Logically the majority voters in Sarawak elected the new state government on Apr 16th and they should submit to the rule of the government and go through the `proper channels’ to address their grievances. Yet within 1 month of the poll there has been violent clashes which shook Sarawak. In Tebedu numerous machineries, vehicles and workers quarters went up in smoke. This turn of event seems to confirm the reading of the election observers that elections which are not free and fair undermine the legitimacy of the elected leaders -and more troubles may arise than solved by the suspected `elections’. It is therefore important for leaders who prefer persuasion to the use of state violence to settle issues, to make election free and fair and make it to appear so to the public as well. However the elections were pervaded by vote buying, abuses of state resources, machineries, personnel, programs etc, as though it was not BN vs PR in the elections-but Governments Vs PR!
It cannot be overly emphasised how bad things can be when the government of the day did not earned its position through credible elections. When a people refused to recognise the legitimacy of a government they will take things into their own hands and challenge the authorities repeatedly. The votes won by vote buying or by abuse of governments’ authorities will not translate into the people’s willing submission to the authority of the `elected’ representatives.
This actually go to the bottom of democracy: if elections were to elect the best representatives from among the people those who substituted this with a competition of inducements from the candidates will get the positions-but without the respect that come with the position. In the people’s heart and mind: the real election for the proper representatives had not been carried out. What we have is the champion in offering inducements-with the inducement even stolen from the government’s /people’s coffer!
So it is not uncommon for dictators who stole elections to be overthrown after their big win at the subverted ballot boxes. Eg Suharto was overthrown within months of his electoral `win’! Marcos was thwarted in his victory announcement when the election observers NAMFREL came out with another set of election results which showed he lost big time! Malaysians may not be so organised -but the problems facing their life and livelihood can get so pressing that they may, as anyone forced to a corner, strike back with all they can, violently if they must.
Put it in another way: if the elections were clean then the voters involved may vote against the incumbent candidates and send an unmistakable message that the voters there are unhappy with a certain policy in that area. That may enable correctives to be taken ahead of any explosion of people’s anger over the issue. That is what a democratic government should do. This is what an undemocratic government will do all its best to avoid ie to avoid the true expression of the will of the people. Then the unrepresentative `people representatives’ will mask the issue till the suppressed steam blow off the cover one day…
It is like a Greek tragedy-as sad as they can be expected.
The lesson: democracy is not to be taken for granted or subverted without costs. There are people watching from all over the world, especially in this inter-connected world. While the candidates defeated by unfair means in the elections may get too intimidated to challenge the election results in the courts the verdict is already out in the court of public opinions. It is not unexpected that many voters in the constituencies where vote buying was reportedly widely practiced eg Bawan Assan, Tamin, Sg Asap etc, are quite confident that the election results could have gone the other way should there be no massive vote buying. Tell me: if this were so, how much do the voters here ie the majority of the people here, would truly respect their `representatives’? In their heart and mind the `representative’ was bought more than voted in.
If the same situation spread to the most parts of Sarawak-this is most important to ascertain, what we have was not an `election’ of a new government-it was just a bulk buying of the government positions. So what we have is an explosive situation: between a government which do not intend to serve the people’s best interests on one hand, and, on another, a people whose livelihood is in crisis and have no one to turn to!
But things don’t have to be going this way. The solution is simple: have a truely free and fair elections to produce truly representative government that will command the people’s confidence and accorded authority and respect to settle people’s issues. As much as some people may not like it the solution is: democracy, as in the people’s rule.
Update: The Ulu Niah case was in 1999-not a recent incident-apologies.