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Civil Society SC titlepg 11/4/04 12:39 AM Page 2 C

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

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The Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) is funded by the governments of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden via the Nordic Council of Ministers, and works to encourage and support Asian studies in the Nordic countries. In so doing, NIAS has been publishing books since 1969, with more than one hundred titles produced in the last decade. The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) was established as an autonomous organization in 1968. It is a regional centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment. The Institute’s research programmes are the Regional Economic Studies (RES, including ASEAN and APEC), Regional Strategic and Political Studies (RSPS), and Regional Social and Cultural Studies (RSCS). ISEAS Publications, an established academic press, has issued more than 1,000 books and journals. It is the largest scholarly publisher of research about Southeast Asia from within the region. ISEAS Publications works with many other academic and trade publishers and distributors to disseminate important research and analyses from and about Southeast Asia to the rest of the world.

NIAS edition

Civil Society SC titlepg 11/4/04 12:39 AM Page 1 C

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First published in Singapore in 2004 by ISEAS Publications Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 30 Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 119614 E-mail: [email protected] • Website: http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg First published in 2004 by NIAS Press Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Leifsgade 33, DK-2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark Tel: (+45) 3532 9501 • Fax: (+45) 3532 9549 E-mail: [email protected] • Website: http://www.niaspress.dk for distribution in Europe All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. © 2004 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore The responsibility for facts and opinions in this publication rests exclusively with the editor and contributors and their interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the Institute or its supporters.

ISEAS Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Civil society in Southeast Asia / edited by Lee Hock Guan. 1. Civil society—Asia, Southeastern. 2. Political culture—Asia, Southeastern. 3. Religion and politics—Asia, Southeastern. 4. Asia, Southeastern—Ethnic relations—Political aspects. I.Lee Hock Guan DS526.7 C58 2004 ISBN 87-91114-54-3 (NIAS soft cover edition) ISBN 981-230-257-3 (ISEAS soft cover edition) ISBN 981-230-258-1 (ISEAS hard cover edition) Typeset by Superskill Graphics Pte Ltd Printed in Singapore by Seng Lee Press Pte Ltd

Contents

Preface About the Contributors

vii ix

1

Introduction: Civil Society in Southeast Asia Lee Hock Guan

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Islam, Constitutional Democracy, and the Islamic State in Malaysia Patricia Martinez

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Cracks in the Wall of Separation?: The Church, Civil Society, and the State in the Philippines John J. Carroll, S.J.

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New Buddhism, Urban Space, and Virtual Civil Society Jim Taylor

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Women’s Movement in the Philippines and the Politics of Critical Collaboration with the State Carolyn I. Sobritchea

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Participation of the Women’s Movement in Malaysia: The 1999 General Election Lai Suat Yan

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Civil Society Effectiveness and the Vietnamese State — Despite or Because of the Lack of Autonomy Russell Hiang-Khng Heng

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Relationship between State and Civil Society in Singapore: Clarifying the Concepts, Assessing the Ground Gillian Koh and Ooi Giok Ling

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CONTENTS

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Civil Society in Malaysia: An Arena of Contestations? P. Ramasamy

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10 Ethnicity and the Civil Rights Movement in Indonesia Thung Ju Lan

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11 Civil Society Discourse and the Future of Radical Environmental Movements in Thailand Chantana Banpasirichote

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Index

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Preface

This publication grew out of the workshop Civil Society in Southeast Asia, organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and held in Singapore in November 2001. Financial support for the workshop came from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Over the past two decades, civil society has become an important catchphrase in political and development discourses because of its perceived relevance to the quality of governance, empowering public participation, and sustaining a healthy democracy. In the Southeast Asian region, the concept indeed influenced many individuals and groups who were actively engaged in advancing a wide array of interests and causes. Conversely, the reactions of the Southeast Asian state regimes have ranged from adroitly co-opting to fiercely rejecting the idea of civil society. With their diverse colonial histories (except for Thailand which was never colonized by any European powers), ethnic, religious, and class stratifications, levels of economic development, and forms of state regimes, the Southeast Asian region offers an excellent crucible to study how these factors would shape civil society formation and, in turn, how it would affect governance and democracy. The aim of the workshop was to bring together scholars and researchers from the region to explore the realities and experiences of civil society in Southeast Asia. The realities and experiences were examined through empirical studies of religious, ethnic, gender, and environmental nongovernmental organizations’ (NGO) activities and public participation. That a number of the contributors to this volume were also NGO participants provided first-hand understandings of the complex world of civil society activism. While the workshop had sought to cover all the countries in Southeast Asia, no papers on Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar were presented because of the lack of success in finding researchers in the region working on those countries. This volume consists of eleven out of the fourteen papers delivered at the workshop. The editor would like to take this opportunity to thank all the paperwriters and discussants for their vii

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PREFACE

contributions to the insightful, stimulating discussions during the workshop. The ISEAS Administration staff must be commended for their first-rate support that significantly contributed to the smooth organization of the workshop. The book would not have been possible without the generous cooperation of the contributors and I must thank them for their patience in consenting to the various editorial changes. Needless to say, I am also grateful to the ISEAS Publications staff for their exceptional assistance in preparing the manuscript for publication.

Lee Hock Guan Editor

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About the Contributors

Chantana Banpasirichote is an assistant professor at the Department of Government, Faculty of Political Sciences, Chulalongkorn University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, Canada. Her research interest is unconventional politics, and as an observer of contemporary social movements, her current research is related to democracy and development in Thailand. John J. Carroll, S.J. was ordained as a priest in 1952 and obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from Cornell University in 1962. Since then he has taught and done research in the Philippines, and for eight years was on the Faculty of Social Sciences (six of those years as dean of the Faculty) of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was also a visiting professor at Cornell University, and founding director (and currently chairman) of the Institute on Church and Social Issues on the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University. Russell Hiang-Khng Heng is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, who works on civil society development in authoritarian societies. He has a Ph.D. degree from the Australian National University where he wrote his dissertation on the politics of mass media in Vietnam. Gillian Koh is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, Singapore. She is a co-coordinator of the Institute’s Civil Society Project, which organized the first national conference on civil society in Singapore in May 1998. Her research interests focus on public policy in Singapore, particularly in the areas of state–society relations and administrative reform and governance. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sheffield. Lai Suat Yan is a Fulbright Fellow at the Claremont Graduate University where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies in Religion. Previously, she was the co-ordinator of the Gender Studies Programme, Universiti ix

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Malaya. Reflecting her earlier full-time work in a national women’s NGO and a human rights NGO in Malaysia, she has researched and published on the issue of violence against women and the women’s movement in Malaysia. Lee Hock Guan is a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. He received a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University and his current research interests are civil society and democratization, and ethnicity, nationalism, and citizenship in Malaysia. Patricia Martinez, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Fellow for Religion and Culture at the Asia–Europe Institute of the Universiti Malaya, and heads its Intercultural Studies research hub. She employs an interdisciplinary perspective in her presentations and publications on Islam in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. She has been awarded a number of fellowships for the study of Islam, including a Fulbright Fellowship for Islamic Studies in 2003/04. Ooi Giok Ling, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies and also Associate Professor (Adjunct) at the National University of Singapore. Her research and publications have focused on the environment, housing, and urban studies, including local governance issues and ethnicity and health care in Third World development. Among her publications are Environment and the City (editor) and State–Society Relations in Singapore (co-editor). P. Ramasamy is a professor of political economy at the Center for History, Political Science and Strategic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He teaches and researches on Malaysian politics and industrial relations and lately has been focusing on conflict management in ethnically divided societies. Carolyn I. Sobritchea is a professor of Philippine Studies at the Asian Center and concurrently the Director of the Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines. She has written several books and articles on topics like feminist theorizing and methodology, domestic violence, gender and governance, reproductive rights, and gender and development. She has served as gender trainer and research consultant of government and nongovernment organizations in the Philippines and countries in Asia and Europe. x

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS xi

Jim Taylor, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Adelaide, South Australia, and is also working as Community Development/Training Adviser on an international development project in Inner Mongolia. His research interests are: anthropology and development; agrarian practices and ethno-ecologies; Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia; post-modernity; practices of everyday life; and critical urban studies. Thung Ju Lan is a researcher at the Center for Social and Cultural Studies, Indonesian Academy of Sciences. She received a Ph.D. from La Trobe University, Australia, where she wrote her dissertation on young Chinese identities in Jakarta. Her current research interests focus on the issues of ethnicity and nation-building in Indonesia. Presently she is working on the Toyota–SEASREP-funded project on (Re)construction of Pan-Dayak Identity in Kalimantan and Sarawak, and a LIPI project on conflict resolution and management.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg > INTRODUCTION 1

1 Introduction Civil Society in Southeast Asia Lee Hock Guan The concept of civil society has gained global popularity since its rediscovery by scholar-activists in Eastern Europe and Latin America in the 1970s that preceded the varying forms of democratization in the 1980s. A great many became enthusiastic proponents of civil society as it was deemed crucial for improving the quality of governance, strengthening people power, enabling development, and — above all — promoting democratization and strengthening democracy. Indeed, the idea that civil society is the key to creating and sustaining a healthy democratic polity came to dominate the political and development discourses.1 As the concept gained widespread acclaim, it resulted in the emergence of a wide array of meanings of civil society which, understandably, stirred up fears that the concept has “flattened out to such an alarming extent that it loses its credibility” (Chandhoke 2001, p. 1). The concept’s popularity itself thus contributed to “a problem of indeterminacy” (Kaviraj and Khilnani 2001, p. 1). Exasperation with the fact that the concept embraces so many dissimilar meanings that it is contradictory and muddled led some to question the usefulness of the concept (Kumar 1993). Regrets over the loss of conceptual clarity should not, however, lead one to think that the concept once had, or that it can have, a clear definitive meaning. This is largely because the meanings of civil society have always been indeterminate and numerous past attempts to pin it down have only generated more contestations. The reason why civil society defies any clear definitive meaning is that it has all the hallmark characteristics of an “essentially contested concept”:2 the concept has descriptive as well as normative dimensions, and thus its usage is subject to intense and endless debate. Two attractive features of the concept that make it popular also contribute to making its usage more

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contentious. One, the civil society concept is complex and open in character and as such can be readily modified so as to be applicable to a broad variety of intentions and situations. Two, the concept has considerable appeal because it “embodies for many an ethical ideal of a social order, one that, if not overcomes, at least harmonizes the conflicting demands of individual interest and social good” (Seligman 1992, p. x). Thus despite the numerous discussions of and publications on the concept, no universally agreed upon definition of civil society is ever likely to prevail. The “indeterminacy” of the concept will not, however, make it any less attractive to a great many scholars, activists, and policy-makers.3 In non-Western countries usage of the concept invariably incurred additional theoretical difficulties, from two sources (Khilnani 2001, pp. 2–3). The variegated meanings of the concept in the Western tradition itself contributed to ambiguities in both the theories and practices of civil society in non-Western countries. Another source originates from the fact that the “context in which civil society was invoked varied a great deal [from Western societies as well as] between various non-Western societies” (Khilnani 2001). The Southeast Asian countries provide an excellent example where diverse colonial histories,4 ethnic, religious, and cultural mix, economic development, and state regimes readily offer a crucible to demonstrate how these factors would interact to shape the form and composition of civil society. In the following sections I will discuss two different views of civil society, the concept in the Southeast Asian setting, and the empirical findings by the contributors of this volume. TWO DIFFERENT VIEWS OF CIVIL SOCIETY While the roots of the concept of civil society stretch back to classical antiquity, it was around the Enlightenment period that the idea of it as a social realm distinct from the state began to emerge. In the eighteenth century discourses on civil society were taken up by many to rethink the organizational principles of the prevailing absolutist state, especially the relation between the state and its citizens. The concept, however, became eclipsed from the mid-nineteenth century onwards when most attention was taken up by the rapid development of capitalism and its social and political impacts, and remained as such until its recent revival in the 1970s. To simplify the discussion, I will focus on perhaps the two most important and widespread views of civil society that have come to dominate the current discourse: a “conflict” view that emerged from the East European context and a “social capital” view from the American

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INTRODUCTION 3

context. An analysis of the different intellectual and empirical backgrounds that informed these two views would be helpful in better understanding the different assumptions and convictions that went into defining them. Finally, the focus here will be primarily on the theme of the relationship between civil society and democracy. Perhaps the earliest source of the current interest in civil society could be traced to the experiences of the East European states, especially Poland, Hungary, and the then Czechoslovakia in the 1970s (Arato 1981; Keane 1988; Shkaratan and Gurenko 1991). Politically, the East European civil society emerged in the context of a totalitarian state and command economy setting. In the Soviet-type totalitarian system, the party-state perceives and anoints itself as the representative of the universal interests in a classless society. Since the party-state represents the interests of every socialist citizen, then no autonomous social organizations independent of the state are necessary or permitted.5 In trying to rethink the bases of the social order under communism, reformist-minded intellectuals started to read Marx “subversively” as well as became increasingly interested in the Hegelian roots, especially Hegel’s treatment of the concept of civil society.6 In his Philosophy of Right Hegel identifies civil society as the realm, situated between the family and the state, where individuals are free to associate to pursue their needs and interests. Given the wide array of classes and groups, each with its own distinctive needs, interests, and ways of life, civil society would be made up of a whole range of economic, social, religious, and professional organizations. It follows that the Hegelian civil society is … an arena in which modern man legitimately gratifies his selfinterest and develops his individuality, but also learns the value of group action, social solidarity and the dependence of his welfare on others, which educate him for citizenship and prepare him for participation in the political arena of the state. (Kumar 1993, p. 379) But since the pursuant and fulfilment of individual self-interests remain the overriding logic of civil society, there invariably will be endemic conflicts both between private interests in civil society and between private and public interests. Civil society thus needs a mediator and an enforcer, and Hegel identifies the state bureaucracy as fulfilling that role; for Hegel, indeed, the state represents the universal interests or the general will of the people.

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In his Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State, the young Marx rejected Hegel’s claim that the state bureaucracy represents the universal interests and instead argues that it, in reality, represents the interests of the group that controls it — the bourgeois class.7 While the young Marx continued to be ambivalent about Hegel’s concept of civil society, the Marx after Das Kapital radically linked civil society to the “realm of economic relations”, more or less. Subsequently, a Marxist orthodoxy came to reject the complex Hegelian notion of civil society and, instead, reduce it to a realm of economic relations and private bourgeois interests.8 Although the communist states banned the formation of voluntary associations, non-voluntary social organizations, founded, sponsored, and controlled by the state, were established.9 What was lost in the communist societies was the idea and existence of civil society as originally conceived by Hegel; an arena where individuals can freely associate to form organizations to express and fulfil different economic, social, and civic interests, and to mediate relations between individuals and the state. Instead, “civil society as the selforganization of the population and of citizens, it just disappeared, dissolving itself in the state” (Shkaratan and Gurenko 1991, p. 70). Among the early demands of intellectuals, artists, the church, and even workers thus was for a space to freely associate and form organizations independent of the state. But the right to freedom of association to form voluntary organizations in the totalitarian setting invariably would constitute a revolt against the communist state’s hegemonic claim to be the vanguard of universal interests. By the 1970s, however, the hegemonic claim had become widely disparaged as the state was perceived to have degenerated and become no more than an institution promoting and preserving the interests of the party, the party élites in particular. Arguments against equating civil society with the “realm of economic relations” gained momentum as the longing for a space to freely associate and speak increased. In the 1970s social movements and voluntary associations independent of the state began to appear, the most illustrious being the Czechoslovakian Charter 77 group, established in 1977,10 and followed a few years later by the Polish workers’ union Solidarity. Unsurprisingly, a backlash to the painful experiences of living under a totalitarian state was the emergence of a civil society concept that regarded the state in largely antagonistic terms. The deep distrust and dislike of the totalitarian state initially resulted in the development of an anti-statist notion of civil society; a notion that largely regarded the state as unconditionally evil while having an uncritical faith in the integrity of civil society — one of the foremost proponents of this view is none other than

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INTRODUCTION 5

Vaclav Havel. This uncritical enthusiasm for civil society was, however, rudely dispelled when social groups began to quarrel and clash among themselves over various issues and interests such that civil society increasingly became internally fraught with tensions and conflicts. The potential chaos of an unregulated civil society was tragically illustrated by the violent conflicts perpetrated by rival ethnic and religious groups in the Balkan states. The East European-inspired conception of a conflict view of civil society thus argues that by empowering the individuals and disadvantaged groups and opening a space for them to organize, protect, and articulate their interests and well-being, civil society can bring about democratization and deepens and broadens democracy. For the conflict view then there is a connection between the state of democracy and the presence and activities of advocacy and public interests groups, especially social movements. Conversely, because of their distrust and fear of the state, this view would regard civil society as a necessary countervailing force to the state.11 The social capital view has its intellectual origins in Tocqueville who in his classic work Democracy in America claimed that there was an “inevitable connection” between voluntary associations and democracy. Tocqueville divided society into three realms: the state (the formal institutions), civil society (basically the economic society), and political society (the arena of voluntary associations). From his observations of early nineteenth century American society, he further subdivided political society as composing of civil and political associations where the former refers to voluntary organizations like churches, schools, and professional societies, and the latter to local self-government, parties, and public associations. For Tocqueville, since the “art of association” is where individuals learn to act together to pursue in “common the objects of their desires”, then civil associations are means where “feelings and ideas are renewed, the heart enlarged, and the understanding developed” (Tocqueville 1969, pp. 514–15). By creating the general habits of acting together in the affairs of daily life, civil associations provide the foundations for political associations. In turn, “political associations singularly develops and improves this technique for civil purposes” because political life extends the “idea of associations and eagerness to form them” to a level where they become “part of everybody’s everyday life” (Tocqueville 1969, p. 521). Thus, although Tocqueville recognized the importance of civil associations in developing and inculcating in individuals the habit to act together, he, nevertheless, saw them as of lesser importance than the political associations, which his book largely focuses on.12

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In contrast, Putnam’s (1993; 1995) approach to civil society focuses on the civil associations because, for him, they are the means where social capital is generated and developed. Putnam first came to the conclusion that there is a positive link between social capital and democracy from his research on why democracy flourished in northern Italy but failed to develop in the southern part (1993). From his analysis, he claimed that it was the widespread presence of civil associations in the north that helped to establish democracy while their absence, or dismal presence, in the south explains why democracy failed to develop there. Putnam asserted: Civil associations contribute to the effectiveness and stability of democratic government, it is argued, because of their ‘internal’ effects on individual members and because of their ‘external’ effects on the wider polity. Internally, associations instill in their members habits of co-operation, solidarity, and public spiritedness … Participation in civic organizations inculcates skills of co-operation as well as a sense of shared responsibility for the collective endeavors… . (Putnam 1993, pp. 89–90) In other words, associational life is regarded as the generator of social capital: trust, reciprocity, and networks. It is the small intimate type of voluntary associations, what Tocqueville called civil associations like church groups, parent–teacher associations, residential associations, and religious societies, that are crucial to the generation of social capital. Social capital is regarded as a processual entity in that it is not the property of individuals or institutions but, rather, it comes from the very act of association. By associating with one another, individuals engage in camaraderie, co-operation, dialogue, deliberation, negotiation, and selfsacrifice that are possible only in association with others. Civil associations would provide the horizontal networks of civic engagement “within which reciprocity is learned and enforced, trust is generated, and communication and patterns of collective action are facilitated” (Foley and Edwards 1996, p. 39). Thus participation in civil associations generates the highly valued social capital which helps to maintain and bolster a healthy democracy. In a sense, what Putnam has done is to provide the social institutional base for the “civic culture” argument of liberal democracy. A healthy democracy depends in large part on the development of a democratic civic culture that refers to the behaviours, practices, and norms that enable individuals to govern themselves. Thus, liberal democracy is made possible

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INTRODUCTION 7

because of the presence of civic values such as trust, tolerance, civicmindedness, reciprocity, and trust in government. While in the past the family and the school were regarded as the institutions where democratic values were reproduced and transmitted, in Putnam’s theory it is civil society that is the source and facilitator of democratic civic values.13 The social capital view is generally sceptical of the contributions of advocacy and public interest groups to sustaining a healthy democracy. Proponents of this view fear that national women’s, environmental, and labour movements would corrode instead of cultivate social capital. This is because such kinds of groups, they argue, are more likely to have conflicts, divisions, and partisan goals rather than reciprocity, solidarity, and common goals. Moreover, Putnam rejected the mass-membership type of organizations as sources of social capital because the vast majority of the members are not active participants in the organizations. For the social capital view then, the image of a functioning civil society is one of networks of reciprocal trust and solidarity generated by smallish voluntary associations co-existing in harmony and civility. In the American context freedom of association, something that the East Europeans had to wrench from the totalitarian states, was already well entrenched both in the Constitution and in the cultural psyche.14 Thus the social capital perspective asserts that in a liberal democratic polity, civil society and the state are not locked in an adversarial relationship. Rather, citizens generally do trust and have confidence in the liberal democratic state which, in turn, is reasonably responsive to the needs of its citizenry. Thus a key characteristic of the social capital view of civil society is the complementary relation between the state and civil society. In contrast, coming from the context of a totalitarian state, the conflict view sees the relation between the state and civil society as fundamentally antagonistic. It follows that in order to ensure the existence of a functioning democracy civil society must act as a countervailing force to the state that is prone to anti-democratic exploits. In normative terms the proponents of the conflict and social capital views of civil society both regard it as having positive effects on democracy and democratization. The proponents, however, differ in terms of: (1) the groups in civil society they emphasize, (2) how specifically civil society effects democracy, (3) the type of relations between civil society and the state, and (4) their different expectations of democracy. Nevertheless, despite their differences, both the conflict and social capital views largely subscribe to the Western civil society form that is based on “societies which are based on equality, autonomy, freedom of entry and exit, contract,

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deliberative procedures of decisions-making, recognized rights and duties of members, and other such principles” (Chatterjee 2001, p. 172). It is clear that if one equates civil society with the prevailing Western form, then one will conclude that it largely does not exist outside of the Western world. It follows that democracy does not exist in non-Western countries where civil society either does not exist or is too weak. This kind of reasoning is tautological and does not help us in better understanding the conditions that either foster or hinder democratization and democracy in the non-Western world. The civil society concept has analytical potential in helping to illuminate the social and political relations and configurations in the non-Western world. To do this it is, perhaps, more useful to subscribe to its broad sociological definition: as the presence of an associational space located between the private and public spheres which has existed in most societies, albeit in different forms.15 In fact, both the conflict and social capital views of the linkages between civil society and democratization and democracy have come under various criticisms. Putnam’s (1995) lamentation that social capital has diminished in America has been appraised as mistaken precisely because he only includes civic associations and excludes the public interest and advocacy groups, especially national and social movements. In contrast, the conflict view that focuses on the social movements and public and advocacy interest groups is untenable for civil society is populated by an astonishing diversity of groups. In addition, both views tend to downplay the internal conflict character of civil society as demonstrated by the existence of a cacophony of groups with different, and potentially antagonistic, interests and objectives. This means that civil society invariably cannot be self-regulating and requires a state that is sufficiently strong in order to maintain stability and safeguard the freedom of association — just as Hegel had posited. The conflict view’s claim that civil society was key to triggering democratization in the East European countries needs qualifications. While it did play a central role in the rebellion against the overbearing states, the breakdown of the totalitarian system also had to “do with the characteristics of the political system itself and the choices that political actors took within those parameters” (Foley 1998, p. 2). In particular, it was the deepening crisis of the Soviet Union’s political system and the reforms undertaken by the Gorbachev government that proved to be a decisive factor that led to the demise of the East European totalitarian states. Because, unlike the 1956 Hungarian revolution and the 1968 Prague Spring, the weakened Soviet state did not, probably could not, intervene (and Gorbachev ruled out armed intervention) when the crisis unfolded.16

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State strategies and actions, in short, also played a decisive role in fostering democratization in the East European context.17 Indeed, the democratization process could have been severely threatened if the state was too weak to regulate effectively the conflicts among civil society groups, as in the case of the Balkan countries. The social capital view claims that civic engagement generates social trust, reciprocity, and social networks, which the health of a democracy depends on. An immediate problem in claiming civil society as the only source of social capital is to underestimate the role of the state and family as sources as well. In an important way, the state generates social capital as it is “deeply implicated in the shape and activities of voluntary associations, whether it is in terms of the institutions they create or the resources they provide to encourage participation” (Maloney, Smith, and Stoker 2000, p. 216).18 The state educational system, for example, remains an important source where social capital is generated and reproduced. It has also been pointed out that the claim that associational life generates trust, reciprocity, and solidarity among members of organizations is neither necessary nor sufficient for cultivating generalized reciprocity and solidarity among citizens needs to be qualified.19 Lastly, as the primary group the family continues to play a central role in the making of an individual. Exactly how social capital would actually contribute to a vibrant democracy is not entirely clear. It is not obvious “how social involvement positively enhances the willingness to become politically involved; what is the causal link between bird watching or choral society performing and political activism” (Maloney, Smith, and Stoker 2000, p. 215). Instead, social participation could in fact serve as a refuge from involvement in the political sphere; that is, people are attracted to various associations simply because they are apolitical. In this way social participation, instead of enhancing democratic vibrancy, actually contributes to a process of demobilization, or even alienation, from politics. Social capital assumes that trust in government is a key indicator of the health of democracy, and, conversely, scepticism, or worse cynicism, about the state would reduce participation and thus vibrancy of democracy. This need not be the case and indeed a low level of trust in the government can actually have a positive effect on the health of democracy because a healthy dose of scepticism, even cynicism, might spur individuals to greater political participation. In summary, the conflict and social capital views have received critical acclaim and continue to be the two predominant traditions. While there are obvious differences between the two views, they, nevertheless, are within

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the Western conceptions of civil society that are the outcomes of specific intellectual and empirical contexts. Even as an explanatory concept of democratization and democracy in the Western world, the claims of both views have come under critical rethinking. The limitations of the concept have not, however, deterred a great many intellectuals, activists, and policymakers from using and promoting civil society in the non-Western world, in Southeast Asia since the early 1990s. CIVIL SOCIETY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA If one were to apply civil society as the associational space located between the private (that is, family) and public (that is, state) spheres to the Southeast Asian context, then one could certainly say that it existed in precolonial Southeast Asia. The composition of the indigenous civil society would be historically contingent and variable; in particular, it would depend on the state form and formation, population density, socioeconomic differentiation, the forms of social relations, and the prevailing ideological orientations. In many instances, as the structure of the polity and mode of communications constrain the capacity of the ruler to effect his rule, it opens up spaces for his subjects to freely associate.20 Civil society forms in the post-independence period were, however, radically shaped by the means and ways the European colonizers initiated and instituted the social, cultural, economic, and political transformations of the indigenous societies.21 During the colonial period the indigenous, personalized state form in Southeast Asia was transformed, in varying degrees, into the Western depersonalized administrative state. Institutionalization of the colonial administrative state led to the decline of the indigenous political forms and structures, and the élites’ authority and power. Demands of the growing societal and economic complexity led to varying functional differentiation of the state apparatus in the colonies. Educated colonial subjects were recruited and trained to gradually displace the members of the indigenous élites in the business of governing, but as subalterns. The institutionalization of the colonial administrative state thus led to the formation of “a permanent administration and a standing army” which became the public authority with the colonial subjects “under it [as] the public” (Habermas 1994, p. 18). The introduction and institutionalization of the European state form hence resulted in a more defined demarcation of the public–private spheres, albeit varying from colony to colony. Concurrently, changes to and in the associational space were also taking place. The associational space underwent a fundamental structural change

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as the notions and boundaries of the public–private spheres became more clearly demarcated. The introduction of the idea that individuals are endowed with rights was to radically reform the indigenous notions and nature of the relations between the ruler and the ruled. Thus while the European colonizers generally limited political participation, there was, nevertheless, a general acceptance of the rights of the colonial subjects to form voluntary associations.22 Cities and towns, for various reasons, became the nodal places where civil society groups and activities were mostly found. While civic-type associations formed the vast majority of the groups in civil society, ethnic- and religious-based groups were by far the most common.23 Importantly, the formation of educational, literary, and media establishments was to contribute significantly to the propagation and articulation of new ideas in the colonial societies. The expansion of capitalist production and market in the colonial economies and its differentiation of labour led to the formation of classbased groups, from business associations to trade unions. At different times, all across the Southeast Asian colonies, trade unions were engaged in advancing the rights and causes of the working class as well as the anticolonial struggles. While the working class and nationalist movements’ presence and activities expanded the organizational and democratic possibilities, it also resulted in the colonial states imposing more stringent, more often than not repressive, controls over the colonial civil societies. However, the development of class-based organizations in the Southeast Asian societies was recurrently circumscribed by the prevalence of entrenched primordial attachments, especially originating from the deep ethnic divisions. In some of the countries class formations were largely segmented along ethnic lines. In addition, the entrenched ethnic sentiments conflated with the growing nationalist anti-colonial struggles and gradually eclipsed the class characteristics and aims of the local class movements.24 Ethnic, rather than class, sentiments thus became the principal organizing force such that the struggles for citizenship rights became intertwined with ethnic conflicts. Indeed, ethno-nationalism in Southeast Asia frequently led post-colonial regimes to assert that the Western democratic form is not appropriate for their countries because it is alien to their respective cultural values and traditions. Generally, civil society in Southeast Asia in the early years of the postcolonial period remained depoliticized in varying degrees. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s military-backed regimes in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, and North and South Vietnam suppressed civil society groups that were critical of, or perceived as a threat to, the state (Hewison 1999). The

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triumph of communism in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in the 1970s aborted any prospect of the development of civil society as the selforganization of citizens in those countries. For a while civil society groups were relatively active in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore, but by the 1970s, in the face of mounting challenges from oppositional forces, President Marcos resorted to martial law in the Philippines, and the Malaysian and Singaporean states used a combination of legal and coercive instruments to exert control. By the 1970s then, as authoritarian states of various forms came to dominate the region, civil society faced varying degrees of constraint in all the countries. Yet, even though authoritarianism seemed to have a stranglehold in the 1970s, there were nevertheless groups in civil society struggling for various rights, freedoms, and issues in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia; for example, student movements were active at various times. More importantly, from the 1970s onwards countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and, to some extent, the Philippines began to undergo major social, cultural, and economic transformations. Rapid economic growth resulted in more class-stratified, as well as industrialized and urbanized, societies. All the capital cities and their environs experienced major population growths. All four countries gradually attained universal enrolment, more or less, at the primary school level by the 1980s, and enrolment at the tertiary level experienced noticeable growth. Also, the flow of commodities, people, and ideas between these countries and the rest of the world, especially the West, quickened and multiplied significantly. Partly because of the major transformations, new social movements began to emerge in civil societies in Southeast Asia; for example, student, environmental, women’s, human rights, consumer, and other public interests movements. New ideas and organizational and mobilization techniques both introduce new movements and transform ethnic- and religious-based groups. However, although the number and type of civil society groups in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and, to some extent, Singapore all grew dramatically, this growth did not necessarily translate into a democratization process in all of them. In the Philippines in the mid-1980s a number of civil society groups, including the church and church-related groups, helped to bring down the authoritarian Marcos regime and brought about democratization in the country (Carroll in this volume; Hewison 1999; Magadia 1999; Hedman 2001). While the 1980s saw increasing civil society activism and political liberalization in Thailand, it was the dramatic resistance of civil society

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groups against and defeat of the 1991–92 attempted military coup d’état that consolidated the Thai democratization process (Pongsapich 1999; Hedman 2001). Although further democratization in Malaysia and Singapore was stalled, partly by using the “Asian values” argument which asserts that the Western democratic model was not suited for their societies, nevertheless, the associational spaces in the two countries still could accommodate a wide array of civil society groups. In contrast, with the military regime in Myanmar and the communist party in Vietnam still firmly in control of the states, associational space in the two countries continued to be tightly kept in check. CONTENTS OF THIS VOLUME The next three chapters of this volume examine the question of religion and civil society: Islam in Malaysia (Martinez), Christianity in the Philippines (Carroll), and Buddhism in Thailand (Taylor). Two chapters by Sobritchea (the Philippines) and Lai (Malaysia) focus on the participation of feminist/women’s movement in both civil and political society. Heng’s chapter proposes to consider the media, in this case the newspapers, as performing the functions of civil society in Vietnam, while the changing relationship between the state and civil society in Singapore is the subject of Koh and Ooi’s chapter. The influence of ethnicity on civil society in the Southeast Asian context is the subject of discussion in the chapters by Ramasamy (Malaysia) and Thung (Indonesia). Lastly, Banpasirichote’s chapter explores the development of radical environmental movement and state–civil society relations in Thailand. Patricia Martinez’s chapter on Malaysia examines the Islamic state debate in the context of the knotty encounter between Islam and democracy, specifically constitutional democracy. Democratic and civil society spaces in Malaysia, albeit limited, are founded on the various fundamental rights and freedoms that are enshrined in and protected by the Malaysian Constitution. In recent years, however, constitutional democracy in the country has been thwarted by UMNO’s (United Malays National Organization) and PAS’s (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) appeal to the notion of an Islamic state. While UMNO has insisted that the Islamic state is not suitable for the existing multiethnic make-up of Malaysian society, and PAS, in contrast, has insisted on implementing the Islamic state, Martinez shows that both parties subscribe to a version of an Islamic state that, if implemented, would render the non-Muslims as “second-class citizens

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and abrogates their rights as defined for all Malaysians in the Constitution”. Indeed, “the concept of an Islamic state as it is articulated in classical text and tradition — no matter how altruistic, but that privileges fidelity to Ruler and religious strictures and with little about the rights of the people — is not contiguous with a modern nation state that is founded on notions of individual rights and fundamental freedoms”. More importantly, while the non-Muslim civil society groups have publicly rejected the Islamic state as antithetical to the democratic rights and freedoms in Malaysia, no Muslim civil society groups have yet to openly come out to reject it. In contrast to the Malaysian context, where the prevailing notion of Islamic state is not contiguous with democratic rights and freedoms, John Carroll’s chapter argues that the Catholic Church was instrumental in helping to usher in the democratization process in the Philippines in the mid-1980s. Several factors enabled the Catholic Church’s political intervention: its numbers and extensive network of institutions; its possession of a social doctrine which extends to the economic and political arenas; and particularly because of the weakness of the political party system. Nevertheless, the Church was initially divided into three groups: the conservatives, including the majority of the bishops, who largely supported the Marcos authoritarian regime; the moderates who felt that “martial law had continued for too long and was suppressing the rights of the people”; and the radicals who “rejected the martial law totally, … the possibility of peaceful reform”, and linked up with the revolutionary left. The assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino on 21 August 1983, however, dramatically galvanized all the three groups. With the able leadership provided by Cardinal Sin, then Archbishop of Manila, and the support of the middle and upper classes, the Catholic Church helped to bring down the Marcos authoritarian regime. Although the Catholic Church continues to be a powerful civil society actor today, various developments have diminished its effectiveness; for example, the growth of secular civil society groups, the emergence of a functioning political party system, and the existing élite democracy, which the Church is identified with, has come under increasing challenge from the “excluded”. In his chapter Jim Taylor asserts that cyberspace can be considered as a space and, in Thailand, a “cyber-Buddhism … has emerged as a response to the needs of an increasingly mobile, simulated, and dislocated transnational urban social order”. Unlike Robert Putnam, who views the Internet as leading to the decline of social capital, he argues that Thai cyber-Buddhism enables associations to emerge in and from cyberspace

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such that the Internet has become a site where social capital is generated. Since virtual Buddhist communities form a “rhizomatic” resistance which is “sometimes short-lived and appearing anywhere; then if each line is ruptured, another line will emerge in any locality”, they cannot be regulated. Having the appearance of virtual civic society associations, cyber-Buddhism has begun to challenge the established monasteries as well as the power of the state. Indeed, the monasteries, once the prime loci of much social activities and civic interests, have become icons of the past in the new middle-class imagination. Thai modernity has thus given rise to “new spatial — even transcendent — possibilities engendered in large part by …the Internet, which has the potential to markedly transform religious space with its utopic promises”. In turn, the new virtual space is ushering in the “social transformative and cosmopolitan possibilities in urban Thai Buddhism”. For Carolyn Sobritchea, the women’s movement in the Philippines since the fall of Marcos has grown in size and strength partly because democratization has brought women the freedom to organize. While access to funds has contributed to strengthening and expanding the women’s movement, it has also meant that its scope and form of activities would become influenced and constrained by the priorities and requirements of the funding agencies, such as the World Bank and the government. Initially, because they were largely linked to leftist groups, feminist politics were focused on class-related agendas. In the postMarcos era feminist politics have become influenced by a wider spectrum of political interests and ideological orientations and thus have begun to raise issues such as gender violence, reproductive rights, and lesbian and gay rights. The diversity of feminist political and ideological differences has, however, led to fragmentation of the unity within the women’s movement. One critical factor that has created severe tensions in the women’s movement is the issue of state collaboration: “While some see and, in fact, take advantage of the possibilities for advancing women’s rights through the model of critical collaboration [with the state], others consider it an act of selling out”. In 1999 a few women non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Malaysia formed the Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI) in order to participate directly in the general election. Lai Suat Yan’s chapter shows how the WCI decision generated ambiguous reactions from women NGOs, as illustrated by the contrasting responses of the Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS, Friends of Women) and Sisters in Islam (SIS). The

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WCI’s aim was to inject gender issues, and other civil society issues, into the discourse in electoral politics that have traditionally been, and continue to be, dominated by race matters. However, the WCI’s alignment with the opposition coalition party invariably compromised its autonomy such that what it could do or raise became circumscribed by the prevalent racially defined politics and discourse. Also, its aligning itself with the opposition meant that the state would treat it as a political opponent as well. The WCI’s alignment with the opposition also received ambiguous responses from other women NGOs. The one outstanding thorny issue centred around the Islamic state objective strongly advocated by PAS, a member of the opposition coalition. While the PSWS, although disagreeing with PAS, supported the WCI and persisted in working with the Barisan Alternatif (BA, Alternative Front) as a means to challenge the ruling coalition party, SIS disagreed with PAS and refused to work with BA. The contrast in the PSWS and SIS responses could be traced to the fact that members of the former are largely non-Muslims while the latter are Muslims who frankly felt threatened by the PAS aim of implementing its Islamic state objective that, for them, would not uphold the equality of Muslim women. The question of whether civil society exists in the former communist states remains a much debated issue (Hann and Dunn 1996). The crux of the debate seems to revolve around the autonomy litmus test; thus if one defines civil society as an autonomous concept then it follows that it cannot exist under communism. This definition is normative and it implicitly assumes a Western liberal democratic bias. Currently, studies of civil society in Vietnam continue to address this debate and Russell Heng’s chapter in this volume uses a case study of the media to illustrate this debate. He argues that if one were to apply the Western assumption that freedom of the press is a necessary condition for the media to be a civil society actor, then the Vietnamese media would necessarily be ruled out. Nevertheless, he argues that even though the media is not autonomous in the Western liberal sense, it does not necessarily follow that “results of civil society activities cannot be achieved”. While the state regulates and controls the media through various mechanisms, the implementation of doi moi has transformed the media, just like almost all other sectors of Vietnamese society. Thus the doi moi policy has helped to create the conditions which have enabled media activism to flourish; specifically, the ambiguities of the “struggle paradigm” allow the media to open up for itself spaces to challenge the system, however limited. As such a way to observe how the Vietnamese media performs civil society activities is in

