Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Oppression and Suppression in the Opposition

Written by johnleemk on 12:50:12 pm Jun 13, 2007.
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One remarkable thing I find about the nature of the Malaysian political opposition is how at times it seems to be nothing more than a mirror image of the government it opposes.

There is the problem of message, for example — many opposition parties are reduced to simply taking what the government says and rebutting it or opposing it, instead of putting forth ideas of their own. They allow the debate and their behaviour to be defined by the government — they in effect are the government's mirror image.

However, another interesting thing is how the opposition — and here I refer not just to political parties, but also to individuals and civil society groups — can be so much like the government in dealing with criticism.

The internet is the hub of opposition political activity in Malaysia, so looking at it tells you a great deal about the mindset of the opposition's supporters in general. It is amazing how their attitude towards dissent and criticism so often resembles that of the establishment.

There are not many gadflies in the Malaysian blogosphere. Most people hew, by and large, to the agenda of the opposition. Any criticisms they are likely to make tend to be soft ones, like why isn't liberal agenda X being pushed further. There is often an unwillingness to examine the fundamental premises of opposition policies, opposition principles and opposition philosophies.

There are a few gadflies, out there, who make themselves heard — who sometimes go against the flow and point out fundamental flaws in how the opposition conducts itself — whether the opposition is a political party, a blogger, or a civil society group.

However, what is the attitude of those in the opposition to these criticisms? Do they ignore them with a dignified silence? Do they respond to them in a measured manner?

Fortunately, many do. But in a number of cases, they don't. At the height of the controversy about two bloggers being sued for defamation, when one blogging group had the temerity to suggest anything other than the possibility that the establishment was completely wrong and the opposition completely right, they were harassed by opposition bloggers, and sometimes even had their comments unfairly labeled as spam and thus automatically discarded by the blogging software not just on one blog, but on a whole network of blogs.

This attitude to dissent can even be seen in how the opposition parties run themselves. Anwar Ibrahim, for example, is widely acknowledged to have manipulated the recent Parti Keadilan Rakyat elections to achieve the results he desired. Likewise, the Democratic Action Party also is run through edicts from the top down.

Only the Islamic party, PAS, has a semblance of open-mindedness and democracy — incredibly ironic considering they want to end open-mindedness and impose their own brand of intolerance on the country.

There is a famous quotation in the Bible along the lines of he who wants to take the speck out of his friend's eye must first remove the log from his own eye. That saying applies here.

The opposition has to stop being so hypocritical in its approach to dissent and the airing of views. If these views are logically justified, accept them. If they are not, say why. Don't try to shut them up — it makes you no better than the government when the government tries to shut you up.

Without this respect for diversity of opinion and sharing of ideas, which are the fundamental requisites for a functioning democratic society, the opposition might as well pack its bags and go home. Forget all this lofty talk of rights, democracy, and ideals — if you can't apply it in your own conduct, why the hell should you expect to be able to apply it to the country?


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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