The fight for democracy in Asia is alive and well

This opinion piece is part of the Silver Lining Series written by members of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), an organization of liberal and democratic parties in Asia, to celebrate its 25th Anniversary this 2018.

For decades, Asian values, under the guise of Confucianism, have been used by the region’s autocrats to ward off criticisms, mainly from the West, about their undemocratic ways.

Its most artful proponents are Singapore’s former prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia’s Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his first stint as the country’s leader.

With the region in the thrall of dictatorships – from Korea’s Park Chung Hee in the north to Indonesia’s Suharto in the south – there seemed to be a seductive ring to the uniqueness of the Asian political culture.

But there is nothing quite like a few revolutions, mainly peaceful ones, to debunk the no-democracy-please-we’re-Asians theory.

Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Myanmar, Mongolia and Thailand overcame repressive governments to establish democratic systems.

The extent of reform may be limited, as in the instance of Myanmar, or has backslid, as in Thailand. But the trend towards democratic change has been unmistakable.

The most recent example is, of course, Malaysia where after 61 years of one-party rule, Malaysians staged a revolt of their own and sacked the Barisan Nasional government.

So, have Asian peoples jettisoned Asian values and adopted Western ones? Of course, not. Remember that for the better part of the last two centuries, much of Asia toiled under the subjugation of Western colonialism where the concepts of freedom and universal suffrage were as alien as the languages imposed on the natives.

The truth is that, regardless of the part of the world they inhabit, man has always sought to lord over his fellow beings. But it is just as ineluctable that the masses will, at some point, rise up to show despots the boot and claim their freedoms.

To avoid sounding simplistic, however, let me point out that the factors contributing to the demise of autocratic regimes in Asia are varied. Distressed economic conditions in the Philippines and Indonesia contributed massively to the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos and

Suharto. In Taiwan and South Korea, it was the burgeoning educated middle-class that grew intolerant of the oppressive military regimes.

Even so, these revolutions were not a result of spontaneous combustion. There were years of relentless campaigning and sacrifice by individuals who saw the need for change and, more importantly, found the courage to stand up and rattle the authoritarian cage.

Regional organizations like the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, a body comprising political parties (both ruling and opposition) committed to advancing democracy in Asia, have been keeping freedom’s agenda on the front burner.

Again, take the most recent case of Malaysia. Those who cried reformasi and fought corruption and abuse of power did not just surface during the historic elections this year.

It was a struggle that spanned two decades, one which saw the opposition leaders and activists harassed, humiliated and jailed. In the end, like in the other countries, the democrats prevailed.

The mother of all ironies is that it was Dr Mahathir, the leader of the insurgency that toppled Mr Najib Razak, who wrote in 1995 that Asia’s rejection of democracy came from the “Eastern way of thinking”.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, unwilling or unable to read history, continues this charade. In a recent interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, he denies that his administration is repressive. Politics in Singapore, he insists, is the way that it is because Singaporeans voted for it.

Of course, he did not mention that he had to change the rules for the presidential elections so that only his party’s nominee qualified as a candidate. There are elections and there are free and fair elections.

The not-so-hidden message for autocrats and democrats alike is that the mood in Asia has irrevocably altered. The idea that democracy is ill-suited to the Asian mind has been exposed for the propaganda that it is.

No wonder, the fight for democracy is alive and well.

 

Dr Chee Soon Juan

* Chee Soon Juan is the secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party and former chairperson of CALD. A vocal opponent of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) – which has held power since 1959 – he has been sued and bankrupted by Singaporean prime ministers, past and present.

 

Sponsored Content

18 Responses to “The fight for democracy in Asia is alive and well”

  • clown pap and S$m gang:

    all dynasties die, sooner or later. the founders might be good and upright and do everything by one law one interpretation for their citizens. but always by the 3rd generation, the rot started during 2nd becomes so toxic the dynasties die.

    WHY?

    because the 2nd and subsequent generations take their ownself check ownself BS to extreme and continue to pay each other S$m by ownself pay owself unaccountable system even though the citizens are suffering under their S$m ownself pay ownself corrupt system justified under onwself created ownself one law two interpretations BS.

    SO?

    najib BN died, of course, even though over 60 years old. clown pap sama sama, since more toxic than najib BN in everyway, so death is certain.

    reading malaysia news, najib for sure long long in malaysia penitentiary. hopefully the turn for the Singapore folks is soon.

