Thank God, Teresa Kok (DAP MP for Seputeh) has been released from the ISA. The Abdullah Badawi administration’s lame excuse of not finding any reason to detain her further sounds as ludicrous as Sin Chew's reporter Tan Hoon Cheng’s detention is for her protection. Unfortunately, Malaysia Today editor/blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin is still detained. Since the crack down began last week, mosques, churches, temples, places of worship and all other places where the public congregate, have seen vigils and prayers for the three detainees and for our country. All religions have in the course of their development been victims of oppression. They are therefore familiar with OPPRESSION and are quick to recognize one when it happens. But there is a word that is more appropriate than oppression to describe the sinful act of the Badawi administration in the misuse of the ISA, it is TYRANNY!
In ancient Rome, the legions of centurions were for the protection of Rome and thus were required to be encamped beyond the shores of the river Rubicon. Caesar in leading his legions to cross the Rubicon used the legions not for Rome but for his personal goal and changed Rome from a republic to a tyranny, an act finally punished by his assassination. Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in using the ISA, not for the protection of Malaysia but for protecting his waning administration after having crossed the Rubicon last week. Once crossed, Prime Minister Badawi has to bear the consequences of his conduct and releasing the detainees after 18 hours or after one week is not going to change the effect of his act. One cannot wade back when the Rubicon is crossed.
According to all religious tradition, once it is established beyond doubt that a particular ruler is a tyrant or a particular regime is tyrannical, it forfeits the moral right to govern and the people acquire the right to resist and to find the means to protect themselves from injustice and oppression. In other words a tyrannical regime has no moral legitimacy. It may be the de facto government and it may even be recognized by other governments and therefore be de jure or legal government. But if it is a tyrannical regime, it is from a moral point of view an illegitimate government.
At what point does a government become a tyrannical regime?
A tyrant is some one who exercises authority without respect for its function of supplying the conditions for a normative order. In the philosopher John Locke’s view, “Wherever the power that is put in any hands for the government of the people and the preservation of their properties is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to the arbitrary irregular commands of those that have it, there it presently becomes a tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many… Wherever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm.” The traditional Latin definition of a tyrant is “hostis boni communis” - an enemy of the common good.
The purpose of all government is the promotion of what is called the common good. To promote the common good is to govern in the interest of, and for the benefit of, all the people. Many governments fail to do this at times. There might be this or that injustice done to some of the people. And such acts of injustice would indeed be criticized. But such lapses would not make a government an enemy of the people, a tyrant.
To be an enemy of the people a government would have to be hostile to the common good in principle. Such a government would be acting against the interest of the people as a whole and permanently. This would be the clearest in cases where the very policy of a government is hostile towards the common good and where the mandate to rule in the interest of all the people is used to govern for the interest of only some of the people. Such a government would be in principle irreformable. Any reform that it might try to introduce would not be calculated to serve the common good but to serve the interest of the selected few.
The justification for having the Internal Security Act ceased long ago. The need to protect the country from the communist insurgency ended with the laying down of arms by Chin Peng. The ISA has been used to detain opposition members. The use of the ISA is not only against the three detained but also against all of the people. It is to warn the people that this administration will not tolerate dissent. The ISA is the tool used in the politics of fear. It is not used for the common good but to preserve the position of the few. When the ISA was again invoked last week, there were some voices of dissent from cabinet ministers but only one minister, Dato Zaid Ibrahim showed that he means what he said and does what he means. The rest once again proved that what they do is far from what they say. Each of them and more so by the inelegant silence of the rest shows that all of them that remains in Badawi’s administration have also lost their moral authority to
govern. They have mortgaged their souls for power.
A tyrannical regime cannot continue to rule for very long without becoming more and more violent. As the majority of the people begin to demand their rights and to put pressure on the tyrant, so will the tyrant resort more and more to desperate, cruel, gross and ruthless forms of tyranny and repression. The reign of a tyrant always ends up as a reign of terror. It is inevitable because from the start, the tyrant is an enemy of the common good. It will use repressive measures, detentions, bans, prohibitions, propaganda, states of emergency and other tyrannical and desperate methods. Hamilton writes “In all ages the favourite and most formidable instruments of tyranny is unwarranted searches and seizures, the arrest and punishment of men without trial”. A regime that is in principle the enemy of the people cannot suddenly begin to rule in the interest of all the people. It can only be replaced by another government, one that will govern in the interest
of all the people.
William Leong Jee Keen
Treasurer General Parti Keadilan Rakyat
Member of Parliament for Selayang
20th September 2008