Saturday, September 23, 2006

Jenadas and the 140th spin

“What is a democracy? Constitutions and elections do not make a democracy. Rule of law and independent institutions are also needed.”

When I saw the above caption in this morning’s Shit Times, I got curious and decided to flip flip a bit and look see. Wah lao, which writer from the 140th media so daring to write the truth and criticize the PAP gahmen, I thought...

But after spending 15 mins wading through the article by Jenadas Devan (son of Devan Nair and a hardcore PAP sycophant), I must say the 140th did not disappoint me and has once again proudly defended its 3-digit “first world” ranking hehehe.

Since I dun subscribe to ST Interactive (so cannot cut and paste, plus I am not crazy enough to type out everything) I will just quote some of the relevant passages and let my fellow recruits know the structure and flow of the article and what it tried to say.

“What is democracy? A tortoise, not a hare” is the heading. Jenadas began by laying down the general universal definition of democracy - one where there is fair and free elections held at regular intervals, where citizens’ rights are constitutionally protected and powers of gahmens circumscribed by law – and he went on to ask, “How would Britain, one of the world’s oldest democracies, fare by this definition?”

And Jenadas’s answer is “Not well.” His reasons are:

1) Britian does not have a written Constitution. However Jenadas concede that this is the case of many former British colonies including Singapore, so he is really just nitpicking.

2) Britain does not have an ironclad provision for regular elections. Jenadas argued that even though no British gahmen today can stay in office for more than 5 years without calling for fresh elections, there was a period in the past (10 years from 1935 to 1945 during WW2) that no elections were held. But Jenadas then went on to say that becoz of the war the British gahmen then was still a legitimate one bcoz of the external threat the country faced and it was a one off historical circumstances. Eh? Isn’t this like shooting one’s own foot? His logic is really confusing leh – first he claims that Britain has a poor democracy, based on the above 2 reasons, but he then more or less admitted those are lousy reasons. Hahaha, how he think one? His editor also equally blur and never spot the contradictions??

But never mind, the article still got a long way to go. Jenadas next brought up the current situation in Thailand. Based on the findings above, Jenadas decides that Thailand fares better than BritainThailand has had 16 written constitutions since 1932 and many many elections. But despite “so much practice in Constitution-making” Jenadas claims that “Thai commitment to democracy is not firm”. Becoz, “since 1932 Thailand had 18 military coups, which works out to one coup per Constitution, as compared to Britain’s no coup per zero written Constitution.”

Describing the Thai political process and its latest coup, Jenadas said that “every Thai intellectual I spoke with on the phone took the line... that the coup was a necessary evil... There were no other options to end the political impasse,” or “the military revolt was a democratic act... it is necessary to use undemocratic means to save democracy.” Really what Jenadas is trying to say is that the experienced Thai political process and numerous Constitutions are still far from perfect, and that any other means outside of the political process is to be avoided and frowned upon. Jenadas at this point appears to be steering his article towards the issue of legality and rule of law. Is Jenadas going to suggest that the rule of law (however imperfect dat law could be) should be stuck to stubbornly even if it means a continual political impasse, as in the case of Thaksin vs Democracy? That a coup, which is illegal, should never be an option used to dispose a burgeoning dictator even though not a single shot was fired and that 80% of Thais approved of the coup?

Hmm... This Jenadas quite clever and cunning hor? You see where he is going?

Anyway Jenadas now asks, “What does all this tell us of the prospect of democracy in SE Asia, including S’pore?” From here onwards depending on what kind of person the reader is, his/her reactions will come out very different.

A typical 66.6% kind of reader would most likely have been quite worn out by Jenadas’s long winded writing and decides to skip the rest of the article. He/she would leave with the impression that the Thai and British democracies are lousy ones, and conclude without further reading that the S’pore system is damn solid and free of problem. They will continue to subscribe to the 140th to get their daily fixes thinking that everything is steady bom pi pi.

But for the rest of the readers who are willing to think a little more critically (or just damn free like me hehe), further reading from this point onwards will be very frustrating. Bcoz this Jenadas starts to make no sense.

He made two points.

