
7. Social movement’s ability to mobilize is limited, except Himpunan Hijau
8. Pervasive socio-economic hardship
9. Rampant crimes and insecurity
10. Negative effects from the externals

1. Strengthening PR is to realize the alternatives in policy rather than the alternation of party. It prevents political opportunists from manipulating the mass for their personal/group’s political ends. Hence, PR’s alternative vision to that of BN must be more plural and progressive philosophically rather than more conservative and exclusive fundamentalism, which should include
1.1 Emphasize more on civil liberty but less on ethnic equality. Equality frightens away the Malays who are enjoying the “special privileges”. Promoting civil liberties does not make the Malays feel threatened. As liberty is the source of rights, we seek more freedom of speech, press freedom, freedom of assembly, cultural freedom, and freedom in education. The expansion of liberty helps in the struggle for more liberty next.
1.2 Emphasize solidarity rather than elite meritocracy. In addition to more social support for those in need, it also rebuts UMNO’s slander on PR (especially DAP) as the Singapore PAP’s style of “the rule of Chinese elites”.
1.3 Emphasize sustainable development. Let “green politics” be part of the political mainstream to dilute UMNO’s communal political discourse.
1.4 Emphasize gender equality. Let gender politics to break the feudal notions in authoritarian politics. Engage women in the movement to change.
1.5 Emphasize communitarianism. Let the racism and individualism be replaced by the political notions of communes, common values, common good, and altruism.
 
2. Electoral fraud produces unjust results. If PR is to be serious in regime change, they have to courageously challenge the rigged electoral system; else, they would not be able to topple BN’s government via existing electoral process in GE14. To pose formidable challenge to the rigged electoral system and to break it, it has to “challenge the boundaries”.
2.1 Means: Integration of street protest movement and parliamentary struggle (Democracy and liberty through challenging boundaries consistently).
2.2 Effect: Integration of mobilization scale and persistency (breaking the SOP of “no overnight assembly”)
2.3 Venue: integration of symbolism and paralytics
2.4 Legality: opposition parties under authoritarian regimes are often show-window of democracy. The philosophy of oppression often regards parliamentary struggle as the legal means, while street struggle as the illegal means. Some “election politicians” subscribe to these notions, becoming “Parliamentary cretinism”. They are legislative-indoctrinated individuals who would avoid “challenging the boundaries” (to be illegal under draconian laws). In democratization, the justness and progressiveness of laws enacted by the executive-led legislative are often dependent on the extent of street struggle. Being persistently resisted and the change of objective conditions, the legality of draconian laws enacted in the past will be questioned and negated. Hence, being legal, semi-legal, semi-illegal, and illegal are not an absolute and static notion.
2.5 Price: collective action poses strong deterrence to the government, which minimizes the repression on individual’s participation. Most MPs/ADUNs are afraid of being convicted and fined RM2000 and thus lost their YB’s status. As a result, they are “invincible in the house, but powerless on the street”.
2.6 Follow-up: launch voter’s registration campaign immediately. Consistent PACABA (polling agent, counting agent, barung agent) training courses. Promoting local government election, and PR to strengthen the skills of election campaign.
 
3. Combination of parliamentary struggle and mass movement.
3.1 Democratic movement is not just election campaign. However, election should neither be exaggerated nor overlooked.
3.2 “Regime change” is an important means to the nation’s democratization, but not the only means.
3.3 Daily participation and oversight of the public on the state power (including PR state governments and PR MPs) could not be replaced by an election in every 5 years.
3.4 Each election (including by-election) is a political education for the masses. Siege the opportunity to fight in the election seriously. No giving up and giving in.
3.5 PR representatives should not claim to have fought in parliamentby just attending house sitting. Nor should they claim to have done mass struggle by doing social service in their own constituencies.
3.6 Civil society needs to oversee the performance of PR representativesin houses, including their attendance, contents of speeches, ability to debate, voting record and their spirit to fight, based on the principles of democracy, liberty and social justice.
3.7 Civil society should also oversee the performance of PR representatives outside of houses, including social service; whether they organize, lead and participate in street struggle movement; cooperation with NGOs; and whether they collude with big business at the expense of voters etc.
3.8 To build mass movement, civil society should bring up social leaders with mass charisma, who possess the ability to articulate progressive discourse, courage to debate with the conservatives or politicians, the ability to promote their ideas (via publications and leaflets), the ability to build up organization (including formation of united front and penetration of conservative’s camp), and the ability to mobilize masses etc.
3.9 Unorganized masses are just a group of ordinary people in the eye of authoritarian regime. Thus, civil society must have organization, idea, education and action to oversee and challenge the authoritarian regime.
3.10 Election campaign (including speeches, audio-visual effects, mascots, peripheral products, and slogans) is an art of building up the mass. Under some resource constraints, DAP mastered the key, and therefore brought the election campaign’s fervour to the highest.
3.11 To broaden the scope of unity, thought leaders in civil society should avoid several social movement mistakes, such as sectarianism”, arrogance and other social movements “infantilism”.

4. Embracing new technology, exploring new thinking, creating new condition, building new order.
4.1 To pose a formidable challenge to the authoritarian regime, new media by the technology revolution, such as facebook, twitter, youtube, internet radio, and internet video must be used.
4.2 Technology revolution is a means, but revolution in ideas is the content. Make good use of new tool to promote new ideas to challenge BN’s cultural hegemony.
4.3 Gramsci’s “A war of Position”: civil society should expand its influence. In particular, not only should young people join associations, but should also lead them, transform their culture and even found new associations.
4.4 Sun-Tzu’s Art of War: Good warriors put themselves in an undefeatable position, before pursuing the chance of victory. Being undefeatable put one in upper hand, then waiting to exploit weaknesses within the enemy. Good warriors put themselves in undefeatable position, but may not necessarily defeat their enemies. In other words, victory can be predicted, but can be not guaranteed. Now, how should PR and civil society lay our strategies for democracy and liberty?


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