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the form of “everyday life resistance” rather than the open contestation of the Western liberal media. In their chapter on the relationship between the state and civil society in Singapore, Gillian Koh and Ooi Giok Ling look at the factors that have shaped the dynamics of that relationship. From their historical experiences with how the communists covertly controlled and manipulated the social and civic movements and organizations, the Singaporean political élites grew to become very deeply distrustful of civil society. Until the 1980s then, this distrust led to the state asserting tight controls over civil society such that a “narrow range of social groups identified as supportive and useful to the state’s model of socio-economic development” were allowed. The making of Singapore into a middle-class society led the state to promote its idea of an “active citizenship” in the 1980s; thus individuals were encouraged to form voluntary groups focusing on welfare, philanthropy, and so on. Besides the voluntary groups that have the support of the state, the economic prosperity and opening up of public space also led a significant minority members of the middle class to form various public interest groups whose ideas and activities did not necessarily conform with the state’s active citizenship ideology. Consequently, the process of negotiation between the public interest groups and the state has, among other things, resulted in a contest over the concept of civil society. P. Ramasamy’s chapter attempts to use the Gramscian concept of civil society to explain the political contestation in Malaysia between the state and non-state forces for domination and control. Thus, rather than following the prevailing conception of civil society, which emphasizes its existence as a sphere of society that is autonomous from the state, he views civil society as an arena of contestations. In Malaysia the contestation is skewered very much in favour of the state because it commands considerable resources and has used them quite effectively to coerce, constrain, and co-opt the oppositional forces. Conversely, the oppositional forces have remained relatively weak and fragmented. Thus over the years, especially in the aftermath of the ethnic riots in May 1969, the state has successfully imposed a particular variant of ethnic ideology on the society as a whole. While certain segments of the oppositional forces have attempted to raise non-ethnic contestations, their challenges have failed to undermine the ethnicized ideological basis of the state. Needless to say, the state’s hegemonic role cannot be merely reduced to ethnic concerns, but also needs to sustain a particular kind of capitalist development predicated on an authoritarian basis. In recent years the emergence of the economic

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phenomenon of globalization backed by the powerful ideology of neoliberalism means, among other things, the imposition of further constraints on the function of non-state forces in civil society. It has been pointed out that for civil society to have a positive relation to liberal democracy then the association between individuals should be informed by citizenship rights. As such if primordial ties, like kinship or ethnicity, were to form the basis of an autonomous civil society, the outcome could be akin to what Gellner (1995) called “tyranny of the cousins”. Thung Ju Lan’s chapter examines the difficulties encountered by two civil rights groups in post-Soeharto Indonesia, where ethnic identity remains deeply entrenched in the fabric of civil society. During the Dutch colonial rule ethnic differences and prejudices both shaped and were perpetuated by the colonial state policies. While the post-colonial state did attempt to create a national identity, the various ethnic communities persisted in subscribing to their primary identity markers. The persistence of ethnic primordial markers was compounded in Indonesia by the division of its citizens into pendatang and pribumi, which resulted in various discriminatory policies against the Indonesian Chinese. Thus after the fall of Soeharto, while the opening up of civil society has led to the establishment of groups struggling against the discriminations against the Indonesians, the problem is that they are confronted with the presence of entrenched ethnicized mentalities as well as the little regard for civil rights and continued used of the politics of ethnicity by the majority of politicians and of groups in civil society. Chantana Banpasirichote’s chapter explores the changing relationship between the radical environmental movement and the state in the Thai political context. The author argues that the democratization process in Thailand has opened up more spaces for civil society groups to organize and promote various public causes. However, the democratization process and strengthening of civil society has also brought about mixed consequences for the radical environmental movement. On the one side, the radical environmental movement continues to exist because of the state’s aggressive and forceful implementation of development projects that adversely impact the environment and livelihoods of members of the affected population who have no proper channels to articulate their demands. On the other side, while civil society has expanded the public space for environmental activities, it has also created conditions that inhibited the radical component of the environmental movement. Partly this is because the state and business sector have supported, and established, environmental groups whose causes and activities do not conflict with their interests but

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in conflict with the radical environmental groups. Moreover, the majority of the NGOs are formed and led by members of the urban middle classes who generally would not identify with the radical environmental movement’s causes and form of confrontational politics. In other words, there is a contestation over the concept of Thai civil society between the radical movement and the state, business sector, and non-radical movement. Hence in order for the radical movement to be able to campaign for its demands as well as maintain the public support and trust it will have to come up with innovative strategies and fight for a civil society that protects its kind of activism. CONCLUSION The concept of civil society has certainly inspired and gained popularity among many in Southeast Asia who are concerned with a wide array of issues: distributive justice; ethnic, religious, and gender discriminations; environmental degradation; governance; democratization and democracy; and human rights. Thus, even though the concept may have a number of limitations, such as its inherently normative feature, it has a number of useful features that make it “useful to think and act with” (Lewis 2001) purposes. The empirical studies in this volume show that the civil society concept can help to focus public attention on a wide array of issues: democracy, women and ethnic rights, environmental policies, and governance. In addition, the concept has inspired many Southeast Asian citizens to engage in public discourse and participation resulting, in certain countries, in the widening of the political arena. This, however, should not lead to the thinking that, prior to the emergence of the civil society concept, Southeast Asians did not struggle for democratic rights and the freedom to association, assembly, and participation in the public realm; these democratic struggles have been going on since the colonial era. Indeed, care must be taken to avoid simply imposing the Western concept and experience of civil society onto the Southeast Asian countries. Conversely, the meanings and formations of Southeast Asian civil societies must be rethought and reworked in the context of diverse colonial histories, ethnic, religious, and cultural mix, economic development, and state regimes. There is, of course, the risk that invoking the local meanings of civil society could legitimize the authoritarian state regimes’ rejection of the conflict view of civil society as a Western concept that is alien to the local cultures and values. Thus in the contest over the concept of civil society

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between authoritarian regimes and civil society actors, the notion of “Asian values” was used by the former to limit citizens’ active political participation and to tightly regulate advocacy NGOs and social movements. Interestingly, state authorities have readily co-opted the globalized civil society discourse such that they would advocate a certain social capital version of civil society where only civic associations involved in social welfare, philanthropy, hobbies, and so on are promoted; for example, the Malaysian (Lai, Ramasamy) and Singaporean (Koh and Ooi) states. In the Thai context Banpasirichote points out that the radical environmental movement will become marginalized if the state’s and mainstream civil society actors’ consensus model of civil society prevails. In much of the literature on civil society, the tendency is to generally regard ethnicity and religion as obstacles to the formation of civil societies or threats to already existing civil societies. In the Southeast Asian context, where religious and ethnic groups are prominent, the empirical experience shows that the relationship of religion and ethnicity to civil society is actually quite complex. In the Philippines the Catholic Church played a key role in establishing a vibrant civil society as well as bringing about the democratization process (Carroll). In Malaysia, while the PAS vision of an Islamic state is decidedly “undemocratic”, and the official Islam is generally conservative (Martinez), there also are “progressive” Muslims and Islamic groups, such as SIS (Lai), that support loosening state political controls and opening up the democratic space in the society. Robert Hefner’s study (2000) on civil Islam in Indonesia shows that the main Islamic groups in Indonesia are largely in favour of democratic principles and practices in the society. Similarly, in Indonesia (Thung) and Malaysia (Ramasamy) are found ethnic-based groups that are both advocates and opponents of civil society. The relation between the state and civil society is frequently viewed in an either-or mode, usually autonomous or otherwise, rather than multilayered. But if one were to adhere strictly to the autonomy assumption, then one would miss out on the creative counter-authority strategies played by state-supported entities like the media in Vietnam (Heng). More generally, in the Southeast Asian context, where we have a situation of “strong states, weak civil societies”, civic association, NGO, and social movement linkages with state regimes are more likely to be multi-layered. For example, the feminist (Sobritchea) and Christian (Carroll) movements’ relationships with the Filipino state regime vary from collaboration to confrontation. The same is true of the relationship between the state and civil society in Singapore (Koh and Ooi), Thailand (Banpasirichote), and Malaysia (Lai).

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Mainstream modernization theory largely claims that economic development, especially the formation of a sizable middle class, would usher in the democratization process. Yet, in Southeast Asia civil society is more vibrant and democratization appears to be ahead in the Philippines (Carroll, Sobritchea) and Thailand (Banpasirichote) than in the two most advanced economies Malaysia and Singapore. Even in the economically less developed Indonesia (Thung), since 1998 the democratization process and civil society have become more energetic. However, it does not follow that being more democratic will ensure more effective governance and distributive policies. Thus, although the Singaporean state is less democratic, it has better governance and distributive policies than in the Philippines and Thailand where a more vibrant civil society has yet to effectively check state corruption and glaring economic disparities in the society. Taylor’s piece on cyber-Buddhism, unlike Putnam’s (1995) scepticism, shows that the advances of information and communication technologies, specifically the Internet, can help to develop a vibrant civil society. Indeed, in the context of authoritarian states the Internet could provide an alternative means and “borderless” space for civil society to organize and network, reach out to the public, and so on.25 Thus, it is not surprising that the Myanmar and Vietnamese state authorities continue to tightly control their citizens’ access to the Internet. The Southeast Asia empirical experience shows that the composition of civil society must be acknowledged to be historically contingent and variable and that its impact on democratization and democracy in the different countries depends on a variety of factors shaping and actors leading civil society and the states. Notes 1 Even multilateral aid agencies, for example the World Bank, have become enthusiastic advocates of civil society in the recipient developing countries to ensure and expedite development goals and good governance. In fact, the popularity of the concept has frequently led authoritarian regimes in the nonWestern world to resort to using the “cultural difference” argument to privilege versions of civil society that preserve the status quo of their subjects. 2 The linguist philosopher W.W. Gallie was the first to coin the phrase “essentially contested concept” to explain why some concepts generate endless debates and contestations. For an excellent discussion of “essentially contested concept” see William Connolly’s The Terms of Political Discourse (1983). 3 An additional factor why the usage of the concept of civil society remains unresolved is because its application itself depends on the resolution of

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contestable normative issues. For example, a claim is that civil society has a positive correlation with democracy, an obviously essentially contestable concept itself. To apply the concept to their different notions of democracy, conservative, liberal, and radical Western thinkers have selected or emphasized different features of civil society. Similarly, Asian and Muslim thinkers have modified civil society to fit their notions of democracy. Of course, this excludes Thailand, which was never directly colonized by any European country. This does not necessary mean that all autonomous social organizations were completely erased; in particular, religious groups continued to be present, albeit under the watchful eye of the state authority. Among the older Marxist intellectuals who challenged the orthodoxy and helped to revive the Hegelian roots were Antonio Gramsci and George Lukacs. In particular, it was Gramsci’s different interpretation of civil society that was to inspire Marxist intellectuals in Eastern and Western Europe to reexamine the concept and its role. Hegel, Marx pointed out, failed to see that the bureaucratic class also has its own interests and as such would pursue policies to further them, which in fact would run counter to those of the community. Marx also correctly asserted that the majority of the members of the bureaucracy would invariably be from the bourgeois class — the working and peasant classes would not be represented. Thus the bureaucracy was at best a “pseudo-universal” class. Lenin, the astute politician, subsequently claimed that the communist party, led by “intellectuals” who had the uncanny ability to transcend their petty bourgeois class consciousness, would become the vanguard of the proletariat class interests. Thus in the Soviet-type regimes the proletariat party-state was ordained as the vanguard of universal interests. See Milovan Djilas’ (1957) analysis of the new class in the communist system and Frank Parkin (1971) for a comparative analysis of social stratification in capitalist and communist societies. In reality there were, of course, also informal and semi-clandestine and clandestine groups which were voluntarily formed; the best example was the church and its affiliated voluntary welfare and charity groups. Interestingly, the event that triggered the formation of the Charter 77 was the detention of members of the experimental rock group The Plastic People of the Universe. One of its key organizers was the veteran dissident Vaclav Havel who subsequently became the first president of the post-communist Czech republic. In a sense, a conflict model of civil society also emerged from the Latin American experiences. Civil society in the Latin American experiences emerged in the context of authoritarian states and high levels of inequality in the society. Unlike the East European totalitarian setting, civil society activities were not entirely banned as certain types of voluntary association were

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present; civic types of associations, such as religious, welfare, recreational, and professional, were allowed to exist and function. The failure of the authoritarian states and market economies to provide adequately for a large segment of the population opened the space for the development of advocacy and public interests groups. Although the authoritarian states responded with brutal repressions of the advocacy and public interests groups, the latter, nevertheless, persevered in resisting the repressions. Consequently, the civil society actors contributed significantly to the Latin American democratization transition, with the advocacy and public interests groups, including international NGOs, playing key roles (Haynes 1997). Given the years of authoritarian rule, the civil society concept that emerged from the Latin American experiences also viewed the state with apprehensions and suspicions while emphasizing the contributions of advocacy and public interests groups in enhancing and protecting democratic life. Tocqueville’s analysis of democracy in America of course was essentially relevant to the white American males as the African Americans, Native Americans and women were not endowed with equal citizenship rights. Putnam’s claim that social capital has positive effects on democracy can also be considered a culturalist argument, bordering on the social psychological (Edwards and Foley 1998). The emphasis on values or attitudes like social trust, reciprocity norms, and solidarity clearly points to a social psychological explanatory framework. Until the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, African Americans had only limited rights and opportunities to form their own associations. See the section on “Arguments in the south” in Kaviraj and Kilnani (2001) and the volume edited by Hann and Dunn (1996). Moreover, it was only in Poland and Czechoslovakia that civil society actors appear to have played a role in bringing about democratization. In the other East European states, and the Soviet Union, where the conflict notion of civil society was relatively underdeveloped, it was the deepening crisis of the state that led to the collapse of the totalitarian system and ushered in the democratization process. In many countries, such South Korea, Taiwan, and South Africa, one cannot ignore the important contributions of opposition political parties in bringing about the democratization process. In the South African experience, while it is true that the church-based groups did play a key role in the struggle against the apartheid regime, various political parties, the African National Congress in particular, also contributed to ushering in democracy in South Africa. Similarly, in the Latin American context political parties also played significant roles in the transition to democracy. One more important factor that has contributed to the democratization in the developing world is international politics. During the Cold War civil society groups were frequently viewed with suspicion by American foreign policy-makers, as a potential source of

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chaos or as harbouring all sorts of pro-communist groups. For geopolitical reasons then, authoritarian states in the developing world were propped up by the Americans to the detriment of democracy. Hence in the post-Cold War period a number of the authoritarian client states either collapsed or were forced to introduce democratic practices. In the international arena numerous advanced industrial states are actively involved in promoting and supporting a variety of voluntary associations in the developing world. See the excellent compilation by Schuller, Baron, and Field (2000) and the special volume of American Behavioral Scientist 42, no. 2 (September 1998), edited by Edwards and Foley. The Western form of absolutism was largely absent in the Southeast Asian context where the rulers frequently can effect their rule only with the support of territorial chiefs; for example, the Malay type of kerajaan polity. The only exception to this is, of course, Thailand, which was never directly colonized. In other words the rights of colonial subjects to political participation and free speech remained curtailed. Also, although the rights were introduced, their implementation was selective and uneven. For example, since the presence of the court system was largely felt only in the urban areas, it meant that only the urban population was more likely to be exposed to the effects of rights. Thus Buddhist groups in Myanmar, Christian groups in the Philippines, and Muslim groups in Indonesia and Malaysia were established to address a variety of philanthropic and welfare functions. Apart from the associations founded by the indigenous population, the European and Chinese people also established an array of voluntary associations. Largely influenced by the Western European tradition, the nation concept was imagined in terms of a community sharing a common language, culture, and history. Indeed, as the imagined nation was largely conceived in ethnic categories, it gave rise to the predominance of ethno-nationalism rather than civic nationalism. In Malaysia oppositional forces and civil society actors have effectively used the Internet to advance their views and causes; indeed, Malaysiakini, an independent electronic news daily, has successfully provided an alternative source of news for the Malaysian citizenry.

References Abootalebi, Ali. “Civil Society, Democracy, and the Middle East”. In MERIA: Middle East Review of International Affairs 2, no. 3 (September 1998). Arato, Andrew. “Civil Society against the State: Poland 1980–81”. Telos, no. 47 (1981), pp. 23–47. Chandhoke, Neera. “The ‘Civil’ and the ‘Political’ in Civil Society”. Democratization 8, no. 2 (2001): 1–24.

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Chatterjee, Partha. “On Civil and Political Society in Post-Colonial Democracies”. In Civil Society: History and Possibilities, edited by Sudipta Kaviraj and Sunil Kilnani. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Connolly, William E. The Terms of Political Discourse. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. Diokno, Maria Serena, ed. Democracy and Citizenship in Filipino Political Culture. Philippine Democracy Agenda vol. 1. Diliman, Quezon City: Third World Studies Center, 1997. Djilas, Milovan. The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System. New York: Praeger, 1957. Edwards, B. and M.W. Foley. “Beyond Tocqueville: Civil Society and Social Capital in Comparative Perspective”. American Behavioral Scientist 42, no. 2 (September 1998). Foley, M.W. “Civil Society, Democracy and Development: Some Doubts and Some Lessons from Recent Experience”. Paper presented at the Second Conference on Public Sector Management in Transitional and Developing Societies, 6 November 1998, in Bethesda, Maryland. Foley, M.W. and B. Edwards. “The paradox of civil society”. Journal of Democracy 7, no. 3 (1996): 38–52. Gellner, Ernest. “The Importance of Being Modular”. In Civil Society: Theory, History, Comparison, edited by J.A. Hall. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995. Habermas, Jurgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Bourgeois Society, translated by Thomas Burger. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1994. Hann, Christopher and Elizabeth Dunn, eds. Civil Society: Challenging Western Models. New York: Routledge, 1996. Haynes, Jeffrey. Democracy and Civil Society in the Third World: Politics and New Political Movements. Malden, Mass.: Polity Press, 1997. Hedman, Eva-Lotta. “Contesting State and Civil Society: Southeast Asian Trajectories”. In Modern Asian Studies 35, no. 4 (2001): 921–51. Hefner, Robert. Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. Hegel, G.W. Philosophy of Right, translated by T.M. Knox. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. Hewison, Kevin. “Political Space in Southeast Asia: ‘Asian-style’ and Other Democracies”. In Democratization 6, no. 1 (1999): 224–45. Kaviraj, Sudipta and Sunil Kilnani, eds. Civil Society: History and Possibilities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Keane, John, ed. Civil Society and the State. London: Verso, 1988. Kilnani, Sunil. “The Development of Civil Society”. In Civil Society: History and Possibilities, edited by Sudipta Kaviraj and Sunil Kilnani. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Kumar, Krishna. “Civil Society: An Inquiry into the Usefulness of an Historical Term”. British Journal of Sociology 44, no. 3 (1993): 375–95.

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Lewis, David. “Civil Society in Non-Western Contexts: Reflections on the ‘Usefulness’ of a Concept”. Civil Society Working Paper no. 13, Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics, 2001. Magadia, Jose. “Contemporary Civil Society in the Philippines”. In Southeast Asian Affairs (1999), pp. 252–68. Maloney, William, Graham Smith, and Gerry Stoker. “Social Capital and Associational Life”. In Social Capital: A Review and Critique, edited by T. Schuller, S. Baron, and J. Field. London: Oxford University Press, 2000. Marx, Karl. “Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State”. In Karl Marx: Early Writings, translated by Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton. New York: Vintage Books, 1975. ———. Das Kapital [Capital: A critique of political economy], translated by Ben Fowkes. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. Parkin, Frank. Class Inequality and Political Order: Social Stratification in Capitalist and Communist Societies. London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1971. Pongsapich, Amara. “Politics of Civil Society”. In Southeast Asian Affairs (1999), pp. 325–35. Putnam, Robert. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. ———. “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital”. In Journal of Democracy 6, no. 1 (1995): 65–78. Schuller, T., S. Baron, and J. Field. Social Capital: A Review and Critique. London: Oxford University Press, 2000. Seligman, A. The Idea of Civil Society. New York: Free Press, 1992. Shkaratan, O.I. and E.N. Gurenko. “From Statocracy to Evolution of Civil Society”. Soviet Sociology 30, no. 3 (1991): 68–87. Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America, translated by George Lawrence. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1969.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg ISLAMIC >STATE IN MALAYSIA 27

2 Islam, Constitutional Democracy, and the Islamic State in Malaysia Patricia Martinez INTRODUCTION A recurrent question about Islam and civil society is whether the democratic ideals of civil society can be generalized to the Muslim world. Is it, some ask, that religions and their exclusive claims are inimical to democratic processes? Others wonder if the dream of Western societies has not become the only dream of Muslim societies because they are heir to an Islamic culture whose core values were not autonomy and self-determination. Discounting the implicit “clash of civilizations” premise or the orientalist stereotyping of Muslim exceptionalism, the question of Islam and democracy merits serious consideration. In this chapter I will explore Islam, democracy, and notions of an Islamic state as they evolve in the Malaysian context, especially in terms of subsequent recourse to the bastion of democracy, the Constitution. Whether the Islamic state is coherent or cohesive with the democracy has become an important consideration after Prime Minister Mahathir’s declaration in September 2001 that Malaysia is an Islamic state. This chapter also explores constitutions that negotiate Islam and democracy elsewhere in the Middle East. There are many definitions of what constitutes civil society. I will use the broadest notion of the concept. The first is that in the most general sense, the term “civil society” refers to an autonomous, self-organized public and multiple forms of civic initiative which are enabled largely by democratic space guaranteed by a constitution. The other defining concept is that civil society constitutes the range of actors from individuals, the family, the state, business corporations, and associational groupings of all

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sorts who influence the formation and implementation of public policy, as well as groups that have no concern whatsoever for the public domain. The foundational axiom I will use is that inherent in a civil society is the fight for greater access to justice, rights, and entitlements, to defend democracy and human rights and to respond to basic issues of human welfare.1 The assumptions that ensue from these definitions, and which ground perspectives and analyses in this chapter, are encapsulated best by Robert Hefner (2000) in his book Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. Hefner defines civil Islam as the antithesis of regimist Islam, and that the Islam of a civil society is itself premised on a “civilized and self-limiting state” which “must open itself to public participation”2 at the same time that independent courts and watchdog agencies must be ready to intervene. In the same paragraph he reminds us that not all organizations in society are civil and the state must act as a guardian of public civility as well as a vehicle of popular will. Sami Zubaida describes how in the Middle East, civil society is seen as the basis of democracy but he too questions whether all civil society formations promote democracy and pluralism. Nevertheless, he concludes that the concepts and themes of civil society in the Middle East are closely tied up with the quest for democracy: “Political differences and contests are expressed in terms of the debates on civil society and democracy.”3 The contradictions between Islam and civil society are often delineated in the struggle over democracy and secular constitutions. For democracy to be an ongoing system rather than episodic elections, however, it must be instituted as a constitutional framework. Religion and politics coexist as non-overlapping magisteria but they conflict in their two overlapping visions that establish rules for the correct practice of their domains so as to defend their integrity and fend off false prophets. The conflict between the two overlapping visions of competing monoliths is obvious, but the question is where the introduction of a particular form of politics — democracy — changes the relationship. Describing a weakness of democracy as its vulnerability to challengers who would use the opportunity offered by its own rules to annul it, many conclude that reconciling political religion and secular democracy is impossible. This is because each seeks a different sort of validation that excludes the other. I. William Zartman writes in “Islam, the State and Democracy”: To the political religionist, religion excludes politics, those who do not acknowledge that fact or interpretation should be excluded

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from politics… . To the secular democrat, politics excludes religion as a political principle (although not necessarily as an individual belief); yet, troublingly, the principles of democracy may be used by political religionists to win democratically and end democracy.4 It is against this symbiosis of state, society, and religion — defining, limiting, and enabling each other in democratic processes — that this chapter analyses reactions to the announcement by the Prime Minister that Malaysia is an Islamic state. The analysis includes those responses that use recourse to the Constitution. This chapter then examines briefly the issue of the “Constitution” of Madina which is sometimes held as paradigmatic. MALAYSIA AS AN ISLAMIC STATE The issue of the Islamic state came to the forefront again in Malaysia beginning with the general elections of November 1999 and especially since September 2001. The first stage in this phase of the Islamic state issue (which has surfaced regularly in the history of Malaysian politics) was the announcement by the leader of the Islamic opposition party PAS (Parti Islam SeMalaysia) that the party would close down the Genting Highlands casino, stating that this was required in an Islamic state. The issue gained even more prominence after Hadi Awang reiterated that PAS’s intention was to establish Malaysia as an Islamic state.5 The Islamic state was cited as the reason when the DAP (Democratic Action Party, an opposition party), because of their largely ethnic Chinese constituency and because the PAS statement negated their joint manifesto, took up cudgels about the issue. The strident arguments from both sides resulted ultimately in the DAP leaving the BA (Barisan Alternatif, a loose coalition of opposition political parties formed to contest in the general elections of 1999). The most important phase of the furor over Malaysia as an Islamic state was precipitated by the announcement by the Prime Minister on 29 September 2001 at the annual general assembly of a member party of the ruling coalition, that Malaysia is in fact an Islamic state. A week later, on 6 October, Mahathir said that there was no need for a debate on whether Malaysia is an Islamic state, announcing that the leaders of the BN (Barisan Nasional) component parties are “comfortable” with the concept.6 Subsequently, there were many statements in the English, Chinese, and

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Malay press by leaders of the component parties of the ruling coalition that they had no problems with the announcement, were accepting it with an open heart, and that they were more concerned about PAS’s version of an Islamic state, which PAS announced it will present at the end of 2001, but which has not materialized.7 PAS, the chief protagonist of the Islamic state issue, appears to have neither an operational blueprint of an Islamic state nor a model Islamic state, despite controlling the two east coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu. PAS could only demand that the Prime Minister promulgate Malaysia’s Islamic state status in Parliament so as to initiate a debate.8 Having won the war of words, the BN did not feel obliged to respond. As stated earlier, PAS’s unequivocal insistence on pursuing its Islamic state agenda had led to the break-up of the opposition alliance, the BA, when the DAP, unable to counter PAS’s rigidity, withdrew from the coalition. Malaysian academic Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid writes, “This latest episode exposed major weaknesses in the Islamicists’ struggle for an Islamic state. Glaring discrepancies exist between theory and practice, between the lofty ideals of an Islamic state and the on-going endeavour of practicing those ideals within a multi-racial society.” 9 Fauzi adds that PAS does not see itself obliged to propagate effectively its message of an Islamic state to its non-Muslim coalition partners; rather it places the onus on the nonMuslims to learn and convince themselves of the relevance of an Islamic state. Perhaps PAS itself is unclear of the form of the Islamic state it desires, and this is evident from the differences in the measures proposed and pursued in Kelantan and Terenggannu. In the subsequent months after the September 2001 announcement by Mahathir that Malaysia is an Islamic state, assurances and explanations from the Deputy Prime Minister included reiterating that the federal Constitution would not be amended to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state, and that the government decree was for the benefit of the Malays and should not trouble the ethnic Chinese. “We just want the Malays to understand that we are an Islamic state and therefore they need not look for other agendas,” he said in the Chinese newspaper, the Sin Chew Jit Poh.10 An example of the semantic gymnastics from the ruling coalition to explain how the nation is now an Islamic state included: “Malaysia, under the present constitution, is not a theocratic state and therefore, can also be called a secular state…all races and religions will continue to enjoy the freedom which currently exists.”11 The statement was made by the president of the MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) Ling Liong

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Sik, after the MCA-convened forum on the Islamic state at which the Advisor for Islamic Affairs to the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Othman, (among others) gave a briefing. The press was not allowed to attend the session and did not report on the fact that all the members present from the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism (MCCBCHS) as well as a representative from the Federation of the Evangelical Christians of Malaysia and some members of the MCA expressed either concern or outright rejection of the Islamic state, or that non-Muslims had nothing to worry about. The uproar over the significance of the existing government and ruling coalition proclaiming Malaysia as an Islamic state was and is not reflected by the mainstream media but in alternate venues, and is perhaps the most stark example of the disjuncture between the public transcript and discourse, and other realities on the ground. Besides the MCA, the Gerakan (the other Chinese-based ruling coalition political party) held closed-door forums for the MCCBCHS and others invited to hear the same people speak about the Islamic state: Hamid Othman; Professor Shad Saleem Faruqui, who is a constitutional law expert from Universiti Teknologi MARA; and Zainah Anwar, the executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS) who are activists for the rights of Muslim women and who are extremely critical of PAS and conservative ulama.12 At another forum organized by Sin Chew Jit Poh on 23 October there were over 800 people although it was a hastily convened forum advertised only over the Internet. Discussion lists were flooded with questions, concerns, protests, and rebuttal against the government’s declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state. This, despite the fact that the debate had been attracting attention since the general elections of 1999 or at least in the six months before the September 2001 announcement by Mahathir. A booklet was published and distributed at various briefings by Hamid Othman from early October 2001.The first edition of the booklet by Dato Wan Zahidi Wan Teh, entitled Malaysia adalah Sebuah Negara Islam (Malaysia Is an Islamic Nation), was published by the Ministry of Information. The English version of the booklet has since been withdrawn but it merits analysis because the Malay version was reprinted and remains in circulation, and because it is the most concrete explanation or envisioning of the Islamic state that the government has proclaimed.13 The preface states that in order to ascertain whether or not Malaysia is an Islamic nation, reference must first be made to the opinions of ulama about their definitions of an Islamic state. The first definition given is that the nation has to be under Muslim governance, its defence in the hands of

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Muslims, and that it is the responsibility of every Muslim to defend it. The second definition is that the nation is controlled by Muslims, in which they attain peace within it. The third definition is that the laws of an Islamic ruler are enforced. The fourth definition is that whichever country has become a Muslim nation, even if has been defeated, maintains its status as an Islamic state by adherence to hukum fiqh (the laws of Muslim jurisprudence); examples are given such as when Muslims are under communist or colonial rule. The text then states that based on these definitions by ulama and intellectuals, it is obvious that Malaysia is an Islamic state without any further debate or controversy. The chapters that follow are entitled “To what extent has the government fulfilled its responsibility as an Islamic nation?”; “The legitimacy of the government according to Islamic jurisprudence”; “The responsibility of the faithful towards their rulers”; “The boundaries of loyalty towards rulers”; “The obligation and the way to critique rulers”; and “Islam and Muslim unity”. The chapters provide legitimacy from traditional sources for the present form of government to describe itself as Islamic and are patterned on the rhetoric of UMNO since at least the elections of 1999: that the government knows best how to lead Muslims, that Muslims should be grateful, that critique should be gentle, and that Muslim unity is paramount. The first chapter on the extent to which the present government has fulfilled its responsibilities as an Islamic state quotes extensively from the Shafi’i jurist Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Habib al-Basri al-Baghdad Al-Mawardi (died 450 of the Hijra or 1058 C.E.) and his text Al-ahkam al-sultaniyya.14 The twelve duties summarized in the booklet as incumbent upon the ruler of the government as his responsibilities include preserving the religion from any adulteration of understanding that can divert faith from true Islamic teachings that are based by the ulama on the Qur’an and Sunna (practices of the Prophet Muhammad); to collect taxation from sources that exist in the nation, and in parentheses is the word kharaj (land tax); and to suppress crime and punish criminals with suitable punishment — whether hadd crimes, whose punishment is determined by the shari’a with other conditions — for adultery, theft, and drinking alcohol; or ta’azir crimes to which authority is given to the government to determine the form of punishment. The twelve duties are described as basic compulsory obligations that are not comprehensive. An extensive argument is provided about the wide ambit of the twelve responsibilities, concluding that these responsibilities obviously do not limit the ruler to implementing the hudud. It is explained

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that in the context of Malaysia the responsibilities, which are an obligation of an Islamic state, have been implemented despite a few weaknesses and shortcomings that are unavoidable because of a system of government inherited from the colonialists. In cognizance of this fact, the text continues, the government has launched a policy of Penerapan Nilai-nilai Islam (Infusion or Application of Islamic Values). Through this policy, the text states, everything that conflicts with Islam will be brought in line with the requirements of Islam in stages and in a way that is wise (my translations are as literal as possible, as the booklet is in Bahasa Malaysia) — Melalui dasar ini, segala yang bercanggah dengan Islam akan di sesuaikan dengan kehendak Islam secara berperingkat-peringkat dan dengan cara yang bijaksana.15 The text states that this policy is in fact a large and open policy covering all values as well as the Islamic law that is the obligation of the government to implement, and that this policy will proceed continually until the aim of upholding an Islamic nation in the national system is fully implemented — Ia juga adalah satu dasar yang akan dijalankan secara berterusan sehinggalah matlamat untuk menegakkan negara Islam dalam sistem negara terlaksana sepenuhnya.16 These latter statements about bringing policy and law into line until the aim of upholding an Islamic nation in the national system is fully implemented were never articulated by Hamid Othman at the briefings organized by the MCA and Gerakan, but form the core of briefings to other groups, especially Muslims. Hamid Othman continually reiterated and reassured at the MCA and Gerakan gatherings that nothing had changed in terms of government policy or law nor would these change. He used the analogy of Ling Liong Sik — that a rose is called by different names in the various languages used in Malaysia but remains a rose nevertheless — to explain the proclamation by Mahathir that Malaysia is an Islamic state. In terms of whether or not Malaysia is an Islamic state because it fulfils the criteria given in the booklet (criteria that are based largely on Al-Mawardi’s Al-ahkam al-sultaniyya), it is instructive to check against his text, especially regarding the status of ahl al-dhimma, or non-Muslims, since Malaysia adalah sebuah negara Islam, uses the word dhimmi to describe orang kafir, or unbelievers. I find the paradigm of cross-checking contemporary context against another from a few centuries ago problematic, because the chasms of time, evolution, and context are summarily collapsed in a comparative analysis. However, since this was the route chosen by the booklet that explains Malaysia as an Islamic state (and it is a dynamic common to the use of traditional sources in Islam), it would be best to maintain this logic in an analysis.

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Al-Mawardi does indeed write that the second type of ministry — executive ministry — is open to members of ahl al-dhimma. But he makes it clear that the dhimmi should be watched closely, and cautions that if a dhimmi minister arrogates to himself a higher rank, he should be stopped.17 But it is Al-Mawardi’s views on non-Muslims in an Islamic state that are troubling. Al-Mawardi’s text appears at first glance to be contradictory, or at least paradoxical. He offers two alternative interpretations for every policy, including those that concern matters of jizya (the poll tax to be levied on ahl al-dhimma) and seldom does he come down in favour of one position or the other. It is clear, however, that the two different interpretations of what the policy should be and what it means existed in the juridical literature he was reporting. In citing the Qur’anic authority for jizya, Al-Mawardi quotes surah 9:29, a verse which has caused considerable consternation, especially among dhimmi: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in God or the Last Day, and forbid not that which God has forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low (an yadin wa-hum saghirun). In the phrase that points to those who “believe not in God or the Last Day”, he argues that while the ahl al-kitab, Christians, and Jews do acknowledge that God is one, their faith in God may be rejected or denied on the basis of two interpretations: that they do not believe in God’s Scripture, the Qur’an, or that they do not believe in Muhammad, God’s Messenger; for acknowledging the veracity of God’s messengers is paramount to believing in them. As to the enigmatic words at the end of the verse, “an yadin” Al-Mawardi again provides two possibilities for interpretation. The first is to pay the jizya “out of sufficiency and ability”; the other is ahl al-dhimma will become subservient and humbled by the conviction that Muslims have dominance and power over them. Finally, the phrase “wa-hum saghirun” is interpreted to mean either that they will be servile and submissive, or that the laws of Islam are applicable to them.18 Al-Mawardi makes it incumbent upon the ruler to exact the jizya from Jews and Christians so that they will be entitled to dwell in dar al-islam. Furthermore, by paying, or agreeing to pay the jizya, no harm will come to them and protection will be provided for them so that they may be secure and well-guarded. In this, Al-Mawardi seems to be advocating

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the more conciliatory interpretation as a standard for the caliph to follow, perhaps out of his desire to recapture the ideals of early Islam, since he goes on to quote the hadith (tradition or saying of the Prophet Muhammad) reported by Nafi on the authority of Umar that the last words the Prophet spoke were “Protect me in regard to my covenant (dhimmati)”.19 On the other hand, while Al-Mawardi quotes Abu Hanifa’s saying “I will not take it [the jizya] from the Christian Arabs lest they be exposed to humiliation”20 and alludes to Caliph Umar’s acceptance of a double zakah (tithe) from the Arab Christians in lieu of jizya, he goes out of his way to affirm that “the Arabs [that is, Arab Christians] are liable to pay the jizya as do others”.21 He also classifies other conditions for ahl al-dhimma in an Islamic state: requisite (mustahaqqa) and recommended or desirable (mustahabba), listing six items under each category. The six recommended (mustahabba) conditions are designed specifically to underscore the subservient status of the dhimmi. These conditions include recommendations that ahl al-dhimma not build structures that are higher than the Muslims’, not display in public their wine-drinking and crosses, and that they conceal the burying of their dead.22 Some of the above will seem familiar to non-Muslim Malaysians as reasons cited over the years by various local authorities for why it has been so difficult to obtain burial sites, or the stipulations put upon more recent applications for church building plans in the states under the BN government. Al-Mawardi’s has been the authoritative text for many of the ulama of the Jabatan Agama Islam of the various states and other issues described earlier. In other words there are already practices if not policies and laws, where non-Muslim Malaysians are already being treated as dhimmi in a privileging of Islam and Muslims by some state governments, especially those of the BN. If Al-Mawardi’s text continues to define the Islamic state as envisaged by the BN government, and if at a later stage more of his positions about non-Muslims are invoked and implemented, resulting in non-Muslim Malaysians becoming official second-class citizens, these measures would be in conflict with the notion of egalitarian citizenship rights that are endowed upon all Malaysians, as stipulated in the Constitution of Malaysia. There has been some latitude taken in the interpretation and selection of criteria in the booklet Malaysia adalah sebuah negara Islam. Such latitude also relates to what is stated as incumbent upon the ruler. What has been left out in the booklet is that according to Al-Mawardi, the ruler must “establish the hadd 23 punishments…” and that “He must make jihad against

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those who resist Islam after having been called to it until they submit or accept to live as protected dhimmi community — so that Allah’s rights, may He be exalted, ‘be made uppermost above all other religion’ ” and Al-Mawardi then quotes the Qur’an, surah 9:33.24 It is obvious that any implementation — whether by PAS or UMNO — of Al-Mawardi’s edicts on non-Muslims renders them second-class citizens and abrogates their rights as defined for all Malaysians in the Constitution of the nation. In 1856 the Sultan-cum-Caliph Abd al-Majid brought to an end the status of dhimmi in the Ottoman Empire. In a proclamation known as Hatt-I-Humayun, he declared all inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire to be equal citizens under the law. Until recently, the issue of ahl aldhimma and their status disappeared from the area of public policy in the nation state and was relegated to historical documents for historians to ponder. Now the debate between Muslims and non-Muslims concerning the role and status of minorities in an Islamic state appears to have gathered momentum with the rise of political Islam and its advocacy of the reinstitution of the shari’a. Why then an Islamic state? Early in its inception, Islam was not only about a spiritual community but also about a state empire. Islam developed as a religious-political movement in which religion was integral to the state and the society. Islam embraces within its legitimate sphere not only those acts and performances that the followers of other religions would codify as worship, but also all aspects of individual and communal activities. It lays down and prescribes the underlying principles of relationships and regulates all aspects of a Muslim’s life in accordance with these principles as the continuous worship of God. This then is most often the impetus for establishing an Islamic state, one in which the principles and prescriptions of living as a Muslim are enabled. CONSTITUTION OF AL-MADINA There is a wide divergence of views among Muslims themselves about the characteristics of an Islamic state, including whether one is prescribed in the first place. The Qur’an does not lay down any specific form of state or government. However it gives clear outlines of a political system and general principles in the field of constitutional affairs. The closest paradigmatic legacy from the Prophet Muhammad is what is referred to as the Constitution of al-Madina or the result of his successful negotiations with various segments of the Muslim community in al-Madina. Fidelity

