19-Day Countdown to 13GE Polling Day: Vision 2050 - A Thriving Democratic Nation

On April 11, 2013[1], I unveiled my Vision 2050 for Malaysia to replace Vision 2020.

I believe that Malaysians need a new vision for a bolder, brighter and better Malaysia especially since the aspirations of Vision 2020 has been tarnished, perhaps irrevocably so, by the actions and words of the very person who outlined this vision, Dr. Mahathir.

I unveiled 10 points for my Vision 2050 which I very much hope can start a national conversation about new aspirations for the country and the course which we must chart in order to achieve these aspirations.

The mother of all election battles which is the Battle of Gelang Patah, where I will face off against the popular Johor Menteri Besar, Abdul Ghani Othman, is more than just a contest to determine the results in one seat.

It is more than just a contest for Johor. And it is most definitely more than just a contest for Putrajaya. It is a contest for the heart, soul and mind of Malaysia.

As such, as part of the 24 day countdown to polling day on May 5, 2013, I want to share my thoughts on each one of these points.

While I most likely will not live to see 2050, I sincerely hope that I will be able to witness our beloved country moving in the right direction. Win or lose, this battle to achieve Vision 2050 must go on.

A thriving democratic nation with new and adaptive forms of public engagement and accountability structures at all levels of government where technology will be harnessed to fundamentally transform the decision making process.

We have waited for more than 50 years to exercise our God-given democratic rights including the right to have a peaceful transition in government.

Other governments in in Africa, South America and other parts of Asia have steadily made themselves accountable to the people but we still allow our public servants and political masters to behave like feudal lords.

We have made it too easy for those in power to say, "We are already accountable to the people. We are listening to you."

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the average Malaysian's great stumbling block toward a thriving democratic nation is not the racist politician spewing bitterness and hatred toward others but the moderate Malaysian who has decided to settle for less: a lesser form of democracy, a diluted version of accountability, a willingness to live with a false sense of stability.

We prefer the absence of political conflict rather than the presence of freedom.

To create an adaptive, accountable government requires citizens -- you and me -- who are adaptable and willing to make ourselves accountable to others.

Three decades from now, I envision a nation where we exercise effective-decision-making at two levels.

On one hand, there must be constant and meaningful dialogue to strengthen citizen participation at the local level.

Why not make it possible for local resident associations to have the powers to ‘raise’ revenues from their own area to do minor things like repair and resurface roads or to receive an allocation from the local council to do the same?

Such technology by 2050 could be used by local residents to pose problems, propose answers, vote on the decisions, and raise the funds and energy required to implement the solutions.

On the other hand, there must be clear, transparent and courageous decision-making at the higher levels of state and national government.

Not everybody must be involved in every part of the decision making process. In legislation, whoever decides must be empowered to decide on behalf of society.

But there should be new and constantly evolving channels whereby interested stakeholders as well as experts and academics in various fields can positively and meaningfully contribute to the decision making process.

We must not confuse the two.

In Switzerland, a model of modern democracy, too much citizen participation in the form of referendums -- which require approval and feedback from its citizens -- have overwhelmed the government from truly governing.

In California, the lack of courageous decision-making has resulted in the proliferation of propositions can cause massive legislative problems.

There is no reason why Malaysia cannot create its own uniquely democratic system of governing that harnesses and accentuates the strengths of our diverse people.

There is no reason why this distinct system cannot gain international commendation similar to the much touted ‘Scandinavian’ model. There is no reason why we Malaysians cannot have our day in the sun for the right reasons.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Malaysia. I have seen the yearning for freedom manifest itself in a toddler who runs to his parents saying, "Look, see what I can do."

I have seen the yearning of freedom flow in conversations between old and young, people of all races, men and women.

The fundamental posture of democracy is evident in all: we want the freedom to decide, and we need the magnanimity to listen.

We want to have a democracy that is mature enough to allow for voices on the extreme but be robust enough never to let these extreme voices become part of the mainstream.

It is my fundamental assumption that new forms of public engagement and accountability in Malaysia must use technology to create dialogue between the central government and the people.

The interactive tools of technology will not be used for surveillance, command and control, but as a tool for listening to people, answering their questions and addressing their concerns.

In a democracy of the future, decision-making by the people will be carried out constantly and in meaningful ways -- not just a vote once every five years.

I harbour no illusion about democracy for democracy's sake.

The ultimate end of a thriving, adaptive democracy is to lift our great nation from fear and prejudice into hope and compassion.

The means to this end is a government who empowers every Malaysian who wants to be active and useful to carry out their aspirations -- as good workers, good parents, good children -- for the greater good of Malaysia.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur