SocDem Asia condemns the recent arrest of Democratic Action Party – Malaysia Secretary General and Penang State Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. The timing of the arrest is highly suspicious and shows the intent of the government to silence dissent and undermine the political opposition.
While the arrest is seemingly in pursuit of fighting corruption, for alleged abuse of power and conflict of interest, this façade of an anti-corruption case falls flat on its face considering that the government has yet to act on damning allegations and evidence of corruption tied to current Prime Minister Najib Razak. We fear that this arrest is another episode in a series of strategic moves by the ruling party and government to cripple the political opposition. We have already witnessed the arrest and conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who already served a previous conviction on highly suspicious grounds, and many other political activists.
We stand in solidarity with our comrades in the DAP, the political opposition and the people of Malaysia in these trying times. We urge the Malaysian people to continue to be vigilant and to persist in its struggle for meaningful democracy and human rights.
Against the backdrop of high youth unemployment and growing inequality, which has been ravaging much of the world, we uphold that the human right to Education is an indispensable public good that not only enables individual freedom from ignorance and insecurity but also propels the national economy and fosters societal cohesion.
In today’s globalized world, the significance of education is conventionally understood in terms of its pivotal role in enhancing and preserving the productive and innovative capacities of the (national and global) economy. Education is largely seen as an instrument of skill-enhancement and cognitive development, preparing individuals to contribute to the efficient and robust operation of labour markets.
Without a question, Asia is a diverse lot. In fact, right until the modern times, people in the region, who constitute much of the world’s population, didn’t identify themselves as part of the same spatial community or episteme. Beginning with the Greeks, who divided the world between the ‘civilized’ Hellenistic world and the ‘Barbarian’ rest, including the towering Persian Empire, there emerged in the Western imagination an Orient, embodied by a distinct Asiatic world.
After centuries of humiliation under the yoke of Western colonial powers, Asia has gradually reconstituted itself, emerging as the world’s most dynamic and promising region. Yet, despite decades of almost uninterrupted economic expansion and political consolidation, the region is still struggling to establish mature, inclusive democracies.
On one hand are the Philippines and India, among the two oldest non-Western democracies. They have stood as a strong testament against suspect ‘Asian values’ argument, which erroneously contends that ‘liberal democracy’ is a Western construct, thus alien to the supposed fundamental, ahistorical values of the Orient.
D.K.Giri, the Secretary General of Association of Democratic Socialism (ADS), underscored how India’s ‘most outstanding achievement’ is its ability to preserve a ‘parliamentary democracy, followed uninterruptedly since 1947 within the constitutional framework.’ Clearly, though India, as in other developing democracies in Asia, is still grappling with humongous developmental challenges, which threaten to undermine the fabric of its democratic institutions. ‘Indian Democracy has failed to liberate a vast number of people in its rural areas from object poverty, destitution, hunger, oppression and exploitation,’ D.K. Giri laments.
Yet the situation beckons progressives and social democrats, who have ‘greater ideological appeal, [and] enjoy popularity’ to leave a larger footprint in the Indian democratic landscape, though that means that, in light of their lack of optimal self-organization, they may have to ‘rely on the Congress and Communists, but ideologically they would lead, as only their platform can counter’ that of the ruling right-wing party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which controls majority seats, 312 out of 545, in the Lok Sabha (the Lower House).