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and reference to this constitution are rare compared to the proclivity to use Maududi and Qutb as sources. Golam W. Choudhury (1993), who wrote glowingly about Malaysia as the “ideal non-Arab Muslim country” (note the privileging of Arabism) in his book Islam and the Modern World, describes the declaration of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in 1947 as reiterating the spirit of the Constitution of al-Madina. Jinnah stated: “you may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that is nothing to do with the business of the state. There is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another… we are starting with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.” Choudhury comments that Jinnah’s statements were interpreted unfairly, with many detractors claiming that he was advocating a secular state and forsaking his fundamental principles in fighting for Pakistan. Choudhury argues that “What Jinnah said in the Pakistan constituent assembly was reflected in the constitution of al-Madinah [sic] as founded by the Prophet of Islam. Islam strictly forbids religious intolerance and fanaticism” and goes on to describe how non-Muslims in al-Madina were given equal status, when the Prophet created a polity that banned all privileges.25 The city state of al-Madina was founded on the basis of a number of contracts, and Islam became what, in theory at least, it has always remained — a political as well as a religious system. The first contract was the contract with God and this was the acceptance of Islam by every individual. The second contract was a contract for the protection of the Prophet Muhammad — not only as God’s representative on earth but also as their own elected ruler. The third contract was the confirmation of the second contract by the whole of the Muslim population of al-Madina, and the fourth contract with the Jews was not merely a charter of toleration for freedom of belief and conscience, it was a contract for the creation of a composite nation or community for common defence and protection. What is now referred to as the Constitution of al-Madina evolved organically, even though the whole process of its creation was individualistic and therefore contractual. The significance of these individual covenants or contracts should not be underestimated in the context of the Prophet’s time. He reconciled the various parties in the city and introduced law, order, and peace among its various elements. The covenant with the Jews was the crowning contract among those that established the city state of al-Madina. The covenants the Prophet concluded were a rare piece of statesmanship with far-reaching importance. The covenants were of rare statesmanship because it was the only way of reconciling the tribes and the

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best means of meeting the Makkans with the united support of the whole of al-Madina. The covenants were of far-reaching importance because they made the Prophet Muhammad the sole guiding power in a land which had known no common leader. Ostensibly a cautious and tactful reform, the contracts were in reality a revolution. The Prophet did not dare strike openly at the independence of the tribes, but he destroyed them as problems, in effect, by shifting the centre of power from the tribe to the community. Although the community included Jews and pagans as well as Muslims, the Prophet fully recognized what his opponents had failed to foresee: that Muslims were the active and most predominant partners in the newly founded state. The key to this new state was the element of egalitarianism and partnership within a notion of community. The political Islamic community was an open community under one universal God. This is the concept of the umma, derived from the word “umm”, which means “mother.” In the Qur’an the term umma has different shades of meaning, such as a religious group, a people, or even a nation, reflecting a gradual development of the term from a religious association of believers (the Muslim community in Makka) to a complete, organized social, economic, and political system in al-Madina. The broader sense of the term umma appears in the Constitution of al-Madina. It is important to note that the term is used for both Muslims and for the Jews as part of the community at al-Madina. And verily the Jews of Banu Awf shall be considered as a community (umma) along with the Believers, for the Jews their religion and for the Muslims their religion, be one client or original member of the tribe; but whomever shall be guilty of oppression or violation (of treaty) shall put to trouble none but his own person and the members of his house (ahl bayt).26 Some of the Jews broke the covenant, and the Prophet went to war with various enemies of the fledgling state. Later revelations of the Qur’an contain passages that vilify those who are not Muslim and who are opposed to Islam, and these subsequently became definitive of how to deal with or relate to non-Muslims living as minorities among Muslims, superseding even the popular rhetoric of “return to origins” or the Constitution of al-Madina. In 1951 the renowned scholar Wilfred Cantwell Smith analysed the problems of non-Muslim minorities in his text on the Pakistani Islamic state. It is informative for our context. He wrote:

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It is fundamental to remember that the rights accorded to any minority or other non-powerful group in any state depend on the ideal of those in power. A state may be democratic in form but unless it is democratic also in ideal, unless the majority of its citizens are actively loyal to the transcendent principles of democracy, recognizing the ideal validity of every man’s status as a man, then the arithmetic minority has, through the democratic form, no rights at all…If Muslims do in fact treat non-Muslims unjustly then a democratic framework would merely give them as a majority the constitutional authority for doing so without let or hindrance.27 The Islamic state is an ideological state based on the concepts and fundamental principles embodied in the shari’a. It is important to recognize that in the Qur’an, which contains about 6,236 verses, only about thirtyfive verses implicitly or explicitly contain what can be construed as a system of politics and administration. There is no Qur’anic term for “state” — in the text of the Qur’an, the term “dawla” occurs but it is not used in the same meaning of state as is its etymology now; instead the term means wealth. Therefore in the primary source of Islam, the Qur’an, an Islamic state is neither described nor mandated. Most jurists in the first centuries of Islam were more concerned with cultivating a habit of passive obedience to the ruler, and any attempt by the people to rise against the reigning Muslim ruler was always looked upon as apostasy or rebellion. “Therefore the traditional theory, under the pressure of political exigencies, is willing to tolerate even a bad ruler or a tyrant as long as he does not act against the Shari’a.”28 While Private Law in all its main branches was fairly well-developed on the basis of rulings laid down by Muslim jurists in the first two centuries, Public Law had mixed progress. The Law of Peace and War received much attention, as was natural in view of the fighting career of the new nation. Financial Law was likewise welldeveloped since its basic elements, state revenue and state expenditure, were well-defined in the Qur’an and in the Prophet’s practice. Constitutional Law was not so fortunate. The unique role of the Prophet, both as interpreter and giver of laws and as supreme civil leader and commander, precluded any generalization as to the nature, distribution, limits and proper assumption of state power, except for a single Quranic text recommending

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consultative deliberation. In particular there was neither text nor precedent indicating how state power should pass from one leader, or leading group, to another.29 This element is significant in terms of understanding the disjuncture between the Islamic state in classical text and doctrine, and the modern democratic nation state which is premised on elections and a representative system. THE ISLAMIC STATE ISSUE AND RECOURSE TO THE CONSTITUTION IN MALAYSIA One year after Mahathir’s declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state, the issue continued to dominate public political discourse. It has evolved beyond a strategy by the ruling party to contain PAS and the legitimacy PAS appropriates because of the “true” or generic Islam to which it claims adherence. Increasing numbers of Malaysians have entered the public discussion, especially non-Muslims who sought recourse in the Constitution of Malaysia. However, constitutions are not ends in themselves. They exist to secure some purposes and to promote some ideals and values, one of which is constitutionalism. Constitutionalism can be said to refer to a number of separate but related features of a democratic political system. Why should constitutionalism be an essential dimension of democracy? And should the concept of constitutional government be used as a synonym for plural democracy? In an article on democratization in the Arab world Jean Leca writes: The usual answer is first, that democracy requires governmental accountability, and that accountability requires the rulers to be accountable not on their own terms but according to rules they are not at liberty to change at will; and, second, that democracy requires free, non-violent and regularly repeated competition between groups organized to gain power, as well as participation of all citizens in the choice of leaders and policies.30 Essentially, constitutionalism implies loyalty to the various provisions in the Constitution by citizens and officials of the state. What this entails is that citizens accept limits on their freedoms while officials on their part observe the limits on their powers. As Malaysian constitutional law expert Shad Saleem Faruqui writes, “The functionaries of the State should hold

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and derive their powers from specific laws and should act with respect for legality and constitutionality. There must be harmony between official action and the stated rule.”31 In this sense also, respect for the legality of the Constitution is similar to the doctrine of the rule of law — the central claim of which is that public authorities must derive and hold their powers from specific laws and must act according to them. Constitutionalism also implies loyalty not only to the letter of the law but also the spirit of the Constitution. It requires a commitment to and an internalization of the values and ideals that inspired the basic law. It demands observance of enacted rules as well as respect for the unwritten and informal practices, conventions, usages, and understandings with which the Constitution has become inlaid over the course of time. These include a respect for the law. Constitutionalism refers to the rule of law protecting specific spheres of life against arbitrary power, making possible a competition between plurality of values and interests as well as a compromise between strategic élites more or less representative of important social demands. It is this element of the observance of the agreements, understandings, and practices beyond the actual stipulations of the Constitution, that nonMuslims invoked in their protests over the declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state. The social contract between Malays and non-Malays during the formulation of independence was the underlying and overarching argument of the MCCBCHS, the CCM (Council of Churches Malaysia or umbrella for the mainstream Protestant Churches), the Catholic Church, the CFM (Christian Federation of Malaysia, which includes the CCM, the Catholic Church, and Evangelical Churches), and the DAP. This social contract is described in the preface to the widely distributed statement entitled “A Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Elimination of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief” that was published by the MCCBCHS. In the press conference at which it was first distributed, it was announced that the Declaration was first issued in 1998, and was being reissued in January 2002 as the MCCBCHS’s response to the Prime Minister’s declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state. The statement’s preface refers to “the social covenant” which was and is “based on due recognition to the pluralistic nature of our Malaysian community that has been threatened by extreme ideological forces based either on arrogance of race or religious dogmatism. The dangers of political religion cannot be over-emphasised as it threatens the delicate social fabric of our nationhood.” 32 The DAP describes this implicit agreement between the various races that came together to forge the Malayan nation as “the 44-year old Social Contract”. This argument is the most consistent statement from the DAP

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throughout 2002, and is prominent in alternative public discourse — as such, it bears quoting: Mahathir’s declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state is a fundamental breach of the 44-year Social Contract reached by our forefathers from the three communities in the 1957 Merdeka Constitution and reaffirmed by the peoples of Sabah and Sarawak in 1962 on the formation of Malaysia, founding the nation as a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive state with Islam as the official religion and not as an Islamic state. For 44 years, the mainstream nation-building agenda was to develop and sustain the democratic, secular and multi-religious nature of the Malaysian Constitution and voices calling for an Islamic state were at the periphery; but overnight, with Mahathir’s declaration, the controversy over what type of an Islamic state Malaysia should become has hijacked the mainstream nation-building agenda.33 The CFM issued a booklet and the statement: “The assurances by the Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional leaders that the Constitution will not be tampered with do not offer sufficient guarantee that Malaysia will not degenerate into something of the Islamic model which PAS is promoting. Rhetoric may lead to reality.”34 The CFM stand describes how the impact of administrative Islamization policies and programmes has undermined the secular and multicultural pluralistic basis of Malaysia, that it has resulted in the marginalization of non-Islamic religions, and that there are fundamental signs of intolerance of non-Muslims, their beliefs, and practices. It describes these practices as having an uncomfortable parallel with orthodox Islamic theory and the ideology of an Islamic state and practice in dealing with dhimmi. The CFM document states that “there is justified concern that the Prime Minister’s announcement might be taken to be ‘freedom of action’ authority to embark on policies and programmes to turn Malaysia into an orthodox Islamic state…”35 These various statements issued that oppose the declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state all refer to guarantees of freedom of religion in the Constitution, and invoke United Nations precedents “reflecting the heritage of our common humanity with the global community” as a “source for reflection, resource for law-making and administrative policy making and decisions”36 to reiterate the recourse to the rule of law.

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The guarantees entrenched in the Constitution were first raised by Shad Saleem Faruqui in his presentation at the MCA forum in October 2001 to explain the Islamic state, with his paper entitled “Constitutional Perspectives on Freedom of Religion, Secularism and Theocracy”. The paper outlined the various laws and articles in the Constitution on religion, and described which were problematic even as his overall theme was one of reassurance. At the forum Faruqui gave verbal reassurance that Article 3, which provides for freedom of religion, cannot be amended easily.37 In his paper Faruqui wrote extensively about conversion out of Islam and how any laws to legislate aqidah (belief) “will trigger a massive constitutional debate that will humiliate Malaysia internationally, cause divisions within the ummah [the community of Muslims] and embarrass the judiciary”.38 He concluded that “Malaysia is neither a full-fledged Islamic state nor wholly secular” but that “in view of the fact that Muslims constitute the majority of the population, and Islamisation is being vigorously enforced, Malaysia can indeed be described as an Islamic or Muslim country”.39 In his regular feature article in The Star, the one on 28 October 2001 on the Islamic state issue is entitled “Facing a problem of semantics” and he attributes the clash of opinions simply to the fact that there is no litmus test or universally agreed list of criteria to typify a social or legal system as theocratic or temporal. These reassurances notwithstanding from someone who is an expert and who struggled with integrity in his paper, the fact remains that the Malaysian Constitution has been amended extensively since independence in 1957,40 which caused Mahathir himself to write, “The manner, the frequency and the trivial reasons for altering the Constitution reduced this supreme law of the nation to a useless scrap of paper”41 although in the past twenty years his administration has also enacted considerable amendments to the Constitution. As such, many of those at forums on the Islamic state had expressed concern about the possibility that at any stage in the future the Constitution could be amended to enhance the claim to an Islamic state. Provisions in the Constitution of Malaysia that support arguments against Malaysia as a religious (or Islamic) state that are most often cited: 1. Article 3, clauses (1) and (4) which state that Islam is the religion of the Federation but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony, and that nothing in this article derogates from any other provision of the Constitution. 2. Article 11 states that every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to clause 4, to propagate it (clause 4 restricts

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the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among Muslims). Clause 11 declares that every religious group has the right to manage its own affairs, establish and maintain institutions, and acquire and own property. 3. Article 12 (1) states that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of only religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender. Clause (2) of article 12 provides for the right of every religious group to establish and maintain institutions for the education of children in its own religion. Clause (3) provides that no person shall be required to receive instruction or take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own. In addition, historic documents are often cited to bolster these constitutional guarantees. The Reid Commission, which was convened in 1956–57 to draw up a Constitution for Malaya, states in paragraph 169, article 4.2 on state religion that the Commission considered the question of whether there should by any statement in the Constitution to the effect that Islam should be the state religion. The report by the Commission then invokes the view of the rulers that it would not be desirable to insert a declaration that the Muslim faith or Islamic faith be the established religion of the Federation. The Reid Commission document quotes the statement of the counsel for the rulers, who said: It is Their Highnesses’ considered view that it would not be desirable to insert some declaration such as has been suggested that the Muslim Faith or Islamic Faith be the established religion of the Federation. Their Highnesses are not in favour of such a declaration being inserted and that is a matter of specified instruction in which I myself have played very little part.42 The Commission document’s clause 4.3, paragraph 11 describes the note of dissent by Justice Abdul Hamid of the Reid Commission. Justice Abdul Hamid wanted a provision declaring Islam to be the religion of the state, while making clear in that same provision that such a declaration will not be a disability “on non-Muslim citizens professing, propagating and practicing their religions, and will not prevent the State from being a secular State”43 (emphasis added). Years later and even before Mahathir’s declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state, there were jurists who wished that Justice Abdul Hamid’s provision had in fact held sway. Malaysia’s most distinguished Dean of

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Law at both the University of Malaya and the International Islamic University, the late Professor Ahmad Ibrahim, both defends the Constitution as well as finds it lacking in terms of the position of Islam. He comes to the conclusion that it is easy to take a negative attitude and to say that the Federal Constitution is not in accordance with Islam. He suggests a “remedy” by accepting the Constitution and trying the best to uphold the principles of Islamic government. In this argument he writes about the social contract among all Malayans at the birth of the nation: The acceptance of the Federal Constitution was made possible by the negotiations and compromise arrived at by all the communities in Malaysia. We should respect the agreement based on the understanding and friendship between the various communities. At the same time we should try to think and act positively and work the Constitution in such a way as to uphold the principles of Islamic government and have regard to the interests of all the communities in Malaysia.44 However, later in the same article Ahmad Ibrahim also writes that Muslims should argue that they are entitled under article 3 (1) to lead their way of life according to the teachings of Islam, and that if they wish to follow Islamic law and not the English common law, they should be allowed to do so. He suggests that article 4, which states that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and that any law passed after independence that is inconsistent with the Constitution shall be void, should be read in a practical manner. He argues that article 4 refers only to written law and that there is a special position for pre-Merdeka laws that are not rendered invalid by inconsistency with the Constitution, and that Islamic law falls within this ambit. He continues that it can be argued that in Islam the rule of law is to be implemented to the fullest, and in conclusion suggests that there is a way to amend the Federal Constitution: That if Muslims want to make the Constitution more in line with Islam, they have to ensure that they will be in a position to amend it. That is, by registering as voters and electing representatives who can have a two-thirds majority in the Houses of Parliament for such amendments to be adopted. “For this purpose we must strive to be united so that we can better serve the cause of our people, our religion and our country.”45 It can be argued that although he recognizes the social contract with non-Muslims, ultimately Ahmad Ibrahim’s definition of “our people, our religion and our country” in this widely cited treatise on the position of

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Islam in Malaysia is limited only to Muslims. This can be construed as a virtual abrogation of the social contract upon which the nation was founded, and it is arguments like these that are at the heart of the debate that has raged since PAS announced its intention to establish an Islamic state and Mahathir’s declaration that Malaysia is already an Islamic state. In arguments resonant with Ahmad Ibrahim’s, Abdul Aziz Bari, who is Course Co-ordinator for Constitutional Law at the International Islamic University, also states about the Constitution that “it is not quite true to say that everything is in the document — in this respect, Islam and matters related to the religion — was conceived at that particular point of time”.46 He argues that as such, we need to go beyond that point of time in order to understand fully the nature and extent of the provisions concerned and insists that Muslims must be guided by the shari’a and that the substance of such a state must also be guided by its spirit, going so far as to claim that adat (traditional native law) and secular law “may be called Islamic if they are put in place to regulate matters that are not dealt with by the texts”.47 He states, “We may have an Islamic state while at the same time retain the existing constitution”48 but relegates non-Muslims to “participating in the debate and contribute to it by pointing out the values that are universal in their application”.49 Writing about the social contract as more about race, but reminding us also about those who hold that the present Constitution should be replaced with an Islamic state, constitutional law expert Andrew Harding states that “the choice depends on whether the social contract is regarded as fundamental to the Malaysian approach to government, or as a phase of national development”.50 He foregrounds this statement by describing the gradual erosion of the fundamental principles of liberty which the Malaysian Constitution embodies. He then states that the conclusion drawn from his survey of the Malaysian Constitution is that “the principles of the Constitution have been eroded and limited to an extent where no further erosion or limitation can occur without affecting the very bone marrow and life-blood of the Constitution itself”.51 He offers two solutions: If further constitutional development is seen as taking Malaysia further away from the basic principles of the post-Merdeka period, that “it would be best if the Constitution spelled out more frankly what the basic tenets of the Malaysian polity actually are…”52 and secondly, that a Royal Commission on the Constitution should investigate constitutional reform, taking evidence from the public and making recommendations. There were few Muslims who were willing to articulate public positions on the latest episode of the Islamic state issue in Malaysia — as stated

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earlier, public discourse has been overwhelmed by protagonists from UMNO and PAS, all of whom propose or argue the issue largely on the premise of political promise, legitimacy, and expedience. In my research it became very apparent that most ordinary Muslim Malaysians do not know what constitutes an Islamic state, nor do they particularly desire one. However, it is significant that more than 70 per cent of those I interviewed also expressed how they could not oppose an Islamic state, stating that it was probably incumbent upon them as Muslims not to oppose or reject one. Likewise, the high-profile women’s activist group SIS, while strenuously opposing the enactment of the hudud legislation in Kelantan and Terengganu, has never taken an open position rejecting the notion of an Islamic state. In personal communication dated 5 December 2002 with Zainah Anwar, executive director of SIS, she wrote that SIS does in fact oppose the formation of an Islamic state, but she did not respond to a further question about why SIS has not taken a public position. Varying degrees of such silence (although in fairness to SIS it can hardly be described as “silent” on many issues that affect Muslim women), of unwillingness to be chastised as being against Islam or an infidel, or even being seen as “less Islamic” or accused of “insulting Islam” define the majority of middle-class Malay Muslims. It is this silence of the majority that enables public discourse to be dominated, through default, by the minority who want an Islamic state. This minority’s stridence defines Islam and Islamization in Malaysia beyond their proportion to the population of Muslims. The issue of the Islamic state became intensified when it was conflated with the enactment of the hudud legislation in July 2002 in the state of Terengganu (that is controlled by PAS). The issue as it has evolved is too complex to deal with in the limitations of this chapter, but it is significant that the hardening of PAS’s position, irrespective of the resistance to the ramifications of the hudud legislation, has made some Malaysian Muslims rethink the viability of an Islamic state. In an article published in December 2002, a regular columnist for the on-line newspaper Malaysiakini came out against the notion of an Islamic state. Mazeni Alwi, some of whose articles are sympathetic to the political opposition, including PAS, wrote about the Iranian academic Hashem Aghajari and the death penalty meted out to him for his speech commemorating Ali Shariati’s death, where he argued that the clergy itself was not intrinsic to Islam and that it had no divine right to rule. Mazeni Alwi argued, “With the Hashem case, the notion of the Islamic state led by religious elite as a late 20th century phenomenon seemed to have come full circle in a very short space of two

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decades… nobody can say now that we have not performed the experiment.”53 He concluded that although Iran’s adventure with the leadership of the ulama and the hope that through them an earthly paradise would be possible, it did not take long for “that fanciful, simplistic hope” to turn to disillusionment when a new, religious totalitarianism took over from the old. He stated that Hashem’s case “should lead us to reexamine the Islamic state project. Maybe it’s time to restore the notion of leadership of the ulama to its traditional role of moral and spiritual leadership… political leadership by the religious elite is perhaps a late 20th century aberration that will sooner or later run its course”.54 It grows increasingly obvious from the interviews conducted for my research project that the turn to Islam, the willingness to consider the possibilities of an Islamic state, are not only from a sense that this might be required in a fidelity to Islam. The willingness to consider an Islamic state as viable is also a recourse against the corruption, cronyism, and nepotism that many feel plague public life in Malaysia. Many Muslims believe that a return to religious fundamentals and ethics — in this instance, Islamic — will restore moral rectitude. Islam is also a compass for negotiating the (sometimes debilitating) maze of modernity and hegemonic Western-oriented globalization which are often described as anathema to Islam. Many are swayed by the PAS argument that it is only through the legislation and severe punishments that an Islamic state enjoins, that transparency, good governance, and justice will prevail. Few consider the problem of how the concept of an Islamic state as it is articulated in classical text and tradition — no matter how altruistic, but that privileges fidelity to ruler and religious strictures and with little about the rights of the people — is not compatible with a modern nation state that is founded on notions of individual rights and fundamental freedoms.

Notes 1 See, for example, Harry Blair, “Donors, Democratisation and Civil Society: Relating Theory to Practice”, in NGOs, States and Donors: Too Close for Comfort?, edited by David Hume and Michael Edwards (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997); and Marc Nerfin, “Neither Prince nor Merchant: An Introduction to the Third System”, IFDA Dossier 56 (November–December 1986). 2 Robert W. Hefner, Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), p. 215.

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3 Sami Zubaida, “Civil Society, Community and Democracy in the Middle East”, in Civil Society: History and Possibilities, edited by Sudpita Kaviraj and Sunil Khilnani (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 232. 4 I. William Zartman, “Islam, the State and Democracy”, in Between the State and Islam, edited by Charles E. Butterworth and I. William Zartman (Cambridge: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 243. 5 The Star, 28 June 2001, p. 2; and Hadi Awang’s interview with the online newspaper Malaysiakini on 5 June 2001. 6 The Sun, 6 October 2001, p. 1; The Star, 6 October 2001, p. 1. 7 In June 2003 PAS announced that it had its Islamic state memorandum ready. In a conversation on 3 July with the head of the PAS Research Centre, Dzuulkefly Ahmad, he stated that PAS was challenged to issue its version of the Islamic state by Mahathir and UMNO; that he was aware that articulating PAS’s vision of an Islamic polity could complicate its relationship with nonMuslims; and that he was unable to indicate when the document would be made public, “if at all”. 8 Statement by Fadzil Noor, PAS president, Utusan Malaysia, 1 October 2001. 9 Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, “An Islamacist’s View of an Islamic State and Its Relevance to a Multi-Racial Society”, in Islam in Southeast Asia: Analysing Recent Developments, edited by Harold Crouch, Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Carmen Abubakar et al. (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2002), p. 12. 10 Tong Yee Siong, “Islamic state declaration for Malay ears only: DPM” in the online newspaper Malaysiakini, 11 December 2001 . 11 New Sunday Times, 21 October 2001. 12 Ulama is the plural of ‘alim, one who possesses the quality of knowledge and learning in the widest sense but which over time has come to denote those who are highly educated about Islam. In the development of tradition and fiqh, the ulama are perceived as the custodians who are theologians. In consequence, the ulama “in whatever stated form they functioned, came to have in a wide and vague fashion, the ultimate decision on all questions of constitution, law and theology. Whatever the de facto government might be, they were a curb upon it, as a surviving expression of the Agreement and of the right of the People of Muhammad to govern itself” (Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1995, p. 599). 13 An earlier version of this segment of the chapter was published in Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 23, no. 3 (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001). 14 Sometimes referred to as Al-ahkam al-sultaniyya because the definite article “al” in Arabic follows the “s” consonant. The Al-ahkam as-sultaniyya was written primarily to buttress the Abbasid caliphate, which was facing challenges

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16 17

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to its authority by competing caliphates of the Fatimids and Umayyads in Cairo and al-Andalus (Spain) respectively, and, closer to home, by the actual usurpation of its power by the Twelver Shi’ite Buwayhids. Therefore Al-Mawardi recapitulates Sunni political thought to lend credence to the primacy of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad and to its legitimacy and this is an important context in understanding and applying his edicts over the chasm of centuries and in other contexts. Dato Wan Zahidi Wan Teh, Malaysia adalah sebuah Negara Islam (Kuala Lumpur: Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas, Kementerian Penerangan Malaysia, 2001), p. 8. Ibid., p. 8. Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Habib al-Basri al-Baghdad Al-Mawardi (d.450 A.H.), Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah (London: Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd, 1973), p. 44. Ibid., p. 208. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., p. 211. Plural hudud, which means boundary, limit, or stipulation. In the Qur’an it means the limits laid down by Allah and it appears in this sense at the end of several verses which contain legal provisions. In Muslim criminal law hadd means an unalterable punishment prescribed by canonical law (fiqh), which is considered a right of Allah. These punishments include stoning or scourging for illicit intercourse, scourging for false accusations about adultery, the same punishment for drinking intoxicating liquor, cutting off the hands for theft, and various punishments for robbery, which differ according to circumstances. These punishments are draconian, but the onus of proof is also draconian. In addition, judges are mandated to give the accused every possible opportunity to clear himself or herself (Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1995, pp. 115–16). Al-Mawardi, op. cit., p. 28. Golam W. Choudhury, Islam and the Modern World (Buckhurst Hill, England: Scorpion Publishing Ltd, 1993), p. 70. Muhammad Hamidullah, The First Written Constitution in the World (Lahore: S.H. Muhammad Asraf, 1981), p. 52. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Pakistan as an Islamic State (Lahore, Pakistan, 1951), p. 25. Lukman Thaib, The Notion of State in Islam (Kuala Lumpur: Quill Publishers, 1990), p. 5. Fawzy Mansour, The Arab World: Nation, State and Democracy (London: Zed Books and Tokyo: United Nations University, 1992), pp. 51–52. Jean Leca, “Democratization in the Arab World: Uncertainty, Vulnerability

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and Legitimacy. A Tentative Conceptualization and Some Hypotheses”, in Democracy Without Democrats?, edited by Ghassam Salame (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994), p. 57. Shad Saleem Faruqui, “Balancing Mights with Rights”, The Star, 9 June 2002. MCCBCHS, A Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Elimination of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (Kuala Lumpur, 2002), p. 1. Speech by DAP national chairman Lim Kit Siang at the Penang DAP forum, “Should Malaysia be an Islamic State”, Penang, 28 February 2002, and published on the DAP website . Christian Federation of Malaysia, Malaysia as an Islamic State: An Analysis (Kuala Lumpur, January 2002), p. 14. Ibid. MCCBCHS, op. cit., p. 1. At other forums additional memoranda and papers were distributed by individuals, especially on the Federal Constitution, religion, and the secular state in terms of legal implications, safeguards, precedents, and problems. All these papers and information sheets repudiated the viability of Malaysia as an Islamic state. Shad Saleem Faruqui, “Constitutional Perspectives on Freedom of Religion, Secularism and Theocracy” (Paper distributed at the MCA Forum on the Islamic State, 2001), p. 11. Ibid., pp. 18–19. See Tun Salleh Abas, “Amendment of the Malaysian Constitution”, Malayan Law Journal 2 (1977): 72–86; and H.P. Lee, “Constitutional Amendments in Malaysia”, Malaya Law Review 18 (1976). Mahathir bin Mohamed, The Malay Dilemma (Kuala Lumpur: Federal Publications, 1981), p. 11. Report of the Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission 1957 (London: Colonial Office, 1957), paragraph 169. Ibid., p. 99. Ahmad Ibrahim, “The Principles of an Islamic Constitution and the Constitution of Malaya: A Comparative Analysis”, Law Journal of the International Islamic University 1, no. 2 (1989): 6. Ibid., p. 10. Abdul Aziz Bari, “Secularism or Theocracy: A Study of the Malaysian Constitution” (Commentary on the paper of the same title prepared by Prof. Shad Saleem Faruqui for the MSRC-KAF Intercultural Discourse Series, 5 September 2002), p. 1. Ibid. Ibid., p. 2. Ibid., p. 3.

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50 Andrew Harding, Law, Government and the Constitution in Malaysia (The Hague and London: The London-Leiden Series on Law, Administration and Development, 1996), p. 273. 51 Ibid. 52 Ibid. 53 Mazeni Alwi, “The case of Hashim Aghajari: Islamic state vision comes full circle”, in the online newspaper Malaysiakini, 30 November 2002, . 54 Ibid.

References Abas, Tun Salleh. “Amendment of the Malaysian Constitution”. Malayan Law Journal 2 (1977): 72–86. Abdul Aziz Bari. “Secularism or Theocracy: A Study of the Malaysian Constitution”. Kuala Lumpur: MSRC-KAF Intercultural Discourse Series, 5 September 2002. Abdul Hamid, Ahmad Fauzi. “An Islamacist’s View of an Islamic State and Its Relevance to a Multi-Racial Society”. In Islam in Southeast Asia: Analysing Recent Developments, edited by Harold Crouch, Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Carmen Abubakar et al. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2002. Ahmad Ibrahim. “The Principles of an Islamic Constitution and the Constitution of Malaya: A Comparative Analysis”. Law Journal of the International Islamic University 1, no. 2 (1989): 1–10. Al-dustur: ta’liqat ‘ala mawadibi bi-l-a’mal al-tahdiriyya wa-l-munaqashat albarlamaniyya. Cairo: Matba’at misr, 1940. Al-Mawardi, Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Habib al-Basri al-Baghdad (d.450 A.H.). Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah. London: Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd, 1973. Blair, Harry. “Donors, Democratisation and Civil Society: Relating Theory to Practice”. In NGOs, States and Donors: Too Close for Comfort?, edited by David Hume and Michael Edwards. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Botiveau, Bernard. “Contemporary Reinterpretation of Islamic Law: The Case of Egypt”. In Islam and Public Law, edited by Chibli Mallat. London: Graham and Troutman, 1997. Choudhury, Golam W. Islam and the Modern World. Buckhurst Hill, England: Scorpion Publishing Ltd, 1993. Faruqui, Shad Saleem. “Constitutional Perspectives on Freedom of Religion, Secularism and Theocracy”. Paper distributed at the MCA Forum on the Islamic State, 2001, in Kuala Lumpur. ———. “Balancing Mights with Rights”. The Star, 9 June 2002. Fawzy Mansour. The Arab World: Nation, State and Democracy. London: Zed Books and Tokyo: United Nations University, 1992.

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Harding, Andrew. Law, Government and the Constitution in Malaysia. The Hague and London: The London-Leiden Series on Law, Administration and Development, 1996. Hefner, Robert W. Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. Hitam, Tan Sri Musa. “Islam in the State in Malaysia”. Transcript by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) of a lecture organized by ISEAS, 2001, in Singapore. Leca, Jean. “Democratization in the Arab World: Uncertainty, Vulnerability and Legitimacy. A Tentative Conceptualization and Some Hypotheses”. In Democracy Without Democrats?, edited by Ghassam Salame. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994. Lee, H.P. “Constitutional Amendments in Malaysia”. Malaya Law Review 18 (1976). Lukman Thaib. The Notion of State in Islam. Kuala Lumpur: Quill Publishers, 1990. Mahathir bin Mohamed. The Malay Dilemma. Kuala Lumpur: Federal Publications, 1981. Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism. A Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Elimination of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Kuala Lumpur, 2002. Martinez, Patricia. “The Islamic State or the State of Islam in Malaysia”. Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 23, no. 3 (December 2001): 474–503. Mazeni Alwi. “The case of Hashim Aghajari: Islamic state vision comes full circle”. In the online newspaper Malaysiakini, 30 November 2002, . Muhammad Hamidullah. The First Written Constitution in the World. Lahore: S.H. Muhammad Asraf, 1981. Nerfin, Marc. “Neither Prince nor Merchant: An Introduction to the Third System”. IFDA Dossier 56 (November–December 1986). Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995. Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Pakistan as an Islamic State. Lahore, Pakistan, 1951. Tong Yee Siong. “Islamic state declaration for Malay ears only: DPM”. In the online newspaper Malaysiakini, 11 December 2001, . Wan Zahidi Wan Teh, Dato. Malaysia adalah sebuah Negara Islam. Kuala Lumpur: Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas, Kementerian Penerangan Malaysia, 2001. Zartman, I. William. “Islam, the State and Democracy”. In Between the State and Islam, edited by Charles E. Butterworth and I. William Zartman. Cambridge: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press, 2001. Zubaida, Sami. “Civil Society, Community and Democracy in the Middle East”. In Civil Society: History and Possibilities, edited by Sudpita Kaviraj and Sunil Kilnani. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

54 JOHN J. CARROLL, S.J.

3 Cracks in the Wall of Separation? The Church, Civil Society, and the State in the Philippines John J. Carroll, S.J. INTRODUCTION At daybreak on the morning of 25 February 1986, I awoke from a restless night’s sleep on a road behind Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Philippines. Around me were seminarians, religious sisters, and lay people; we were there as a human barricade to prevent the reinforcement of troops loyal to President Marcos, who were holed up inside the camp. As the sun came up, I offered Mass there in the middle of the road and my companions joined in, devoutly indeed for none of us knew what dangers the day might bring. In fact, the day was to bring the overwhelming good news that Marcos had abandoned the presidential palace and was on his way to Honolulu. One episode of that night is worth noting. An army patrol in a truck approached the barricade. Trained in the spirit and practice of non-violence, our group greeted the soldiers politely, and a negotiating committee went to meet with them. The officer in charge said that they had orders to deliver food to the men in the camp. We made sure that no arms were being smuggled in, shook hands all around, opened the barricade, and parted as friends. I do not know whether that patrol eventually defected to our side; it is clear, however, that the spirit of respecting one’s opponents as fellow human beings and Filipinos, a spirit inculcated in seminars by churchbased, active non-violence groups, had much to do with the success of the unarmed popular uprising. In addition, many will recall dramatic images of religious sisters, rosaries in hand, blocking the path of army tanks; of General Ramos, a Protestant, in the midst of the crowd with a statue of the Virgin beside him. Much

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more could be added, but this may be sufficient to suggest the powerful role played by religion, religious symbols, and the Catholic Church in the recent political history of the Philippines. In what follows I shall not attempt to give a precise definition of civil society. The term was introduced in the Philippines in a series of discussions held in December 1993, followed by a three-day workshop involving social scientists and social activists in June 1994.1 It has remained fuzzy around the edges, but it is widely understood in the Philippines — and we shall understand it — as referring to voluntary groups which are distinct from government, political parties, and the business community, which come together to promote common concerns, accept the democratic system of government, and, if they become involved in public issues, seek influence rather than political power. For our purposes it will be helpful at times to distinguish between church-related civil society groups and the more secular ones; again the distinction is not always clear in the concrete but in general the former attempt to be on good terms with official Church authority and may look to it for legitimacy, leadership, protection, or support, while the more secular groups are more autonomous and perhaps mildly hostile to the Church. The distinction is rooted in the histories and ideologies of the groups as well as in personal histories. But first a necessary word on the landscape — religious, political, and social. The 1960 national census, the last one which listed religious affiliation, had 83.8 per cent identifying themselves as Roman Catholics, 5.2 per cent as members of the Philippine Independent Church, 4.9 per cent Muslims, 2.9 per cent Protestants, 1.0 per cent members of the Iglesia ni Kristo,2 0.1 per cent Buddhists, and 2.1 per cent “others” (Census of the Philippines 1960, Table 19). The percentages have probably not changed dramatically in the intervening years although there has been a vigorous growth of small, non-ecumenical, and socially conservative “born-again” sects as well as El Shaddai — a Catholic charismatic group led by lay preacher “Brother Mike” Velarde. Aside from the number of adherents, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has two other assets which give it a potential political influence. It has a network of parishes, schools and universities, hospitals, radio stations, social action programmes, lay organizations of many kinds, and chapels even in the smallest rural community, staffed by thousands of priests and nuns and hundreds of thousands of lay workers: a vast communication network. Secondly, the Church has a message to communicate not only about the individual’s relationship to God but also

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about that person’s relationships to others — on the economic and political as well as interpersonal and family levels. Thus in a society predominantly Catholic the Church easily assumes the role of a moral centre, speaking to its people and to the nation as a whole on moral issues affecting them. Politically the Philippine Islands were part of the Spanish Empire for 400 years. They passed to the United States in 1898 as a consequence of American intervention in the Filipinos’ war of liberation against Spain. Once the country had been “pacified”, the occupying power set about establishing a public school system with English as the language of instruction, separation of church and state, and elections for public office — with an electorate severely limited at the beginning by property and literacy requirements. Full political independence was achieved on 4 July 1946. Although the Americans had been active in laying the political groundwork for independence, they had neglected the social structure. Land-ownership was highly concentrated, as were opportunities for higher education, and there was a pattern of dependence of the “little people” on the wealthy and educated. In this context the early introduction of elections with limited suffrage added political power to the economic power of the well-to-do and established a pattern of élite democracy which has survived to the present. As a consequence peasant unrest, fuelled by socialist ideology, emerged during the 1930s, and communists gained a foothold in the urban labour movement. During the Japanese occupation thousands of peasants as well as workers and middle-class intellectuals joined the communist-led antiJapanese guerrilla movement, the Hukbalahap.3 With independence in 1946, the Hukbalahap was shunted aside by conservative forces, and soon afterward took up the armed struggle; it posed a major threat to the stability of the government until 1952, after which it lost steam and disintegrated. CHURCH-BASED ORGANIZING, 1946–72 Into this situation, in July 1946, entered Fr Walter Hogan,4 an American Jesuit missionary with an assignment to initiate a programme for implementing the Church’s teaching on social justice. Together with other Jesuits and lay associates Fr Hogan set up the Institute of Social Order (ISO) in 1947. The ISO went into labour and peasant organizing, credit union education, and later into organizing students and the urban poor. By the mid-1960s social development was a recognized form of Church

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activity among Catholics. Also in the 1960s the mainline Protestant Churches and the Philippine Independent Church had come together to form the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and to concern themselves with social issues. These events coincided with a rising of social tensions in the country and with the establishment of a new communist movement, based now on the thoughts of Mao Tse-tung, among students and the peasantry. In 1968 Professor Jose Marie Sison founded the New People’s Army (NPA) as the military arm of the Maoist group.5 The National Democratic Front (NDF), sponsored by the Maoists, gathered together organizations of teachers, public transportation drivers, and farmers as well as students, some of them of Christian inspiration. Together with the Little Red Book of Mao and Philippine Society and Revolution of Sison, student activists devoured and hotly debated the works of Gustavo Gutierrez and other Latin American liberation theologians as well as Saul Alinsky’s Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals. The brew boiled over in the “First Quarter Storm”, bloody riots in early 1970 which were followed by frantic organizing efforts on all sides. By 1972 the Maoists’ youth group was estimated to have 100,000 members and the NPA 1,000 armed regulars. The Christians for National Liberation (CNL), whose leading personality was a Catholic priest, openly sided with the Maoists.

THE CRUCIBLE The situation took a dramatic turn with President Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law on 21 September 1972. The media were closed down, as were educational institutions and social action programmes; thousands of opposition politicians, journalists, and leaders of militant organizations were arrested and confined in detention centres. Marcos then pushed through a new Constitution, giving himself near absolute power for an indefinite period, and promising to bring about “reform from the centre”. The revolutionary left was best prepared for the new situation, with a clandestine organization already in place; many members of its NDF went underground and either joined the NPA or continued their organizing work. More moderate groups, and church people generally, were divided: some of them were critical from the start while others were willing to give up temporarily some political rights provided basic human rights were respected and the promised social reforms were implemented by Marcos.