    BUT mark our words. it shall happen. because already so toxic.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Great Asia:

    He is a Banana, he can only see white versus Black; Heaven versus Hell; and God versus Satan. He can’t handle complex issues like the Chinese civilisation. Whether it is the US, or any of the advanced western democracies, they all are in trouble, their systems need to reform. But they have not been able to do anything to fix it.

    Democracy is extremely expensive to operate, all the democratic advanced countries are in debt; their children will have to pay the debt. Poor democratic countries, such as the Philippines, cannot afford to pay for democracy.

    Chee Soon Juan has no solution for you, he can’t produce high paying jobs for you.

    Ha ha ha!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Great Asia:

    Singapore is already a 21st-century democracy.

    But Chee is still stuck in the 20th-century.

    Shallow monkeys should not listen to his speeches; you are not sophisticated enough, you will be hoodwinked by him easily.

    Ha ha ha!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • rukidding:

    “Orh Par”,…”black panther” Sha-Mu-Kan will be the first one to use his “laws” to “crushed” his Opponent !

    You think he not “scared” of “falling down” himself ????

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • TheIrony:

    Chee was democratically voted out – enough said.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Singapore's Han Fei legalism?:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0TpAkiYq4lI

    It’s the anti-Confucianism that is the crux of our administrative anomalies.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • HarderTruths:

    Fight for democracy?
    Lookng at how people behave it is more like a fight for iPhones….

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • LIONS:

    SG IS BACKSLIDING,thats for sure.

    dont worry,we are ‘LEE-mocra$y’…COLLECTING MORE $ FROM peasant sgs after robbing them of their jobs is our P$P’s CREDO.

    We make sure in our LEE-mocr$y,only ourselves and our doggies who lick our feet or polish our apples get to benefit from ALL THE MOMEY WE COLLECTED FROM THE DAFT sinkies who die-die insist on voting for our P$P!

    expect more G$T AFTER NEXT GE as we need to $USTAIN OUR ‘LEE-MOCRA$Y’.

    unless OPPO unites,our P$P will remain unbeatable.

    we are so lucky as the oppo never learn their lessons.
    they will never unite like in MALAYSIA BOLEH.

    IN $IN CITY,only PAP BOLEH,all common sgs will remain TAK BOLEH because they never learn after so many GEs???

    hahaha,we,PEOPLE AT P$P will CONtinue to LAUGH ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK!!!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Great Ape Sure Talking Cock:

    Great Asia:
    He is a Banana, he can only see white versus Black; Heaven versus Hell; and God versus Satan. He can’t handle complex issues like the Chinese civilisation. Whether it is the US, or any of the advanced western democracies, they all are in trouble, their systems need to reform. But they have not been able to do anything to fix it.

    Democracy is extremely expensive to operate, all the democratic advanced countries are in debt; their children will have to pay the debt. Poor democratic countries, such as the Philippines, cannot afford to pay for democracy.

    Chee Soon Juan has no solution for you, he can’t produce high paying jobs for you.

    Ha ha ha!

    Even Philippines per capita EXTERNAL Debt is lower than China.

    more like China cannot afford to pay for democracy

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_external_debt

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Great Asia:

    Great Ape Sure Talking Cock: Even Philippines per capita EXTERNAL Debt is lower than China.

    Which country or organisation will learn money to the Philippines without tough terms and conditions? Very easy for the Philippines to borrow money?

    Do you know why a rich man can afford to borrow millions of dollars from the bank to buy condo, while a poor can’t even borrow $100k to buy HDB flat?

    Ha ha ha!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Asian Values ?:

    Mmm… How come no reporters or authorities ask the 13 thai young guns after trapping 2 weeks ( very wet and very dark ) inside cave one important question. Did you all see any princess ghost or any other supernatural beings. ?

    Answer probably is no .

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • HarderTruths:

    Dr Chee

    You have been duped. Democracy has failed.
    It has failed in the United States.
    It has failed in Western Europe.
    It is being tried in Russia but the country is really an oligarchy.
    It is not a part of Islamic (Shariah) law
    It has never been a part of Chinese rule.

    Look at democracy in India – is that what you want?

    Exactly what do you mean when you say ‘Alive and Well?’

    Please – you need to stop drinking too much pee water….