First, right on cue Jenadas makes the point about rule of law, that democracies must have independent institutions to enforce that rule. But what he said next failed to make much sense - “If Thailand’s political reformers had expended as much energy creating these institutions – among them an independent judiciary and police – as they did perfecting the electoral systems, the country would not be in the fix it is in today. But because it lacked such institutions, Thaksin was able to commandeer the legal process, and his opponents, unable to seek redress through the courts, felt they had no alternative but to call in the army.”

This sounded right at first, but think a little further and one will see that it is nonsense. Thaksin commandeered the legal process bcoz he managed to make those institutions no longer independent through installing his friends and cronies in them, and not bcoz those institutions are unnecessary or were not independent as Jenadas is wrongly suggesting! The Thai police and army made sure they did not take sides during the months of public protests in Bangkok. That is being independent! (Compared that to police action at Hong Lim or the CPF Building protest and you know what I mean.) However in Jenadas’s view this independence is deemed a failure in the rule of law, as he droned about “the courts, the civil service, the police... are accountable only to the law and the public interest.” Jenadas however did not elaborate what the law and public interest are. LKY talked recently of the military intervening in the event of a freak GE result (read non-PAP victory) in S'pore. And days later the coup in Thailand took place HAHAHA! Jenadas's failure to mention this is glaring.

Second point, Jenadas say “Democracy requires everyone to accept the rules of the game, to live and let live.” Jenadas is saying that the coup that led to the downfall of the majority-elected Thaksin gahmen is breaking the rules of the game. He defends his position by saying the “spirit of playing by the rules is best exemplified in Britain, where no matter who is in power, Her Majesty (or the idea of sovereignty) stays put on the throne, the game goes on, everyone lives and let lives.” However the Thai situation cannot be compared to that of Britain’s. For a start Thaksin has perverted the system and rule of law to his advantage, he has changed the rules of the game. The game is now rigged and the playing field is no longer level, unlike Britain’s. Which was why the Thai opposition boycotted the recent election and staged mass street protests. How Jenadas fail to point this out is quite telling.

“And finally,” says Jenadas, “it is important to realize that democracy is not the work of one generation but of many.” He makes the point that of the 10 Asean states today, only 4 are democracies – Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and S’pore. “Of these Indonesia’s democracy is new and fragile, and the Philppines’ constantly on the verge of extinction. Only Malaysia and S’pore have held regular elections, without fail, since their independence.”

Here, Jenadas has failed to get his facts right. Indonesia’s democracy is not new. In fact it is as old as S’pore. Suharto’s Indonesia held regular elections which were consistently won by his party. As for Philippines, its democracy is nowhere near extinction although the rule of law there remains a problem, but the two are quite different things.

Rounding off, Jenadas lamented that “as recently as last week, numerous human rights groups would have described both countries (i.e. S’pore and Malaysia) as less democratic than Thailand... Perhaps the imperfect tortoises (Malaysia & S’pore) will get to the promised land sooner than the hares.”

No doubt Jenadas is referring to the PAP gahmen's major PR blunder and projected poor image that most international media focused on in the just concluded IMF-World Bank meeting. Jenadas in trying to defend his political paymaster but in doing so he has committed yet another contradiction. It is true that democracy takes time as evidenced by the experiences of Thailand and Britain. Yet going by Jenadas’s not-so-subtle putting down of other democracies and stout refusal to examine both S’pore and Malaysia’s situations, readers would think he is really suggesting the two are really the hares instead of tortoises! A foreigner not familiar with S'pore (and there are many of them these days) would be left quite confused.

I dunno what Jenadas is smoking, but I’m sure it isn’t legal hahaha!

The way he made sweeping statements is truly amazing. But really the most glaring shortcoming in Jenadas’s long winded writing is his failure to critically examine the system he seeks to praise. It means that his writing is far from being balanced and fair. Suddenly when it comes to S’pore he decides to switch off his thinking hat and become a PAP and gahmen mouthpiece. This is why the 140th will always remain as the 140th, it is really good at brainwashing. Read it at your own risk!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

140th doing the usual running dog routine, carrying MM's balls and recent remark.