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As time went on and martial law was protracted without significant social reform, three positions emerged within the Church (McCloskey 1977, pp. 263–67). The conservatives, a group which included a majority of the bishops as well as some superiors of religious congregations and many individual priests and nuns, believed in supporting the government except where it was clearly in the wrong. The moderates, on the other hand, believed that martial law had continued for too long and was suppressing the right of the people to be agents of their own development; a minority of the bishops and some of the younger and more articulate ones were of this opinion, as was the leadership of the Associations of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) and again many individual church people. They were active in defending the rights of political detainees and promoting organization among slum dwellers, workers, and other disadvantaged groups. Finally the radicals rejected martial law totally and also the possibility of peaceful reform; they believed that fidelity to the Gospel required them to accept Marxist analysis and link up with the revolutionary left. One or two of the bishops seemed linked to this group as well as a few religious superiors and many church people who were working directly with the poor and disadvantaged sectors. These differences caused severe tensions, also within the Church: tensions between the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which took the conservative position, and its own National Secretariat of Social Action, Justice and Peace which took a radical position and asserted its independence of the bishops; tensions between the CBCP and the AMRSP; and tensions between the AMRSP and its Task Force Detainees (TFD), which serviced political detainees and was influenced by the radical ideas of many of the latter — the TFD obtained independent funding and claimed autonomy relative to the AMRSP. There was some crossing of the lines as moderate organizers were forced to go underground for their own protection and took refuge among rebel groups. Contacts were facilitated by the fact that in some cases both moderates and rebels had backgrounds in church-based training programmes, the Basic Christian Community movement, or seminaries for the training of priests. There was also the suspicion that moderate groups were being used as fronts by the armed revolutionaries and money received from foreign funding agencies for social development was being used to buy arms. The penetration of moderate groups by the left is illustrated by the fate of the Philippine Ecumenical Committee for Community Organization.

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This was a joint effort by Catholic and Protestant groups to promote organization among the urban poor in order to demand concrete improvements in their situations. Before martial law this approach had been quite effective in organizing urban poor communities and promoting their interests, particularly with regard to housing. In 1976 it was realized that many of the groups which it sponsored had links to the armed underground; when some of the board members strongly objected to this and the issue could not be resolved, the organization was formally dissolved. In the rural areas church-sponsored programmes such as the Basic Christian Community movement and the Community-based Health Programme were both open to penetration by the left and an object of suspicion to the military. As a military officer put it at the time, “[a]nyone who organizes the people must be on the other side”. The government made use of known cases of church people supporting the revolutionary left in order to claim that “all of our opponents are communists”. On the other hand, bishops who were displeased at the involvements with the left on the part of priests, nuns, and church workers, refused to expose them to a military which was notorious for human rights violations. It was said, early in the martial law period, that Marcos, the communists, and the bishops were in total agreement. Marcos said, “I am the only alternative to the communists.” The communists said, “We are the only alternative to Marcos.” And the bishops said, “Amen, amen.” However, under pressure from the tensions within the Church and the continuing violations of human rights by the regime, the bishops began to carve out a position of their own, based on the Gospel. Thus in a joint pastoral letter issued in February 1983 and entitled “A Dialogue for Peace” they affirmed the following (Hardy 1984, p. 235): Hence we shall have to reprobate any action or program that runs counter to the primary values of the Gospel: the torture and murder of citizens simply because they are of a different political persuasion from that of present or would-be powerholders; the silencing of people, the suppression of media, merely because they speak the truth of our national situation; the increasing use of arms and violence, both by forces on the right and on the left in the pursuit of their ends of power; and closer to home, the use of Church funds, the manipulation of Church programs, for the political purposes of ideological groups.

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As was true of the Catholics, many Protestant pastors and lay church workers “on the front lines” opposed martial law; some joined the NDF or the CNL, and some paid for their commitment with imprisonment or even with their lives. On the national level the NCCP followed a trajectory similar to that of the CBCP with growing criticism of human rights abuses, although its smaller mass base and the fact that it spoke for seven independent churches gave it a lower profile. Interestingly a “Statement Against Torture, Inhuman Acts and Arrest” approved by the NCCP Executive Committee in 1981 gave a progressive slant to the very text often cited by the more conservative evangelicals (NCCP 1995, p. 282): “The Apostle wrote that ‘existing authorities have been put there by God’ (Romans 13:1). Therefore, we ask, finally, that those in authority do everything to honor God by protecting and keeping inviolate the dignity and freedom of God’s children.” TWO STREAMS Also in 1981, by way of preparation for the visit of Pope John Paul II, President Marcos officially lifted martial law; this made little difference, as by then he had his own Constitution in place which gave him all the power he wanted. But on 21 August 1983 the national situation changed dramatically with the assassination of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport while in the custody of a military escort. Aquino, a charismatic figure and leading critic of Marcos, was returning from exile in the hope of brokering a peaceful political transition. His murder, which most Filipinos believed had been ordered by Marcos or someone very close to him, left Filipinos stunned at the realization of the depth of the evil within their society. In the following days shock gave way to calm defiance of the forces of evil — a defiance kept under control by the uncompromising but calm tone of the Church’s Radio Veritas and of Jaime Cardinal Sin,6 Archbishop of Manila. Hundreds of thousands of people stood in line to pay their respects to the body of one whom they now regarded as a martyr; and after the magnificent funeral sermon of Cardinal Sin, perhaps a million joined the nine-hour funeral procession despite rumors of violence. In the weeks and months that followed, there was a deliberate effort not to allow the momentum of protests to die. Initially, churches and schools provided relatively safe venues for memorial Masses and prayer services; later the protests moved out to the streets and plazas and to the main business district of the Manila metropolitan area where showers of paper

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and ticker tape rained down on marchers in what came to be called the “confetti revolution”. Creative gimmicks were used, such as a weekly Sunday morning “fun run” of protest and a “Tarlac to Tarmac” march from Aquino’s home province to the airport where he died. It is noteworthy, however, that the protesters were mainly of the middle classes, business people, and students, as were the organizers. Meeting regularly to assess the situation and exchange notes were key members of the Bishops–Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development (BBC) — a group of prominent businessmen who were close to the Church. By this time also, practically all the conservative supporters of Marcos among the church people had moved to the moderate position.7 In response to President Marcos’ appeals for “reconciliation” Cardinal Sin replied that “[t]he national problem is between the state and the people” not between the Church and the state as such, and asserted the right and duty of the Church to stand with the people in the face of oppression. In his “National Prayer for Peace” read daily over Radio Veritas he made clear his view that right is right and wrong is wrong and that true reconciliation must be based on the willingness to admit and, as far as possible, to right past wrongs. For its part, in a statement of 26 October 1983, the NCCP listed the demands of true reconciliation: “no reconciliation without pardon; no pardon without forgiveness; no forgiveness without repentance; no repentance without recognition of sin; no recognition of sin without humility” ( NCCP 1995, pp. 92–93). As the protests mounted, they formed two streams, each of which had links with the churches. One, called the “yellow stream” after the favourite colour of Ninoy Aquino, was composed largely of individuals who had been mobilized politically by his murder and were characterized by a parliamentary and reformist approach to the nation’s problems. Its leaders — key members of the BBC as well as most of the bishops and many church people — seemed mainly concerned about getting the economic and political systems derailed by Marcos back on track. But there was a significant number in its ranks who were committed to more radical social change to be achieved through active non-violence. The other, “red stream”, was more impressed by the fact that seventy years of élite democracy had not brought the ordinary Filipino into the mainstream of development. Members of this group looked to a fundamental redistribution of power and wealth to be achieved through the efforts of the organized poor, including armed struggle if necessary. Many of the priests and religious and lay church workers associated with

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social action programmes, particularly those allied with the left, were part of this stream, as were militant organizations of workers, peasants, and slum-dwellers. The two streams were sharply divided on the issue of participation or boycott in the 1984 election for the National Assembly. Those in the “yellow stream” saw the election as offering the possibility of peaceful change and were determined to see that it was conducted honestly. Supported by many of the bishops, they re-established the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), which had first appeared in 1951, and invested an enormous amount of time, energy, and money in the effort to maintain the integrity of the ballot. The “red stream” denounced the election as a farce and urged boycott. The CBCP as such remained neutral while insisting on the concrete measures which it considered necessary to ensure an honest election. Cardinal Sin urged participation. As it turned out, the “yellow stream” had gauged better the temper of the Filipino people, who dearly love elections. The turnout and the strength of the opposition vote were much higher than anticipated. NAMFREL, with the active participation of church people, had mobilized support at a level which suggested that there was hope for democracy. SNAP ELECTION OF 1986 AND EDSA UNO As economic hardship brought on a series of desperate labour strikes, which were met by police truncheons, armalite rifles, and deaths on the picket line, President Marcos, always a fighter, resolved to seek a fresh mandate by calling a snap election in which he would run against what he saw as a badly divided opposition. The date was set for 7 February 1986. Contrary to Marcos’ expectations, however, the leaders of the “yellow stream”, together with Cardinal Sin, convinced other potential candidates to support the candidacy of Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the widow of Ninoy — a woman who had made a profound impression on the public consciousness by her calmness and resolute courage in the period following her husband’s assassination. The “red stream” had been gaining in strength, also among churchrelated groups, as conditions worsened; following the line of the Communist Party it saw electoral politics as a distraction from the armed struggle. Thus, in what was later admitted to be a major strategic blunder, it again urged boycott using the argument that the election would be stolen by Marcos and used to bolster his legitimacy. The CBCP this time urged the people to vote and to be vigilant, and threw its whole-hearted support

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behind NAMFREL; it also agreed to meet in a special session in the week following the vote. The campaign, in the words of one observer, “generated more excitement, more fraud, and more selfless commitment to democracy than any election in Philippine history” (Wurfel 1988, p. 297). NAMFREL mobilized a half million people for potentially hazardous poll-watching and protection of the ballots. On election day vote-buying was rampant and there were many violent incidents and some deaths. As the counting of votes progressed, there were suspicions of massive fraud being perpetrated by the Marcos forces, suspicions which were confirmed when a group of computer technicians in the government’s tabulating centre walked out in protest at what was taking place before their eyes. The technicians, fearing for their safety, were hidden in a Catholic seminary and a house for spiritual retreats; they were visited and congratulated by Cardinal Sin. On 13 February 1986, as Marcos was poised to claim victory, the CBCP, meeting in a special session, reviewed the conduct of the polls in the various regions of the country. On the following day the bishops issued a statement which made these points (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines 1990, pp. 58–64): In our judgment, the polls were unparalleled in the fraudulence of their conduct. According to moral principles, a government that assumes or retains power through fraudulent means has no moral basis …. [T]hat same government has an obligation to right the wrong it is founded on. It must respect the mandate of the people. This is a precondition for any reconciliation. If a government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people, then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so. The way indicated for us now is the way of non-violent struggle for justice. We therefore ask every loyal member of the Church, every community of the faithful, to form their judgment about the February 7 polls. And if in faith they see things as we the

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bishops do …. let us pray together, reason together, decide together, act together, always to the end that the truth prevail, that the will of the people be fully respected. The statement upset President Marcos, and also the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines and the Vatican, which had been urging caution. Noteworthy, moreover, is the role which the bishops took: describing the reality as they saw it; indicating the moral consequences of what they saw; asking the people to verify from their own observation what the bishops had seen, and if they agreed with the bishops’ observations to act together, nonviolently, to undo the wrong that had been done. The bishops thus situated themselves within the Christian community, not above it, albeit with a special role as a moral centre. There was a clear intention to respect the autonomy of the lay people in making concrete political decisions. On the same day the NCCP leadership issued its own statement, much along the same lines as those of the bishops. It insisted that any leadership established through dishonest means “is empty, and will not deserve the respect and confidence of the people” (NCCP 1995, pp. 97–98). But, probably because of the smaller constituency of the NCCP, its statement did not have the resonance of that of the bishops, which also profited from being first read publicly at a funeral Mass for Evelio Javier, a fine young politician who had been murdered while protecting the ballots. Events, however, were to move too fast for the process of reflection and common decision-making which the bishops had urged. On the day following their statement, Marcos’ supporters rammed through the National Assembly a “confirmation” of his “victory”. On the day following that, 16 February, church people organized a massive outdoor Mass celebrating the “People’s Victory”, in Manila’s largest and most central park — as a way of expressing their protest without inviting intervention either by the military or by the NPA. It is estimated that between a half-million and one million people crowded the park; after the Mass “Cory” Aquino outlined a programme of continuing protest. Also, there were other forces at work. Minister of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile together with Colonel Gregorio Honasan and a segment of the military were planning a coup, which would have brought Enrile to power. This was discovered by Marcos’ supporters and on 22 February, to avoid arrest, Enrile took refuge in Camp Aguinaldo along Epifanio de los Santos Boulevard (EDSA) in Quezon City. General Fidel Ramos,8 another member of Marcos’ inner circle, joined Enrile. That night Cardinal Sin went on the air, asking the people to “bring food to our friends” in the

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camp. Vast numbers responded over the next three days, putting their bodies between the rebels and Marcos’ troops; the latter defected, unit by unit, and on 25 February 1986 Marcos fled the country. Here I would note three points. First, in my estimation, the people responded to Cardinal Sin’s call not simply because he was a cardinal; they responded because he had walked with them through the dark night of martial law and had spoken out in their defence when few were able or willing to do so. Secondly, the hard-line left, still in its boycott stance, was notably absent from EDSA and appeared only in the violent trashing of the presidential palace after Marcos had left; this helps to explain the nonviolent and religious atmosphere at EDSA. And finally, the event was a political revolution, carried out by predominantly middle-class and churchrelated groups; it was not a social revolution and did not bring a different social class to power. This was to have important consequences.

OUT OF THE TUNNEL With the accession as President of Corazon Aquino and her declaration of a revolutionary government, the nation emerged with high expectations from the long, dark tunnel of the Marcos years. Yet the road ahead was fraught with dangers and obstacles. In the first place, Aquino had neither an organized political party behind her nor a coherent programme of government, nor even a Constitution. Her supporters had been united only in their determination to free the nation from Marcos, and spanned the political spectrum from the moderate left to the moderate right, from elements of the urban poor to the BBC. Secondly, Aquino was faced by an array of actors with different and conflicting agenda: the Marcos loyalists, solidly based in his home region of northern Luzon and refusing to admit the legitimacy of her succession; the NPA who, after a brief period of peace negotiations, again took up the armed struggle; religious men and women associated with the Church’s radical wing who wrote a “Letter of Concern” to their colleagues in the United States urging a unilateral cessation of military aid to the Aquino government;9 elements of the military who resented her openness to the left were nervous about their record of human-rights abuses, and mounted five coup attempts against her; Muslim separatist groups in Mindanao; the traditional political élite; and finally an array of non-government organizations (NGOs), both those coming out of the underground and others newly blossoming in the widened political space.

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Given this situation, Aquino chose to rely on the churches and particularly the Catholic bishops for support and advice — initially with the appointment of officers-in-charge to replace thousands of Marcos-appointed officials. Their new-found influence caused concern to some of the bishops, and three weeks after the EDSA event, twenty-two of them met and discussed how they were to use it without becoming power-brokers or “an appendage of government”. Starting from the principle that whatever power the Church had should be a power for good, at the service of the people, and exercised in a persuasive rather than coercive way as Christ’s power was exercised, they set some practical guidelines for recommending individuals to be officers-in-charge. They went on to agree that the Church, while continuing to exercise a “prophetic role” in society, should support rather than supplant the efforts of the people themselves, and should give particular attention to the developing of proper values. Finally, they listed some key issues to which they believed the new government should give attention: land reform; urban housing; a Constitutional Convention; forest preservation and reforestation; redress for past crimes; reconciliation and amnesty (with justice but with a forgiving spirit); and the promotion of people power for constructive goals and with a greater participation of the poor (Claver 1986, pp. 363–73). Here the bishops seem clearly to be exercising influence rather than power, consonant with the notion that that is the role of civil society. The former civil society leaders who were co-opted into government at this time were deemed to have moved out of civil society. In the following months a new and progressive Constitution was drafted, and approved by a large majority of the voters. Its progressive thrust was blunted, however, by the return of many traditional politicians to the legislature in 1987 and by their watering down of an agrarian reform bill which had the support of peasant organizations and the Church. The bishops, through joint pastoral letters of the CBCP, urged approval of the new Constitution as well as social reform and justice for farmers and the poor generally, peace with rebel groups, an end to violence, corruption, and violations of human rights, and concern for the environment. In January 1990, following the bloody coup attempt led by Honasan, they issued a pastoral letters insisting that the conditions which might justify a violent overthrow of the government were not verified in the Philippines at that time. NGOs adapted to the changed environment in various ways. Some remained suspicious of the government, while others explored new approaches. One successful initiative showed the possibility of systematic

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advocacy, involving research, sustained lobbying, negotiations, and the forging of support across class lines in advancing the cause of the poor. This was the passage in 1992 of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), which attempted to deal in a reasonable way with the massive problem of squatting in the urban areas. The constituency behind UDHA was the Urban Land Reform Task Force (ULR-TF), a coalition of urban poor groups supported by the church-based Institute on Church and Social Issues (ICSI). The BBC for its part provided important contacts with the legislature, and at crucial moments in the lobbying effort Cardinal Sin used his influence with key legislators. SALIGAN (an acronym for a Tagalog expression meaning an alternative centre for legal defence) provided support, as did the two sectoral representatives for the urban poor in Congress. Aside from meeting many times to discuss the draft and the changes which were made in the course of negotiations, the ULR-TF sent barrages of letters to members of Congress, lined up at their offices, and filled the visitors’ gallery of Congress to overflowing when the bill came up for a vote (Karaos, Gatpatan, and Hotz 1995). Influential as Cardinal Sin was in crisis situations, his “whispered” preference for Speaker of the House Ramon Mitra in the presidential election of 1992 was of no avail; Mitra received a lower percentage of the votes in Manila than in the nation as a whole, and Fidel Ramos was elected President with Joseph Estrada as his Vice-President. THE RAMOS PRESIDENCY Although some Catholics felt chagrined at the election of a Protestant as President, others felt a sense of relief in the fact that for the next six years the Protestants could take the blame for any mistakes he might make. Moreover, President Aquino had successfully led the country through the crisis period and had passed the torch to her successor after a relatively free and honest election. Thus with the political situation more or less normalized, the new President could turn his attention to issues of economic development and social reform. The only question was which of these two would have priority, and on balance it is probably fair to say that it was the former, economic development, as seen in infrastructure projects and Ramos’ assiduous courting of foreign investment. His social reform agenda was impressive on paper but was often stalled in practice while his infrastructure projects

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often resulted in the demolition of the homes of poor people. In time one began to suspect that the many “summit” conferences which were organized with disadvantaged sectors were in part strategies for managing protest. Nevertheless, the conferences indicated that the government was at least listening to the people, and certain advances were made — notably the repeal of Marcos’ Presidential Decree 772 which had made squatting a criminal offence. This repeal had long been an objective of urban poor groups; it was finally achieved through the lobbying efforts of much the same coalition of church-related groups which had been responsible for the passage of UDHA. Throughout the Ramos presidency the CBCP continued to issue pastoral letters on current issues. Twice, however, it felt compelled to call the people to the streets. The first occasion was related to the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in September 1994. The Vatican was deeply concerned that the conference would put its weight behind abortion on demand and also downgrade the traditional family in favour of other types of unions. The Philippine bishops were concerned about these issues, about the sex education programmes in the schools, and about the choice of Philippine representatives to the conference. They wrote a pastoral letter, which was ignored by the government. In response, Cardinal Sin called for a protest rally which brought out many thousands, including students from the Catholic schools; fiery speeches were delivered and a copy of the Cairo working paper was publicly burned. Faced by this evidence of the Church’s seriousness, the government backed down and a compromise was arranged. Although some felt that the rally had too political a tone, there was little organized opposition to the Church’s stand. The other issue centred on the proposal, in the last year of the Ramos presidency, to abolish the Constitution’s limits on the terms of public officials — thereby permitting Ramos to run for a second term. It had the tacit support of the President and the open support of many in the legislature who were in what was constitutionally their last term. Again the CBCP wrote a pastoral letter, strongly opposing any change. Again this was ignored, and the bishops, together with former President Aquino, called out the people, in Manila and in other cities. This time the Catholics were joined by representatives of other Christian churches, of the Iglesia ni Kristo, and of the Muslim community; an estimated 600,000 people turned out in Manila, including Vice-President Estrada, who was eyeing the presidency. Even President Ramos’ own

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church came out in opposition to what was known as “Cha-Cha” (charterchange). Sobered by this show of numbers, Ramos disavowed any intention of running for a second term; the Cardinal apologized for any hurtful things he might have said, the President hosted the Cardinal and Aquino at a “reconciliation” dinner, and the matter ended. The 1998 presidential election demonstrated once again that the preferences of the Church, Cardinal Sin, and Cory Aquino cannot determine the outcome of elections. Despite their support for other candidates and despite (or because of?) his reputation as a womanizer, a gambler, and a heavy drinker, former movie actor Joseph Estrada won an overwhelming victory. EDSA DOS From the beginning, leading church people felt that President Estrada was a very bad example for the youth. The élite scorned him for his broken English and at times uncouth ways, and doubted that he could manage the nation or the economy. But the poor and those who felt excluded in Philippine society saw him as a fighter for the oppressed (a role he had often played in the cinema). And so the existing economic and social gap also became a political gap. Criticisms were voiced in the first two years of Estrada’s presidency over his appointment of friends and supporters to key offices, over his working habits and late-night drinking sessions, and over a major stock market scandal in which one of his friends and possibly he himself were involved. But things came to a first crisis point in the early part of 2000 as his all-out war on the Muslim separatists in Mindanao caused massive suffering to civilians as well as battlefield deaths, and threatened to unhinge the economy. By the middle of the year church-related groups were holding protest meetings and talking of resignation or impeachment. A breakthrough occurred in late September 2000 when Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson had a falling out with Estrada over the division of the proceeds from illegal gambling. Singson consulted Cardinal Sin and then made a public disclosure of the President’s involvement. On 11 October Sin and the Priests’ Council of the Archdiocese of Manila called for the President’s resignation, saying that he “had lost the moral ascendency to govern”. The call was supported by the CBCP, the AMRSP, and groups on the left of the political spectrum. A complaint for impeachment was filed a week later by three members of Congress and twenty-two political and

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religious groups, including some on the left and also the Muslim Association. There was little hope, however, that there would be sufficient votes in the House of Representatives to pass the complaint on to the Senate for trial. Meanwhile, some leaders of NGOs and civil society groups had been holding discussions, and on 29 October the Kongreso ng Mamamayang Pilipino II (KOMPIL II, Congress of Pilipino Citizens II) was formally launched at a gathering on the campus of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, for the purpose of supporting the impeachment. Organizers estimated the crowd at 2,000–2,500, with more than 200 groups represented: NGOs, labour unions, religious groups, homeowners’ associations from the élite “villages”, business associations, and political groups. KOMPIL II, together with the far-left group Bagong Alyanza ng Bayan (Bayan, New Alliance of the Nation) and the independent Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA), agreed to co-ordinate with Vice-President Macapagal-Arroyo’s United Opposition. A second breakthrough occurred on 3 November with the defection from the President’s party of Speaker of the House Manuel “Manny” Villar, taking with him more than forty members of what had been the ruling majority and thus bringing the number of Congress-persons for impeachment above the “magic number” of seventy-three. On the following day the Archdiocese of Manila organized a rally at the EDSA Shrine (a chapel commemorating the EDSA event of 1986). The crowd was estimated at 130,000; Cardinal Sin, despite his very poor health, spoke powerfully, as did Aquino, calling on the President to resign as the honourable way out and endorsing Vice-President Macapagal-Arroyo as his successor. Supporters of the Estrada administration countered with a “Third National Day of Prayer and Fasting” on 11 November, which drew an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 people. Much of the crowd was composed of members of El Shaddai; its leader, lay preacher “Brother Mike” Velarde, while claiming allegiance to the Catholic Church, was the spiritual advisor of the President and was attempting to mediate between him and Vice-President Macapagal-Arroyo. On the other side were the organizational and communications network of the Catholic dioceses; Catholic religious groups co-ordinated by seminarians; schools and universities, both Catholic and non-Catholic; NGO networks; labour and peasant groups; and political blocs. Radio and television commentators and newspapers took sides and kept the issue before the public. On 13 November Speaker Villar caught the President’s supporters off guard by ruling that there were already enough Congress-persons’ signatures on the Articles of Impeachment, and sending them without further debate

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to the Senate. On the following day there was a massive general strike which brought together the business and religious sectors, labour, and many from the basic sectors, those on the left as well as those on the right, calling for the President’s resignation or impeachment. As the rallies intensified in preparation for the trial before the Senate, Mike Velarde came under increasing attack from church people for refusing to follow the lead of the bishops and cut his ties with the President. In the heat of the moment, some suggested that he should either do so or leave the Church. Fearing, it seems, a split among his followers, Velarde wrote to Cardinal Sin affirming his continued loyalty to the Church; on the issue of President Estrada he became ostensibly neutral, and shortly afterwards left with his wife for her medical treatment in the United States. On 7 December, as the first witness for the prosecution was heard, civil society groups organized a Mass followed by a march to the Senate. In this march groups unrelated to the Church played a larger role than they had at the rally of 4 November in which the leadership had come primarily from the Church, indicating that the protest movement had spread from its original base in church-related groups to the more secular civil society. As the trial continued, the prosecutors asked for continued support from civil society; the latter kept careful watch on developments, even erecting a scoreboard outside the Senate. More importantly, perhaps, the proceedings were carried live by radio and television and became the talk of the nation, which nevertheless remained divided. Many were appalled by the amount of money which Estrada had accumulated as President, money which could not be accounted for by his legitimate income and was not reported in his tax declarations. At the same time they were concerned that he might be acquitted by the Senate, which seemed evenly divided between his supporters and critics, on the ground that the evidence presented did not support the specific charges found in the Articles of Impeachment. This concern prompted KOMPIL II to organize a big meeting on the Ateneo de Manila campus on 14 January 2001, at which there was talk of civil disobedience in the event of an acquittal. This may have led the proEstrada senators to test the waters by pre-empting the decision of Chief Justice Hilarion Davide and calling for a vote on whether to open the “second envelope” of bank records which were thought to contain damaging information on the President’s accounts. The vote was eleven against opening the envelope and ten in favour. It seems, however, that the proEstrada group got more than it had bargained for. Before a nationwide radio and television audience, the prosecution panel walked out, the Chief

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Justice suspended the trial until such time as a prosecution panel would be present, a lady senator-supporter of Estrada did an unseemly dance on the Senate floor, and one of Estrada’s defence lawyers engaged a senator and the Chief Justice in a heated argument. Within minutes, Metro Manila exploded in anger as thousands of people poured into the streets, honking car horns, and banging pots and pans. Quite spontaneously a crowd assembled at the EDSA Shrine, and at 11:30 p.m. Cardinal Sin went on the air inviting others to join them. Thousands more did so, organized groups with their banners, students from the universities and high schools, labour groups, including those on the left, and the unorganized; “EDSA Dos” was under way. We know now that in the next three days, 17–19 January, while the crowds massed at the shrine with Masses and speeches and entertainment to keep them from becoming bored, intense negotiations were taking place among the church people, civil society leaders, and elements of the military. The Church was now only one player in a much enlarged game. There was talk of a nationwide general strike, and of a withdrawal of support from the government on the part of the military. Cardinal Sin was reported to be opposed to a strong military involvement. When on 19 January it seemed that the President was about to relieve General Angelo Reyes as Chief of Staff, the latter decided to act. General Panfilo Lacson of the Philippine National Police, who was known to be very close to the President, was cornered by armed soldiers and taken out of the action. At about 4:00 p.m. General Reyes and the commanders of the various branches of the armed forces as well as the Secretary of Defense appeared at the EDSA Shrine and announced the military’s “withdrawal of support” from the President. All-night negotiations at the presidential palace involving representatives of Vice-President Macapagal-Arroyo and those of President Estrada were aborted on the morning of 20 January when Chief Justice Hilarion Davide, with the support of the Supreme Court, swore in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President. This took place at the EDSA Shrine, with Cardinal Sin standing directly behind the new President. Meanwhile, thousands of those who had assembled at the shrine disregarded the wishes of the cardinal, who wanted to avoid violence, and marched towards the presidential palace. The marchers included civil society groups which had hitherto been following the cardinal’s lead but now decided to make their own decision. As the crowd approached the palace, some brief skirmishes with Estrada’s supporters occurred and Estrada himself retired to his home in the nearby town of San Juan.

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THE EXCLUDED In the weeks following EDSA Dos, there were challenges to the legitimacy of the process by which President Macapagal-Arroyo had come to power; but the Supreme Court and the military held firm. Moreover, this time there were some negative reactions from abroad: references to mob rule and warnings about setting a bad precedent. More importantly perhaps, there were ominous indications that many of the very poor remained loyal to Estrada. They recalled that he had visited them and handed out packages of goodies, that he ate with his fingers as they did, and spoke street Tagalog. They identified with him as a kindly older brother who had somehow entered the enclaves of the well-to-do from which they were excluded, and was inviting them in. The situation became critical when, in April 2002, Estrada was arrested on charges of perjury and plunder, that is, massive misappropriation of state funds. Hundreds of his loyal supporters had massed around his home vowing to prevent the arrest; in reply, an even greater number of police officers were mobilized to carry it out. He submitted peaceably, but newspaper pictures of him being fingerprinted and photographed like a common criminal infuriated his followers, and in the last days of the month they began massing at the EDSA Shrine. It was later reported that wealthy individuals poured money into the mobilization, that grass-roots organizations associated with Estrada’s Secretary of Agrarian Reform participated, and that drugs and liquor were freely available in the crowd. In any case the EDSA Tres crowd was far different from those of EDSA Uno and Dos; it was composed largely of the very poor, destructive of the exterior of the shrine, and ready for violence. For a time the event was telecast by the television station owned by the Iglesia ni Kristo, while the reporters of other stations were seen by the crowd as enemies and threatened or even manhandled. Eventually the Iglesia ni Kristo ceased its coverage; one account has it that the military had threatened to bombard its headquarters with artillery fire if it continued. Whipped up by fiery speeches from politicians allied with Estrada, on 1 May a crowd advanced on the presidential palace and after overrunning several police barricades, attacked and attempted to scale the gates. Only determined action by the Presidential Guard and many shots fired into the air prevented them from taking over the palace. The polarization of Philippine society symbolized by EDSA Tres was reflected in the election for thirteen Senate seats which took place two weeks later. Four candidates identified with Estrada, including his wife,

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his former executive secretary, and two former military officers with bad human-rights records who had been at EDSA Tres (Gregorio Honasan and Panfilo Lacson) were elected; eight supporters of President MacapagalArroyo were elected plus one independent; while two prominent supporters of Estrada — including the previously “unsinkable” Juan Ponce Enrile — failed in their re-election bids. Exit polls indicated that El Shaddai supporters tilted somewhat towards the Estrada camp, but the more remarkable differences were by social class. The more well-to-do classes voted predominantly for eleven administration supporters and two of the opposition; but the poorest class preferred six administration candidates and seven of the opposition, and in Metro Manila only two administration candidates and eleven opposition. CONCLUSION The Catholic Church in the Philippines has assets in the form of members, a network of institutions, and a social doctrine, which make it a potential social and political force. Partly in response to the challenge of communism in the 1950s, it became involved in organizing credit unions, co-operatives, labour, and peasant and urban poor groups. As the challenge became more intense in the 1960s and particularly under the Marcos regime, many of the groups founded under Church inspiration became politicized. With the assassination of former Senator Aquino, the opposition to Marcos became massive, but was divided into a more radical wing under Marxist inspiration and a reformist wing; in general the bishops sided with the latter, while many church-related groups supported the former. Shortly before the Aquino assassination, Jaime Cardinal Sin emerged as an outspoken and powerful critic of the Marcos regime. Similarly the other bishops, following a reformist line, supported NAMFREL in the elections of 1984 and 1986 and encouraged participation rather than boycott in the latter. When this election seemed about to be stolen, the CBCP issued a powerful statement while church groups and Cardinal Sin protected the computer operators who walked out in protest. And when the revolt of Ramos and Enrile broke out, Cardinal Sin called the people to the streets in a revolution kept peaceful by the presence of active non-violence groups and the absence of the radical left. In the years since then the Catholic bishops and Cardinal Sin in particular have remained always watchful, sometimes supportive, and sometimes critical of the government. Mindful of the opposition which strong interventions can create, and of the constitutional principle that “[t]he

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separation of Church and State shall be inviolable” (Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines 1986, Article I, Sec. 6), many of the bishops would prefer to take a lower profile; yet as crisis follows on crisis, they feel the need to intervene. Here a comment of the respected political columnist Amado Doronila, made after the Church-led anti-Cha-Cha rally of 1997, seems relevant (“Pulling back from the brink”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22 September 1997, p. 9): The rallies … prove that, outside the State, the Church is the only social force capable of mobilizing public opinion and protest against any regime. In mature democracies, political mobilization is carried out by the political parties. In our democracy, the Church’s national infrastructure serves as the vehicle for mass mobilization. This reflects the weakness of the party system. At the same time, as the foregoing account shows, the Catholic Church can only operate through persuasion. There have been and there are today political and ideological differences within it, which cannot easily be overridden. It cannot demand that its adherents vote as a bloc, and Cardinal Sin’s preferences have been ignored in his own diocese in elections. A number of thoughtful Catholics felt uncomfortable with the demand expressed by some in the heat of controversy that Velarde either support the cardinal’s position or leave the Church. In moments of crisis people have responded to the cardinal’s calls, but primarily, in my estimation, because he was articulating their own sentiments. There is also a restlessness on the part of civil society with its tutelage by the Church. One activist who played a major role in the run-up to EDSA Dos remarked that it was difficult to build support until Cardinal Sin and Corazon Aquino spoke out; at the same time she was pleased that many of the groups had on the last day disregarded the Cardinal’s wishes and marched to the presidential palace. As time goes on, when genuine political parties develop, Cardinal Sin (now 73 years old and in very poor health) disappears from the scene, and major crises become less frequent, perhaps the Church will be able to take a lower profile, as a moral centre within civil society, providing inspiration but not leadership or warm bodies. In the meantime, however, given the factionalism and fragmentation typical of Philippine political and organizational life, and in the life of civil society groups, the Church’s moralizing and mobilizing force may be badly needed.

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Finally, EDSA Tres reminds us that there is a wall of separation running right through Philippine society separating the comfortable from the desperately poor, symbolized by the walls of the enclaves in which the well-to-do and many church people make their homes and from which the poor are excluded. Until that wall is breached, Philippine democracy will remain a fraud. Notes 1

2

3

4

5

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The introduction of the term and some of the discussions around it are reported in Intersect: The Intersectoral Communicator 8, no. 4 (April–May 1994) and 8, no. 10 (October 1994). The Iglesia ni Kristo (INK) is an indigenous religious body founded by Felix Manalo in the second decade of the twentieth century. It is strong in urban slum areas and in neglected rural areas. The INK’s doctrine is not clear since it is very secretive and its main propaganda thrust is anti-Catholicism. It imposes rigid discipline on its members, and requires them to vote as directed by their leadership, which still remains in the Manalo family. Its pattern of voting as a bloc gives it considerable political weight. The term is an acronym for “Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon” or “People’s Army against the Japanese”. Its intellectual leaders were middle-class intellectuals, particularly the Lava brothers, while Luis Taruc, a peasant organizer, was the field “supremo”. Hogan had been sent to the Philippines as a Jesuit seminarian before World War II; after studying philosophy there he taught for three years at the Jesuit high school in Manila, where he came under the influence of Fr Joseph Mulry, S.J. and Manuel Colayco, both of whom were deeply concerned about the social situation in the country. He was in the United States completing his Jesuit studies during World War II, and returned to become the pioneer in the post-war Jesuit social apostolate. He died in 1991. Sison taught at the Lyceo de Manila, and from that base gained a strong following among college students with his application of Maoist thought to the Philippine situation. He went underground during the period of martial law, but was eventually arrested. Freed after the departure of Marcos, he broke with the Aquino government and went into exile in The Netherlands, where he now functions as a consultant to the NPA in its periodic negotiations with the Philippine Government. Sin was born to a Philippine-Chinese family on the island of Iloilo in the central Philippines, in 1928. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1954, and ordained a bishop in 1967; he became Archbishop of Manila in 1974, and a cardinal in 1976. Initially one of the conservatives under martial law, he moved to the centre as the regime hardened and he saw its impact on his own people.

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7

8

9

There were one or two hold-outs among the bishops, who held the conservative position to the end. One of these was later determined to be present at Marcos’ inauguration as “re-elected” President on 25 February 1986. Unable to dissuade the bishop, his assistant disappeared with the keys to the car, thus saving him considerable embarrassment. Fidel Ramos is from the Ilocos region in northern Luzon, as Marcos was, and was in fact a relative of the latter. A lifelong Marcos loyalist and a military professional, he had lost out to General Fabian Ver, another Ilocano, in the competition for Marcos’ favour and the post of Chief of Staff, and had sided with Enrile, still another Ilocano, against Ver. The letter presented the communist movement as basically nationalistic and democratic and urged a coalition government. The key individuals behind it were two American priests of the Maryknoll association; a group of Jesuits registered their disagreement in a letter of their own. This led to the letters being referred to inaccurately as the “Maryknoll letter” and the “Jesuit letter”; actually seven Jesuits signed the “Maryknoll letter” and one Maryknoller indicated that he and perhaps others of his group agreed with the “Jesuit letter”.

References Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. “Post-Election Statement”, Letters and Statements — 1984–1990, pp. 58–64. Quezon City: Cardinal Bea Institute, 1990. Census of the Philippines 1960. Vol. 2, “Summary Report”, Table 19. Claver, Francisco, S.J. “The Religious Sector and the New Government”. Pulso 1, no. 4 (1986): 363–73. Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines 1986, Article I, Sec. 6. Doronila, Amado. “Pulling back from the brink”. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22 September 1997, p. 9. Hardy, R.P., ed. “The Philippine Bishops Speak, 1968–1983”. In A Dialogue for Peace, p. 235. Quezon City: Maryhill School of Theology, 1984. Karaos, A.M., M. Gatpatan, and R.V. Hotz, S.J. “Making a Difference: NGO and PO Influence in Urban Land Reform Advocacy”. Pulso Monograph no. 15, January 1995. McCloskey, Benjamin A. “Church, State and Conflict in the Philippines”. The Month, August 1977, pp. 263–67. National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). “A Statement against Torture, Inhuman Acts and Arrest, A Public Faith, A Social Witness”. Quezon City: National Council of Churches in the Philippines, 1995. ———. “Post-Election Statement”, 1995, pp. 97–98. ———. “Statement of 26 October 1996”, pp. 92–93. Wurfel, David. Filipino Politics: Development and Decay. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1988.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

78 JIM TAYLOR

4 New Buddhism, Urban Space, and Virtual Civil Society Jim Taylor Welcome to Virtual Sangha [Buddhist monastic order], from your Buddhism Guide at The Mining Company. I hope you will treat this area like you would your own sangha — as a place to learn, to teach, to talk, and to take refuge. No topics are offlimits, and no tradition or school is favored or excluded. We treat each other with respect and reverence, and it is a peaceful place as a result.

(emphasis mine) People live in places, power rules through flows (Castells 1989, p. 349) INTRODUCTION In a widely talked-about article, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam (1995) bemoaned the recent decline of associational life in America; though some critics have suggested that this may not be the case if we look at the increasing use and civic potential of the Internet. Howard Rheingold (1993, p. 42), for instance, argues for the “social utopian role” of technologies such as the Internet in generating new virtual communities from the social atomization caused by modernization. Indeed, he suggests that the Internet may even bring about a new sociality or communitarianism to “revitalise the public sphere” (Rheingold 1993, pp. 12, 14). But the argument that the Internet is creating a meaningful virtual civil society (even if it is seen as disembodied) would depend on its ability to generate social capital (James S. Coleman’s term). However, no doubt Putman would see the Internet, along with television, as indicating a

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decline in social capital; namely those communal networks, norms, and social trust that support an efficient, cohesive society, and facilitate interaction among members. In this line of argument, it is not enough for the Internet (which has a history marked by a strong libertarian ethos) — like other electronic devices such as the telephone or fax machine before it — to encourage the organization of civic groups. Instead, Internet-based associations need to have the same qualities as associations in traditional civil society, with members interacting as if they were in a (real) Buddhist monastery, conference centre, or soccer stadium. In this sense, aside from simply being a technology, cyberspace, then, needs to be considered a place; at least a place out there, somewhere (even outside the state). It is clear that the Internet is a powerful communications tool and is used by many active — including anti-statist, anti-hegemonic — social movements. In the sense of empowering civic society actors, the Internet then facilitates communication, dissemination of knowledge and information sharing, organizing demonstrations, etc. It helps to connect actors and generate networks — though hardly in the context argued by Putnam. Even the most traditional elements of civil society are adapting to this new technology: in Europe the Roman Catholic Church now regularly broadcasts masses over the Web. Likewise in Thailand a number of orthodox Buddhist monks use this medium for teaching and creating new religious communities that are not limited by location. However, Putnam would argue that in the American experience the Internet has negative impacts on associational/civic life and certainly does not sustain civic engagement. But cyberspace, though not locatable, is sometimes considered as a place in the sense where individuals associate around issues of importance to them. Indeed, Hine (2000) has shown how the Internet is embedded in complex social arrangements, both online and offline, and as specific cultural practices, which can make a meaningful place. Aside from holding masses and giving sermons over the Web, Catholic priests and Buddhist monks also converse with their devotees in (interactive) chat rooms. At the point when associations emerge in or from cyberspace and unite individuals around a common interest or goal, the Internet becomes more than just an advance over the telephone — it (arguably) becomes a place where social capital is generated. Ultimately, however, the key link between virtual civil society and the social capital theory will be the extent of individuals’ feelings and commitments to their online communities. However, to date, the strength of these ties has gone relatively untested. As a result, the implications of a virtual civil society remain unclear, certainly in Thailand

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as for the rest of the world — indeed much like cyberspace itself (see Barndt, n.d.). This chapter considers the nature of some new religious virtual communities and the broad changes to religious practices in Thailand.1 In the increasingly dispersed and fragmented nature of the Thai (post–) metropolis,2 and with a broad political reform now concentrating on decentralization and stakeholder participation, there is a radical “rhizomatic” (Deleuze and Guattari’s [1987] term) resistant potentiality in new electronic networks. These are unable to be regulated, sometimes short lived, and appearing anywhere. Then if each line is ruptured, another line will emerge in any given locality. All these functionary and dispersed loci on the surface also show little or no connection to a centralized command. These networks, having the appearance of virtual civic society organizations, contest the very ground of established religious-political institutions and the legitimating power of the state. MARGINALITY AND SPATIAL FLOWS In the complexity of the new urban milieu, material spatial practices and social arrangements have been recoded, which are continuing to affect everyday life. The monasteries, the spiritual heart/centre of the community, are now submerged in the post-metropolis as a consequence of unfettered capitalism concentrated in the urban centre since the post-war years. Indeed, the ritually significant monasteries are community sites that once attracted a variety of social activities and are now part of a depressed, marginal metropolitan landscape — a consequence of unregulated urban growth and inner-city decay. These urban marginal sites are places that produce counter-hegemonic discourses, expressed in particular social forms and practices. They are living or representational spaces (Lefebvre 1991; “Thirdspace” from Soja 1996; Bhabha 1990) with the potential to radically transform knowledge into action as a means of bringing about desired external changes (Soja 1996, p. 22). The work by sociologist Manuel Castells on the informational society, virtuality, and the “space of flows” (the integrated global network, in “capital, labour, commodities, information and images”; see also Lash and Urry 1994, p. 12), discussed later, is also useful to understanding the dynamics of the post-modern urban milieu. The space of flows has reduced the relevance of temporal co-ordinates, disordering the sequence of events and making them appear simultaneous. This disorientation of

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historical place-based practices has led to the search for a here-and-now relevance that is captured so imaginatively by recent urban-based social and religious movements. It is important then to move to an analysis of the Internet and its reterritorializing possibilities implicit in digital dhamma, or simulated sangha and new electronic religious sites that contest normative sacred space. In this electronic religion, Webmasters are conceived as the new “virtuosi” (in Weber’s term). This scenario is one that questions the place (and sanctity) of monks with emergent (disembodied) cyber-monastic communities, a feature of a new post-modern urban Buddhist society. In order to understand the implications of this clearer, it is necessary to look at the changing nature of urban spaces in Thailand. RECONFIGURING SOCIAL SPACE In the Thai post-metropolis social space is being markedly reconfigured as it becomes transmuted into a virtual “world-city” marked only by real time (Virilio 1993, p. 72). In terms of material spatial practices (flows, patterns, movements) the city is no longer a singular, contained site, but rather a mobile place “penetrated by channels of rapid communication” (Virilio 1986, p. 5). Instead, it is more polycentric and dispersed, though Lefebvre (1996, p. 208) argues that it still conserves a centre, as there is “no urbanity without a centre”. The city is primarily then a nomadic-like place with numerous Other or counter-sites; for instance, the many private universities, contemporary (Alternative) art galleries, multiplex shopping centres, unofficial and unregistered Buddhist monasteries, Internet- or cyber-cafes, private housing estates, etc. — all situated in a developing exopolis. The new metropolis is then “exploding and coalescing” in a multitude of dispersed new communities, “improbable cities where centrality is virtuality ubiquitous and the solid familiarity of what we once knew as urban melts into air” (Soja 1996, p. 239). These alternative dispersed sites, in one way or another, contest the legitimacy of the political-administrative centre, its institutional (civic and military) power, including the educational and political-juridical state apparatuses. These are the principal loci for the production and reproduction in the far order of institutional (Foucauldian) multiple truth regimes. Bangkok is emerging as an important regional economic command site, with a new strategic role in the current world economy. This is due in part to a spatial dispersion involving numerous economic activities and the “telematic global integration” (Sassen 1999, p. 59). Although centrality

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remains an important element of this economic system, as mentioned above the forces of globalization and the new technologies have markedly reworked the “spatial correlates of centrality”. Indeed, in reconfiguring centrality (and the place of the city) and related social spatialization, these forces have simultaneously created new spaces for centrality (Sassen 1999, p. 60). Bangkok, as a contemporary urban milieu, and its imagining, has more in common with Disneyland (Kraiyudth in Bello et al. 1998, p. 101) than a real place in its synthetic, sanitized creation that replaces the “more undisciplined complexities of the city” (Sorkin 1992, p. 208). The many new elevated systems may even be a problem in terms of the hierarchy of social orderings, as in the binary oppositional categories high/low that have long dominated much thinking in Thai social life, especially in the configuration of royalty–commoner relations. For example, royalty moving across and below in the new metropolis where “low” commoner traffic situated above the head of “high” royalty on new elevated expressways have to stop at that moment as they cannot, even for an instant, be above persons so “high”. As Shields (1991, pp. 4–5) notes, high/low oppositions have a geographic parallel in the dualism of central/marginal. Here, the “social definition of marginal places and spaces is intimately linked with the categorisation of objects, practices, ideas and modes of social interaction as belonging to the ‘Low culture’ …the culture of the marginalised”. In the not-too-distant future Bangkokians will also be travelling underground. It will be interesting to see, in relation to royalty=high culture, how oppositional categories of high/low will be interpreted at this time. The monasteries, the spiritual heart of the community, were once the most inspiring and grandest of places. They are now lost — like Bangkok’s once vibrant canal network — in the shadows of time (or a time that is no longer so significant). As the city and its population have grown, indeed doubled between the early 1960s and the 1980s, so public (green) places, such as they were, have disappeared in an expanse of concrete (the giant Siam Cement Group did well during these years). In terms of material space, an increased population and need for housing and recreation also put pressure on inner-city monasteries. The inspiring Temple of the Golden Mount, a landmark in inner-Bangkok, can be still seen from a distance but only if travelling on the new three-lane elevated expressways. In contrast, the working heart of the city has gained in symbolic significance, as a site of increasingly globalized finance. The monasteries, which once attracted a variety of social activities, displaying the residue of human creativity, may also be contrasted with

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Bangkok’s depressed marginal nature (see Anderson, K.M., n.d.). These are urban landscapes that are neither pristine nor pastoral, such as vacant overgrown lots, road and railway verges, rooftop gardens, or grass strips under bridges. These places are the consequence of urban growth and inner-city decay, and considered problems to be solved by politicians, urban planners, and environmental professionals. Aside from this marginal nature, Bangkok consists of managed and organized nature, monuments, public parks, manicured gardens of international hotels, sports and recreational clubs (such as the Royal Bangkok Sports Club), places for the very rich. These are sites of formal mediated encounter, where the abovementioned professionals provide access to an officially sanctioned nature. Marginal nature can also be transformed into sacred sites through the process of place making, which become liminal urban places (or nonplaces) that are not officially managed or pastoral nor completely wild. Liminal sites, as Turner (1969, pp. 108–9) notes, are associated with “magico-religious properties”. Here, there are to be found a variety of religious objects and social forms, including nomadic mystics, roadside shrines, fortune-tellers or seers, special sanctified trees considered the place of locality spirits, honoured with garlands of flowers and places where the occasional wandering monk temporarily encamps. These are simply places for passing through. In a number of marginal sites of nature, there are the ubiquitous sacred Bodhi (Pho or ficus religiosa) trees (the tree under which the Buddha was reputed to have gained enlightenment) where disused spirit houses, shrines, and other sacred objects are left for the elements. This resolves the problem of where to deposit unused sacred objects. In the forest monasteries Bodhi trees are also often the sites of used alms bowls. Most of these are uncertain and potentially dangerous and polluting places, where people outwardly display caution and avoid heedlessness. In general, marginal sites constitute the social periphery and are places which produce counter-hegemonic discourses, expressed in particular social forms and practices (as in the “habits of being and the way one lives”; see bell hooks in Soja 1996, p. 98). They offer an open perspective to new ways of seeing, creating and imagining alternatives, utopias,3 and new worlds. Aside from sacred things and persons, Bangkok’s marginal space includes organized street beggars and other social elements of an informal sector of the economy. The urban streets then are localizable, incongruous non-places, or heterotopias (Foucault 1986, p. 24) in the sense that they are disordered spaces with a large number of arranged orders or sites that somehow

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interconnect at certain points. At the same time the street also has its own hierarchical order that is a microcosm of the far order, indeed the whole cosmic order; the locality shrines of the stores and other sacred sites inscribed with varieties of local history, monks, street vendors, government officials, police, the street kids, etc. As actualized heterotopic sites, marginal nature as other space may have much in common with the invisible and spontaneous electronic networks — or cyberspace (see also Young 1998), which I will discuss later. These are (post-)modernity’s nomadic spaces, appropriated so imaginatively by alternative religious movements. As Other, differentiated social arrangements, these movements and certain charismatic individuals are situated at the intersection of civil society (situated between the state and individuals) — a growing feature of democratization. Manuel Castells has looked at the dislocation or disjunction and its effects on the individual and social relations in cities (see also Robins 1993), which has helped us to understand the nature of new social or civil society movements/organizations and related spatial arrangements. He argues that, essentially, the post-industrial or new societies consist of various forms and sequences of interaction and exchange, the integrated and networked space of flows. These exchanges are undertaken through institutional and organizational networks (Castells 1996a, p. 29) that are not necessarily located in cities, but everywhere in interaction with physical space. It is an expression of the dominant social logic found in the new Informational or Network Society, which in turn is formed by the “real virtuality” of the space of flows.4 As a period of so-called post-historicism, the space of flows dissolves time through disordering “the sequences of events and making them simultaneous” (Castells 1996b, p. 467). In terms of (post-)modern Buddhist thinking, this has resonances of Auerbach’s (in Ben Anderson 1991, p. 24) sacred communities where the “here and now”, as in a contemporary “Buddhism of the here-and-now” (see Natayada 1994, p. 117), becomes “simultaneously something which has always been, and will be fulfilled in the future”. The reformist soteriological interpretation of Nibbana (Thai: niphaan) is conceived then as a momentary, here and now mental experience, rather than a metaphysical entity (Jackson 1989, p. 48). In the dissolution of time, cultural forms no longer exist in succession, but simultaneously. In post-modernist discourse, there is no relevance for historical time, killed — according to Baudrillard (see Bogard 1994, pp. 319, 329) — by simulation, “in its journey into the digital void” (or perhaps seduced to

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death). Meanwhile the present is simply a “mediascape saturated with simulacra of history” (Baudrillard in Bogard 1994, p. 313). Deleuze and Guattari (1987) suggest that the radical, divisive hypermodern period of capitalism marks the absolute end of history (conceived, as we know it, as a linear space-time conception). It invented the private individual and productive bodies, now severed from a sense of tradition and the collective (social) body. In the period of late capitalism, social life has been effectively decoded, or deterritorialized, and everything regarded as sacred or traditional no longer seeming necessary. The conception of (historical) time then expresses no sequence; it is an arbitrary present moment (either now or never). New social movements are able to capture the sentiments of the immediate present in an a-temporal conception of Being-in-the-world. Indeed, some new religious practices and organized movements are able to capture this “here and now”, or Jetztzeit relevance, effectively appearing in conventional terms almost counter-logical and a-historical (see Taylor 1999). Although, in fact, these idiosyncratic movements do not deny history, they reappropriate it, invoking new imaginings of self and society. The choice often presented by interpreters of new religions in Thailand — as elsewhere — is to either celebrate new movements as forms of (Western) liberal plurality, or see them as essentially undermining traditional (conservative, civic) values. Both, whether as alternatives to the state or anti-statist, are considered expressions of new civil society. Take, for instance, the modernist Thammakaai (Pali: Dhammakaya) movement (see for instance Apinya 1993, Suwanna 1990, Taylor 1990, and Zehner 1990), which I would argue is a hyper-rational, neo-liberal response to normative (state) conservative/traditional Buddhism. This movement maintains an internal structure and spatial ordering that incorporates the global logico-morality of the post-fordist marketplace and a simulated outcome of (late) modernist cultural and political identity. Although in the Informational Age the dominant social logic is formed by the real virtuality of the space of flows, people of course reside in the material world, the “space of places” (Stalder 1999, p. 7). This implies a Deleuze and Guattari (1987) sense of (Lacanian) “schizophrenia”, a complexity emanating essentially from conditions created by the very nature of new capitalism. Here, two contrasting spatial and temporal logics confront each other. This in turn ensures a global destabilization of cultures in which individuals lose their sense of self or being and attempt through recoding to reclaim their identity in new forms.

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In this destabilizing and deterritorialized environment, certain social actors and marginal groups located at the interstices — as in the case of the Thammakaai movement — may (and frequently do) contest the inherent rationality or logic of these flows (Castells 1996a, p. 33). These interstices create the ground for new connections to be made; they produce new social imaginings, situated between locales of normalizing power and distant (though not separated) from the repressive instrumentalities of the state and capital (see also Lefebvre 1997, p. 73). These margins or liminal interstices, the rhizomatic zones, generate the conditions for social and cultural creativity (as in new civil society organizations and specifically alternative religious practices), as we have seen so often in national histories, contesting power relations inherent in the existing social order. In the case of Thammakaai, although representing certain middle-class consumer values, it is a trans-local movement and continually produces “Other” discourses (“third spaces”, see Soja 1996), many of which contest state ideology. It has the advantage then of being both inside and outside, integrating symbols of convention and tradition, while simultaneously opposing the status quo in terms that are distinctively universal. The movement mediates and maintains an ever-important tension between local and global, blurring the margins and incorporating new “glocalized” imaginings (see also Taylor 2001, p. 142).5 As Castells reminds us, the ensuing tension between local and global is the central dynamic of the Informational Age, where (post-modern) societies are increasingly oriented around the opposites “Net” (as “Other”) and the “Self”. The former represents new organizational formations based on the use of networked communications media, while the latter symbolizes the reaffirmation of identities under conditions of change and instability. New social formations, including civil society organizations (such as new religious movements) emerge around primary unchanging identities contrasting with rapid change in the wider social order. It is the interplay of the individual and the network where the conditions of human life and experience around the world are so profoundly reshaped; and it is in the urban milieu (the post-metropolis) where this recontextualization or reshaping is most noticeable. In the new internationalized space of flows, importance is attached to an abstract space with interconnected electronic nodes or grids and virtual reality. This new digitalized space attempts to create an integrated total environment with linked interdependencies and, while undermining localism, simultaneously produces the conditions for hybridization (as Baudrillard’s “hyper-realities”). These hybrid cultural forms are often

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considered anarchic, posing a direct challenge to conventional (dominant) social logic and its universal value system (Robins 1993, pp. 319, 325). At this point I will now move on to a discussion of Thailand’s real and imagined urban religious-scapes, where, as Eco (in Soja 2000, p. 325) noted more generally, the “logical distinction between Real World and Possible Worlds has been definitively undermined”. Not surprisingly, in this interactive environment (in the smooth “nomadicrhizomatic” cyber-zones), English and — more importantly — Thai language Buddhist websites are mushrooming. For instance, Watthai.net “provides free web hosting, email, computer technical support and training for Buddhist temples and websites”. This new electronic religious landscape, or “virtual Buddhism”, has created “new frontiers” (Jones 1995) of the religious imagination; it is a new domain which, like virtual space generally, offers “order, refuge”, and “withdrawal” (Robins 1995, p. 152). There are, of course, no physical places in cyberspace; “places” are software constructions, which create environments for interaction. Although the modern day “cyber-flâneur” may stroll from place to place, s/he does not follow physical paths but rather logical links. Neil Smith (1990) refers to this space as “third (virtual) nature”, an electronic space, which has created an unlimited potential through simulated landscapes. The imagination is unlimited in electronic scapes. For instance, in new digital game technology my son is able to create his own imaginative virtual soccer team, or “dream team”, consisting of his chosen players from any world teams against computer-selected teams. In general, cyberspaces are best understood as an-Other kind of nature’s pluralization, one structured — as Lyotard notes (in Luke 1999, p. 29) — on “bits rather than atoms”. It should not be forgotten that the movements and flows of (global) capital in the Thai post-metropolis are increasingly facilitated by the seemingly limitless outreach possibilities of cyberspace. Indeed, the reconstitution of capitalism in cyberspace is an ultimate kind of fantasy in that it exploits our own desires as the “inexhaustible material of consumption” and the “dream of infinite production” (Markley 1996, p. 74). Donna Haraway (1991, p. 65) also notes the implications for individuals, state, and civic interests in microelectronics, and that this, in Baudrillard’s (1994, p. 2) terms forms “the technical basis of simulacra; that is, of copies without originals”; a simulation that is the basis of a (post-)modern urban condition. In a metaphorical sense a cartographer’s map now engenders territory (place), rather than vice-versa (the “precession of simulacra”, Baudrillard 1994, p. 1). It potentially undermines the very difference between the real

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and the imagined, the signifier and the signified, and true and false (Baudrillard 1994, p. 2). The complete disappearance of the real is anticipated when the “map covers the whole territory”, leaving nothing to the imagination (Baudrillard 1994, p. 123). However, this is unrealistic, given that there is always mental space; in Buddhist terms mind-thought is a “desiring machine” to be mapped. Baudrillard would add also that when there is no longer a perceived real, there is a recourse to nostalgia and it is at this point that simulation takes hold (Baudrillard 1994, pp. 6–7). If all of this seems to leave a sense of helplessness in the vast expanse of the unconscious, Deleuze and Guattari (1987) propose an alternative this-worldly ethic, whereby resistant actors create their own “maps” so as to reflexively define and mark out new pathways of knowledge. Mapping “constructs the unconscious” in an orientation “toward an experimentation of contact with the real”; maps can exist by themselves without the need for anything outside of the map to exist. On the other hand copies or tracings can only exist as representations. They display genetic characteristics in that they evolve and reproduce from earlier forms (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 12). Tracings then imitate existing striated structures (or “all that comes under the energetic-spatio-temporal coordinates”, as Deleuze remarks; see Stivale 1985). All codifications, including textual religions, are tracings, while maps are concerned with adaptation and experimentation, as we can see in the case of territorializing new urban religions and the networked systems. However, clearly Deleuze and Guattari (1987, pp. 382–83) see (monotheistic) sedentarized religion as a “piece in the State apparatus” without considering non-linear, counter-hegemonic, or “Othering” possibilities, as in a nomadic religion, which does not necessarily counter-position religion and nomadism. In Thailand alternative religious discourses (contesting official statesanctioned religious “truth statements”) seen as plotting new discursive and resistant pathways, marking out new “maps”, are clearly worrying for the state. In terms of material representations, “a map encodes space, which in turn can be decoded to disclose knowledge of the supposed real space” (Thongchai 1994, p. 55). New maps then are contested as they may reveal the potentiality of alternative knowledge and create new counterspaces. In the May 1992 bourgeois-led demonstrations in Bangkok, the pro-democracy leader Chamlong Srimuang’s political-religious sentiments and affiliations to the heterodox Santi Asok religious movement were represented as anti-statist and counter-ideological by the military-dominated state (see Taylor 1993, p. 41). The pro-democracy movement was also the

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start of a new civic society mentality, corresponding to the need for greater democracy and pluralism in the post-1997 constitutional reforms. In establishing a regime of truth for maintaining power, the military-state needed to show then that alternative political-religious discourses were threatening to state religion, and to the ordered tracings and regulated conceptions of nationhood (Taylor 1993, p. 42). In a similar way, the late Jit Poumisak’s radical mapping of Thai history led to his murder by the state in 1966. Jit Poumisak wrote an innovative (though broadly conventional Marxist) interpretation of social and political history in 1957 (in a pre-democratic period, which was certainly not a good time to be innovative), translated as The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today (Chomnaa Sakdinaa-Thai Nai Patjuban, translated by Craig Reynolds, 1987). This work, from the point of view of the state, was a “non-history” in not making copies or “tracings” (as in the official royal histories of Prince Damrong Rajanubhab). Here, the unit of analysis was the social formation in the Marxist sense with the monarchy linked to a regressive agrarian order. This, Reynolds (1987, pp. 11–13) says, was certainly seditious in challenging the established symbols of legitimacy (the unifying triad of king, nation, and religion). Difference, deregulation, and disorder can be dangerous for perduring local identities, as in the case of the threat from new mobile capitalism. Significantly, Haraway (1991, pp. 166–67) notes that the extreme mobility of capital (with the development of microelectronics) and the new international division of labour are intertwined with the rise of new collectivities, along with the weakening of familiar and local-based groupings. This feature of globalization (and post-industrial societies) is a primary concern over “place-based” interests, especially in regard to ethnicities (or cultural groups). Also, the flight of capital into cyberspace has made it less visible as the new global techno-élites move from centralized urban areas to dispersed reterritorialized spaces. The urban-based Thammakaai movement has been the first new religious organization to effectively utilize cyber-technology and the potential of mobile capital in the guise of its various (traditional) “merit-making” (tham bun) schemes. It is clear that cyberspace (in particular the Net), as part of wider social structures, is increasingly becoming contested and relevant to the political space in the new metropolis (Soja 2000, p. 336). It is also inherently anarchic and problematic for the state apparatuses unable to control the multi-centred dispersions of (counter-)ideas and practices (linked to the proliferation of civic society organizations), and a likely

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source of contemporary nomadic-rhizomatic thought. Thammakaai’s ambitions are to work rhizomatically on the interstices for the appropriation of normative religious space. The rhizomatic nature of the Net as non-hierarchical, decentred power creates new problems for the state in that it cannot be destroyed, as it will simply re-emerge at any place at any time (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 9). Similarly in Thailand, for this very reason, radical religious movements at the interstices in dispersed alternative centres of power are worrying. The Net offers the ultimate form of resistance in its lines of flight, which constitute alternative means of escape from the forces of repression and stratification. Even the most intense strata consist of numerous lines of flight; for instance, territorialities “are shot through with lines of flight testifying to the presence within them of movements of deterritorialization and re-territorialization” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 55). In this sense lines of flight connect with new (social) formations. In the case of normalizing “arbolic” systems, the root-tree does not construct or make connections in this way, while the rhizome — without a centre, hierarchy, or signification — is constituted by an endless series of connections that may be defined by its boundless lines of flight. This may be the ultimate objective of the radical (individual or social) movement — becoming rhizomatic. There are estimated to be over 45,000 networks in cyberspace, with some 50 million mainframe and personal computers linked into these networks (Luke 1999, p. 27). There is a multiple choice of entries to these networks, while the structure of the Internet itself is forever changing and changeable. Indeed, the Net is ambient, nowhere in particular, but everywhere at once. An individual does not “go to the Net”; they log in (“online”) from wherever their bodies are situated. Although the Net negates geometry, it lacks spatiality (indeed it is anti-spatial), and therefore unable to be controlled. Cyberspace (as Merleau-Ponty would no doubt argue) is sensed; it connects bodies interactively with the world around. It is therefore a perceived, conceived, and lived space. Indeed, it may be even considered to be a kind of landscape (in Lyotard’s sense of where mind shifts from one sensible matter to another, simultaneously retaining sensory organization appropriate to the first, or at least a memory of it). Those working with new digital technologies and in the landscape of cyberspace may create “scapes of place”, an experience of moving outside of familiar and predictable boundaries. In time, digital living will mean less and less dependence on being in a specific place at a specific time, and even the

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transmission of “place” itself will start to become possible. A Buddhist website named Buddhanet, for instance, claims to bring an electronic cyber-sangha (monks/nuns, discussed later) to spatially fragmented bodies, to any place and at any time. Thai religion is changing to conform to new imaginings (or mental religious-scapes) of this abstracted space. Indeed, Nibbana.com is now an antipodean ultimate hyper-reality, while virtual or digital dhamma is definitively here to stay. As one Thai social commentator recently noted, the digital dhamma trend may soon even “threaten the standing of monks as religious experts” (Sanitsuda 2000). In effect, lay webmasters may become the new religious virtuosi (in Weber’s sense), taking the place of monks as disseminators of information and knowledge (secular and sacred). As one webmaster says, “If monks don’t adapt, they will soon lose their role in society” (in Sanitsuda 2000). In relation to widespread criticism of the sangha, William Klausner (1999, p. 86) comments that some “activists even urged a Buddhism without a clergy”. A Thai webmaster, who maintains his site from a remote village in Chainat Province, says that through his website he is attempting to make Buddhism accessible and meaningful again for the contemporary world. However, there is no indication that a Net community will replace a monastic community, as “Dhamma Web sites …will never decrease the importance of monks as role models for Buddhists” (Sanitsuda 2000). However, for most Thais a religion without a sangha is unthinkable. Similarly, a disembodied sangha would be unthinkable. The Three Gems of Buddhism (Buddha, dhamma, and sangha = monastic orders) are sustained and perpetuated through the corporate body of the sangha. The Buddha, of course, is no longer alive, while the dhamma requires the corpus of monks to act as interpreters, teachers, and representatives of the reclusive ideals (with the potential for spiritual liberation). However, given the recent media attention to miscreant monks (see, for instance, the case of now disrobed senior monks Phra Pativetviset and Phra Khruu Thammathronwanchai, Bangkok Post, 26 and 27 October 2000; Marshall 2000) there are some serious issues that need to be addressed with regard to discipline (orthopraxy) and monastic supervision. Arguably, as an electronic space is not so liable to misrepresentation in the dispersion of digitized information, deviation (from the norm) and mistakes, if they are made, are usually through human error in transmission. In the nottoo-distant-future a virtual or cyber-sangha will be a dominant feature on the religious landscape. It will cease to represent anything but itself as simulacra of religion; a religion where pluralistic connections to

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patronage will be made through the Net, rather than at the local monastery. This is clearly unthinkable to arborescent traditionalists who adhere to the sacrosanct ordering of normative religion. Devotion then will be directed to a text-based digital space, generating a new medium of communicative religion. In general, there are a number of Thai webmasters who now consider themselves as new religious reformers in Thailand contesting state power, providing an opportunity for people to meet and share interests on matters of religion in place-less chat rooms. These virtual religious virtuosi have wide social networks, norms, and social trust, and are able to facilitate social and intellectual interactions among their members. Therefore, although the durability of virtual associations is in doubt, they may be considered as having some social capital and certain characteristics of civil society organizations. Sanitsuda (2000) sees this virtualizing trend as a healthy momentum towards broader-based religious reform in Thailand, though arguably, meaningful reform could only come from within the monastic institution itself. The many sites now available to Thai Buddhist surfers consist of various virtual libraries, information about noted monks (living and deceased), information on Thai monasteries (national and international), commentary on controversial movements, and numerous web boards. In making connections to a cyber-sangha, new forms of cultural knowledge and experience imply disengagement with the material, political, and social realities of place (as in the local monastery and its centring of social hierarchies and the production of cultural norms). In this sense hyperspace has created a confusion of time, distance, and the body, which have now been made meaningless (Rushkoff 1994, p. 3). These latent possibilities of reordering social space, in turn, have worked to create a new sense of utopia, a new imagining — in a context where the imagination has “become an organized field of social practices, a form of work…and a form of negotiation between sites of agency [individuals] and globally defined fields of possibility…” (Appadurai 1996, p. 31). Established in 1991, Dharmanet claims to be the first and largest Buddhist website on the Net. Working out of Sonoma, California, it offers an extensive “online Buddhist community”. It is organized to promote the use of computer, network and telecommunication technologies in the service of the global Buddhist community. D.I. is dedicated to preserving and advancing Buddhist values, beliefs and traditions in the world

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through new and evolving models of organizations and of communities, making full use of contemporary technologies while embodying traditional Buddhist ideals and practices.

Then there is an Australian-based website (although as Castells [1996a] argues, the place — or continent — where information resides within the network is unimportant) named Buddhanet, which describes itself as a “vision to link up with the growing world-wide culture of people committed to the Buddha’s teachings and lifestyle”. The Buddhanet also offers a unique “on-line cyber sangha”. It goes on to say that “in this way, an ancient tradition and the information superhighway will come together to create an electronic meeting place of shared concern and interests”. In other words, an alternative disembodied (in the sense of a pure discursive/ textual nature) social world that offers “on-line communion”, where history is irrelevant, or at least “frozen”, and where there are no social encounters (Robins 1995, p. 150). In a similar theological semantics of encounter a Thammakaai website comments: [T]he monks and novices live according to the ancient rules laid down by Lord Buddha some 2500 years ago; truly a very simple and modest lifestyle. There is, however, another side to this monastery, which makes it part of a new generation of monasteries in Thailand. Modern technology has found its way into the classrooms, and computers are now widely being used by the students. Recently the monastery has joined the Internet, opening up a whole new chapter of possibilities. (My emphasis added; see ) What exactly is this new chapter of possibilities? In 1990 sales of personal computers (PCs) in Thailand were around 80,000 units. Ten years later, by the beginning of 2000, sales had reached over one million and, it seems, increasing (see: ) — although relatively still in its infancy: We have moved from a mainframe or minicomputer-based universe to a very different and much more populous environment, one with hundreds of thousands of PCs scattered throughout Thailand, many linked up in networks to servers —

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and many of these frequently connected with a high-speed modem to the internet… (ITPC 1998, p. 15) This is a long way from 1986, when a lecturer from the Asian Institute of Technology sent the first e-mail from Thailand with the assistance of servers in Tokyo and Melbourne, Australia (Thiravudh 2001, p. 18). All over Thailand, aside from religious connections mentioned above, from rural district towns to regional centres, Internet cafes are mushrooming and competing for space around tertiary education institutions and middleclass estates and apartments. These provide a ready access to people of all social classes, from the not-so-well educated lonely hearts (seeking initial electronic liaisons and eventually, hopefully, permanent embodied relationships), to urban Western-educated e-com opportunists. Even whole urban centres have joined in, like the tourist town of Phuket in the south with its planned new “digital paradise”. Here, the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec) intends to turn Phuket into an information technology (IT) haven with high-speed telecommunication infrastructure, a cyberport to house software firms, international education institutions, and electronic government (see “Database”, Bangkok Post, 11 October 2000). This ambitious reterritorializing project aims to attract international capital while at the same time integrate sanctioned local interests in a new concept of place making. But the Internet, with its acentred web of interconnections, is potentially a rhizomatic system with multiple interactive and resistant possibilities (Shields 1996, p. 6). The Internet has opened up new spaces and reshaped social networks and dependencies that have affected and reached into every aspect of personal life. However, there is a considerable digital divide in Thailand, which has limited the ability of many semi-literate, poorer rural folk from accessing the Internet. On the ground, socio-economic realities have set real limits to the establishment of an equitable virtual community that is not restricted to some extent by privileged knowledge and the means of access. The new modern “socially shaped” (Hine 2000, p. 32) digital technology is decidedly anti-nature. It replaces nature, absorbs it, and annihilates it. Simultaneously it takes on some of the characteristics of nature, such as open spaces, communion, peace, integration, and totality. As electronic communication increases in general, new spaces, places, and social and cultural linkages are created within assemblages that break away from

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existing dominant codes (O’Connor and Ilcan 2001, p. 3). This will eventually situate alternative new religious movements such as Wat Phra Thammakaai in the matrix of a global religious-political electronic-based network (a new so-called [hyper-]Buddhist Mecca or Vatican [Thammakaai in Taylor 1999, p. 173]). However, in an alternative sense, the Net’s lack of spatiality and density and its ability to maintain distance between people would seem to work against the formation of meaningful and enduring religious-political solidarities (see Jones 1997, p. 254). Also, what may start out as resistant Internet use (smooth nomadic space), over time will become reterritorialized by the apparatuses of state and capital, such as the use of the Internet in the above-mentioned “Greater Phuket, Digital Paradise Project”. In Thailand rapid economic growth and its related problems created a heavy burden on the policy and administrative capacity of the highly centralized local administration system (ADB 1999, p. 25). This led to decentralization of the administrative system under Article 78 of the new 1997 people’s Constitution and, embedded in the national five-year plan of 1997–2001, the encouragement of civil society organizations. The Tambon (Sub-District) Administrative Organizations or TAOs (Or-Phor-Tor) were an attempt to decentralize political-administrative power to the lowest levels (of sub-national governments) — the villages and sub-districts (away from the centralized government apparatus in the shape of the Department of Local Administration with its formal hierarchy of appointed district-level chiefs). A new initiative is the government’s digitalization of the countryside linked to electronic rural urbanization (see Virilio 1993, p. 72) to be undertaken through the provision of Internet access for all 7,200 TAOs nationwide. This is to connect (more privileged) semi-literate poor farmers and hitherto relatively isolated communities to the mass of information, such as in markets, through cyberspace — world-city information networks. Under the 1997 Constitution the state has the responsibility to ensure that the various electronic infrastructures are accessible to all, wherever they may be located (Bangkok Post, 6 September 2000). The TAOs were essentially a state-initiated process (imposed in the reform conditions of multilateral donor organizations) to open up new micro-level political space. This allows for other possibilities to emerge: that of the poor local farmers, though in reality local élites will continue in a different guise and move into different roles to maintain control over knowledge power. The implications for cyber-space here are far-reaching

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though critics consider this just another of the government’s pie-in-thesky schemes and another means of state control, this time through the means of digital technologies. However, it is also clear that the Internet could be used against the interests of the state; that is, as essentially nomadic power. For instance, in the transnational mobilization of resistant forces opposed to social and ecological controversies, such as the construction of large-scale dams, minority human rights issues in the border regions, or women’s rights groups in contentious issues, as in the recently failed gender equality Bill. In general, the Internet’s potential use as a deterritorialized space, to create the conditions for the emergence of new kinds of civil society organizations and in transforming spatial arrangements, is seemingly unlimited. In this chapter I have indicated some of the third-space possibilities of the Internet/Intranet and some of the ways in which digitalized electronics are transforming urban religious space in Thailand. It is, after all, only a beginning. The future may be here already in the dissolution of time and the privileging of space, while human communities are left only with nostalgia and a simulated world where original, first-order things cease to exist. But, thus said, the social and cultural transformative potential of new electronic space and virtual associations is only just being realized, while electronic religious networks, which are part of a broader cultural landscape, are clearly here to stay. Notes 1

2

3 4

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The term “Buddhisms” would empirically be more appropriate as this expresses the plurality and diversity of religious-cultural forms found within national contexts; see Trevor Ling (1993, pp. 1–5). I use the term “post-metropolis”, as a new or post-modern urbanism, from Ed Soja (2000), implying a “transition if not transformation taking place in what we familiarly describe as the modern metropolis” and urban life in general (Soja 2000, p. xii). The word “Utopia” is from Thomas More’s sixteenth-century book Utopia implying “no place”. According to Castells, the space of flows consists of numerous connected elements, including private, financial, proprietary, and public networks, Intranets and Internets, reconstituting social organizations (see also Stalder 1999, p. 5). It consists then of three aspects: technology (network infrastructure), places (the topology of the space formed by its nodes and hubs), and people (the exclusive space dominated by new techno-élites controlling the networks).

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5

The term “glocalization” reflects a new wave of thinking about local/global; “a ‘telescopic’ blending of the global and the local, drawing heavily from the Japanese business strategy of dochakuka, a global outlook adapted to local conditions or the localization of globality” (Robertson in Soja 2000, p. 199; see also Beck 2000, p. 45 ff.).

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg WOMEN’S MOVEMENT >IN THE PHILIPPINES 101

5 Women’s Movement in the Philippines and the Politics of Critical Collaboration with the State Carolyn I. Sobritchea INTRODUCTION This chapter takes stock of the major developments in the women’s movement in the Philippines during the past two decades and examines how these have influenced the growth and direction of feminist politics. It looks into the extent to which various feminist and nationalist readings of the causes of patriarchy and modes of resolving gender issues have created points of unity as well as conflict among women’s groups coming from diverse political and ideological orientations. I highlight here one of the major factors that have affected the capacity of the women’s movement to advance its political agenda in the Philippines — the many and diverse ideas of its leaders and members about the nature and extent of engagement with the state. I will argue in this chapter that the development of many discursive sites for the discussion of women’s issues, particularly the representations of marginality and gender inequality, has been partly instrumental in shaping current views about the limits and possibilities of critical collaboration with state parties, both at the national and local levels. Such representations have been influenced, in turn, by differences in the ideological background of the various women’s groups, the changes in the political culture of the country during the last two decades, and the active role of the United Nations in getting civil society to participate in the review and crafting of international human rights and development policies and programmes.

