Nowadays we can always hear the word democracy in everywhere. What is actually democracy. Democracy is a political system which involves multiparty elections, representative government and also freedom of speech. In other words, we can say that it is a form of government that the citizens are directly or indirectly participate in the state ruling. The citizens in democratic countries have the equality and freedom in social, religion, culture and economic. They are also allowed to elect the state representatives whom they more preferable through elections.
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Origins of democracy can be traced back to the Greek of sixth century B.C. The word originated from the combination of two Greek words, demos which means the people and kratein means to rule. This system was first appeared in the Greek’s politics in the city state of Athens. Cleisthenes was the one who started this democratic system. He was known as the father of Athenian democracy. The Greeks seen dictatorship as the worst form of government, so they evolved to a totally opposite system which is democracy. The political system in Greek was the true perfect democracy in our world’s history. The Greeks civilization was broken down into smaller city-states with small population. The citizens were directly involved in the state government. The citizens were selected randomly to occupy the seats in government, judiciary offices and legislative assembly. They voted on all issues through regular assembly which means that they actually controlled the entire politics of their state. Although this was a total democracy system, women and slaves were excluded from the system. They were not considered as the citizens and not allowed to vote. Male below 20 and foreigners were also not counted.
The idea of democracy was implemented in the politics of Roman but with some different extent. The Roman Empire took the democracy concept from the Greeks government but they were representative democracy. Their system actually worked in the way which had representatives from the wealthy and noble families in the Senate and representatives from the commoners in the Assembly. The Roman Statesman, Cicero was one of the politicians who fond of democracy. In Athens, the right for individual was not secured by the Greeks constitution. In the ancient Greeks, there was no word for ‘right’. They were just enjoyed the liberties which not opposed to the government but also not subject themselves to the rules of another person. Cicero suggested that all people have certain rights that should be preserved. He and other political philosophers of the time taught that governmental and political power should come from the people. After the trend of democracy was started by the Greeks and carried on by the Romans, it has been seen in many later governmental systems throughout history. Today modern democracy imitates the Roman model more than the Greeks model as the people believe that there has to be an elected leader or representative.
The democratic ideas in the Middle Ages were started to be understood by the people and instituted through Christian. Christianity taught the people that men are all equal. This thinking was deeply ingrained into the society of Middle Ages. In 1215 , the Magna Carta started a more democratic system in England. English Parliament was created, the written laws held a higher power than the king, thereby limiting the power of the Royal family and giving some of that power to the people. The power of Parliament increased in stages over the succeeding centuries. Parliament gradually gained more power until the monarch became largely a figurehead. In North America, the English Puritans who migrated from colonies in New England whose governance was democratic contributed to the democratic development of the United States. (Barr, Rankin, & Baird)
Most of the countries tend to be democratic due to several reasons. On the path to modern democracy, the American Revolution and the French Revolution were some of the major events. In America, the pursue of democracy was the Declaration of Independence in 1776 which was written by Thomas Jefferson. While in France, the people overthrew the king and set their right to liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression. In the following years, revolution began to rise up against monarchy and the democracy government started to develop all around the world. With the growing success of democracy in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, democracy became more and more popular.
In this 21st century, there are 25 countries listed as full democracy according to Democracy Index 2011. The examples are United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand and so on. While there are another 53 countries are categorized under Flawed democracy such as Malaysia, Thailand, Slovakia and many others. Although democracy is said to be the best political system, there are still countries which practice authoritarianism or even totalitarianism due to the conditions of their countries. Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time, said by Winston Churchill during the speech in the House of Commons on 11th November 1947.
One of the issues of democracy is freedom of assembly. Freedom of assembly is forming of associations and organizations gather together peacefully in order to protect their human right. Freedom of assembly is usually occurs as there are some displeasure among the people which have mutual interest and goals. There are some country like Canada, France, India, and United States allows their citizen have freedom of assembly. Under freedom of assembly, people have the right to having public meetings as it does not influence public safety and usually some fees is need in order to get the permits. By having the right to assembly, people can gather in a group sharing and debating on certain issue and exchanging their opinion as long as there are not create any disturbance to the society. (Smith) However, there also still have communist countries such as China, Laos, and North Korea except from given their citizen freedom of assembly. The political system in China is totally different from democracy as they are strongly emphasis on total control to their people. Therefore, there was group of people wishing to organize demonstration during the 2008 Summer Olympics. (Gammon, 2012)
We have choose freedom of assembly to be discuss in our assignment as this topic seems to become one of the hot political issues discuss by the citizens and the same goes to politicians in our country as well as other countries. Our fourth prime minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad also gave his own opinion to the issue. There are few points to support his opinion. Government must liable to a minority group and same goes to majority group. When there is full freedom given to people will form issues on other will lose their freedom as they are encroached by the freedom one. Government will loss control their citizen as they are given fully freedom. Although it is good to giving the right for people assembly but it cannot use as a force to the government as it will influence the quality of decision they make. (Freedom of assembly should have limits, says Dr Mahathir, 2012)
Although the citizens have the rights to assemble freely, there is also a law to restrict them. The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) is the law introduced on year 2012 in order to handle the demonstrations or public protest in Malaysia. (Lim, 2012). This Act contains 27 Sections and 4 Schedules to provide restrictions deemed necessary or expedient relating to the right to assemble peacefully and without arms in the interest of the security of the Federation or public order. This act has replaced the Section 27 of Police Act. The permit of police for mass assemblies is no longer needed. (Gathering in Peace, 2011) Maina Kiai, a Kenyan lawyer who is a United Nations of special rappoteur said that it is important to have freedom of assembly to give chance for the citizens to voice out their opinion. However, he criticized that the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) is more toward control instead of facilitating the assembly. (UN special rapporteur pans Peaceful Assembly Act, 2012). Besides, this PAA is being opposed by the Bar council, civil leaders and also the opposition.
In Malaysia, there are few cases such as LYNAS and BERSIH relevant to the freedom of assembly. Same goes to other country like United States and Taiwan. In United States, there are thousands of people gathered in Wall Street, New York in order to oppose their government to protect their own economic interest as their government just support system reward for rich class people. Besides, there are demonstrations named “Million Voices against Corruption, President Chen Must Go” led by Taiwan politician, Shih Ming Te. The purpose of the protest is pressured the President Chen Shui Bian to resign due to the corruption. These cases will be further discuss in the following parts.
2.0 Rally In Malaysia
2.1 Case 1: Bersih 2.0
Bersih 2.0 also shows the individual right such as human right, political right and civil liberty. The Bersih 2.0 rally was a demonstration that held at Kuala Lumpur on 9th July 2011 to protest for free and fair elections. Bersih demonstration was agitated to build a better electoral system that will enable Malaysia to elect a better future leader. Bersih also known as ‘Walk for Democracy’. There were around 20,000 to 50,000 people attended the Bersih 20.0 rally. The rally was organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Election.
Why did Bersih establish? What did they want and what were their objectives? There were 8 demands that claim by the Bersih. These demands have also become the objectives of Bersih that successfully injected into all Malaysians’ mindset. The 8 objectives were shown below:
Clean the electoral roll
The electoral roll is spoiled due to some irregularities such as deceased person or multiple persons registered under a single address. Therefore, the electoral roll must be updated from time to time. Next, Bersih 2.0 also demand that Election Commission (EC) to implement an automated voter registration system to prevent any irregularities.
Reform postal ballot
The current postal ballot has to be reformed to make sure that all nations are able to vote includes Malaysians citizen that living abroad, police, military and civil servants.
Use indelible ink
Indelible ink should be used in all elections to prevent voter fraud. In the past, voters may accidentally smudge the ballot paper with ink, and hence casing the ballot paper to be invalid. Other countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt and Iraq also practice using this kind of ink.
Minimum 21 days campaign period
A longer campaign are able to provide more time for voters to gather information, more time to consider and more time to vote.
Free and fair excess to media
Bersih 2.0 suggests that EC press on all media agencies such as radio, television, newspaper and magazine to promote the objectives for all parties.
Strengthen public institution
Public institutions must act independently, uphold laws and protect human rights as Malaysia is a democratic country.
Bersih 2.0 insists to end corruption. The only way is serious action is taken against all allegation of corruption, such as vote buying.
Stop dirty politics
Bersih 2.0 demands to wipe out all dirty political parties and politicians in order to build a better society and country.
2.1.1 What were the government’s views on this and what actions they have taken?
On 2nd July 2011, Barisan Nasional government has announced that Bersih was an illegal organization because it is a convergence of Non-Government Organization (NGO) group whereby it formed by many registered group who come together and share the same agenda and purpose.
Therefore, they were not allowed to do any demonstration. During that day, Malaysian’s polices claimed that they vowed to stop any illegal rallies in which without police permission. At first, Bersih planned to march through the streets of Kuala Lumpur with some propaganda such as “Walk of democracy”, “We want fair democracy”, “We hate the Government”, “Say no to Corruption”, “Reformasi” and others more, but then Bersih decided to congregate at Merdeka stadium to have a peaceful demonstration. No one was out to throw stones, burns cars and injuries which result in Bersih rally 1.0 in 2007.
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However, the protestors were still not able to gather successfully at Merdeka Stadium because many of the people were forced by the police who were heavily deployed throughout the city. Police act violently by arresting around 1,600 peaceful demonstrators, hurling tear gas and firing water canon directly towards protestors just to stop the Bersih 2.0 gathering in the stadium. There was a case that a 56-years-old man, which is a participant of Bersih 2.0 and also a protestor, collapsed near the Petronas Towel while fleeing tear gas and was announced dead later in hospital. Next, many protestors were beaten by the police and officers of the Federal Reserve Unit to suppress mass public assembly. It also found out that the police fired tear gas near the hospital compound which put the health of patient at risk.
Bersih 2.0 results that almost all protestors arrested during 9th July 2011 now have been released without charge. But there are still 40 people facing prosecution. For those protestors who caught wearing Bersih T-shirts have been charged under Section 49 of the Societies Act for possession of illegal material.
2.1.2 Opposition’s stand
The opposition, Pakatan Rakyat which comprises Democratic Action Party (DAP), The People’s Justice Party (PKR) and Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS) has expressed their approval to the Bersih 2.0. In their opinion, it is a new way for Malaysian to voice out their dissatisfaction on corruption and to tell the government not to rig the election again and again.
Lim Guan Eng, the secretary-general of DAP said that DAP has reiterated its support to the Bersih 2.0’s eight demands. Besides, DAP strongly condemned the actions and warnings by the government, especially Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur, to ban this peaceful sit-in protest by instilling fear of untoward incidents (Chooi, 2012). He also mentioned that it is time to ensure a bright and clean future for free from fear.
Apart of this, PAS also gave their full support to the rallty. Their president, Datuk Seri Tuan Guru Abdul Hadi Awang has urged all the party members to take part in the Bersih 2.0 for demanding a real free and fair election.
Nearly all of the leaders from opposition parties joined the rally on 9th July but most of them were arrested on the spot.
2.1.3 NGOs’ stand
Overall, there were 24 non-gvernment organizations (NGO) which expressed their objection towards Bersih because they felt that it may cause chaos. They also declared about the stubbornness of the organizer which backed by the opposition to involve in the demonstration. Some of the NGO that against Bersih include Yayasan Pendidikan Cheras (YPC), Persatuan Teksi Eksekutif Malaysia, Persatuan Penjaja Kuala Lumpur, Pertubuhan Suarakan Kehendak Rakyat Malaysia (Sedar) and Pertubuhan Gerakan Memartabat Pejuang Negara Malaysia. Next, the NGOs also submit a memorandum to the Home Ministry to act against the organizers who support Bersih. There is a case in Kampar, Perak where the president of Malaysian Youth Council (MYC) Mohamad Maliki Mohamed Rapiee claimed that the council would take action towards the members who take part in the gathering. “We urge youths to guard against being influenced to participate in the gathering,” he told the reporters.
However, there are also some of the NGO which support Bersih. For example, All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisations (PRIMA), Persatuan hak asasi manusia (hakam) and Women’s Aid Organisation.The participants that support Bersih are required to wear yellow clothes or yellow items.
2.1.4 The role of mainstream media
The mainstream media which were controlled by the government have not focused their report on the rally. Like TV1, TV2 or TV3, it was very hard to find out the detail about the rally on their news, even the print media also hided some truths. It has made Malaysians disappointed and has felt the rate of media freedom was down-grading.
2.2 Case 2: anti-Lynas protest
Another example which shows the individual right which includes human right, political right and civil liberty in Malaysia is Lynas cases. The Lynas Corporation Limited (LYC) is a rare earth mining company from Australia. It mainly focused to become a global rare earths producer and supplier by focus on RED (Rare Earths Direct) branding. Their main asset is Mt Weld rare earths deposit in Western Australia. They digging the rare earth ore from ground at Mt Weld, then process a bit at Laverton and tricking to Fremantle. Lastly, it will be shipping to Gebeng Industrial Estate, Pahang, Malaysia. for the final process. The product, which means the rare earth oxides, will be selling to other country such as America.
Why Malaysia has been chosen to be the destination to further process of the rare earth ore into rare earth oxide rather than in Australia? Actually, Lynas came to Malaysia is based on economic reasons and also its proximity to customers. The availability of cheap skilled and unskilled labour, chemicals and fresh water make the company choose Malaysia. It also makes better business sense to be close to global customer because they meet all the regulations and approval to build Lynas plant in Australia.
2.2.1 The reason of having rally
Remove of radioactive element from the rare earth mineral by Lynas processing plant in Pahang can produce those electronics such as iPhones, iPads, hybrid cars and wind turbines. In result, the remaining will become as a dangerous waste which resulting in a humongous amount of radioactive to be released in form of gas, liquid and solids. The bad effect all disposed in Malaysia, and cause nothing toward Australia country and thus make most of the Malaysian assemble to against the approval of government. This action makes a strong rebound from most of the Malaysia citizen. The trust of Malaysian towards government was spoiled and might cause political risk in Malaysia. Voters will tend to vote against the ruling party during election held every five years. Besides, Australians are becoming quietly hated by Malaysians. (Ryan, 2012)
The aim of the anti-Lynas campaigns and demonstrations formed is most of the Malaysian want to expel Lynas out from Malaysia. On their opinion, this Lynas plant will bring a lot of bad effect which includes human’s health and also destroy the environment. They stand out and assemble together to speak out their view and hope the government will be further consider about the built of a uncontrollable time bomb within the country.
2.2.2 Opposition’s stand
The Secretary-General of the Malaysian Democratic Action Party (DAP), Lim Guan Eng has opposed the build of Lynas. “That the BN government has no hesitation to issue the TOL to Lynas even before the general election showed its commitment towards Lynas and profits over the people’s health,” he said (Guan Eng: Vote out BN to shut Lynas plant, 2012). He claimed that the government did not concern about the bad effect for citizen that caused by this Lynas plant while just concern about the profit of the country gained.
2.2.3 The views of NGOs
For some of the non-government organization which is involved in developing the state’s business and entrepreneurial sectors, they actually supported the approval of the government that allowed the Lynas built within the country (LYNAS PLANT: Study can silence opponents, 2011). It is because they were more concern about the economy of the country. They thought that the Lynas project did not have harmful health risks based on the evident from the feedback that have been received from local entrepreneurs which were involved in the plant from the start (Lim, 2012) . But for some other non-government organization, for example, Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS), Center Policy Initiative (CPI) and Lawyers For Liberty (LFL), they opposed the Lynas by supporting the Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) to immediately delay the license issued to Lynas and to limit any shipment of rare earth ore concentrate into Malaysia.
2.2.4 The government’s actions
The police usually use tear-gas grenade to deploy the protesters. The protesters really dissatisfied with the actions of the government that are trying to ignore and prevent them to resist the decision that they have made. They claimed that government has not listening to the people at all.
2.2.5 The effect of the rally
As a result, the citizens have assembled for at least five times to oppose the build of Lynas plant. This create riot within Malaysia and it shows unstable of the country. But from other view, it shows that all the citizen have their right to oppose government decision. Citizens have their authority to evaluate the decision which make by the government. Is the Lynas plant will bring more advantages or disadvantages? This is an intricacy question for all of the Malaysian. Every people have their own view to make their decision. Citizen can speak out what they need, what they think and what they want. It is one of the characteristic of democracy country which strongly shows that the freedom of people.
3.0 Rally in foreign countries
3.1 Freedom of assemble in United States
“‘The right of the people peaceably to assemble for the purpose of petitioning Congress for a redress of grievances, or for anything else connected with the powers or the duties of the National Government, is an attribute of national citizenship, and, as such, under the protection of, and guaranteed by, the United States. The very idea of a government, republican in form, implies a right on the part of its citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances.” (Supreme Court, United States v. Cruikshank, 1876) .In America, governments are accepting the people to have freedom of speech and religion; they have the rights or freedom of assembly to voice their opinion out to the government. They have rights to resist the commands of government they deem wrong or unreasonable. In United States, government officials cannot prohibit all demonstrations in public forums during controversial events. Police only can have a protection to avoid the violence happen during the event for the interest of public. The official cannot refuse the constitutional rights for protesting on public streets, public parks, and other public venue. People can have a demonstration outside a federal courthouse but the leader needs to discuss their plan with the U. S. Marshall. This shows US country is democratic to accept the view of citizen. The government may not restrict the actual content of speech place, and manner of speech. When the people face by law enforcement, they still need to obey their orders even people believe their action is improper. In large protest activity, people can have fair legal observers to be present. Legal observers cannot participate in the demonstration, but they only can go under some action by demonstrators and by law enforcement. “â€¦ The right to peaceable assembly is a right cognate to those of free speech and free press and is equally fundamental.” (Supreme Court, De Jonge v. State of Oregon, 1937). Assembly is a way that people show support for an idea or dispute from the government. America that support the democracy not only promote for people freedom or worker right, it also create a more stable and blooming arena which United State can get its national interest. Citizen creates a non-government organization (NGO) or interest group loyal to single issues. The NGO will be an effective way to focus people interest in the country. The group use to demand something and politicians generally listen.
3.1.1 Tea Party movement (USA)
For example, tea party movement in United State is one of the organizations or parties represent the voice of people. They try to oppose the high taxation, immigration and government intervention in private sector. Speaking by the floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Santelli heatedly stated that ‘the bailout would “subsidize the losers’ mortgages” and proposed a Chicago Tea Party to protest government intervention in the housing market.’ Tea party uses the power of social media such as Facebook to coordinate the protest event. This prove that the country is under the free mass media, people can have their individual right to share the information or news about protest government. The first action of tea party movement was a nationwide series of assembly on April 15, 2009, more than 250,000 people take part this protest event. “Tea” means “Taxed Enough Already.” All the party members at congressional town hall meetings to protest the proposed reforms to the American health care system.
3.1.2 Occupy Wall Street
American people are trying to against the financial mafia that taken their country and protect their own economic interest by taking people welfare and lives. They are fight for truth democracy, people empowerment, an equality and fair society. Citizen in United State voice the dissatisfied that they have keep in silence for long. Citizens hope their government can have a real ‘change’ that they can ‘believe in’, the right of people are not trampled under the feet of money and power-wielding financial elite of the Wall Street silk. The movement, thousands of people gathered on September 17 in Wall Street, New York which is the centre of American banking and finance industry started the ”Occupy wall Street” . The movement has now spread to other cities across the United States and inside the U.S. and across the world has got the attention of people. The system of government that unfair and unjust to the citizen cause they feel despair toward the government. In economics of US, the system and government only support system reward the people in super rich class and ignore the middle class and the poor. The inequality of national wealth distribution and people income in United State are worse than other country. Since 2008, economic condition of USA has a sharp turn for worse. The middle class of American are stay in high rate of unemployment, rising cost of living and decreasing incomes. The political system of American increasingly failing short of challenge of the time and this cause the government cannot give an effective solution to the problem that face by American and America. For example, Obama’s job creation plan which broke to pieces as a result of the Republican-Democrat animosity. The high unemployment level in United State cause destruction of people, families and some Americans who cannot even afford their daily food spend.
