Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.  

Alexander Hamilton, American statesman and a found father of USA

I am sure we all know the definition of democracy or some elementary form of it.

A basic definition would be that democracy is where the people via a free and fair electoral process choose their representatives to form a governing body, such as a parliament.

President Lincoln’s well-known description “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is also apt.

Defining democracy can be said to be the easy part.

Making democracy work for the benefit of the people is another matter and depends on the commitment and moral approach of the elected representatives.

Once a governing party assumes power, it is more or less an ‘elected authoritarian’ ruler in between elections. That is why there have to be good governance and effective checks and balances on its use of powers.

What other options do we have if you do not favour our democracy?

Well, at the opposite end of democracy we have the totalitarian rule.

This usually means a dictatorial one-party state. In such a system, it is difficult to differentiate between the government and the party.

Totalitarian rule is usually associated with authoritarian regimes with laws that repress opinions and beliefs. The concept of freedom of speech is absent.

However, I am sure some of us have come across admirers of regimes that are seen to manage their countries and economy well.

Tales abound about how fast things get done. Video clips of achievements in these regimes are praised in chat groups

Indeed, Hitler and his fascist regime used to receive much praise for making Germany prosperous and strong and look where it all led to … racism, genocide and World War II.

Well, I too admire the achievements and the speed with which things get done. Some of these economic and scientific achievements are truly amazing and deserve to be applauded.

However, we should always ask — at what price?

My point here is that while we can admire and applaud the achievements in some of these totalitarian regimes, we should be cautious about applauding these systems of non-democratic governments.

Some years ago, I was sat a coffee table with someone singing praises of a totalitarian type system.

While he was talking, his car was compounded for not displaying a valid parking coupon. He was livid with anger and ended up cursing the system here.

I then asked him whether he would dare to complain about the same matter or just quietly pay up in his totalitarian utopia. He fell silent.

My point here is that we can still complain and demand things here as we are in a democracy.

I for one would prefer to keep my grousing rights and stay in a democracy.

Yes, we have issues, but then no system is perfect and it is a work in progress.

However, in an era of constant surveillance, more of our liberties can be eroded via various laws in the name of national security.

We have to be careful that these liberties are not chipped away gradually to the point that we one day wake up in a repressed society.

Democracy in these troubling times is a thing we mush cherish and work hard to maintain and spread.

A democratic system such as ours allows for peaceful revolutions, here I mean a change of government without the killing, pain and suffering caused by violent revolutions that inevitably arise in totalitarian systems.

We must also always be on the watch to make sure racist-inspired policies and intolerances do not kill our democracy.

Ultimately, whatever system of governance there is it is always the ordinary people who are caught in the middle.

Their main concern is to ensure food on the table, roof over their families’ head, a good healthcare and education system.

Therefore, to take care of the people, good governance is the ultimate cornerstone people want.

Let us cherish and further improve our ability to engage and be responsive to the aspirations, needs and desires of our people.

Nationally, yes, we do have much political turmoil and things ought to be better managed by our politicians.

I am for one so far glad that despite the turmoil over the last couple of years and the Covid-19 pandemic, no matters how dramatic and chaotic, ridiculous and unjust, with drama and charades, we have still come through it more or less intact.

We must respect the ‘Rule of Law’ with its moral compass pointing in the right direction at all times.

Sarawak needs to maintain its positive outlook and we must continue supporting our healthy democracy.

We must not be seduced to the ‘dark side’ that comes along with a totalitarian or a mock democracy.

Things may look rosy and attractive in some regimes from afar. However, once you are in it, well it’s hell.

To those who sing praises of totalitarian type regimes, take note that the grass always looks greener on the other side.

Do have a reality check and realise that the ‘grass’ here in Sarawak is green, great and peaceful.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.