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OVERVIEW OF THE SECOND WAVE OF THE PHILIPPINE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT The women’s movement in the Philippines during the last two and a half decades has been likened to “a large, colorful tapestry whose design, texture, and colors speak of a myriad of styles and paths to women’s liberation, being created by a variety of women’s organizations, each trying to sew and work on its space while at the same time conscious of the contributions of other groups” (Angeles 1989, p. 207). While the movement traces its beginnings to the martial law period in the 1970s, it was only in the early 1980s that the self-identifying feminist groups were formed. Many of the women who joined the first women’s groups were, in fact, products of the nationalist movement that fought against martial rule. Some came from the underground, while the others were from nongovernment organizations (NGOs) engaged in development work. They left their groups presumably to have more space than what the nationalist movement could provide then; to “bring the struggle down to the personal level” (Angeles 1989). The leftist origin of the women’s movement has determined, to a great extent, the contours of the discourse on the roots of women’s subordination. Initially, militant women’s groups addressed women’s issues and concerns within the context of a nationalist agenda for genuine agrarian reform, nationalist industrialization, and peace with justice. Organizing of women followed class and occupational sectors (for example, peasant, labour, and indigenous communities); it focused on the role played by class and ethnicity in intensifying patriarchal values and practices. Feminist analyses linked women’s problems to laws and policies that curbed legitimate dissent and paralyzed mass organizations. The state was seen as favouring foreign capitalists and local élite at the expense of rural and urban poor women. Campaigns against militarism in the countryside, the proliferation of anti-communist vigilante groups, and war-related sexual crimes took much of the time and energies of women activists. The idea of a women’s liberation movement within the broad coalition of groups, working both underground and legally for national democracy, began in the early 1970s with the founding of the MAKIBAKA, or the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Movement for Freedom by Progressive Women). Santos, one of the early leaders of the women’s movement, noted the significance of the founding of this group: Locating the condition of women in the cultural superstructure, MAKIBAKA saw the need to integrate women’s concerns into

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the broad national concerns of the movement. It tried to define the dynamics of class oppression and gender inequality. By establishing an all-women group, the organisation was really asserting the need for their own cultural revolution, a battle that has to be fought in the arena of the male-dominated nationalist movement (BAI 1988 in de Dios 1989, p. 33). Despite the recognition of the need to organize women for more active political participation and to address their immediate and long-term interests, sexism and the culture of machismo continued to plague the nationalist movement. Women leaders became increasingly disenchanted over the inability of nationalist paradigms to grapple with other dimensions of women’s problems. This led some to explore feminist theories that went beyond class analysis. Such explorations eventually gave way to the birth of feminist discourse. The Kilusan ng Kababaihan Pilipina (PILIPINA, or the Philippine Women’s Movement) and the Katipunan ng Kababaihan Para sa Kalayaan (KALAYAAN, or Organization of Women for Freedom), established in 1981 and 1983 respectively, were the first groups to declare autonomy from the nationalist movement. As soon as they were formally organized, both immediately launched study sessions and campaigns which addressed women-specific issues like sexism in media, violation of women’s reproductive rights, sexual violence, and prostitution. In tackling these issues, discussions expanded to include in-depth analyses of the various manifestations and sites of patriarchy. Emphasis was given to resolving gender problems at the personal level. Moreover, support was provided for friends, within and outside the movement, who were victims of sexual abuse by the military during the martial law period or had failed marriages. Initial Perceptions about the Women’s Movement As early as the 1970s, some members of the nationalist movement were already raising questions and were worried about the possible divisive effects of recognizing the primacy of women’s issues over class-based problems. However, it was much later, in the mid-1980s to be exact, when feminist politics started to make some headway, that serious attacks were hurled against the women’s movement. Santos (1984) summarized the arguments of the critics of the movement in the following manner: One, it is divisive. It would heighten the conflict between the classes. Two, it is not important. Class problems deserve unified

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and concentrated attention; the women question is vague, abstract, and does not have a material base. Three, women in the nationalist movement do not need a separate organization for themselves. Their problems as women (whatever they are) can always be articulated within the bigger movement. Four, the need for women’s movement is a middle class perception with which the majority of women find no identification. Five, the emancipation of women can come about after the entire people have been liberated from class conflicts. There are very few materials written on the tensions between feminism and nationalism (Angeles 1989, p. 251). In the past debates on this topic often took place in private discussions and small group meetings. Within the women’s movement, the tensions were reflected in the choices of issues to prioritize and how they should be analysed and resolved. Internal Tensions and Ideological Differences Throughout the past two decades, the women’s groups have had problems ironing out their political differences. Although there were many occasions when they took a common position on certain women’s issues and jointly launched political campaigns, education programmes, and research activities, undercurrents of tension persisted. Those who continued to be identified and affiliated with the national democratic movement worked within the framework of armed struggle and socialist revolution. Others, meanwhile, proclaimed themselves as socialist feminists and followed the civil society paradigm of critical engagement with the state. To this day, there is still much debate on the nature and extent of state collaboration by various civil society organizations (Serrano 1994). While one can argue that the ideological differences and debates within the women’s movement were counterproductive, these differences, on the contrary, served as a catalyst for all to work harder and cover all fronts, so to speak, in the struggle to advance women’s rights in the Philippines. As such, while some groups continued to use class and ethnic concepts as the main analytical tools to understand the manifestations and reproduction patriarchy, others, especially the young feminists, explored other equally important issues such as sexual and identity politics, and the inscription of sexism in language, communication, discourse, and the production of knowledge (Sobritchea 2000a).

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POLITICAL FORMATIONS, ACTIONS, AND ARTICULATIONS Enabling Conditions for Feminist Activism Despite many drawbacks (that is, ideological differences, low public awareness of women’s issues, and pervasiveness of sexist beliefs and practices), the women’s movement has succeeded in raising awareness of women’s issues within and outside the nationalist circles. Several factors made this possible. One was, of course, the presence of highly motivated women activists. Another was the push of the United Nations for state parties, donor agencies, and civil society to enhance women’s role in development. I would like to mention also the improvement of the political and economic situation during the terms of Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos that allowed for the passage of pro-women laws and policies. Many international institutions and donor countries allocated funds specifically for gender programmes. As a result, women activists were encouraged to combine their political activism with development work by establishing non-profit organizations and issue-based coalitions. Through painstaking advocacy, organizing, and consciousness raising, feminist ideals and actions gradually became a part of the political agenda of civil society. By the mid-1980s, there was already a critical mass of highly motivated feminist advocates. They conducted gender sensitivity seminars for community residents, students, government employees, and NGO workers. These efforts eventually paid off as public awareness of women’s issues and rights increased. Without the need to orchestrate or realign activities with the nationalist movement, or give priority to national and class-based agenda, feminist organizations pursued their activism — in theory and in practice — through many creative ways. Some began their journey by immersing themselves in Western feminist literature. Others took the more difficult route of integrating with grass-roots women and listening to their life stories of suffering. From an initial number of less than twelve city-based women’s groups in the late 1970s (Angeles 1989), the women’s movement grew in size in the 1980s to include hundreds of grass-roots organizations, women-NGOs, as well as women’s coalitions and professional groups. Major Organizing Efforts There were two major women’s groups, doubling as fund facilities, which influenced the nature and types of discourse by feminist activists in the

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1980s — the Lakas ng Kababaihan (Group of 10, G-10) and the Women’s Action Network for Development (WAND) — united under a funding mechanism called DIWATA. In the mid-1990s the two groups had some 200 affiliate groups, including some thirty women’s networks. Among the members of G-10 were the General Assembly Binding Women for Reform, Integrity, Leadership, and Action (GABRIELA), which had more than a hundred affiliate organizations of peasant and urban poor women; and the Lipunan ng Bagong Pilipina (KABAPA), a national women’s group with around 30,000 members. KALAYAAN, the first feminist collective composed of women from academe, media practitioners, and NGO leaders, was also a member of G-10. The other groups included women NGOs engaged in crisis counselling for abused women (the Women’s Crisis Center), media work, advocacy for mainstreaming gender principles into science and technology, and community organizing (Appendix A). Although WAND is still currently engaged in development work for women, G-10 members decided to temporarily stop its alliance work and collaboration sometime in the mid-1990s. At least four of its members earlier resigned from the coalition because of disagreements about focus and priorities. It is worth noting, however, that other issue-specific alliances were created through the initiative of the two groups. G-10, in particular, was responsible for bringing to life a number of important coalition networks which advocate for legal reforms and promotion of women’s reproductive health and rights (Appendix B). Among the coalitions formed were the Alliance for Women’s Health; the network for legislative advocacy called SIBOL; and KALAKASAN, a consortium of seven women’s organizations which provided telephone counselling for women. The Alliance for Women’s Health was organized in response to the call from many women’s groups to formulate a common position on reproductive health issues. The Alliance is currently composed of twenty women and development organizations. Its objectives are to “provide venues for various women and development groups to come together and act on particular issues affecting women’s rights and status”. The Alliance also seeks to hold dialogues with line agencies of government, to present its own recommendations and perspectives on health and reproductive issues affecting women. The campaign for reproductive rights has generated interest in other gender-related issues such as sexuality, sexual orientations, and sexual preference. Feminist groups organized activities in support of lesbian and

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gay issues. Lesbian circles were established within some women’s groups during the past years. SIBOL consists of eight women’s organizations. Its activities include the review of proposed bills affecting women and the drafting of alternative (pro-women) versions of proposed legislation. Some network members provide legal services to victims of criminal and civil crimes and engage in legal literacy programmes. Regional and provincial organizations and alliances have focused on these local issues: (1) environmental degradation resulting from massive deforestation and mining; (2) forced relocation of indigenous settlements; and (3) the increasing feminization of poverty in agricultural communities. Empirical studies are presently being undertaken to determine the impact on women’s livelihood and health of the introduction of export-oriented farms and industries in the southern Philippines. The formation of issue-based alliances and networks has indeed strengthened the capacity of the movement to respond to specific problems of women like domestic violence, unemployment, or malnutrition. However, the shift towards greater specialization in tasks has somehow reduced the movement’s ability to mobilize larger groups to respond quickly and decisively to what is loosely referred to as “general concerns”. I would like to stress in this chapter that the allocation of development funds across countries and across sectors within a country has been heavily influenced by the priorities established in United Nations-sponsored international conferences and meetings. In the last two decades, we have seen major breakthroughs in the efforts by women’s groups and civil societies all over the world to influence governments to promote women’s status and welfare through legislation and development programmes. This has been made possible through the institutionalization of the mechanism that allows civil society groups to influence the language and contents of international covenants and instruments drafted by state representatives. Since the Nairobi Women’s World Conference in 1985, leading members of the women’s movement have actively participated in the preparation of the country assessment reports. They have engaged various government agencies in the formulation of development plans and programme strategies responsive to women’s needs and concerns. Several seats in the policymaking body of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, an advisory unit under the office of the Philippine President, are occupied by representatives of women’s groups.

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THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT VIS-À-VIS THE STATE Once many women’s groups started to veer away from pure political activism and began to adopt a development orientation, they had to grapple with the issue of how to relate with the state.

Forms of State Collaboration It was after the downfall of former President Marcos in 1986 and the assumption to power of President Corazon Aquino that the women’s movement gradually got into development work and participated in government-initiated programmes. The shift was to be expected since many of the urban-based and middle-class women’s organizations actively supported her candidacy and joined her in the series of street campaigns that eventually forced Marcos to give up his post. When Aquino finally assumed power, she appointed many women leaders from civil society into her Cabinet and advisory committees. These women spearheaded the integration of the women’s agenda into the programmes of government and bridged the gap between civil society and the state. I would like to mention two important events that helped brought some groups within the women’s movement closer to government. First was the holding of the first Government–Non-government Organization (GO-NGO) Congress in March 1990. This was followed by the formal establishment of the Network in 1993, consisting of government agencies and about a hundred women’s groups and NGOs. These initiatives were initiated by the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), a policy advisory body under the office of the President of the Republic. It called on women’s groups to participate in the formulation of the Philippine Development Plan for Women (PDPW). The series of consultations conducted to craft the plan provided the opportunity for representatives of both groups to discuss, interact, and appreciate their common experiences and problems as women. It was during the formal presentation of the plan before the House of Congress that the GO-NGO Network was launched. The female parliamentarians acted as host and invited more than a thousand guests and participants from various branches of government and from civil society. In one of the preparatory meetings, its chairperson noted that the establishment of the Network reflected the “emergence of a new ethics of cooperation, collaboration and interfacing of women in non-governmental/ people’s organizations” (UKP, n.d.).

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A leading member of the Network who was once active in the nationalist movement and feminist circles justified the move for closer ties between women’s organizations and the government in the following manner: Women in government and governance speak of policies and programs within their mandate. Women NGOs/POs (people’s organizations) speak of concerns and needs which at times are beyond the mandate of government. The dialogue may be for advocating, critiquing, monitoring and evaluating government programs and policies. Divergence may arise from feminist processes that are not observed in government-developed approaches. But whatever the diversity, the coming together to a forum connects the collective minds of the women and provides the opportunity to identify commonalities, set priorities, define roles, allow advocacy, forge cooperation and open avenues of development strategies and goals with gender sensitivity (GO-NGO Network, n.d.). The second event that drew individual members of feminist and nationalist women’s groups closer to the government was the formation of a broad coalition of women’s organizations in 1992 for the purpose of increasing women’s participation in politics and public policy. Called the Ugnayan ng Kababaihan sa Pulitika (UKP), or Women in Politics and Public Policy, the coalition carried out activities which included the endorsement of women nominees for sector representatives to the House of Congress and the preparation of the “Women Ten-Point Political Agenda”. The agenda was presented for adoption by selected political candidates in the 1992 national elections. The coalition also claimed credit for preparing a legislative agenda for the first 100 days of the administration of former President Fidel Ramos and a companion “Women’s Agenda for the Administration’s 60–100 days in Office”. The UKP also submitted policy recommendations to President Ramos for the appointment of more women in top government positions. It sponsored dialogues between government agencies and women’s groups. In a workshop on “People Empowerment thru Mass Media: A GO-NGO Partnership”, which the coalition organized in October 1992, its generalsecretary proudly wrote that the forum “afforded the women participants a top-level venue for articulating policy recommendations on women and media as well as accessing government media facilities for ventilating women’s issues” (UKP, n.d.).

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Representatives of progressive women’s groups like KABAPA (a national group of grass-roots women), GABRIELA, and Alliance for Women’s Health were among the founding members of the coalition. They helped in the first stages of the formulation of its programmes. However, their involvement in coalition activities declined as they became increasingly uncomfortable with the “uncritical instance and pro-government sympathies” of some of the leaders. The groups which joined in the GO-NGO Network heeded the call of the government for co-operation in development work, even as they realized the dangers it brought to the movement, particularly the risk of state appropriation of feminist discourse and language. Others, however, opted to keep a distance. They went into development work, promoting women’s access to economic, political, and social resources, outside the ambit of state control and regulation. The following are some of the major forms of collaborative effort by women’s groups:

• •

• • • • • •

Participation in the crafting of and lobbying for pro-women and gender fair bills and policies; Delivery of direct welfare and health services to poor and marginalized women and children (that is, reproductive health clinic, crisis counselling facility, shelter for battered and sex-trafficked women and girls; credit facility, enterprise development facility); Training of government personnel and policy-makers in gender planning, gender mainstreaming, and related topics; Representation in local development councils at the city, provincial, and regional levels; Community organizing to capacitate people’s organizations, specifically women’s groups, to access government resources and services; to lobby for political and electoral reforms; Monitoring and evaluation of government programmes and projects; Sponsorship of advocacy campaigns to influence policy and programme development; and Participation by some women’s groups in electoral politics by initially forming an all-women political party and later fielding women candidates for Congress under the party list law. This law provides for seats in the lower house for the representatives of marginalized sectors like women, peasant groups, labour, and the urban poor.

Among the most important contributions of the women’s movement was the assistance provided by some feminist counsellors to the

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establishment of women’s desks in police precincts. In fact, NGOs have been regularly tapped by local government units to provide alternative service programmes for disadvantaged groups like female heads of household, people living with HIV/AIDs, and prostitutes, and hospice care for elderly women. A survey of programmes for women and children of 111 NGOs and women’s groups conducted in 1999 (Sobritchea 1999) shows the active involvement of civil society in direct delivery of services (for example, shelters for survivors of domestic violence and microcredit service), community organizing, training, and education as well as policy advocacy (Appendix A). The most significant involvement of civil society in local governance is its participation in the local development councils. Local government agencies identify and accredit NGOs to sit in this body to help design and oversee the implementation of development programmes. Additionally, civil society groups have been increasingly tapped to participate in the formulation of local policies and ordinances. At least three regions of the Philippines now have their own local codes for the advancement of women’s rights and welfare. There are also city and municipal ordinances now that promote women’s access to employment and credit. At the moment development funds for NGOs coming from international agencies pass through government agencies. This has brought civil society under closer scrutiny and supervision of the state. Government agencies have been given oversight power by donors, thereby limiting the ability of civil society to go into alternative and innovative programmes and serve as fiscalizer of government. NGOs have to develop their programmes following the thrusts and targets of the country’s medium-term development plan and maintain good relations with government agencies. Worse, they now have to compete for resources with organizations formed by the local élite, particularly the wives of politicians. The Stance of Those against State Collaboration While it became very easy for some members to justify their change in attitude towards the state and increased involvement in government-initiated programmes, others have taken a more critical position about it. Those who came from the national democratic movement have continually assessed their role within the women’s movement and critically looked into the overall performance of the state vis-à-vis the advancement of women’s causes. G-10, for instance, had insisted on examining the implications on women’s status and welfare of the government’s

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development goals and plans, particularly the move to copy the experience of so-called newly industrializing countries in East and Southeast Asia. One of the most militant women’s groups, at one point, maintained a very critical stance on the Philippine 2000 programme of former President Ramos. To this day, the group has taken a very critical position on the government’s policy to participate in global efforts to liberalize trade; it has continually produced studies showing the negative impacts of structural adjustment and liberalization policies on urban and rural poor women. Some militant women’s groups are currently very critical of the Philippine Government for its support of trade liberalization and for its failure to eradicate poverty as well as protect the rights of Filipinos working abroad. In the conference held in 2000 and attended by some 100 women’s groups to adopt a common programme to strengthen the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the government was urged to address the roots of gender inequality in the country. The conference declaration asserts: We note that the developmental philosophy of globalization fostered by multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) is incompatible with the women’s empowerment and human development philosophy adopted by the Beijing and other UN Conferences… to which the Philippines committed itself. We demand that where there is incongruence among these commitments, the government should uphold the primacy of a wholistic development of the majority of its people and not just the immediate economic considerations of the powerful few…We call on government to adopt macro-economic policies that ensure continuous growth and stable employment while promoting the concrete interests of the Filipino people, particularly women (Pananaw 2000). Additionally, the conference participants called on the government to take measures to address the problems of sex trafficking of women and children, prostitution, domestic violence, and lack of women’s access to credit and appropriate production technologies. STATE RESPONSE TO FEMINIST ACTIVISM AND THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT As mentioned earlier, the women’s movement took full advantage of the democratic space provided by the government which came after the

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martial law period. It used the space not only to organize into various issue-based alliances but also to push for legal reforms and demand access to more and better services from the state. The amendment of the Constitution in 1987, followed by several legal reforms to strengthen local governance and eradicate crony capitalism have helped, to some extent, advance the policy changes and alternative programmes advocated by the women’s groups. In particular, the constitutional provision mandating the state to promote gender equality became the basis to argue for the formal adoption by all branches of government of the Gender and Development (GAD) framework to mainstream gender concepts and principles into government policies, programmes, structures, and processes. The partnership forged by the women NGOs with women in government generally made it easier for both to conduct gender awareness seminars and change many sexist practices in government. Among the initiatives taken by the state to advance women’s status:

• • •

• • •

Allocation of 5 per cent of line agency and local government budget for Gender and Development programmes; Formulation of a thirty-year Gender and Development (Perspective) Plan which currently guides the mainstreaming efforts of all government offices; Development of various service and advocacy programmes for women like the women’s desk in police stations to handle gender-related offences, crisis counselling facility, and shelter and legal assistance for abused women and children; Provision of livelihood and credit programmes (that is, microfinance) for poor women; Policy guidelines for the educational system to integrate gender topics, issues, and principles in the curricula; Repeal of laws discriminatory to women; passage of laws and executive orders that protect women’s human rights and enhance their participation in development.

Although the government after the martial law period has indeed been quite receptive to women’s issues and has taken some steps forward to advance women’s status, there is much to be desired in term of its sensitivity to women’s reproductive and economic rights. The state has been unable to resist pressure from the Catholic Church not to promote the use of modern contraceptives and not to develop a sustainable population policy. Despite the country’s ratification of the 1994 Cairo International Convention

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on Population and Development, it has failed to protect women from unwanted and early pregnancies, deaths from abortion complication, and malnutrition. With nearly a third of the population living below the poverty level, there are millions of women who have to make do with a meagre income to raise as many as three to ten children. REFLECTIONS ON THE LIMITS AND POSSIBILITIES OF COLLABORATING WITH THE STATE I mentioned earlier that the women’s movement has indeed taken an active role in supporting government initiatives to engender the bureaucracy, undertake legal reforms, and implement gender responsive programmes. This has been done through the use of donor and government funds. The movement’s critical engagement with the state has brought about many positive results like the passage of several pro-women laws and development of mechanisms to engender programmes (Appendix B). Unfortunately, the militant women’s groups are not impressed with these achievements, branding them instead as palliatives and “window dressing” efforts. The most severe criticism hurled against groups working within the civil society framework is the charge that the state has been able to protect itself through the appropriation of feminist language and symbols. The state, they claimed, has successfully deflected women’s attention from the more pressing issues of poverty and militarization by providing more opportunities for educated, middle-class women to participate in government-initiated exercises and processes, for example, policy consultation. They add that in the past fifteen years, for example, the government has many times ignored the appeals of local and international human rights organizations to stop the forced evacuation of women, men, and children from areas meant for the construction of industrial zones and energy-generating plants. I must add that together with the growth of the feminist groups within the women’s movement was the revitalization of old and the formation of many new women civic groups, social clubs, religious sodalities, and professional organizations. Although they generally hold conservative views about women and gender relations, they have become very active during the last decade in their advocacy for women’s active participation in politics and governance. These groups have been in the forefront of the campaign for the election and appointment of educated, upper-class women to top government posts. Many members have sided with either the Catholic Church or the state on issues related to family planning, foreign debt,

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agrarian reform, and prostitution. As articulate critics of feminism, they have succeeded on many occasions in blocking the passage of bills and policies that cater to the interests of poor women. An alliance belonging to this sector claims to have more than 500 registered member organizations and no less than 8 million individual members. The open endorsement by government officials of the aforementioned groups and their position on various economic and social issues has been a source of conflict with civil society. The government has been often accused of channelling development funds to them without consideration of their capacity to successfully implement the programmes. CONCLUDING REMARKS This chapter shows that the second wave of the women’s movement has grown in size and strength during the past two decades partly because of the freedom or autonomy it has experienced in pushing for the feminist and nationalist agenda. Unmindful of the political tensions taking place in the mainstream nationalist movement, the women’s groups have made significant breakthroughs in pushing for feminist perspectives and programmes within the left, within the NGO community, and in the larger society. While initially focused on building a feminist brand of politics to address the issue of class inequality, the agenda of the women’s movement later expanded to include advocacy for women’s reproductive rights, support of lesbian and gay rights, and the elimination of all forms of gender violence, including prostitution and sex trafficking. Poverty, environmental degradation, foreign debt, the presence of foreign military bases in the country, and other national issues were taken as important women’s issues and, therefore, an integral part of feminist advocacy. Several factors helped shape the character of the movement: the ideological differences among the members, the availability of development funds, and the political climate that encouraged women’s groups to operate within the democratic space provided by the government. By accessing development funds, many women’s groups were able to strengthen their organizations, expand membership, and undertake many different activities along the lines of consciousness raising, skills training, research, and livelihood development. Unfortunately, the thrusts and contents of these programmes were heavily influenced by the priorities and requirements of the funding agencies, and later by the government’s development plans.

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A serious source of tension within the women’s movement is the issue of state collaboration. While some see and, in fact, take advantage of the possibilities for advancing women’s rights through the model of critical collaboration, others consider it an act of “selling out”. I submit that negotiating feminism within the parameters provided by the state has not been very easy; it is full of political tensions. Feminist activists have long acknowledged that working with the government could help legitimize its patriarchal ways and reproduce new forms of sexist controls and regulations. Nonetheless, the gains from critical participation, as mentioned earlier, have been equally impressive and substantial. The urgent need for women’s groups to deal with problems like domestic violence, unemployment, and malnutrition, for instance, has necessitated co-operating with all sectors and agencies. The prevailing situation in the Philippines requires a re-analysis of feminist politics. Current data show that 40 per cent of the annual government budget goes to repayment of foreign debt. This will continue to be a major deterrent to all efforts at improving the status and quality of life of the majority of Filipino women. Almost half of all households live below the poverty level. Women are hardest hit by poverty as they are compelled to be economically productive even as they continue to take primary responsibility for child care and home management. Moreover, the financial situation of females has worsened during the past years. The proportion of deficit spending among female-headed households has been higher than with male-headed households. Amidst these economic difficulties, the government has continued with its programme of converting agricultural lands for industrial purposes and relocating the people away from their traditional sources of livelihood. Policies that continue to open the country to foreign capital, services, and goods weaken the capacity of the household and community economies to maintain themselves. In the coming years the women’s movement will have to continue to defend itself and justify the validity of its feminist analysis of the women’s and national issues before the left and the larger society. Its viability and effectiveness as an advocate of social change will depend largely on how well it can pursue structural change and avoid falling into the pit of reformism. Because of the mass appeal or attractiveness of many women’s issues, there is the danger of appropriation and reinterpretation of the feminist agenda by conservative elements within and outside of the state. In fact, ideological and political differences may sharpen in the near future, as nationalist women’s groups consolidate their ranks and step up

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the campaign for class-based and national issues while others continue to pursue women-specific issues within and outside the space provided by the government. The most crucial factor that will determine the extent of unity or division within the women’s movement will be the position that each women’s group will take vis-à-vis the state, specifically the extent of collaboration which groups are willing to initiate with the government agencies. Unity within the women’s movement will depend on the theoretical understanding of the possibilities and limits of development work, and necessity for political action. The greatest challenge to the women’s movement, therefore, is its ability to expand in size and reach, to be most creative in its strategies for change, without sacrificing the essence of feminist struggle.

Appendix A List of Major Coalitions Name

Priority Sector/Area

Programmes/Services

Alliance for Women’s Health

All women, national

• Advocacy on reproductive health and rights • Policy-action research • International and local linkages on reproductive health

Coalition against Trafficking in Women (CACTWA), Philippines

Abused, trafficked, and prostituted women; national and member of the Asia-Pacific coalition

• • • • •

Training and education Research and publication Advocacy campaigns Referral of trafficking cases Group building

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Women’s Committee

Women in industry, agriculture, and informal sectors, NGOs, political blocs, youths

• • • • •

Policy analysis Research Population education Advocacy campaigns Gender training

GABRIELA – National Women’s Alliance

Urban and rural poor women; survivors of gender violence, indigenous women, women in industry; national with international branches

• • • • • •

Organizing Network building Education and training Policy analysis Research Advocacy campaigns continued on next page

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Appendix A – cont’d Name

Priority Sector/Area

Programmes/Services

Group of Ten

All women; national

• • • •

Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA)

Urban and rural poor women; indigenous women; national

• Organizing • Political education • Political campaigns

SARILAYA (Socialist Feminists)

Urban and rural poor women; national

• • • •

SIBOL (network of women’s groups working for legislative reforms and passage of pro-women bills)

All women; national

• Analysis of existing laws and bills pending in Congress • Crafting of alternative bills • Lobbying • Advocacy campaigns

Ugnayan ng Kababaihan sa Pulitika (UKP)

All women; national

• Advocacy for greater participation of women in politics and governance • Training in leadership • Research

Women’s Action Network for Development

All women; national

• Training and education • Research • Advocacy campaigns

Women’s Studies Association of the Philippines (network of sixty universities and colleges with women’s studies)

Educators, school officials and policy-makers, students, guidance counsellors

• Development of women’s studies curricula • Research and publication • Advocacy campaigns • Training in feminist counselling, teaching, and research

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Organizing Education and training Advocacy campaigns Research

Organizing Community research Gender training Advocacy

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Appendix B Survey of Programmes of 111 Women’s Groups Programme

Percentage

1. Welfare services • Home visitation • Shelter care for abused women and children • Legal service

17.0 26.0 11.0

2. Gender training and education • Training of trainers • Gender awareness seminars • Leadership for women • Reproductive health and rights • Informal (literacy) training

10.0 19.0 25.0 15.0 8.0

3. Health and medical service • Crisis counselling • Medical service • Reproductive health clinics • Treatment for abusers • Psychiatric counselling

20.0 12.0 20.0 2.0 4.0

4. Livelihood and small business • Small business/enterprise development • Microcredit

45.0 31.0

5. Advocacy • Gender and development • Violence against women and children • Sex trafficking and prostitution • Sexism in media • Economic reforms

11.0 12.0 6.0 3.0 10.0

6. Research • Women and health • Women, work, and the economy • Sex trafficking and prostitution • Violence against women • Women and politics • Women and media

27.0 18.0 16.0 16.0 11.0 2.0

Source: Sobritchea (1999).

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References Angeles, Leonora C. “Feminism and Nationalism: The Discourse on the Woman Question and Politics of the Women’s Movement in the Philippines”. M.A. thesis, University of the Philippines, 1989. Anonuevo, Carolyn Medel. “Possibilities of Theorizing in the Women’s Movement: The Philippine Experience”. Review of Women’s Studies 1, no. 2 (1990–91): 50–56. De Dios, Aurora J. “Participation of Women’s Groups in the Anti-Dictatorship Struggle: Genesis of a Movement”. Paper presented at the conference Women’s Role in Philippine History, 8–9 March 1989, at the University of the Philippines, 1989. GABRIELA. “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights”. Quezon City, 1993. Gomez, Maita. “Women’s Organizations as Offshoots of National Political Movements”. In Essays on Women, edited by Sr Mary John Mananzan. Manila: Institute of Women’s Studies, 1991. Pagaduan, Maureen. “National Liberation and Women’s Liberation: The Split View”. Diliman Review 40, no. 4 (1992): 26–35. Santos, Aida F. “The Philippine Women’s Movement: Problems of Perception”. Paper presented at the Seminar to Prepare the Alternative Philippine Report on the Impact of the Decade for Women, 1984, in Quezon City. ——— and Lynn Lee. The Debt Crisis: A Treadmill of Poverty for Filipino Women. Quezon City: KALAYAAN, 1989. Serrano, Isagani R. Civil Society in the Asia-Pacific Region. Washington, D.C.: CIVICUS, 1994. Sobritchea, Carolyn. “Women’s Issues and Representations of Women’s Rights in Southeast Asia”. In Going Global: Asian Societies in the CUSP of Change, edited by A. Malay, pp. 53–73. Quezon City: Asian Center, University of the Philippines, 2001a. ———. “Women in Southeast Asia: Have They Come a Long Way?”. Perspectives 4. Manila: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 2001b.

Documents/Unpublished Research Reports Alliance for Women’s Health. “Notes on Its History, Organization Structure, Network Objectives, and Activities”. 5 pages. n.d. Diliman Declaration. National Conference on the Beijing +5. University of the Philippines, Diliman, February 2000. Published in PANANAW 10, no. 2 (April–June 2000). DIWATA. Annual Plan. 6 pages. 1993. GO-NGO Network. “History of Women GO-NGO Network”. 10 pages. n.d. Group of Ten. Consultation Report for 1993. 4 pages. 1993. ———. Notes on its history, policy concerns, and membership profile. 5 pages. n.d.

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National Steering Committee for the Preparation of the NGO Paper for the Fourth UN World Conference for Women in 1995. Minutes of meetings, report of activities, consultation reports, and other documents. Philippine (Republic). “The Philippine Country Report on Women, 1986–1995”. Preliminary draft. Philippine Muslim Women’s Association. Notes on its history, organizational structure, objectives, and activities. 24 pages. n.d. Position Paper. “Women Speak Out on Prostitution”. Prepared by Dayang Women’s Center; GABRIELA Commission on Violence against Women; Women’s Education, Development, Productivity and Research Organization (WEDPRO); with the office of the Vice Mayor of Quezon City. 4 pages. n.d. Sobritchea, Carolyn. Survey of Programmes for Women and Children in the Philippines. Quezon City: Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines, and Consuelo Algers Foundation Inc., 1999. ———. Survey of Reproductive Health and Family Planning Programmes in the Philippines. Quezon City: Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines, and Consuelo Algers Foundation Inc., 2000a. ———. “Prioritizing the Challenges before Countries in Asia and the Pacific: Remaining Issues, Emerging Concerns and Future Actions”. Paper prepared for the Expert Group Meeting to Strategize on the Regional Implementation of the Outcome Document of the Global Review of Beijing Platform for Action, 30 November–1 December 2000b, in Bangkok. Ugnayan ng Kababaihan sa Pulitika (UKP). Secretary-General’s Report. 6 pages. n.d.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

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6 Participation of the Women’s Movement in Malaysia The 1999 General Election Lai Suat Yan INTRODUCTION In the 1999 general election, for the first time in Malaysian history, the Malaysian women’s movement fielded a woman candidate to run for a Parliamentary seat based on a platform of women’s issues within the framework of justice, democracy, and sustainable development. This initiative, known as the Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI), was part of an initial effort by activists to inject an issue-based discourse in electoral politics that have been largely dominated by the traditional ethnic- and party-based discourse. Significantly, this move also marked the women’s non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) direct involvement in electoral politics. The political atmosphere was tense with excitement as the popular perception, prior to the voting day, was that the ruling National Front (Barisan Nasional, BN) might lose its stranglehold on Parliament or that the Mahathir regime was nearing its end. Undoubtedly, a contributing factor to the emergence of the vibrant reformation politics was the manner in which Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), was sacked, brutalized while under police custody, and then sentenced to serve fifteen years for abuse of power and sodomy. Inspired by the spirit of the moment, the WCI sought to impress upon the public that it was high time to do away with injustice towards women as well. However, the WCI’s alignment with the Alternative Front (Barisan Alternatif, BA), which comprised among others the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, PAS), known for its conservative stance on women’s issues, and the Democratic Action Party (DAP), which was beset by charges of undemocratic practices of its leadership,1 suggested

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that this move might be fraught with dilemmas and uncertainties.2 Another initiative from the women’s movement was the Women’s Agenda for Change (WAC), a lobbying initiative, where women’s NGOs approached political parties from both the ruling and opposition parties to adopt the WAC agenda in their respective election manifesto. This chapter will reflect on the WCI’s participation in the 1999 general election, in particular the responses of two women’s NGOs, Friends of Women (Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, PSWS) and Sisters in Islam (SIS), to highlight the ambiguities towards this initiative. The different responses of the two NGOs to this initiative would show that the women’s movement is not a monolithic entity and that the choices and decisions these two NGOs make are informed by their experiences and the issues they are working on — which in this case also coincide with their respective ethnic background. Nevertheless, both the PSWS and SIS support WAC. As the women’s movement is part of the labyrinth that forms civil society, the chapter will start by explaining the concept of civil society and its relationship with the state. CIVIL SOCIETY, NGOS, AND THE STATE Writing on Malaysian civil society, political scientist Johan Saravanamuttu outlined two perspectives.3 The first is the citizen’s perspective where the role of civil society is to deepen democracy and to check the power of the state. Civil society here refers to politically engaged NGOs such as human rights advocacy groups, consumer organizations, and environmental and women’s groups. The second is the statist perspective that advances a strong, authoritarian state with the capability to govern as well as maintain economic prosperity and law and order in society. Civil society in this model refers to civil organizations that are under the direct or indirect jurisdiction and surveillance of the state or encapsulated by the state.4 This statist perspective is represented by the discourses of civil society with notions such as civic society in Singapore and masyarakat madani, or civil society with Islamic values, in Malaysia. Saravanamuttu then proceeded to critique both perspectives, which are based on an idealized context and may not reflect reality or reflect only a partial reality. For example, the citizen’s perspective does not capture the Singaporean context as “associational relationships are at best likely to take the form where full democratic participation is greatly limited while somewhat depoliticised NGOs rather than Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) tend to be the order of the day”.5 On the other hand, the emergence

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of the middle class and new values in the rapidly expanding economies and regional NGOs and CSOs have hindered the full realization of the state-encapsulated civil society as envisioned in the statist perspective. While similarities in terms of civil society as referring to chiefly civil organizations in the statist perspective can be drawn with the social capital model, à la Robert Putnam, there are two interrelated main differences. Firstly, the social capital model is premised on a liberal democratic context while the statist perspective is based on a semi-democratic or semiauthoritarian state such as Malaysia. Deriving from this, secondly, while the aim of civil society in both the social capital and the statist model is, in general terms, to improve the democratic governance of the state, the political atmosphere in which this is carried out and the discourses of the liberal democratic regime and semi-democratic regime on civil society may well differ. The competing discourse on civil society between the citizen’s perspective and the state in Malaysia as elucidated by Saravanamuttu reflects the existence of two main streams of civil society which can be mainly differentiated as politically engaged NGOs and apolitical or welfare NGOs.6 Nonetheless, Meredith Weiss and Saliha Hassan pointed out that this simple dichotomy of politically engaged NGOs that are issues-oriented and apolitical NGOs that are welfare-oriented does not always hold up as apolitical welfare organizations have at times adopted a political stance.7 Furthermore, according to Gerard Clarke, all NGOs’ activities are inherently political since welfare-oriented NGOs legitimize the state and bolster the élites.8 In the case of the women’s NGOs in Malaysia, the distinction between a welfare-oriented and an issues-oriented NGO is even less clear-cut. Women’s NGOs such as the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) are clearly issues-oriented, focus on advocacy work, and are in this sense political. Yet, a component of AWAM’s work is welfare-oriented and designed to meet women’s immediate needs, such as the provision of a hot line and legal help for women in distress. Nonetheless, these services are considered political in feminist terms as their methodology empowers women and challenges the patriarchal order in the long run. However, in popular discourse issues such as violence against women, be it rape or wife-beating, the focus of AWAM’s advocacy work, are generally viewed upon as welfare-oriented. This is because, based on a humanitarian level, many organizations and the state will agree that rape and wife-beating are wrong even though the root causes offered may be somewhat different from AWAM’s. Hence these NGOs do not necessarily challenge the

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patriarchal order or may do so only to a lesser degree. Thus, though AWAM’s work is political in nature as it is advocacy-oriented and questions the patriarchal order, other organizations and the state may not necessarily view it as such when compared to the work of human rights organizations such as SUARAM, which is in direct conflict with the state because it focuses on civil and political rights, and campaigns for the rights to free speech, assembly, and a fair trial, or broadly for a democratic and just governance. The situation of AWAM is similar to that of consumer organizations such as the Federation of Malaysian Consumers’ Association (FOMCA) that advocate consumer rights. While in terms of consumer rights FOMCA’s work is considered political if it takes a political stance on issues concerning civil and political rights issues, it may not be considered political in the more popular usage of the term within civil society discourse in general. To illustrate clearly the different levels in which an NGO is considered political or not, let us now turn to the example of another women’s NGO, the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO). The NCWO is advocacy-oriented and political in a sense. Since its work centres on women’s issues and challenges the patriarchal order, it would be considered political in feminist understanding. However, since the NCWO works for reform from within the establishment, its autonomy and activism are obviously compromised.9 Moreover, as a general rule, the NCWO does not lend its name to civil and political rights campaigns. Thus in the popular everyday discourse within civil society, the NCWO’s stance may be regarded as apolitical. This chapter will focus on women’s NGOs that are politically engaged at three levels, namely their works challenge the patriarchal order, include a component of advocacy work, and concern issues of democracy, justice, and equality in Malaysia. The WCI, WAC, PSWS, and SIS, the focus of this chapter, fulfil all three criteria, as discussions in later sections on these women’s NGOs will show. In fact, the WCI and PSWS crossed over the boundary of civil society to political society by directly involving themselves in the 1999 general election. The PSWS was directly behind the WCI and supported this initiative by making available its resources in terms of staff and use of its office for the WCI Secretariat when needed. By virtue of its primary aim of running a woman candidate for Parliament during the 1999 election, the WCI took a brave plunge to be in the centre of politics. This initiative was initially part of a broader general effort by civil society activists to run for office as independents, based on issues such as labour rights, human rights, women’s rights, and environmentalism, which due to

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reasons of scarce resources and lack of a machinery did not take off.10 Moreover, they also realized that if they were to run as independent candidates it would have split the votes among the opposition and would result in helping the ruling regime to sweep into power again. Since the primary focus of WAC and SIS is to influence political parties, both the ruling and opposition parties, to support their respective agenda, they both remain within the realm of civil society. Depending on the nature and focus of their work, the relationship between the state and politically engaged women’s NGOs, such as AWAM and the PSWS, exhibits both adversarial and amiable characteristics. AWAM and the PSWS are examples of two women’s NGOs that have linked up with the wider social movements to broaden the political space in Malaysia. Due to this the government may be somewhat wary of them, though in the case of AWAM, its expertise has been sought, for example, to be in a committee established by the government to address sexual harassment at the work-place. However, AWAM has also been critical of statements made by women ministers, for example, the comment that the primary and natural place for women to be is still in the kitchen. Although the government may be wary of WAC (since WAC is critical of it), it has supported the latter’s agenda. This can be interpreted as a shrewd political move to attract votes from women to make up for the loss of support from its traditional Malay base. As for SIS, it has endorsed joint press statements with other politically engaged NGOs, for example, in urging for police professionalism to stop the inter-ethnic violence in Kampung Medan.11 On its own, SIS has also lobbied the government to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) that allows for detention without trial and for all those detained under this act to be released.12 However, the state has, in general, been benevolent towards SIS. This situation may be because SIS “will likely remain exclusive and intellectual, and because it realizes that the group in fact enhances Malaysia’s international image as a progressive, modernist and moderate Muslim country.”13 The government has also drawn on SIS’s expertise when necessary, for example, to chair the government’s Women’s Affairs Department sub-committee working on shari’a law reform. Historically, the left in Malaysia has been organized along communal lines due to colonialism, immigration, and the contemporary state and the different market positions of Malays and Chinese that have served to entrench a communal culture.14 This racial and religious cleavage can also be seen in civil society today. Politically engaged Islamic groups consist of mainly Malays who are by definition Muslims while other secular or

