ELECTION time is in the air. It’s beneficial to remind ourselves of the demands of the democratic system.
Critical to democracy are:
CHOOSING a government through free and fair elections;
ACTIVE participation of citizens in civic life and politics;
PROTECTION of everyone’s human rights; and,
RULE of law applying equally to all.
In a democracy, the people choose their leaders and hold them accountable for the laws they enact and enforce, policies they formulate and implement, and how they conduct themselves and the business of government.
Democracy depends on educating, informing, enabling and empowering citizens to participate freely in and benefit from the social, economic, civil and political systems and processes in a country.
Such participation must be peaceful, respectful of the law and tolerant of views of other groups and individuals.
In a democracy, citizens’ rights are enshrined in the constitution and protected by law.
These include the right to lead their lives in peace and harmony; equality before the law; freedom of speech and expression; religious and cultural freedom; right of association and peaceful assembly; and the right to due process.
The democratic system demands that leaders on both sides of the aisle work with the people to meet the needs and aspirations of those who elected them.
Often, there’s the need to accept compromise to solve the people’s problems, and to defend society and the nation from dangers, threats and evil designs of adversaries, be they from within or without.
Deliberations and actions on all matters and provision of benefits and opportunities must be carried out in a responsible, sincere and principled manner.
However, when these actions become selfish, overly partisan and tribal, it is to the detriment of the people and nation. In fact, it is tantamount to a conspiracy leading to national decline, either deliberately or through indifference.
Every endeavour is made not to allow passion to rule over reason. But sometimes, it is difficult to find common ground when one wants to win more for the sake of winning or for self-aggrandisement than to achieve an outcome that benefits the people.
Undoubtedly, practising true democracy can be difficult. Often, what transpires doesn’t feel like a triumph for the democratic way of life.
Nevertheless, it’s usually the most one can expect from a system of government, especially operating in a country that’s diverse and multiracial, but where, on the balance, the wellbeing, progress and prosperity of all undergird the governing principles and the lives of its people.
Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, the compulsions, pressures and inequalities in so-called socialist states and how corruptible human nature can be, the way people engage with each other in a democracy to solve problems, the fitful progress it produces and the liberty and justice it preserves, is indeed an achievement.
The willingness to recognise and remedy the imperfections that prevail places a nation on a better democratic path and, most importantly, satisfies the human spirit.
Indeed, within the ambit of a true democracy, the people stand together upholding the cause of peace, freedom, security, justice and equality for all.
It is the spirit that binds them, one that is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide them.
It is the people’s collective responsibility to preserve and grow that democracy.
Rueben Dudley, Seremban, Negri Sembilan