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • NAboo eh JIB.eye:

    Just because singaporeans voted for it does not mean it’s not repressive.
    Out of those who voted for it, how many voted out of fear of losing their pensions?
    How many elderlies voted out of fear of their children working in GLC losing their job security?

    Singaporeans are living in the dark what happened to the budget surplus, how much money were lost in total. So, they do not hear much bad news. Their voting is based on ignorance of the facts.

    Singapore does not have talent capable of overthrowing the pap.
    This is a world fact.

    The education system simply is too lousy to produce such talents.

    Otherwise prove it to me.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • But:

    Well Dr Chee’s formally written an article warning about ECRL.

    Seems like PH have axe it or suspend it … Predictions have gone off the track.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Great Ape Sure Talking Cock:

    Philippines at least have friends that will come to her aid.

    Philippines may be poor but not so afraid of democracy until must re-write constitution.

    Great Asia: Which country or organisation will learn money to the Philippines without tough terms and conditions? Very easy for the Philippines to borrow money?

    Do you know why a rich man can afford to borrow millions of dollars from the bank to buy condo, while a poor can’t even borrow $100k to buy HDB flat?

    Ha ha ha!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Another Talking Cock:

    HarderTruths:
    Dr Chee

    You have been duped. Democracy has failed.
    It has failed in the United States.
    It has failed in Western Europe.
    It is being tried in Russia but the country is really an oligarchy.
    It is not a part of Islamic (Shariah) law
    It has never been a part of Chinese rule.

    Look at democracy in India – is that what you want?

    Exactly what do you mean when you say ‘Alive and Well?’

    Please – you need to stop drinking too much pee water….

    Guess which country below is a democracy?

    “these-are-the-10-most-prosperous-countries-in-the-world”

    https://mic.com/articles/157441/these-are-the-10-most-prosperous-countries-in-the-world#.amwras6kI

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • HarderTruths:

    Another Talking Cock: Guess which country below is a democracy?

    “these-are-the-10-most-prosperous-countries-in-the-world”

    https://mic.com/articles/157441/these-are-the-10-most-prosperous-countries-in-the-world#.amwras6kI

    Go to those countries and you will see that article is bullshit.
    They all live on debt. EU is a mess of refugees. Britain is even worse. Democracy has failed and the MSM is telling bullshit lies.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Another Talking Cock:

    HarderTruths: Go to those countries and you will see that article is bullshit.
    They all live on debt. EU is a mess of refugees. Britain is even worse. Democracy has failed and the MSM is telling bullshit lies.

    Which country has no debt?

    Do you know why a rich man can afford to borrow millions of dollars from the bank to buy condo, while a poor can’t even borrow $100k to buy HDB flat?

    Democracy may have “failed” but still “More than a third of Chinese millionaires want to leave China”

    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/05/more-than-a-third-of-chinese-millionaires-want-to-leave-china.html

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
Member Services
Members LoginSelf-ClassifiedsSelf-Support
Sponsored Advertisement

Search On TR Emeritus
Sponsored Advertisement


Most Recent Comments
  • Ceremonial: Compare with clever quick witted English Machine Gun Lim Tean, he looks muted like a stone fish, suitable...
  • Piper: Until he make his opposing stance clear, otherwise he is seen laden with PAP and I can only see him as a man...
  • Malaysia boleh Singapore bodoh: Must NEVER forget: 1) PAP is NOT Singapore and Singapore is NOT PAP. 2) LKY is NOT...
  • Flawed Minds: The intention to fraud is unacceptable. When undemocratic stunt like Milo can happened, I no longer...
  • Rabble-rouser: @ anon: Ha-ha-ha-ha! Land @ Holland Road belong to the Sultan of Johor – cue MC Hammer’s...
  • Haigen-diaz: Bro, you bring back painful memories. Remember the Orchard car-park, Cuppage, Hillstreet and many of the...
  • patriot of Temesak: You “THINK” they care???… the minister in charge will have a blip on his...
  • fucqueupap: Someone affected by the blackout posted the following on one website to remind us of the difference...
  • N.Jungne: But according to the “vlogger Nas Daily.” SInkapoo is almost perfect
  • how did the 5.5m derive from: //The fact is our graduates have among the highest employment rates upon graduation and...
  • Sycophantic Rapture: There was this magnificent mathematical horse. You could teach it arithmetic, which it learned...
Announcements
Advertisement
Visitors Statistic
Latest Statistic
Advertisements