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religious groups comprised mainly Chinese, Indians,15 and indigenous people, such as Ibans, Kadazans, and so on. However, a few secular women’s groups deviate from this pattern as their members are racially mixed, as in the case of the Women’s Crisis Centre, Penang, which has quite a number of Malay women as both members and leaders of the organization. The core members of the WCI are racially mixed, with a more or less balanced proportion of Malays, Chinese, and Indians, all of whom are predominantly urban-based, middle class, and English speaking. Reflecting its constituency of Indian workers, even though they work with some Malay workers, the members of the PSWS are mainly Indian. As expected, PSWS members are fluent in Tamil though they may also speak English or Malay. In contrast, SIS members are mainly Malay, urban based, and English speaking, though most are bilingual. The differences in the nature and focus of the PSWS’s and SIS’s area of work determine the ethnic communities they work with and their respective experiences with the state which, in turn, have led to their different responses to the WCI and electoral politics, as will be discussed in later sections. POLITICAL CONTEXT PRIOR TO THE 1999 GENERAL ELECTION For a period of time, the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim, the former DPM, in September 1998 fanned hopes that social change was in the horizon; buoyed as it were by the large numbers of people who took to the streets to protest his sacking and subsequent arrest. In a highly charged and politicized trial, Anwar was found guilty and sentenced to serve fifteen years in jail for corruption (abuse of power) and sodomy; the sentence to run concurrently commencing from the date of his conviction on 14 April 1999. The verdict was expected as the public has largely lost confidence in the independence of the judiciary.16 An outcome of the reformasi movement was the formation of the National Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Nasional, or KeADILan) on 4 April 1999, with Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (Anwar’s wife) as the president. With the tenth general election approaching, the opposition parties formed the coalition opposition party, the BA, with the aim of seizing the opportunity to dethrone the BN, or at least to deny it the two-thirds majority in Parliament. The BA comprised four opposition parties: KeADILan, Malaysian People’s Party (Parti Rakyat Malaysia, PRM), PAS, and DAP. Although the KeADILan and DAP proclaim themselves as multi-ethnic parties, the former is largely Malay-based and the latter largely Chinese-based. As an Islamic party, PAS is a Malay-based party

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with its stronghold in the rural areas, and its political objective is to set up an Islamic state. The PRM is a multi-ethnic party committed to promoting social democracy and reducing inequalities in society. However, the PRM has been in decline over the years in terms of its ability to win seats in elections. The focus of the BA manifesto, “Towards a Just Malaysia”, was on promoting justice, democracy, freedom, and good governance; thus the manifesto emphasized the common goals of the four parties and avoided their differences, especially the Islamic state issue. The co-operation of the four parties enabled a straight fight between the BN and BA in most constituencies in the general election. Many civil rights activists became active in the opposition political parties and some even ran for election in a concerted effort to at least deny the BN its two-thirds majority in Parliament, which would effectively stop the BN government’s attempts to amend policies, laws, and even the Constitution. Two activists, Tian Chua and Irene Fernandez, joined the newly founded KeADILan to stand in the election while Sivarasa Rasiah, another activist, was a candidate for the PRM. In the aftermath of the power struggle within the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the dominant partner in the BN, which resulted in the sacking of the former deputy premier17 and the ensuing demonstration of public support for him, predominantly by the Malays, the feeling was that the tide may well turn against the BN in the general election. It is pertinent to note here that while the BA professes to uphold justice, democracy, and freedom, the extent to which this is practised is an issue, particularly with DAP and PAS. Kua Kia Soong, a civil rights activists, who joined DAP in 1990 and left in 1995, concluded from his experience with the party: Perhaps the most important of these was the need for STRUCTURAL reforms to ensure greater democracy, especially in the selection procedure for candidates instead of this power resting mainly in the hands of the SG [secretary general].18 In the case of PAS Farish Noor, a political scientist, commented that PAS also needed to know that many voters are dissatisfied with certain authoritarian elements practised by the party, such as the clergy ruling system.19 In criticizing PAS’s stand on apostasy, as reflected in the Kelantan Hudud Enactment which carries the death penalty, SIS in a letter to the newspapers remarked:

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PAS, in several of its laws, policies and utterances, has often chosen an interpretation of Islam that denies the plurality and diversity of the Malaysian heritage, the democratic principles and fundamental liberties most Malaysians believe in, and most importantly, Islam’s own principles of freedom, justice and equality.20 In addition, in the Kelantan Hudud Enactment, PAS disqualifies women and non-Muslims from the right to be witnesses and makes the assumption that an unmarried pregnant woman has committed illicit sex even though she might have been raped. PAS has also declared that Muslims who reject the Bill are apostates, meting them the death penalty for disagreeing or daring to challenge the authority. Thus PAS’s insistence on creating an Islamic state created difficult dilemmas for voters in general and for the women’s movement in particular. Indeed, though the Mahathir regime has over the years stifled the growth of democratic movement and eroded the democratic elements in the system of governance, compared to PAS, it nevertheless seems more progressive in terms of women’s issues and rights. This is not to say that the BN’s position on women in many issues is not problematic from the gender perspective. For example, the renaming of the Women’s Affairs Ministry, established in 2001, to the Women and Family Development Ministry signifies the conservative stance that women’s existence and role revolve solely around the family. On the other side, PAS is well known for its gender-biased view on women, as illustrated by the Kelantan Hudud Enactment and from the frequent sexist comments by the Kelantan Chief Minister, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who is also the party’s spiritual advisor.21 It appeared that the existence of other gender friendly party within the BA had limited or no effect in influencing PAS from making gender-insensitive statements or, more importantly, from changing the party’s mindset towards women. RESPONSES OF THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT TO THE ELECTION In preparation for the general election, there were two initiatives by individual women and women’s NGOs to ensure that women’s issues and interests were part of the agenda, namely WAC and the WCI. WAC was a collective document, containing position papers on major issues of concern from a gender equality and sustainable development perspective, to be

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used to lobby support and commit politicians to adopt the agenda in their election manifestoes. The WCI was an initiative to work collectively to field a woman parliamentary candidate in the election whose platform was to be on women’s issues as outlined in WAC. Thus in WAC women’s rights were discussed within a sustainable development framework that focused not only on women’s issues but also issues concerning justice and democracy, such as democratic governance. While women activists discussed both initiatives together in the late 1998, the initiatives diverged into two separate initiatives, each with its respective core proponents and supporters. The divergence of the initiatives was the result of the different women activists preferring different strategic priorities to advance women’s interests and rights during the general election. The WCI supporters argued that direct participation in formal politics would claim the political realm for women and thus directly have their own voice to champion women’s issues. It follows that the WCI will not be able to do what WAC does, that is, to approach and influence the ruling regime in its policies on women. While the state may not view politically engaged women’s NGOs as neutral, it may still be receptive to them provided they do not contest against it in the election. However, it is also dissatisfaction with the piecemeal reform being acceded to politically engaged women’s NGOs lobbying efforts by the state and limited progressive voices on women’s rights issues being heard in Parliament that has spurred the WCI. Nonetheless, while a number of women were involved in both WAC and the WCI as individuals, the PSWS was the only women’s NGO to do as such. Except for a few men, the WCI activists predominantly comprised multi-racial, middle class, urban women from Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur who were in their twenties or thirties. While the background of the WCI activists indicates that women with “only limited experience as activists are just as capable of defining and leading a women’s movement as their more experienced colleagues”22 in WAC, it also reflects a generation gap in terms of the differing strategy chosen to advance women’s rights and interests. In addition, the WCI also derived its core active members from the PSWS, who gave their full support and energy before and during the election campaign. Getting a candidate, let alone candidates, to run for the election was more difficult than imagined. Women activists who were approached to run seemed more comfortable to remain within the realm of civil society or for various other reasons, such as the obstacles confronting a woman’s path to formal politics, declined to accept. Only one activist, Zaiton

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Kassim, volunteered to run in the election. Zaiton is a well-known figure in the women’s activist circle; a former vice-president of AWAM, a Muslim activist who has managed to advance a range of issues affecting women in general and Muslim women in particular, as well as promoting women’s and human rights issues. Departing from the traditional voting pattern based along ethnic and party lines, the WCI aimed to educate and to promote a voting pattern based on issues. To achieve this, voter education was carried out by its volunteers who distributed leaflets door to door in a few communities and spoke to those present, particularly women, on their situation in the communities and tried to raise their awareness to demand that those who ran in their constituencies respond to their needs and concerns. While at one point the idea of running as an independent without being aligned to any party was raised, the WCI’s lack of resources quickly eliminated that idea. As the WCI is committed to justice, democracy, and transparency in governance, it decided to align with the BA under a common logo against the BN. However, the common logo did not materialize, nor was the WCI able to secure a seat from one of the parties it originally approached as the party concerned was also having difficulty in securing enough seats for its own members to contest. More importantly, negotiations for seats were based on party strength and traditional stronghold or perceived ethnic support, of which the WCI cannot lay claim to.23 In the end the WCI’s candidate ran under the DAP banner as the party was able to offer it a seat. This seems to be the best choice as it solved the issue of resources for the WCI and averted the possibility of splitting the votes for the BA if Zaiton were to run as an independent. Also, Zaiton did not have to become a DAP member to run and this provided a certain degree of autonomy as she was not bound by the DAP party line. Although I have noted in an earlier article that this initiative is significant as it encouraged women to be involved in politics without the hindrance posed by party structures or lines,24 it is nonetheless limited by its association with the BA. For example, when PAS made its gender-biased remark on women prior to polling day, the WCI was hampered from countering it publicly, thus limiting its independence. Although this was done in order to maintain the alliance unity, this decision could be questioned in terms of serving women’s interests. The action taken was to send a letter to the PAS leadership expressing displeasure over such remarks. Similarly, PAS, despite its conservative position pertaining to women’s roles in society, has been supportive of the WCI candidate by sharing its resources, such as by mobilizing its members to show their support for the candidate on

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nomination day. Nevertheless, both were trying to influence or exert their position on each other, as illustrated by PAS’s request for the candidate, who is a Muslim, to wear a headscarf, which the candidate steadfastly refused to. In the broader context the association between the WCI and PAS was made possible by both parties’ desire to defeat the BN. In addition, the WCI’s calculation was that PAS would not be able to secure a two-thirds majority in Parliament on its own; negating the possibility of amending the Constitution to bring into being an Islamic state and furthering the party’s retrogressive position on women. WAC was drafted by four women’s NGOs, namely the Women’s Development Collective (WDC), AWAM, PSWS, and SIS, together with concerned women activists, after a series of consultations. The drafters organized a national workshop in January 1999 and presented ten position papers; later on, another position paper on Women, Health, and Sexuality was added. Four months later, in May, WAC was launched with the endorsements of seventy-six organizations. The aims of WAC are to (1) draw attention to specific problems, issues, and needs of women which should be recognized and addressed; (2) raise awareness of women and men on the position of women in Malaysia; (3) strengthen the political participation and voices of women in Malaysia so as to promote and achieve gender equality and to work for a just and democratic society; and (4) strengthen a network of women’s organizations and NGOs towards the advancement of the status of women in Malaysia. As a lobbying initiative, the organizations approached both the ruling and opposition parties to adopt the agenda in their election manifestoes. As such, in contrast to the WCI, WAC is not aligned to any sides though individuals involved in the initiative may do so in a personal capacity. The response from the Members of Parliament was poor, as only seven (four from the BN and three from DAP) out of 192 of them committed themselves to WAC.25 This is not because women’s issues were not important to the BN as there were a few meetings held with various leaders in the government after it was launched, for example, with the DPM and women leaders from the various component parties of the BN who made general promises to work on these issues. Clearly, the BN was using WAC for its own political ends, that is, to gain women’s support26 in the general election. In another example, in spite of the lobbying and memoranda sent to grant women equal guardianship rights all these years, it was only in the run-up to the general election that the government amended the Guardianship Act 1961. Even then, it fell short of the demand of the women’s movement as only

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non-Muslim women are granted equal guardianship rights. Since then, as a result of the follow-up done by women’s NGOs, particularly SIS, an administrative directive was made to government departments to amend all official forms and legal documents which require the signature of the legal guardian to include the signature of mother, father, or legal guardian. While the action taken alleviates the difficult situation some Muslim women are in, in the long term the solution would be to amend the Islamic Family Law/Enactments to give Muslim women equal rights to guardianship. This administrative move is perhaps reflective of the ruling élites’ efforts not to sideline the religious authorities or perhaps even reflects their own stance on women’s position in Islam. Furthermore, it is the government’s Islamization policy over the past decades, conceived to co-opt the influence of the Islamic movements in Malaysia and to gain support among the Muslim population, that has contributed to the growing conservatism of the Muslim community. In a letter to the newspapers SIS urged the government not to legislate on faith based on the “holier than thou battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim voters”.27 For example, the government reacted to PAS’s Hudud Enactment in Kelantan by drafting a model statute called the Islamic Aqidah (Faith) Protection Bill 2000 under which Muslims who leave the religion will be subjected to a oneyear compulsory detention in an Aqidah Rehabilitation Centre.

PSWS’S28 RESPONSE TO THE WCI, WAC, AND ELECTORAL POLITICS The PSWS originated in the late 1970s when a group of women came together to discuss the situation of women workers in the Sungai Way Free Trade Zone. It is committed to support women workers in their struggle to improve their lives, communities, work-place, and organizations. In addition, the PSWS is also committed to general issues of democracy, justice, and equality in Malaysian society. Started as a volunteer group, it received financial support for the past two decades but has recently been selfreliant. The PSWS’s constituency is mainly the Indian, and some Malay, women factory workers in the Klang valley and Kajang area. In working towards achieving its vision of a society built on equality and justice regardless of gender and class, the PSWS adopted a twopronged strategy. One strategy is to provide support at a personal level to women workers who are battered or having problems with their children. The services the PSWS provides in this area are counselling and assisting

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them to get the resources needed, such as legal help. A second strategy is to organize or to strengthen the individuals or women workers’ groups who approach them for help in dealing with exploitative employers; for example, these employers flout the inadequate labour laws of the country, such as non-payment of Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and incorrect calculation of overtime and annual leave. In these cases the PSWS will hold meetings with the affected women workers to help them plan and strategize to get their fair due. Depending on the needs, informal training workshops are provided, covering a range of topics including labour laws, sexual harassment, family laws, domestic violence, land issues, and women and politics. The PSWS runs three programmes: (1) women workers’ programme; (2) children’s and young women’s programme; and (3) fund-raising programme. The women workers’ programme consists of four main activities, namely helping women to handle employment-related and personal cases; providing education and training; community organizing in urban pioneer communities; and networking with women workers and justice and democracy organizations. The children’s and young women’s programme consists of (1) young women’s projects where meetings are held regularly with teenage girls to learn and share knowledge on issues affecting them, such as education, discrimination against girls, the environment, and work; and (2) pre-school projects where the PSWS runs kindergartens and day-care centres. In recent years the successes of the PSWS have been to keep the women workers’ agenda in particular and labour agenda in general on national policy documents, such as WAC and the Human Rights Charter. Thus, the PSWS is also involved in various types of lobbying to highlight and advance their issues. Another area where the PSWS has been relatively successful is in raising the awareness of women workers on their rights and interests. However, it is difficult to measure the level of success in awareness-raising activities except in obvious cases where women workers who came for training on occupational health and safety have resigned from their work-place. In terms of constraints, Irene notes, “the most urgent is the lack of democratic space to organize women workers due to restricted and inadequate labour laws”.29 Ideologically, the PSWS differs with the state’s vision on development policies and related labour issues. The PSWS believes in a strong workers’ movement with freedom to organize, bargain, and strike to protect their rights whereas the state pursues a development policy that seeks to attract investment by curtailing labour rights, as in the

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case of the electronics industry.30 In its efforts to organize women workers in this industry, the PSWS has encountered those who expressed their fear of joining the unions in case of repercussions. Over the years the state, through its policies and laws, has fragmented and crippled the labour movement to the extent that from a height of over 50 per cent of unionization in 1947,31 less than 10 per cent of the workers were unionized in 1995.32 Thus, from an ideological point of view, the PSWS and the state are at different ends of the spectrum on labour issues. Strategically, it makes sense for the PSWS to be involved in electoral politics and to enter into a pact with the BA to restore workers’ rights. The PSWS’s support for the BA then is expressed in terms of it being an alternative to the BN, the ruling regime responsible for the state of deterioration of labour rights and the general lack of democratic space in Malaysia. Although the PSWS totally disagrees with PAS’s position on women, it still supports the BA because it perceives the BA as a “dynamic process” where there are other parties to balance or check PAS’s position on women and other issues. Furthermore, Irene asks, “Is the BN’s position on women any better?”, citing the example of the fatwa (religious decree) to not allow Muslim women to participate in beauty contests and arrest those who do. Similarly, in Irene’s opinion, the BN’s fatwa on apostasy is not that dissimilar to that of PAS. In the 1999 general election the PSWS was active in both the WCI and WAC. Since the PSWS’s objective is to put labour issues on the agenda, involvement with the WCI enabled it to raise women’s issues at the mass level. In WAC, a progressive document, the PSWS’s stake is also in the same area. The PSWS’s concern for WAC is that as a lobbying group it needs to exercise caution to avoid being used by the BN to prop up its regime. The PSWS’s future direction is to continue to change the imbalance of power for labour in the political sphere. It hopes to raise awareness and to change mindsets that have impeded the involvement of workers and trade unions in politics. Since DAP has pulled out of the BA, Irene asserts, “the coalition does not exist any more and the PSWS needs to rethink its position towards the BA”. SIS’S33 RESPONSE TO THE WCI, WAC, AND ELECTORAL POLITICS SIS is a group of Muslim professional women committed to promoting the rights of women within the framework of Islam. SIS was formed in 1988

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but was only registered officially as an NGO in 1991. SIS’s mission is to promote an awareness of the true principles of Islam, principles that enshrine the concept of equality between women and men, and to strive towards creating a society that upholds the Islamic principles of equality, justice, freedom, and dignity within a democratic state. SIS’s constituency is the public, Muslims and non-Muslims, as according to Zainah Anwar, one of the founders of SIS, “it aims to raise awareness that there are different viewpoints within Islam instead of one gospel truth such as on the position of women in Islam and the freedom of religion”. SIS has four programmes: (1) research and interpretation; (2) advocacy for reform; (3) public education; and (4) public lectures. SIS’s research activities are based upon a specific methodological framework that draws on the Islamic principles of equality, justice, freedom, and dignity while addressing issues of the rights of Muslim women and the diverse concerns of the Muslim community. Research is done under the guidance and assistance of progressive Islamic scholars from within and outside the group. The research activities conducted support SIS’s advocacy and public education work. Under its advocacy and reform programme, since 1993 SIS has submitted six important memoranda to the government, for example, the Kelantan Shari’ah Criminal Bill (1993), the Domestic Violence Bill (1994), the Shari’ah Criminal Law and Fundamental Liberties (1997), and the equal right to guardianship for Muslim women (1998). Some of the seminars, workshops, and forums organized to discuss issues of significance to Islam in Malaysia and the region under SIS’s public education programme are “Islam and the Modern Nation State”, “Equality, Women, and Islam”, “Islam, Culture, and Democracy”, and “Islam, Reproductive Health, and Women’s Rights”. SIS’s public lecture series launched in 1995 is designed to expose the general public to alternative progressive thinking in Islam by eminent Islamic scholars. In terms of SIS’s successes, this can be seen in the administrative directive issued by the government to enable Muslim women to act as the legal guardian in official documents that previously only recognized the father as the legal guardian and the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 1994 which covers both Muslims and non-Muslims. While raising awareness and public education are important for SIS, it is difficult to measure its success in this area. Constraints faced in the course of SIS’s work include the length of time needed to change people’s minds that have been fed with misogynistic views over a long period of time and the non-questioning attitude concerning religion that has been cultivated and enforced. Another constraint SIS

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faces is the difficulty in reaching out to other Muslim women’s groups and working with them formally, due to SIS’s progressive views. However, SIS works with individual women within these groups and network with other organizations that work on women’s and human rights issues. SIS’s position is to work with any group as long as it supports SIS’s cause, irrespective of whether it is a ruling or opposition party. It has worked with DAP on Islam and chaired the government Women’s Affairs Department sub-committee working group on shari’a law reform. In terms of electoral politics, SIS does not want to be embroiled in it as it may be damaging to its cause but will support political parties, the government, and other NGOs when their interests coincide. SIS is of the opinion that while the religious authorities in the government and PAS leaders share the same conservative view with regards to women’s position and role in society, the Federal authority’s view on this matter is better. This view is supported by the standoff between Mahathir and the Islamic Religious Affairs Department following the arrest of Muslim female contestants for “violating” Islamic codes on undress in a beauty pageant in Selangor in July 1997 that resulted in the head Selangor mufti, Ishak Baharum, losing his contract renewal.34 While individual members of SIS are supportive of the WCI, it cannot do so as an organization due to its decision not to engage in formal politics. Moreover, SIS’s ideological vision of a multiplicity of viewpoints concerning the issues of women’s position in Islam and the freedom of religion clashes with PAS’s patriarchal perspective on women’s position and undemocratic stance on the freedom of religion for Muslims. As such, Zainah voiced her observation that “while SIS can exist under the BN administration, it is not sure it will under PAS, which may well issue a fatwa to close it down”. She further cited PAS’s undemocratic practices, referring to NorAsiah’s case that took place three years earlier. In this incident NorAsiah wanted to convert to Christianity, the religion of her boyfriend. Her family went to the press and PAS requested the government to detain her under the ISA. PAS also issued posters asking the public to bring her back to the Islamic fold and attacked the government for its inaction. PAS, on the other hand, may be more tolerant of the PSWS because the main focus of their respective concerns does not come into direct contestation with each other. SIS’s future direction is to concentrate more on public education. Generally, it will be targeting the public to build a constituency supportive of progressive voices in Islam. Specifically, young Muslim women will be targeted as from SIS’s survey it was found that Muslim women between

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15 and 24 years old are more conservative on various issues pertaining to women and Islam compared to those over 40 years old. CONCLUSIONS Both the WCI and the WAC initiative have their strengths and pitfalls. The WCI’s entrance into formal politics is a bold statement of women claiming a central place in politics and empowering themselves to directly articulate their concerns rather than mediating them through other political parties. It is also an attempt at freeing the political space for women from being limited by party politics and to influence an issue-based discourse, in this case women’s issues and democratic and just governance, rather than along the traditional lines of party and racial discourse. This attempt is, however, contained within the established and entrenched communal party politics where the mechanics of allocation of seats is based on party strength and traditional electoral support along ethnic lines. Being a part of the BA has also limited the WCI’s autonomy in terms of its capacity to speak publicly against PAS’s patriarchal views on women though this did not stop the WCI from expressing its disagreement with PAS and “settling” it internally. The responses of the women’s movement to the WCI’s entrance into formal politics are characterized by ambiguities, as illustrated by the PSWS’s and SIS’s responses. Different experiences with and ideological expectations of the BN or PAS had shaped each of the NGOs’ decision. The PSWS’s unequivocal and formal support of the WCI was in part due to its negative experiences with the BN’s state-led development policies that had severely restricted workers’ rights. So, although the PSWS disagreed with PAS’s position on women, it could still work with the party as its main foe is the BN. In addition, the PSWS’s decision is based on the calculation that other member parties of the BA would serve as a check and balance mechanism against PAS’s position on women and other issues. In contrast, since SIS’s work and ideology are in direct conflict with that of PAS, the latter may well proscribe SIS if it should come into power. SIS thus had difficulty with the WCI’s alliance with the BA in which PAS is a member even if SIS is supportive of the WCI. While both the PSWS’s and SIS’s positions are constrained by ethnic considerations, this should not be understood in simple ethnic terms. Rather, the decision each made was contingent upon the respective organization’s history, area of focus, and experiences with the state and opposition parties.

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At another level, the formal support of the PSWS and informal support shown by SIS towards the WCI entrance into electoral politics reflect their differing standpoint concerning whether as an NGO each should remain within civil society or cross over to political society. The PSWS is clear that it is willing to do so just as SIS is unwilling to enter into the electoral political terrain. In contrast, both are able to show formal support of WAC, which remains within the civil society realm. The decision to cross over to political society is an empowering move in itself as it is an expression of the limited influence civil society has over the state in Malaysia. However, this means that politically engaged women’s NGOs, such as the WCI and PSWS, are not considered “neutral” (though, of course, the NGOs may well argue that no decision is neutral). The state may easily dismiss them as being part of the opposition out to paint it in a negative light rather than to listen to and give due consideration to the issues they are bringing forth. Notes 1 See Kua Kia Soong, Inside the DAP 1990–1995 (Kuala Lumpur: Kua Kia Soong, 1996). 2 However, not long after the November 1999 election DAP left the coalition over the “Islamic state” controversy. 3 Johan Saravanamuttu, “Malaysian Civil Society — Awakenings?”, in Risking Malaysia: Culture, Politics and Identity, edited by Maznah Mohamad and Wong Soak Koon (Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 2001), pp. 96–98. 4 Jesudason (1995) cited in Saravanamuttu, ibid., p. 98. 5 Chua (1995) cited in Saravanamuttu, ibid., p. 97. 6 These two distinct types of NGOs are noted by Tan and Bishan (1994) cited in Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan, “Introduction: From Moral Communities to NGOs”, in Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan (London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), p. 8. 7 Weiss and Saliha, “Introduction: From Moral Communities to NGOs”, p. 8. 8 Gerard Clarke (1998) cited in Weiss and Saliha, “Introduction: From Moral Communities to NGOs”, p. 30. 9 Lai Suat Yan, “The Women’s Movement in Peninsular Malaysia, 1900–99: A Historical Analysis”, in Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan (London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), p. 60. 10 Politically engaged NGOs, particularly human rights NGOs, are often disappointed by the state that is largely unresponsive to their demands.

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Often the state’s response to campaigns to do away with repressive laws or for democratic governance has been more arrests or intimidation of NGO activists or even more repressive laws. Due to this, human rights NGOs are often aligned with opposition parties whose leaders and activities are the obvious targets of the repressive laws. It is common for a joint press statement issued by human rights NGOs on various matters pertaining to just and democratic governance for a campaign to be endorsed by opposition parties. It is also common for human rights activists and opposition leaders or lawyers to be seen together on the same side at a scene of demonstration organized by human rights NGOs for one of their campaigns or at the demolition site of urban settlers who are in the process of being evicted from their homes. Since campaigns by human rights NGOs have largely been unable to influence the state, their allies have been the opposition parties. Taking a step further, as demonstrated in the 1999 general election, quite a number of prominent human rights activists and leaders ran for office under the banner of opposition politics. These worked for both sides as opposition parties need their leadership and they in turn need the resources and machinery of these parties to run for office. Joint press statement, “ ‘NGOs for a Violence-Free Community’ Calls for Police Professionalism to Stop Violence in Kg. Medan”, 12 March 2001. SIS’s letter to the Home Minister, “Mansuhkan ISA dan Bebaskan Tahanan ISA”, 6 June 2001. Saliha Hassan, “Islamic Nongovernmental Organizations”, in Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan (London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), p. 109. Muhammad Ikmal (1992) cited in Meredith Weiss. “Malaysian NGOs: History, Legal Framework and Characteristics”, in Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan (London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), p. 42. Meredith Weiss, “Malaysian NGOs: History, Legal Framework and Characteristics”, in Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan (London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), p. 41. Since the crisis of the judiciary in 1988, its independence is in question and the traditional role it plays to check against excesses in executive power has been undermined. The power struggle within UMNO is one of the competing explanations outlined to explain the sacking of Anwar by Francis Loh, “A Nation on Trial”, Aliran Monthly 18, no. 9 (October 1998): 5–7. Kua, op. cit., pp. 10–11. Farish A. Noor, “Pilihanraya 1999: Suatu Perubahan Medan Politik Malaysia”, in Dilema UMNO: Analisa Pilihanraya 1999 (Petaling Jaya: Strategic Info Research Development, 2000), p. 41.

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20 SIS, “Islam, Apostasy and PAS”, 22 July 1999. Letter to the Editor, The Star. 21 For example, he advised his staff not to employ beautiful women as it is easy for them to find husbands (The Star, 21 July 1999). 22 Patricia Martinez, “Complex Configurations: The Women’s Agenda for Change and the Women’s Candidacy Initiative”, in Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan (London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), p. 88. 23 Tan Beng Hui and Cecilia Ng, “Embracing the Challenge of Representation: The Women’s Movement and Electoral Politics in Malaysia” (Paper presented at the Third International Malaysian Studies Conference, Bangi, Malaysia, 6–8 August 2001). 24 Lai, op. cit., p. 69. 25 The Star, 2 September 1999. 26 As observed by Irene Xavier, one of the founders of the PSWS and a member of WAC, in an interview on 2 November 2001 and as noted in Tan Beng Hui and Cecilia Ng, “Embracing the Challenge of Representation: The Women’s Movement and Electoral Politics in Malaysia” (Paper presented at the Third International Malaysian Studies Conference, Bangi, Malaysia, 6–8 August 2001). 27 SIS, “Do Not Legislate on Faith”, 29 September 2000. Letter to the Editor, The Star. 28 Information for this section is based on an interview with Irene Xavier, one of the founders of the PSWS, on 2 November 2001. 29 Irene also notes that the difficulty in organizing women workers is complicated by the long hours they work in the factory and at home, making it difficult for them to find the time to attend meetings to improve their situation. 30 For a more detailed treatment of the state development policy and curtailing of labour rights and workers’ efforts to organize and protect their rights, see Elizabeth Grace, Shortcircuiting Labour: Unionising Electronic Workers in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 1990); James Lochead, “Retrenchment in a Malaysian Free Trade Zone”, in Daughters in Industry, edited by Noeleen Heyzer (Kuala Lumpur: Asian and Pacific Development Center, 1987); and Tan Wan Yean, “Freedom of Association with Particular Reference to Inhouse Unions in the Electronics Industry in Malaysia” (Bachelor of Law [Hons] dissertation, University of Malaya, 1994/95). 31 Morgan cited in Rohana Ariffin, Women and Trade Unions in Peninsular Malaysia with Special Reference to MTUC and CUEPACS (Penang: Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, 1997). 32 K. Sundram Jomo and V. Kanapathy, “Economic Liberalization and Labour in Malaysia: Efficiency and Equity Considerations in Public Policy Reform” (Paper submitted to International Labour Organization, Bangkok, 1996). 33 Information for this section is based on an interview with Zainah Anwar, one of the founders of SIS, on 2 November 2001.

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34 This example is used to support Mahathir’s emphasis on a moderate and innovative Islam rather than on form, attire, and spiritual observance; John Hilley, Malaysia: Mahathirism, Hegemony and the New Opposition (London and New York: Zed Books, 2001), p. 192.

References Farish A. Noor. “Pilihanraya 1999: Suatu Perubahan Medan Politik Malaysia”. In Dilema UMNO: Analisa Pilihanraya 1999. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Info Research Development, 2000. Grace, Elizabeth. Shortcircuiting Labour: Unionising Electronic Workers in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 1990. Hilley, John. Malaysia: Mahathirism, Hegemony and the New Opposition. London and New York: Zed Books, 2001. Jomo, K. Sundram and V. Kanapathy. “Economic Liberalization and Labour in Malaysia: Efficiency and Equity Considerations in Public Policy Reform”. Paper submitted to International Labour Organization, Bangkok, 1996. Lai Suat Yan. “The Women’s Movement in Peninsular Malaysia, 1900–99: A Historical Analysis”. In Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan. London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003. Lochead, James. “Retrenchment in a Malaysian Free Trade Zone”. In Daughters in Industry, edited by Noeleen Heyzer. Kuala Lumpur: Asian and Pacific Development Center, 1987. Loh, Francis. “A Nation on Trial”. Aliran Monthly 18, no. 9 (October 1998): 5–7. Kua Kia Soong. Inside the DAP 1990–1995. Kuala Lumpur: Kua Kia Soong, 1996. Martinez, Patricia. “Complex Configurations: The Women’s Agenda for Change and the Women’s Candidacy Initiative”. In Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan. London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003. Rohana Ariffin. Women and Trade Unions in Peninsular Malaysia with Special Reference to MTUC and CUEPACS. Penang: Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, 1997. Saliha Hassan. “Islamic Nongovernmental Organizations”. In Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan. London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003. Saravanamuttu, Johan. “Malaysian Civil Society — Awakenings?”. In Risking Malaysia: Culture, Politics and Identity, edited by Maznah Mohamad and Wong Soak Koon. Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 2001. Tan Beng Hui and Cecilia Ng. “Embracing the Challenge of Representation: The Women’s Movement and Electoral Politics in Malaysia”. Paper presented at the Third International Malaysian Studies Conference, 6–8 August 2001, in Bangi, Malaysia.

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Tan Wan Yean. “Freedom of Association with Particular Reference to In-house Unions in the Electronics Industry in Malaysia”. Bachelor of Law (Hons) dissertation, University of Malaya, 1994/95. The Star, 21 July 1999, 2 September 1999. Weiss, Meredith. “Malaysian NGOs: History, Legal Framework and Characteristics”. In Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan. London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003. Weiss, Meredith L. and Saliha Hassan. “Introduction: From Moral Communities to NGOs”. In Social Movements in Malaysia, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan. London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

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7 Civil Society Effectiveness and the Vietnamese State — Despite or Because of the Lack of Autonomy Russell Hiang-Khng Heng INTRODUCTION In this chapter, the term “state” firstly refers to the totality of political authority in Vietnam. Although the state in a socialist country is usually so dominated by its communist party that it has spawned the term “partystate”, I have opted for just simply the “state”. The term “state” should not be confused, as it tends to be in ordinary language, with the term “government”. Institutionally, the state is made up of the party and the government. The party, in this instance, is the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) and the government comprises the legislative organ (National Assembly) and the administrative organs (the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries or committees under its purview). Then there are the mass organizations that represent interest groups, such as women, youth, religion, and workers. They are controlled by the party but are not, formally speaking, of the party or of the government. However, I would also consider these mass organizations as part of the state. These institutions are what Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet (2001, p. 270) calls the “physical and structural aspects of the state”. He also identifies the “ideological dimension and psychological impact of a state” and reminds us that “the state also has purposes, plans, objectives”. In this chapter, the definition of the “state” will encompass such a broad, inclusive meaning. Writing of state–society relations in Vietnam, Kerkvliet (1995b, pp. 40– 41) argues that while at one level it makes sense to see state and society as distinct and relating to each other as separate entities, at another level it is

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necessary to recognize that “state and society are often intermingled”. This lack of clear delineation derives from the way in which communist regimes have structured their societies (Nathan 1990, pp. 5–6). The state tends to develop a broad network of organizations to ensure that the ruling communist party penetrates into every possible sector and level of society, for example, party cells at the workplace and in the neighbourhood. The extent to which party penetration is carried out varies from one socialist regime to another. Within any one state, differences also exist over time. Generally speaking, the praxis of the ideology sees the socialist state determined to penetrate society. Under such circumstances, civil society finds it hard to thrive. However, in recent years socialist states like Vietnam have started to experience forms of activism popularly known today as civil society. This would include phenomena such as media being critical of the state, religious groups resisting state interference, ethnic minorities demanding more equality, and dissidents agitating for greater intellectual freedom, to name just a few examples. In its less sensitive form, civil society in Vietnam also includes an increasing number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in many areas of public welfare, variously tolerated or even appreciated by the state because they supplement inadequate state programmes. What is the Vietnamese state’s relationship with these civil society actors? If state and civil society are not separate, what kind of civil society is it and what will it amount to?

AUTONOMY ISSUE A strand within the vast literature on civil society addresses the concern about the autonomy (or the lack of) of societal actors — the media could be considered one of them — when they operate in contention with the state. My terms of reference are taken largely from academic literature produced around the rising wave of dissident activities in the Eastern European socialist bloc and China during the 1980s. Many writers interpret those challenges to the state in a “civil society versus the state” analytical framework, following the post-eighteenth century tradition of dichotomizing the two entities.1 A number incorporate autonomy from the state as one of the attributes of civil society (for example, Maley 1991; Holmes 1992, p. 69; Kelly and He 1992, p. 24; Miller 1992a, pp. 1, 5–7; Rigby 1992, p. 11; White, G. 1993, p. 64; and Diamond 1994, pp. 5–7). It rides on the logic that if civil society does not have autonomy of action, the state can order civil society actors to back off from any contestation that the state

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fears it may lose. Such a civil society must need be a weak one. This sounds like an a priori argument. However, the empirical evidence in support of societal autonomy and its contribution to civil society remains qualified and tentative. Firstly, there is the question of how autonomous does “autonomous of the state” need to be. Robert Miller sees civil society as a sphere of societal activity “free of governmental domination” (Miller 1992a, p. 132) but recognizes that civil society is promoted by liberal elements within the communist party establishing spheres of activities free of state control (Miller 1992b, p. 7). Secondly, writers like T. H. Rigby (1992, pp. 11, 14) are also careful to qualify their use of the term “autonomous of the state” as something “more or less” and “a relative rather than an absolute quality”. Thirdly, autonomy from the state does not guarantee civil society, as Ernest Gellner (1995, p. 33) points out when he says that “traditional man can sometimes escape the tyranny of kings, but only at the cost of falling under the tyranny of cousins”. He illustrates this with instances from the ancient world and the classical heartland of Islam, where individual freedom was severely restricted by kinship groups. Fourthly, too much societal autonomy can destabilize the state–civil society relationship. For example, Larry Diamond (1994, p. 14) argues that a “hyperactive, confrontational and relentlessly rent-seeking civil society can overwhelm a weak penetrated state with the diversity and magnitude of its demand, leaving little in the way of a truly ‘public’ sector concerned with the overall welfare of society”. Fifthly, growth and decline of societal autonomy can follow many configurations of state–civil society dynamics and not just a simple inverse relationship of civil society growing stronger at the expense of the state. As David Wank (1995, p. 75) points out in his study of China, private businesses gained more autonomy because local authority made money in collaboration with them; thus the richer coffers of the state at the local level reduced its financial dependence on the central state. However, the overall societal autonomy which grows out of this arrangement is not so much the growing autonomy of society vis à vis the state as the heightened autonomy of the locales composed of alliances between local state and society actors vis à vis the central state. Finally, Rigby (1992, p. 14) argues that a robust civil society must reach beyond being autonomous of the state to “substantially colonize the [political order] and remake it in its [civil society’s] own image”. He refers to parliamentary government as the quintessential consequence of successful colonization of the political order by civil society. If that is the case, then civil society would seem to have travelled full circle to its pre-eighteenth century definition of being coterminous with the state.

