Friday, March 20, 2009

The State vs. The People

The constant struggle between the rulers and the ruled have never stopped since the beginning of recorded human history. The rulers, whether it be kings or democratic states, try to impose rules that sometimes invades the personal liberty and freedom of individuals. Here in Maldives, it is by no means any different even after the overthrow of the 30 year old regime. The recent censorship of selected websites by the government illustrates how the state imposes rules and regulations at the expense of personal liberty. Like the author Eric Blair said,
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear"
Although I disagree with some of the things in the websites, I do defend their right to say it. In a country where we are just learning democracy, it is important to understand that if democracy goes unchecked, it will result in a dictatorship. After all, Adolf Hitler came to power via democratic means. Thus, we must not let ourselves be the frogs that gets slowly cooked in the ever heating pan. The real problem, in my opinion, is that the constitution itself does not impose limits on the power of the state. For example, the often quoted Article 16(a) states that (emphasis mine);
"This Constitution guarantees to all persons, in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam, the rights and freedoms contained within this Chapter, subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis in a manner that is not contrary to this Constitution. Any such law enacted by the People’s Majlis can limit the rights and freedoms to any extent only if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."
In short, you have all these fundamental rights until the People's Majlis decides to revoke (to any extent) them by enacting a law passed by the majority. What kind of guarantee is that? What is meant by demonstrably justified, in a free democratic society? We all know that it is in these democratic societies that special interest groups and people with power come up with all sorts of demonstrably justified reasons to invade the personal liberty and freedom of individuals. Why should we give the People's Majlis so much power over our personal lives? You never know when a law will be passed that allows the state to monitor phone calls and internet traffic for terrorist threats, do you? It is not only in the totalitarian states that erosion of personal liberty takes place. The so called Land of the Free passed the PATRIOT ACT which gave the state overly broad surveillance powers and threw away the due process of law (Just 45 days after the 9/11 attacks). Just yesterday in Australia, the secret blacklist of banned websites was leaked. When such laws are passed, the state will create a common enemy. In USA during the Cold War, it was the Communists, today it is the Terrorists. For Hitler it was the Jews and Gypsies. Do you want this country to be such a nanny state, in the name of protecting us from the evils of such sites? Do we give up our liberty so that the state can protect us? I certainly won't.
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. - Benjamin Franklin -

8 comments:

imdhaah said...

that struggle wil continue as long as humans exist. the rulers or ruling party will always find some way to bend the law with regulations for their benefits. maybe be even modify the constitution...

meekaaku said...

yes. but we could atleast try to get some fundamental rights (which should be in alienable even by the majority) via a proper constitution. Otherwise it would become tyranny-by-majority.

axee said...

Its obvious that alpha ppl are a bit high up in the ladder at most time.....but as humans we need t be humane....sorry...focus!!

i agree on writing a constitution jus like they have in US....

worried how it'd come abt if the half-headed morons in the majlis gets the task....i think the real question lies on who'l right it....i don think even writing and going to a public referendum will produce anythin different than a summary of the Gaanoonu

axee said...

maybe be even modify the constitution.....imdhaah

What can be done on this is to state that "this constitution can only be changed with 75% of the vote of full majlis members OR a public referendum that yields 65% pro to the ammendment"...something of this sort in with maybe some adjustments to the percentage....Now it'l be that much harder to amend.. :-)

axee said...

yes i agree that w/o a constitution it'l be tyranny-by-majority. atleast with a constitution any group that maybe disenfranchised by a majlis passed law can go t the court and the court can over turn the law on the basis of "unconstitutional"...wherez shahdy...he needs t talk on tis???

meekaaku said...

axee,

yes. there is such a concept of Supermajority.

I dont know if there is such a thing here in this country. But here how can we vote on supermajority, we barely get the quorum.

Hilath said...

Nicely said.

meekaaku said...

thanks hilath.