There are a few kinds of mental pattern that impede the growth of democracy in Malaysia-they should be identified and countered effectively. These patterns of thoughts exclude democracy in their logics and if they are allowed to be the guiding thought of the ruling parties-then the chances of democracy taking roots and growing up would be slim!
Firstly it is the ethnic supremacy idea. The ketuanan Melayu idea of UMNO want to see Malays as the leaders of the country-in all fields if possible. The party want to see a hierarchy of ethnic groups with the Malays sitting at the top. Some UMNO types would say that they would die to defend this idea, basing their claim to supremacy on the native status of Malays. However the problems with this idea is: The complaint people have on the idea is more to do with the people who insist to be the leaders based on the supremacy claim are not delivering good non-corrupt and fair to all governance. In another words people may not mind which ethnic group provide the good leadership-so long that the leadership is good and fair to all. When challenged on this ground people with this mental pattern is driven to become violent in the name of defending their community, or they can justify unfair advantages to their group/party including in elections. Something like the ends justifying the means.
The claim by Najib that the party is willing to defend their ruling power even though it may cause crushed bodies reflect this mentality. It is dangerous because this mental pattern does not give much respect to the choice of the majority of the people ie rule by democracy. Persisting with unfair elections seems to be justified due to the `higher’ aims in the eyes of these ethnic supremacists! At its worst this mental pattern also ignore rule of laws-thus a pattern where the Constitutional provisions on human rights are often trampled upon through legislative amendments which go against the spirit of the Constitutions; It is fortunate that there are now other Malays who would see that the supremacists’ offer of Malay power is inadequate for this modern time-and they see the importance of offering good governance and anti-discrimination to all ethnic groups; Together with non-Malays there is a good chance that this group of Malays may become a bigger majority and help bring the politics of the country towards more democratic future!
Secondly there is another pattern of thought which put money on top of everything. This pattern of thought see money as the chief determinant in politics-and if its operation is left unchecked, then there would not be any democracy possible. Election would be bought by the highest bidder. The prevalence of this idea can be confirmed at almost all elections in Malaysia up to now-whether legislative elections of party elections. The election system under such money first thinking is giving advantage to those well off elites. And it will lead to massive corruptions as those who invest heavily in the elections would want to get back their capitals by many-many times more after the electoral victories! Their earnings through corruptions would then allow them to buy the next elections and to build an extensive network of (paid) supporters. So it becomes a vicious cycle-which when it is left for too long, become a culture where even the manipulated voters would be conditioned to ask for the bribes at every elections. Clean candidates/parties would be disadvantaged while the same elites/gang will keep staying in power to the exclusion of everyone else irrespective of merits and capability!
It is not easy to counter such money centred politics -but in many countries the corrupt elites are often discarded through revolutionary means eg Marcos of Philippines, Suharto of Indonesia.Better and more prevalent voter education -especially the exposing of the corruption of the vote-buying politicians, could help hasten their long over-due departure!
Another dangerous thought pattern would be the idea of might is right. Often this is expressed through the power of the military and police. While we don’t see the military playing any role in Malaysian politics the role of the police, especially the police’s Special Branch is pretty intimidating. Their roles have been known to be very politicised-not only playing to the tune of the ruling parties-but also reportedly affiliated to only a certain ruling factions/clique especially the Home Minister! This idea of power deriving from un-elected forces is very dangerous as it is easy to see by even casual observers that this group-especially the SBs, actually paid by the tax payers and dominate the police force up to 1/3 of its personnel, could be directed at the whims and fancy of the politicians to obstruct the normal activities of civil society and political parties. Thus the Bersih march is now pronounced `illegal’ not because they constitute any threat to the security of the country-but feared as a threat to the electoral popularity of the ruling party! If the government is addicted to cling on to power through the operation of the police and their shady SBs the power and budget of the police force will be hugely amplified, even through legislative means. Eg the notorious Police Act give the power to the police to insist on police permit for anyone holding a gathering of over 4 persons!
To counter such insidious forces the civil society and Opposition parties need to play a cat and mouse games with the un-elected forces to widen the space for civil liberties of the citizens. Civil disobedience and peaceful actions need to be utilised to push the boundaries of restrictions imposed/exercised by the unelected forces and the politicians who depend on them. Politicians are really depending on them as seen in the episode to introduce an external watch dog on the PDRM. The police chief was able to blackmail the PM by saying that he would direct his forces to back the Opposition should the PM insist on going ahead with the external watch dog! There is an active debate as to which is more powerful-the politician or the police! If left to itself the politicians who depend on the police for perpetuating their power will expand the police or para-police/military personnel-thus you see more of the RELA and National Service being introduced even at great costs to the country! Similar patter can be observed in many other less than democratic countries where police forces expand as politicians get addicted to a dependency on this monopolies of state coersive instruments!
The sad fact is that: these dangerous patterns of thoughts don’t operate in isolation. They do combine in all possible ways to enable the ruling parties/class to keep holding on to their power. Under such undemocratic thought pattern elections cannot be free and fair. So: to fight for change is not easy as you are not just fighting the ruling party as a political party-but you are up against the whole apparatus of the government as well as against their entire financial might! That might explain why the ruling party in Malaysia is not taking the Bersih challenge lightly as just another public rally. These elites know that a lot more are at stake, and many in the society can see through their intention to stop the rally. They are over-killing the organisers and supporters so as to deter anyone from turning up. Already some elites types are beating a retreat eg some ethnic apex groups, chambers of commerce etc. But the fight of democracy will go on as the people who see through the power objective of the undemocratically elected ruling parties will not be going back on their liberating knowledge!