The meaning of democracy does not change with place and time

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Mahathir is right in his farewell UN speech to point out that the single veto power is undemocratic. The time has come for a real reform on the part of the United Nations. Mahathir's idea of getting two permanent members plus at least three Security Council members to block a resolution is a fairer and more democratic approach in resolving international disputes. And this veto power should be abolished and replace by a majority vote eventually. Mahathir's proposal is certainly useful in returning integrity and credibility to the UN, especially so after the damaging unilateral actions adopted by some other Super Five member states and US.

But Mahathir must remember that the meaning of democracy does not change with place and time. What is democratic in the West should also be viewed as democratic in the East, including Malaysia. He must not practise double standard on issues such as freedom, equality and democracy. He must also practise in Malaysia what he preaches in the UN conferences and other international forums.

Mahathir is also right to point out the negative impact of globalisation and its effect on poor countries. But he must not forget about the positive aspects of globalisation, such as democratisation and modernisation.

His argument on the point that independent nations have a right to manage their own internal affairs without foreign interference is somewhat weak and pale. He must remember that human rights, freedom, peace and democracy are values with a universal character. A leader of a country cannot trample on such values without facing the scrutiny and criticism from the world community.

His point on puppet regimes is timely and laudable. But to categorise it as "resurgence in European imperialism" is far from neither accurate nor correct. The UK and US do not represent the entire Europe or the West. He
should also remember the "puppet regimes" installed by him within the BN component parties back home.

He also accused the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation had been "turned into instruments of hegemony to impoverish the poor, to enrich the rich." There may be some truth in it, in
the sense that these world organisations were traditionally dominated by superpowers. But to label them as instruments of hegemony to impoverish the poor and to enrich the rich is a sweeping statement. We are compelled to remind Mahathir that he is also guilty of such misdeed as the disparities between the rich and the poor back in Malaysia is getting greater than ever after his reign of 22 years.

His call for the creation of an international commission to set exchange rates and a ban on all but nominal commissions for currency traders is most commendable. Such mechanism would certainly help to stabilise the world's economy and at the same time prevent the weaker markets from being attacked by big players. But he has to seriously review the US dollar - Malaysian Ringgit peg. He should refrain from turning a stopgap measure into a
permanent feature. The Dollar peg may not work for our economy forever. He should also seriously consider lifting the self-imposed currency control.

In conclusion, Mahathir should ponder at this Malay proverb to see where he stands- " kuman di seberang laut nampak, gajah di depan mata tak nampak" (To behold the note in the eye of one's neighbour, but not the beam in one's own).


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP national publicity secretary and Selangor chairman