American people against the financial mafia because the acknowledged fact is that the growth and rise in power of “finance capital” over the years particularly in the U.S. has meant that the whole economies and societies have been taken hostage by a predatory financial oligarchy. In Middle East, people are against their oppressive dictatorships. In United State, their government, economic, society and their very lives are taken as a hostage and this are now against by people. They are fight for individual right, social and economic equality.
3.1.3 Non- government organization stance toward the America protest activity
U.S. and international NGOs (non-government organization) actually represent every conceivable political cause, religion, social issue, and interest group. About 1.5 million NGO operate in United State. NGO in America are engage in some activity such as election, women rights and economic development. NGOs always feel they cannot ignore the immediate practical problems of people in their policy domain. Human rights NGOs and women’s NGOs will end up having programs to assist the victims of discrimination and injustice. Some of the NGO are support people to have rights of protest government activity. For example, the tea party government also involved the Occupy Walk Street to support the people fight for their economic interest.
3.1.4 Effect of media to protest activity
Media is one of the things that can influence the democracy of America. Ask by a sociologist Herbert Gans, “What can Journalists actually do for American Democracy?” the point of journalism to journalist is an important thing to democracy. The role of democratic journalist is to inform citizen and allow more citizen participate politically because the more participate of citizen will come out a more democracy country. The journalist only can show the truth of politic to the citizen. But the tea party in the United State is criticizing the media of country try to coverage the Occupy Wall Street protest activity. Media are try to ignore negative point of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests while it play up suspicious charges against conservative activists last year. The co-founders of the Tea Party Patriots Mark Mecker say that when the tea party protest begins, they are ridicule, ignored and attack by the media. Media are using ‘Astroturf,’ ‘fringe,’ ‘racists’ and ‘Nazis’ word to describe them. From this event, we can know that sometime United State also will have a limit freedom of media because they want to cover the bad image of America to other country or citizen.
3.2 The “Million Voices against Corruption, President Chen Must Go” protest in Taiwan
In Taiwan, there was a protest named “Million Voices against Corruption, President Chen Must Go” in 2006 which led by Shih Ming Te, the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman, to pressure President Chen Shui Bian to resign due to corruption.
President Chen and the DPP came to power in 2000 promising reform and an end to money politics, or “black gold”, after more than half a century of one party rule by the Kuomintang (Gluck, 2006). However, lots of his supporters were disappointed as there are scandals that indicated his son-in-law, Chao Chien Ming, was accused of insider trading. The same year, his wife, Wu Shu Chen, was charged with corruption and forgery. It was proven that she had wired $21million in campaign funds to banks in Singapore, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, There were charges that Chen himself had misused his authority as well (the Editors of Publications International, 2007).
3.2.1 People’s responses
The mass protest was obviously fully backed up by Taiwanese. It can be seen when Shih has decided to launch a fundraising campaign to finance for the rally, a lot of people gave their quick response and donated a symbolic NT$100 as requested. Within six working days, more than a million people signed up to support him (Gluck, 2006). The speed and scale are surprised to everybody, including Shih.
On 9 September 2006, the rally started in front of the Presidential Building. The protesters dressed in red to highlight their anger, gestured thumb down and chanted “Ah Bian step down!” to show their disapproval and dissatisfaction. The organizers said that more than 200,000 people had joined the rally but the police put the number at 90,000. They also said that the protest was the first mass grassroots movement to remove a president that had not been organized by ma
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