Despite certain reservations, I am happy that finally PM has taken the bold step forward and announced the repeal of ISA and the relaxation oer certain restriction on civil liberties.
Even if this announcement is meant to gain votes for the next GE, I will still be happy if it can be carried out as promised and it can lead to more freedom for the society. WHAT IS important is that the rakyat gets better lives and more freedom, regardless of the motives behind such announcement.
This would not have been possible if not for the fact that BN has lost its 2/3 majority after 308. This is further proof that a 2 party system, no matter how imperfect it may be, is better than a single-dominant-party rule.
The million dollar question remains that whether such reform can be carried out as promised.
In 2004, Pak Lah has promised the sky but we not only did not see the sky, but we lost our ground too.
To answer the million dollar question posted above, we need to look at history, since history, as I have often stated in this blog, can show us that many reformist governments landed up as failure.
Since I am quite familiar with China History, i shall share with my readers the so called ” Hundred Days Reform” which was carried out during the reign of Guang Xu, the 12th and last-but-one emperor of Qing Dynasty.
When the Last-but-two emperor of Qing Dynasty, TongZhi, passed away ( unofficial sources said he died of syphilis but that was outside this topic), he left no children, so Empress CiXi, installed Tongzhi’s cousin, who was also her younger sister’s son, Zaitian, as the new emperor. He was known as Guangxu.
Guangxu ascended the throne at age 4 with Empress CiXi as the regent. She was all powerful and was known in History as the Empress Dowager. All the ministers were all her people and no one dared to oppose her, as doing so would result in whole tribe being executed, in those feudal days.
Guangxu was given back his reign when he was 17 (Chinese age 18), and he ws vry much influenced by his teacher, who was reformed minded.
At that time, China was very weak, and was bullied by Western powers, and a resurgent Japan which had just undergone the Meiji restoration. After losing the opium war, China had to sign a number of unequal treaties and as a result ceded Hong Kong, Macau etc to the western power.
Guangxu knew that the only way to save China was to reform , as in the case of Japan under the Meiji Emperor.
He appointed a few reform minded minsiters like Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao.
At that time, there were 2 schools of thought among those reformed minded Chinese intellectuals . One like Kang and Liang wanted to save China through reforming the Qing government, using Japan as a model; the other school thought that to have a thorough reform, Qing Dynasty had to be overthrown and a new reform minded government, in the form of democracy , would be the only answer. The latter school influenced people like Sun Yat Sun and Wang JiWei.
Empress CiXi, despite allowing Guangxu to finally sit on the throne to decide matters of the State, did not let go all her powers. She remained literally behind the throne and listened to how the matters of the State were being run, and many a time, she had the ultimate say through her connections with other royalties sitting as major advisers to the Emperor.
Guangxu with his reform team instituted the Hundred Days Reform, aiming at instituting sweeping political, legal, social changes. However, the change was deemed too drastic, and they lost support of most of the conservatives and the important ministers, who turned to Empress Cixi for help. Even among the population, many could not accept such drastic changes.
In the end, even the general Yuan shikai, commanding a modern army , who the reformists turned for help in ensuring power, turned against them and revealed their plans to Cixi. In the end, the reform was put to an end, through the use of army loyal to Cixi. Liang and Kang fled and escaped, but Emperor Guangxu was put under house arrest and was rumoured to be poisoned one day before the death of Cixi, many years later.
What can we learn from this?
That changes will always be opposed. Unless these opposing forces can be tamed, reform would not succeed.
To tame these forces, support from those holding the power levers , such as those with gun barrels are very important. (Mao had famously said that power came from the barrels of guns )
Support from the people is of utmost important, for the opinion of the people influences those holding the power levers.
These people who hold the power levers would likely turn to a former Ally when their own interest are being threatened. In the Qing case, they turned to cixi.
In Malaysia, they would likely unite under the Old Horse when their own interest are threathened.
This piece of history would serve our PM well, to remind him that to push through changes, he needs to be determine and had a steely resolve. He needs to be prepared to do political battles with his ministers and other warlords, not only within his party, but outside in the civil service as well, especially those holding the power levers.
ANother valuable lesson is that ultimately, 13 years after the failure of the Hundred Days Reform, Qing was overthrown, and Republic of China was born.
This means that if PM cannot overcome the resistance to change, the government would be at a risk of being change.
I wish PM luck and success, and I sincerely hope that he can implement the changes ,. for the benefits of the people. I also believe that any failure of implementing what he has promised would result in change of regime.
This is the lesson from history!