FMT LETTER: From Darren Nah, via e-mail
A nation governs best when its leader governs free men. I do not pretend that in writing this open letter, I have no sympathies towards my restless fellow countrymen nor vexations against the faults of this administration. But, I try my best to write to you candidly, leaving at the doorstep my partisanship.
Even then I ask that you be on your guard, when reading this letter, for any underlying partisan inclinations that may perchance surface. Take everything written here, Prime Minister, with a grain of salt. With this letter, I hope you will see the correlation between acting justly and securing a mandate to rule; that is, to lead justly is always in your best interest.
Prime Minister, your office is a great one. The highest ministerial officer of His Majesty has been a mandate given to you since April, 2009. You lead a party that has, through all its faults, carried Malaysia from obscurity to relative renown. You should not forget the successes, economic and social, which your predecessors have achieved for the well-being of Malaysians.
I should even merit you with the singular gravitas of your deportment. Your tall physiognomy and respectable deportment call to your personage awe from all your fellow countrymen; awe which only the bearer of your office can command. Should you stand personally before a motley crew of opposition activists, you know that one word from you will drown out a thousand of theirs.
Throughout the history of mankind, the most loved leaders are not those who practice dirigisme but are generously liberal to all. However, this certain sense of liberality, of which I know you are most capable, must be bolstered by a firm and resolute leadership. Far from asking you to give into the demands of the oppositional forces, which daily grow stronger from the government’s irresoluteness, I ask that you remove your paternal hand of guidance and allow the free-flow of political expression.
Men are such that they will readily bear torture, but flee from mild humiliation. The oppositional leaders are empowered by the administration’s inconstant attempts to guide their populist angst. Having delayed the election dates, forbidding their free assembly and remaining uncharitable to their earnest demands, your leadership only suffers, not theirs.
To the leaders of the opposition, being incarcerated by your minister’s officers is a sought-after glory, a vain honor among their fellow epigones. If you champion their cause, you will contradict them in their partisan fulminations, and will utterly discredit them. To have their ‘tyrant’ become their champion would be such an intolerable shame to them, and it would deprive their movement of its vital energy.
Your liberality in letting the free wheels of parliamentary electoral procedures turn will not make them feel like victors. If you take the lead in granting free and fair elections, these men will feel like those whose glory has been taken from them. By taking the credit in making Malaysia a freer, more rule-based polity, your party might gain respect in the eyes of Malaysians after time passes and cooler heads return.
For now, I admit, they may win this brief skirmish, but the opposition’s inexperience in government will take time to match those of your party, and people will surely come to their senses. How much more secure would your position be if you’re elected by free men voting on their free choice!
Even more to your interest should be to meet them and never to suppress them at all. Justice is altogether in agreement with order. It is better to allow society to cough and heal itself by small correctives, than to suppress an ill which might later cause a violent convulsion. Allow these men to protest wherever they like, be liberal and invite them to plead their demands with generosity.
You will not only remove the causes of their anger, but overawe them with your administration’s probity and humanity. Once they feel that they can play by the same rules as you do, it comes down to pure persuasion and experience to win voters. How much less trouble is engaging in a debate than orchestrating a counter-protest in the capital! It would certainly save you time and effort.
Always remember, Prime Minister, that it is only natural for everyone to have a sense of justice and a desire to better oneself. Human nature is constant and any attempts to obstruct its movements against its natural inclinations will always be futile. And, democracies are the most dangerous polities to handle, not the safest. The history of the Athenian democracy should remind all leaders of the inherent volatility of democracy if its leadership goes against man’s natural liberty.
Your course should be to rely on institutions and procedures established by parliament. Politics should be game played on an established field with defined boundaries, and the personalisation of politics together with the abuse of the privileges of office can never bode well for the ruler.
All in all, your interests lay squarely in allowing free men make their own free choices. Religion, for example, is truly grand not when the state supports it, but when, by force of faith and reason alone, it wins the hearts of men by itself. So too with your esteemed office, you stand to gain more when men adore you from freedom than from compulsion, or worse, from fear.
To be loved for your liberality ensures your continued political success, and once you have decided not to run again for office, you can easily retire and become a genuinely honorable private citizen who is secured against all the calumny that your enemies can ever hope to raise against you.
So, I ask that this advice does not go unheeded. To act with justice and to permit all Malaysians to be truly freemen in politics would not at all be contrary to your interests. Rather, so much honour, glory and adulation await your generous liberality in free governing.
The love of free men is infinitely more secure than the obsequiousness of subjects.
The writer is a political science student at Marquette University, USA