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DEBATE ABOUT VIETNAM To come to grips with the autonomy issue for civil society, it is useful to understand the nature of how the Vietnamese state relates to society. Scholars on Vietnam have differed on how they perceive the nature of the Vietnamese state. Kerkvliet’s (2001, pp. 242–45) summary of the literature argues that the various perspectives have shaken out into three broad interpretations of the political system. Carlyle Thayer (1992, pp. 111–12), Brantly Womack (1992, p. 180), and Gareth Porter (1993, p. 101) represent the Vietnamese system as the “domination state” where major decisions are made within the state, in which the VCP is the most powerful and pervasive institution. Womack (1992, p. 180) sees such a state as vast and co-ordinated enough to pre-empt “alternative and autonomous societal organizations from the national centre down to the grassroots of the village and the workplace”. For Thayer (1992, pp. 111–12), Vietnam’s system is “mono-organizational socialism” in which “there is little scope for the organization of activity independent of the party-led command structures”. Though the VCP’s liberalization programme of doi moi (meaning reforms) has relaxed the party’s grip, its control was reasserted after 1988 and “civil society [is] awaiting the erosion of mono-organizational socialism before developing further”.2 William Turley (1993a, pp. 330–31; 1993b, pp. 269–70) modifies the first argument and suggests a concept of “mobilizational authoritarianism” where social forces may influence policy but only through organizations that the state dominates. Others may call this “state corporatism”. Putting the two together, Kerkvliet calls this second interpretation of the Vietnamese state “mobilizational corporatism”. Both the first two interpretations deal primarily with formal institutions of politics. They emphasize national-level politics and neglect local political dynamics. While concentrating on policy-making, they pay little attention to discrepancies between what the state has proclaimed as policy and what people in society actually do. They therefore ascribe too much power to the state and too little to society. Alexander Woodside (1979), Nigel Thrift and Dean Forbes (1986), and Melanie Beresford (1989, 1995) argue a third perspective where the state has inadequate resources to implement the policies it wants and has to compromise with forces that are beyond its control. Thrift and Forbes (1986, pp. 81–83, 101–4) call this a “penetrating civil society” while Beresford (1989, pp. 116–18) believes the VCP recognizes the “existence of independent sources of political power”. Other researchers have joined them in describing situations where pressures from various quarters of society have led to significant policy changes (White, C. 1985; Fforde 1989, especially pp. 203–5; Chu et al. 1992,

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especially pp. 78–79; and Kerkvliet 1995a). All these studies point to the possibility of negotiation between various components of the state and interest in society. Kerkvliet (2001, pp. 244–45) summarizes this phenomenon as “dialogue”. Kerkvliet (2001, pp. 245–68) examines the evidence of the three interpretations — dominating state, mobilizational corporatism, and dialogical state — in the four arenas of governing institutions and processes, media, agricultural collectives, and corruption. He concludes that all three interpretations are present in all the arenas. Thus a dynamic situation occurs in Vietnam where, on the one hand, people are enjoying more space that does not require interacting with agencies of the state but, on the other, the state still retains key control of citizens’ prerogative to organize and act publicly on important issues. This explains why NGOs and other signs of civil society are only just emerging in Vietnam. Kerkvliet’s cautious evaluation of civil society has also been the views of a small body of works that address the theme of Vietnamese civil society directly. Carlyle Thayer (1992), applying T.H. Rigby’s model of mono-organizational socialism to Vietnam, describes a tightly organized and controlled political system which gives little opportunity for activity autonomous of the party-led command structure. Thus Thayer’s conclusion is that civil society has to remain at “a nascent stage” until the further erosion of mono-organizational socialism. Nguyen Ngoc Giao (1995, p. 16), writing specifically about the media as a manifestation of civil society, adopts a somewhat similar perspective of civil society stymied because the Vietnamese state has “dispossessed [society] of every means of autonomous organization” (tuoc doat moi kha nang tu to chuc). Carole Beaulieu (1994a) too shares this doubt about the strength of civil society in Vietnam because she finds that while a new breed of NGOs have autonomy in running their programmes, they are often tied up with a minimal but de rigueur level of official patronage and minding. Two papers presented by participants from Vietnam at the Australian National University’s Vietnam Update conference in 1994 on civil society convey a similar sense of ambivalence, albeit in more discursive ways (Nguyen Ngoc Truong 1994; and Tran Thi Lanh 1994).3 Nguyen Ngoc Truong sees the contribution of doi moi to the growth of civil society in terms of the return of private economic initiative and the flourishing of formal and informal societal groups to help solve social problems. Yet he seems to be divided between saying there is and there is no autonomous societal association. At any rate, he thinks “it will be a mistake if we only emphasize their absolute independence or their private nature or confront them with the ruling Party and the State” (Nguyen Ngoc

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Truong 1994, pp. 17–18).4 Tran Thi Lanh is more forthright in saying at the start of her paper that “if we understand an NGO to be an independent body not linked to Party or State, it is clear that in Vietnam there are difficulties associated with the acceptance of this definition” (Tran Thi Lanh 1994, p. 1). All these works are framed by the debate over civil society’s need for a measure of autonomy from the state. Whether or not Vietnamese civil society evinces sufficient autonomy, David Marr (1994, p. 11) reminds us that officialdom in Vietnam is aware of the political risk in the proliferation of societal groups organized informally outside the ambit of the state. He adds that most party writers take the view that the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF, or Mat Tran To Quoc Viet Nam) must be revived and informal organizations assimilated.5 In other words, the “autonomy” of societal groups does preoccupy the state even though the de facto policy, as Nguyen Ngoc Truong and Tran Thi Lanh indicate in their papers, is to neither prohibit nor encourage them.

MEDIA AS CIVIL SOCIETY ACTOR This chapter will use the issue of media activism to explore the question of civil society’s autonomy from the state. The problems of differentiating state and media in Vietnam are reflected in the literature on civil society in socialist states. The language and grammar of civil society can be one way of interpreting state–media relations, particularly when the media show signs of activism against state control. To understand the parameters of state–media negotiations in Vietnam, it is necessary to have a brief outline of how the state regulates the media.6 Despite many discernible changes brought about by doi moi, a party-dominated system still carries out a very extensive range of mediamanagement functions in the following ways (modified from Buzek 1964, p. 114): 1. Proprietorship of all forms of mass media, thus excluding private ownership. This makes the press reliant on the party for licensing facilities and financial matters, for example, access to printing presses, editorial premises, and operating funds. 2. Decisive role in staffing, particularly the senior positions. 3. Guidance in the form of regular directives that cover ideological, political, and organizational matters. 4. Custodial institutions to ensure all the above.

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Like almost all sectors of Vietnamese society, the media has been transformed by the policy of doi moi, making it significantly different from that which existed before the reform policy. The doi moi of the media was marked by battles fought over censorship limits. Editors and journalists tested these limits and were sometimes punished by the political authority. It is from these incidents that the image of the Vietnamese media as a civil society actor emerges. The liberalizing dynamics were partly located in the political economy of media production. The imperative for market reforms in Vietnam is frequently traced to the late 1970s, a time of grim economic shortages. This was to affect newspaper production directly. The supply of free newsprint by the state was irregular. Deprivation intensified into the 1980s and, under those circumstances, the VCP allowed rudimentary market reforms at the local level within the overarching socialist central-planning model. Newspapers, like all other organizations, started to fend for themselves by engaging in a range of economic activities in addition to what they were supposed to be doing. As part of the acceptable chase for greater economic returns, media organizations started to experiment with new editorial products to meet market demands rather than fulfil ideological needs. Thus the Vietnamese media scene saw the emergence of tabloids that peddled sensational sex and crime scandals. The media was not just grappling with an economic crisis. It was also dealing with a loss of legitimacy both for itself and for the state that it served. The widespread impoverishment caused by party mismanagement and corruption made nonsense of the predominantly party-sanctioned rosy picture the media had been presenting. In that mood the state allowed the media more editorial space to question the status quo, highlight official incompetence, and investigate corruption in high places (Beaulieu 1994b; Heng 1998, pp. 29–34; Ho 1998; and Sidel 1998). Thus began the most politically challenging phase of the Vietnamese socialist media from 1986 to 1990. Space constraint does not allow for detailed narratives of press activism in this period. A brief sketch of three case studies that I have done shall suffice for the purpose of this chapter. (For a full version see Heng 1999, pp. 138–249.) What is pertinent is to set down some of the insights they provide vis-à-vis the subject of media activism against the state. The three cases are:



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Ha Trong Hoa affair: In 1986, in the months preceding the VCP Sixth Congress, a few newspapers carried stories that pointed to flagrant

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abuse of power by Ha Trong Hoa, a provincial party secretary and Central Committee member.7 Ha Trong Hoa was a rising political star with powerful patrons in the Politburo. However, another powerful leader had given the press the go-ahead. These background events hint of intra-élite rivalry. The media attack on Ha Trong Hoa went through various ups and downs because Ha Trong Hoa lobbied key individuals and organs in the party to curb the media campaign. However, as the ideological mood swung in favour of liberal reforms, more media organizations joined the attack and the Party Ideology Department shifted from restraining the media to sitting on the fence. Ultimately, the press campaign forced the Politburo to remove Ha Trong Hoa from his position. This is possibly the first time the socialist media in Vietnam had publicly campaigned against such a senior politician. Nguyen Ngoc affair: Nguyen Ngoc, the chief editor of Vietnam’s most influential literary magazine Van Nghe (Literature and Arts), was sacked in the last quarter of 1988. The magazine belonged to the Vietnam Writers Association. Nguyen Ngoc, with the support of the head of the Party Culture and Arts Commission, had used the magazine to push the reformist agenda as far as he could. In the wake of his radical editorial policy, some of Vietnam’s most controversial literary works were published and Van Nghe also published some of the most hard-hitting works of investigative journalism against systemic failings. The sacking of Nguyen Ngoc itself was a long drawn-out struggle between the magazine and the Writers Association that lasted three months. A very public attempt was put up by some writers and newspapers to save Nguyen Ngoc. Truyen Thong Khang Chien (TTKC) affair: TTKC (meaning Traditions of Resistance) was a controversial magazine published by a group of war veterans, among whom were senior generals with impeccable political credentials of service to the VCP. This magazine added its voice to those calling for more radical political and economic reforms and organized large-scale meetings to discuss the agenda for political change. This frightened party leaders, who wanted the veterans to stop but the latter carried on with TTKC in defiance, even going to the extent of publishing it underground. The episode ended in the detention of some key personnel in TTKC at the end of 1990.

Even though the political liberalization agenda of doi moi has become more cautious since 1990, the scope for journalism has not reverted

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entirely to the old restrictions of classical socialism.8 Sporadically, media reports continue to generate controversies that are inconvenient for powerful representatives of state power. The following are two examples. Mark Sidel (1998) provides the example of a media-promoted cause célèbre in 1993. It concerns a police shooting of a man in public and how some newspapers doggedly challenged the official police report that sought to cover up the seriousness of the incident.9 Media exposé of corruption in high places in 1998 led to an unexpected shakeup in the political élite. Deputy Prime Minister Ngo Xuan Loc had to be removed from office in 1999 after the press began investigating the Thang Long Aquatic Theme Park corruption scandal in 1998.10 Broadly speaking, state–media dynamics can be described as follows. Political authority in Vietnam has the power to decide what is beyond the bounds of constructive debate, and the line between what is permissible and what is not is more or less understood by politically involved citizens. Media practitioners have to be highly sensitive to these censorship standards. While there are clear taboo issues which almost everybody would refrain from addressing, there are also negotiable areas where the boundary shifts, depending on a variety of factors, for example, the intellectual climate at any one time, the local authority in charge of a newspaper, the personalities involved, and the details of each article seeking publication. This chapter seeks to draw attention to a reality where the formal representatives of the state have the authority to set and enforce injunctions on public discourse, but what finally gets into print is not always determined by such a singular top-down process. The Western liberal democratic concept of press freedom as a right or a valued principle is inadequate to explain the media situation in Vietnam. A better understanding comes from a struggle paradigm that is embedded in media activism. MEDIA’S STRUGGLE PARADIGM Collectively my case studies and other reports of media controversies point to a mechanism that is present in state–media dynamics and which allows for a form of media activism, not always friendly to the state, to take place despite the media being part of the state. I call this mechanism the “struggle paradigm”. This is not a claim that the paradigm is unique to Vietnam. The term “struggle” has broad usage in the socialist world evident in popular idioms such as “class struggle”, “ideological struggle”, and “anti-imperialist struggle”. But the term “struggle” embraces more than just the dramatic events of mobilizing for a revolution. There is a

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more everyday personal aspect to it if one refers to a Vietnamese dictionary. “Struggle” means to “use material and spiritual strength to oppose or do away with something”; it is frequently used to mean a political act but it also has a highly personalized meaning, as in “struggling with oneself”.11 In an official slogan “Struggle against negativism” (dau tranh chong tieu cuc), Vietnamese society is enjoined to struggle against corruption and all sorts of social evils. Debate within the VCP or any state institution to resolve a contentious issue is called “internal struggle” (dau tranh noi bo). “Media struggle” takes place when a newspaper takes up a cause in support of a correct party line or some greater good for the country. “Struggle” covers a whole range of individual and group endeavours aimed at defeating something or somebody to arrive at something good. “Struggle” has a set of properties. First, there is the double-edged nature of media struggle. Under the cover of a legitimate struggle, journalists and editors have the opportunity to say critical things that may normally be considered too sensitive for publication. Seeking to justify such a transgression of censorship threshold in the name of freedom of the press will be a non-starter. Calling it a “struggle” places the activism within an ideologically sound framework that provides room for negotiation. For example, editors may use an official anti-corruption campaign to justify publishing exposés of corruption among senior cadres; or in the name of struggling to fulfil the party’s liberal reform programme, a newspaper can advocate unprecedented liberal changes to policies and criticize old doctrinaire positions. In the course of saying these things, a newspaper may transgress the limits of acceptable criticism and become a source of censorship contention. The line between what is the extent of criticism that the state would like to promote and what would be excessive has to be frequently negotiated, depending on the individuals and the political interests involved in each situation. In part, the dynamics are complicated by the fact that media content which tests censorship limits — exposés of official corruption or criticizing state inefficiency — usually debilitates the state in one way or another. But the state is loath to be seen as obstructing a newspaper taking part in a legitimate campaign which the state itself has been promoting. Both state and media must tend to this complex interaction carefully. At the heart of the matter is something found in many authoritarian countries and not just in Vietnam; it is the critic’s hidden agenda and the suspicion it generates from those in authority. What I am saying is that the struggle paradigm provides opportunities for hiding agendas. The line that separates an officially promoted media campaign and personally driven media activism thus becomes hazy.

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“Struggle” contains an element of risk. Media custodians or political adversaries can label articles that are moderately critical of state agenda as subversive, regardless of whether there is true intent to subvert. Such risky possibilities breed cautious behaviour among editors. Those not wanting to test censorship would resort to a pro forma participation in media struggle, making sure that what is published stays safely within the acceptable bounds of criticism. Therefore, the controversies that arise out of a media struggle are usually the results of media practitioners who are prepared to test censorship limits as much as the double-edged facility of a struggle would allow them. Since it can be risky, to be part of a struggle requires political skills. Appropriating a media struggle as a mantle for what one seeks to express is assisted by an ability to see opportunities in the nuances and subtle shifts of an ideological climate. At other times, it may be necessary to interpret a party policy flexibly or operate within party channels to gather information, protection, and support. Participation in a struggle comes with a range of possible motives, some of which may not be remotely connected with the objective of press freedom. However, the lack of politically progressive objectives does not preclude a struggle from producing just that effect. A news organization that struggles successfully to be allowed to run sensational stories which push up circulation for bigger profits will have helped to win more editorial liberties. “Struggle” is a way of opposing from within the system. From what has been said of struggle, an insider’s association and familiarity with state processes would be an advantage. My three case studies describe situations where media practitioners fortified their struggle by exploiting connections with the party, falling back on their own revolutionary credentials as longtime party members, sheltering under the patronage of powerful party leaders, riding on the prerogative of party-government institutions, or relying on officially provided material resources. In this regard the politics of struggle involve more than just media practitioners negotiating with the official censors. Media restiveness as expressed through such a struggle paradigm is usually an adjunct of the party’s internal struggle and a function of its intra-élite rivalry. The struggle paradigm gives media activism an ambiguous characteristic. In its manifestation, media can be “of” the state or “for” the state, and yet “against” the state. This brings the discussion into the heart of the autonomy issue if the media is to be viewed as a civil society actor. On the one hand, is the socialist media an organ of the party, rendering media practitioners

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as the metaphorical “members of the family”? As Thomas F. Remington (1988, pp. 136–37) points out in his book on the Soviet media, heads of media are integrated into the state bureaucracy as “junior partners in the political elite”. Judy Polumbaum (1990, p. 34) says the same of China’s media practitioners. They are referring to a systemic feature where editors not only have to be party members, but sometimes swap positions with officials from media-regulatory bodies. In this way, the party alternates the practitioners with the custodians, an interlocking of party and media careers which compromises autonomy and obfuscates the media’s role as a watchdog on public issues. The situation in Vietnam is no different. Viewed from this perspective, media as a force of civil society, autonomous of the state, does not seem plausible. But to say that state and media are inseparable does not conform with my case studies and other examples of media controversies. In those incidents, media practitioners did contend with the state, highlighting its failings and abuse of power. Sometimes the media won in its struggle, at others media practitioners suffered setbacks. Such unpredictable and variable outcomes argue against the suspicion that media activism is predominantly state-orchestrated. Viewed holistically, these features of the struggle paradigm are about a way of life within the Vietnamese political system. Media activism can exist outside the paradigm but would have to operate underground and probably would not last long, as in the TTKC affair. Activism that is refracted through the struggle paradigm has its sharpness softened or disguised by a purported identification with the state or state agenda. The protective coverage that working through the system offers, however, gives some grounds to the argument that it is a limited (and ineffectual in the long run) form of activism. It raises the question of what then media activism of the struggle paradigm has amounted to. This dilemma has found expression in popular debate where “co-optation by the state” frequently has a pejorative meaning of an improper collusion with the powerful while “working to change the system from inside” is conversely presented as a sensible, worthy tactic. VALUE OF A CO-OPTED CIVIL SOCIETY Scholarly writings on dissent against socialist regimes have embraced opposite positions on the co-optation debate. For example, the following works, either in tone or in substance, have projected an image of cooptation making the life of the intelligentsia politically circumscribed and

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spiritually enervating. George Konrád and Ivan Szelényi (1979) and Miklós Haraszti (1988) excoriate the intellectuals of the erstwhile socialist Eastern European bloc for ingratiating themselves or colluding with the political élite. Timothy Cheek and Carol Lee Hamrin (1986), describing China’s establishment intellectuals in the 1950s and 1960s, saw them as a privileged stratum well-entrenched in the established order and interested only in a limited retooling of Leninism so as not to violate its core precepts. Geremie R. Barmé (1999) looks at China’s cultural politics of the last ten years since the 1989 Tiananmen incident where seemingly dissident and subversive artists have burst onto the scene but most have not severed their links with the state. The cultural palette they have produced is thus a “contrived environment, an artful ruin that decorates the demesne of the state” (Barmé 1999, p. xx). While these works provide valuable insights, it is Dina R. Spechler’s (1982) assessment of the achievements of Novy mir in the post-Stalin Soviet Union that most informs this study.12 In Spechler’s study of permitted dissent, the writers who “had important truths to tell” and the editor who struggled to get them published are described as “insider-dissenters”. [A]ll of them had learned to function more or less successfully in official organizations and [believe] in the possibility and importance of working for change from within the establishment, as a kind of loyal opposition…[Their efforts through Novy mir] contributed not only to the democratization and liberalization of Soviet political life [but also] made a significant contribution to the pluralization of Soviet politics, that is, to the aggregation, organization and representation of interests and opinions different from and, to a considerable degree, opposed to those of the regime and the bureaucracies that dominated the political and cultural establishments. (Spechler 1982, pp. 245, 246, 248) To varying degrees, this may be said of most of the Vietnamese press struggles this chapter refers to. The achievements of the struggle-paradigm type of press activism are clearer if we view them over a whole period, and not be distracted by the variable fortunes of individual cases. These controversies through the years have aggregated the notion of dissent to give it more force and visibility. The level of press activism may not seem so evident in post1990 Vietnam, but an intangible yet potent legacy lingers even after the state has silenced or co-opted the pre-1990 clamour. Many unprecedented

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events have been given precedence and therefore become less unthinkable, and even considered urgent, for them to happen again. For example, the Ha Trong Hoa affair, by establishing that press exposure could get a wellprotected Central Committee member sacked, remains a benchmark by which today’s newspapers fall short in their attempt to combat corruption. This lack of credibility in the official anti-corruption campaign is keenly felt in Vietnam today and is a pressure point in state–society relations. The successes of pre-1990 press struggles (the Ha Trong Hoa affair was but one of them) have also allowed the media to enjoy, more than before, an authentic sense of political influence under a VCP regime, even though the media has been and still is subject to many restraints. Even when press struggles failed, as in the Nguyen Ngoc and TTKC affairs (and there were many others), the vigour with which the fight was carried out would have convinced the authorities that they had to find new ways to accommodate this more restive media culture rather than rely entirely on an old regimented approach. In that sense the media effort has softened the authoritarian state. It is difficult for the state to roll back these changes once they have entered society’s awareness. TOO MUCH ADO ABOUT AUTONOMY? This section introduces a school of thought that has raised the need to focus on oppositional politics which can emerge in an authoritarian socialist polity not despite, but because of, a lack of autonomy from the state. One argument within the civil society literature is that a robust civil society must be autonomous of the state. If media restiveness against authority is a manifestation of civil society, then my finding suggests that civil society in Vietnam may emerge or is emerging from within the state itself. X.L. Ding’s work on China first alerted me to this possibility (Ding 1994, p. 32). He analysed how quasi-official organizations can slip beyond the state’s control and how members of such organizations “can more or less turn them from agents of governmental manipulation into instruments for the expression of ideals, or mobilization and co-ordination of interests, against the party-state”.13 According to him, this is “partial conversion” of the party-state system. The struggle paradigm in this chapter makes approximately the same point. Vietnamese citizens who are locked into a system pervaded by official control, patronage, and linkages can sometimes spawn their own kind of system-subverting politics, using skills that exploit the insider’s connections or familiarity with the system in order to challenge the system.

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Ding (1994, pp. 26–35) contends that as the clear separation of civil society and state is very rare in socialist countries, Western scholars misled themselves when they used that framework to assess the opposition movements in the Soviet bloc. Thus the collapse of communism surprised them because their criteria drew the inevitable conclusion of weak civil society since opposition was hardly ever autonomous of the state. According to Ding (1994, p. 26), this literally misses the point because it “…omits and obscures [what] is precisely the most characteristic, dynamic and intriguing phenomena in the devolution and disintegration of the mechanism of party-state control in late communism, a process full of uncertainty, ambiguity, opacity and confusion”. Thus his book sets out to demonstrate that the effervescence of oppositional activities in pre-1989 China involved a fluid and energetic networking based on personal connections to powerful party figures, or astute exploitation of the prerogative of bona fide state institutions by those working inside to provide a cover for their political activism. He calls this phenomenon “institutional parasitism”, referring to the parasitic way by which anti-state activism draws sustenance from official bodies. Ding also observes that studies of the Soviet bloc record a similar phenomenon (Ding 1994, pp. 29–31). He speculates interestingly that the collapse of communist regimes in the Soviet bloc, but not in China, could be due to the greater ability of Soviet bloc activists in working this “institutional parasitism” phenomenon. In other words, the cause may be better understood by looking behind the scenes — where autonomy is compromised or only partial — rather than hunting for the rare displays of autonomy. Ding’s perspective corresponds with my understanding of struggle as harbouring a double-edged tactic, whereby a form of activism to challenge the state agenda is actually sustained by connections with the state or identification with state goals. Nevertheless, like Ding, I must stress that I am not advocating a total rejection of the concept of civil society and the related issue of its autonomy. I am only stating that it is worthwhile and necessary to look at the other side of the autonomy coin, that is, the lack of it and how it can propel its own potent form of opposition activities from inside the system. Diamond (1994, p. 14) refers to this possibility as a “penetration” of a weak state by civil society. Andrew Nathan (1990, pp. 5–6) explains this more clearly by pointing out that the Chinese Communist Party has always enforced its control of society by placing its members throughout every institution, including those that are nominally

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independent. The result is, paradoxically, “mutual infiltration”. Not only does the party-state infiltrate society, but society is beginning to infiltrate the party-state as well. Finally, Thomas Remington (1990, pp. 177, 184), in his review of theories of transition from communism, identifies the need for theory to begin to look at how regime and society influence and penetrate each other and how that relationship changes during the transition. My findings also feed into another theoretical perspective on civil society articulated by John Keane (1990) that he calls the “politics of retreat”. With that he takes issue with modern political philosophy’s emphasis on how power is acquired and then maintained. He feels that recent empirical examples in both socialist and non-socialist states require an ability to analyse instances of retreat from power where political leaders helped to dismantle the authoritarian regimes they ran (Keane 1998, p. 43).14 This is another perspective portraying challenges to state monopoly of power as coming possibly from within the state itself and not necessarily from a civil society standing apart from the state. The permitted dissent inherent in the struggle paradigm dovetails with this theoretical plausibility of democratic transition sponsored and organized by reformist elements within the existing political élite. CONCLUSION When discussing the issue of civil society and the state, there is no point pretending that the separation of the two is always clear but, at the same time, this does not mean it is impossible to talk about civil society in Vietnam. Where the media is concerned, my approach has been to take the system for what it is, where there is a lack of clear division between media and state and yet they are not exactly one and the same. It is not my purpose to try and devise ways of conceptualizing state and media as two clearly divided entities. Instead, my aim is to elucidate how this lack of division functions in some empirical situations, and how results of civil society activities can be achieved because of and not despite the interlocking nature of state and civil society. There should also be no expectation that if civil society has found a way of working its way through the state, political change can be taken through a trajectory of transition to some predictable end point of systemic collapse or regime change. It is ill-advised to take such a narrow, deterministic approach when dealing with so complex an issue as a whole nation in transition. As Remington (1992, p. 240) warns, if seismology is unable to

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say when the next major earthquake will erupt in a particular place, students of political transition should confine themselves to understanding the underlying tectonics. Notes 1 Up till the middle of the eighteenth century, writers of European political philosophy used the terms “civil society” and “state” interchangeably (Keane 1988, pp. 35–36). When engaging the language of civil society, one should be aware of the diversity of ways to understand the concept. Finding a precise definition for “civil society” risks getting tied up in theoretical knots, given the term’s multiplicity of historical origins, for example, Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Hegel, and Marx, to name just a few (Kukathas and Lovell 1991, pp. 21–36). This is not to mention that by the late 1990s, the term has been so widely appropriated by politicians, academics, journalists, business leaders, and citizens’ organizations in so many diverse contexts around the world that it has given rise to different and conflicting grammars and vocabularies (Keane 1998, pp. 12–64, 190.) 2 The concept of “mono-organizational socialism” was developed by Thomas H. Rigby to describe the Soviet Union. (See T.H. Rigby 1990.) 3 At the time of the conference, Nguyen Ngoc Truong was the Chief Editor of the magazine Tuan Bao Quoc Te [World Affairs Weekly], owned by Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry. Tran Thi Lanh was an employee of the Ministry of Forestry who concurrently ran an NGO called Towards Ethnic Women (TEW) that aimed to promote the welfare of ethnic minority women. She set up TEW with foreign funding. 4 Nguyen Ngoc Truong’s use of the clause “confront them [NGOs] with the ruling Party and the State” is idiomatically odd and the references to party and state are not adequately defined. However, seen in the broader context of his whole paper, I think he means to say that we should not see NGOs as necessarily taking a confrontational role against either party or government authorities. In a following reference on this page by Tran Thi Lanh, the terms “party” and “state” also mean “party” and “government” respectively. 5 All social groups attain official recognition by being affiliated with the VFF, which is an umbrella body that includes all mass organizations such as those representing women or youth or the various religions. In the wake of liberal reforms that have seen long-suppressed disaffection with the party come to the surface, public support for these party-sponsored mass organizations has fallen. 6 Due to space constraint, I choose to be brief on the media management system of Vietnam. For those interested to know the details on this topic, there are fuller accounts available. (See Heng 1998; and Heng 1999, pp. 47– 77.)

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7 The VCP Sixth Congress is very important because it formally endorsed the liberal reforms agenda which clears the way for the great political-economicsocial changes that have come to be taken as part of the landscape in today’s Vietnam. The Congress also had to pick a new party General Secretary because the incumbent had passed away. This intensified the political struggle going on in the party at that time. 8 I borrow the term “classical socialism” from János Kornai (1992, pp. 19–20, 360–79). It refers to the political structure and economy of socialist states before significant reforms were introduced. This prototype was implemented with varying intensity by different socialist regimes but had the following common foundational elements: “the undivided power of the Communist party and the prevalence of an official ideology whose cardinal precepts include the establishment of hegemony, and then dominance for public ownership” (Kornai 1992, p. 375). What emerged had been, without exception, a repressive and regimented form of government. 9 The controversial case is popularly known as the Chuong Duong Bridge incident, the bridge being the place in Hanoi where the shooting took place on the evening of 29 January 1993. Police lieutenant Nguyen Tung Duong was charged with shooting a delivery man Nguyen Viet Phuong who was carrying 50 million dong (US$5,000 at the exchange rate then) to the airport for his company. The alleged motive for the shooting was robbery. Duong’s defence was that he only wanted to book Phuong for a traffic offence and his gun went off because Phuong scuffled with him. After three court hearings, several formal investigations, and a Supreme Court review, Duong was found guilty and executed in March 1995. The controversy was marked by two newspapers aggressively investigating the case and campaigning against the accused and other newspapers opposing them. Public interest was also evident in the thousands who turned up to watch the court proceedings. While Sidel did not say so, the media grapevine attributes the “sensitiveness” of this incident to its connection with intra-élite politicking. The real culprit who shot Phuong was the son of a very senior politician. Lieutenant Duong, who took the blame, did not anticipate the hostile press campaign that would eventually lead to his conviction for murder. He probably believed foolishly that the powerful patronage would enable the case to be covered up or closed with a fine. Powerful forces from another direction were behind those newspapers that were so determined to keep the spotlight on the case. 10 The Thang Long Aquatic Theme Park in Hanoi was a 204 billion dong (US$14.5 million) project awarded to Van Thien, an under-capitalized company with no construction experience. No open tender was called and, despite the reservations voiced by several ministries, the project was approved by the Hanoi City People’s Committee and the office of Deputy Premier Ngo Xuan Loc. The story was broken by the paper Dai Doan Ket [Great Solidarity] in a series of articles: “Nhung cau hoi xung quanh Du an xay dung Thuy cung

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Thang Long o Ho Tay” [The questions surrounding the Thang Long Aquatic Theme Park project on the banks of West Lake], 13 July 1998, pp. 1, 7; “Van chua co tra loi cho nhung cau hoi xung quanh Du an Thuy cung Thang Long” [Still no answers to the questions surrounding the Thang Long Aquatic Theme Park project], 26 January 1999, pp. 1, 7; “Thu tuong Chinh phu dinh chi du an Thuy cung Thang Long” [Prime Minister’s Office stops the Thang Long Aquatic Theme Park project], 3 April – 6 April 1999, pp. 1, 7; and “Ket luan cua Thu tuong Chinh phu ve du an Thuy cung Thang Long” [Prime Minister’s Office rules on the Thang Long Aquatic Theme Park project], 9 April 1999, pp. 1, 2. The dictionary is Hoang Phe (chu bien), Tu Dien Tieng Viet (Hanoi: NXB Khoa Hoc Xa Hoi Trung Tam Tu Dien Hoc, 1994). The Vietnamese definition is “Dung suc manh vat chat hay tinh than de chong lai hoac diet tru”. Novy mir was a literary magazine which published many controversial works for sixteen years after Stalin’s death in 1953. This was no easy task despite the post-Stalin liberal thaw and required fortitude and skill on the part of its Chief Editor Aleksandr Tvardovskij, who had to resign in 1970. Please note that the term “party-state” is used in this paragraph because it is the preferred terminology of those whose works I am citing. As explained in the Introduction, my choice would have been “party-government” or “state”. The examples of politicians of retreat cited by Keane include Adolfo Suarez of Spain, Constantine Karamanlis of Greece, János Kádár of Hungary, Alexander Dubcek of Czechoslovakia, Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland, and Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union.

References Barmé, Geremie R. In The Red — On Contemporary Chinese Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Beaulieu, Carole. “Is it an NGO? Is it a civil society? Is it pluralism wriggling along?”. Institute of Current World Affairs Report CB-26. Hanover (USA), 6 October 1994a. ———. “Vietnamese media ride an economic boom and the censors take the back seat”. Institute of Current World Affairs Report CB-19. Hanover (USA), 14 March 1994b. Beresford, Melanie. Vietnam: Politics, Economics and Society. London: Pinter, 1989. ———. “Interpretation of the Vietnamese Economic Reforms, 1979–85”. In Researching the Vietnamese Economic Reforms, 1979–86, edited by Adam Fforde. Sydney: School of Economic and Financial Studies, Australia–Vietnam Research Project, 1995. Buzek, Antony. How The Communist Press Works. London: Pall Mall Press, 1964. Cheek, Timothy and Carol Lee Hamrin. “Introduction — Collaboration and

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Conflict in the Search for a New Order”. In China’s Establishment Intellectuals, edited by Carol Lee Hamrin and Timothy Cheek. New York: East Gate Books, 1986. Chu Van Lam et al. Hoc Tap Hoa Nong Nghiep Viet Nam: Lich Su, Van De, Trien Vong [Agricultural co-operativization in Vietnam: History, problems and prospects]. Hanoi: NXB Su That, 1992. Diamond, Larry. “Rethinking civil society — Toward democratic consolidation”. Journal of Democracy 5, no. 3 (July 1994): 4–17. Ding X.L. The Decline of Communism in China — Legitimacy Crisis, 1977– 1989. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Dinh Van Nam. “Su doi pho quyet liet cua nguoi bi phe binh va luc can doi voi viec phe binh tren bao chi” [The strong resistance of those criticized and the strength of obstruction to criticisms in the press]. Tien Phong, 3–9 May 1988, pp. 4–5. Fforde, Adam. The Agrarian Question in North Vietnam, 1974–1979: A Study of Cooperator Resistance to State Policy. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1989. Gellner, Ernest. “The importance of being modular”. In Civil Society — Theory, History, Comparison, edited by John A. Hall, pp. 32–55. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995. Haraszti, Miklós. The Velvet Prison — Artists Under State Socialism. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 1988. Heng Hiang-Khng, Russell. “Media in Vietnam and the Structure of Its Management”. In The Mass Media in Vietnam, edited by David G. Marr, pp. 27–53. Political and Social Change Monograph no. 25. Canberra: Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, 1998. ———. “Of the State, For the State, Yet against the State — The Struggle Paradigm in Vietnam’s Media Politics”. Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 1999. Ho Anh Thai. “Creative Writers and the Press in Vietnam since Renovation”. In The Mass Media in Vietnam, edited by David G. Marr, pp. 58–63. Political and Social Change Monograph no. 25. Canberra: Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, 1998. Holmes, Leslie T. “The GDR: The Search for Autonomous Patterns of Development”. In The Developments of Civil Society in Communist Systems, edited by Robert F. Miller, pp. 65–83. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1992. Keane, John. “Despotism and Democracy — The Origins and Development of the Distinction between Civil Society and the State 1750–1850”. In Civil Society and the State — New European Perspectives, pp. 35–72. London: Verso, 1988. ———. “The politics of retreat”. The Political Quarterly 61, no. 3 (July–September 1990): 340–52.

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———. Civil Society — Old Images, New Visions. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998. Kelly, David and He Baogang. “Emergent Civil Society and the Intellectuals in China”. In The Developments of Civil Society in Communist Systems, edited by Robert F. Miller, pp. 24–39. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1992. Kerkvliet, Benedict J. Tria. “Village–state relations in Vietnam: The effect of everyday politics on decollectivization”. The Journal of Asian Studies 54, no. 2 (May 1995a): 396–418. ———. “Politics and Society in the Mid-1990s”. In Dilemmas of Development: Vietnam Update 1994, edited by Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet, pp. 5–44. Political and Social Change Monograph no. 22. Canberra: Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, 1995b. ———. “An Approach for Analysing State–Society Relations in Vietnam”. SOJOURN 16, no. 2 (October 2001): 238–78. Konrád, George and Ivan Szelényi. The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power. Translated by Andrew Arato and Richard E. Allen. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1979. Kornai, János. The Socialist System — The Political Economy of Communism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992. Kukathas, Chandran and David W. Lovell. “The Significance of Civil Society”. In The Transition from Socialism: State and Civil Society in Gorbachev’s USSR, edited by C. Kukathas et al., pp. 18–40. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1991. Le Dien. “Qua bon vu dau tranh chong tieu cuc o Thanh Hoa” [Through four struggles against negativism in Thanh Hoa]. Nguoi Lam Bao 1 (1988): 8–9. Maley, William. “Ethnonationalism and Civil Society in the USSR”. In The Transition from Socialism: State and Civil Society in Gorbachev’s USSR, edited by Chandran Kukathas et al., pp. 177–97. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1991. Marr, David G. “The Vietnam Communist Party and Civil Society”. Paper presented at the Vietnam Update 1994 conference, Doi Moi, the State and Civil Society, 10–11 November 1994, at Australian National University. Miller, Robert F. “Concluding Essay”. In The Developments of Civil Society in Communist Systems, edited by Robert F. Miller, pp. 130–47. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1992a. ———. “Civil Society in Communist Systems: An Introduction”. In The Developments of Civil Society in Communist Systems, edited by Robert F. Miller, pp. 1–10. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1992b. Nathan, Andrew. China’s Crisis: Dilemmas of Reforms and Prospects for Democracy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990. Nguyen Ngoc Giao. “Media va Xa hoi cong dan trong qua trinh doi moi o Viet Nam” [Media and civil society in the process of doi moi in Vietnam]. Dien Dan, no. 37 (January 1995), pp. 16–20.

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Nguyen Ngoc Truong. “Grassroot Organizations in Rural and Urban Vietnam during Market Reform: An Overview of Their Emergence and Relationship to the State”. Paper presented at the Vietnam Update 1994 conference, Doi Moi, the State and Civil Society, 10–11 November 1994, at Australian National University. Polumbaum, Judy. “The Tribulations of China’s Journalists after a Decade of Reform”. In Voices of China: The Interplay of Politics and Journalism, edited by Lee Chin-Chuan, pp. 33–68. New York: Guilford Press, 1990. Porter, Gareth. Vietnam: The Politics of Bureaucratic Centralism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. Remington, Thomas F. The Truth of Authority — Ideology and Communication in the Soviet Union. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988. ———. “Regime transition in communist systems: The Soviet Case”. Soviet Economy 6, no. 2 (1990): 160–90. ———. “Sovietology and system stability”. Post-Soviet Affairs 8, no. 3 (July– September 1992): 239–69. Rigby, T.H. The Changing Soviet System: Mono-organizational Socialism from Its Origins to Gorbachev’s Restructuring. Aldershot: Edward Elgar, 1990. ———. “The USSR: End of a Long, Dark Night?”. In The Developments of Civil Society in Communist Systems, edited by Robert F. Miller, pp. 11–23. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1992. Sidel, Mark. “Law, the Press and Police Murder in Vietnam: The Vietnamese Press and the Trial of Nguyen Tung Duong”. In The Mass Media in Vietnam, edited by David G. Marr, pp. 97–119. Political and Social Change Monograph no. 25. Canberra: Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, 1998. Spechler, Dina R. Permitted Dissent in the USSR — Novy Mir and the Soviet Regime. New York: Praeger, 1982. Thayer, Carlyle A. “Political Reform in Vietnam: Doi Moi and the Emergence of Civil Society”. In The Developments of Civil Society in Communist Systems, edited by Robert F Miller, pp. 110–29. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1992. Thrift, Nigel and Dean Forbes. The Price of War: Urbanization in Vietnam 1954– 1985. London: Allen and Unwin, 1986. Tran Thi Lanh. “The Role of Vietnamese NGOs in the Current Period”. Paper presented at the Vietnam Update 1994 conference, Doi Moi, the State and Civil Society, 10-11 November 1994, at Australian National University. Turley, William S. “Political Renovation in Vietnam: Renewal and Adaptation”. In The Challenge of Reform in Indochina, edited by Borje Ljunggren. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Institute for International Development, Harvard University, 1993a. ———. “Party, State and People: Political Structure and Economic Prospects”. In Reinventing Vietnamese Socialism, edited by William S. Turley and Mark Selden, pp. 257–76. Boulder: Westview, 1993b.

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Wank, David L. “Civil Society in Communist China? Private Business and Political Alliance, 1989”. In Civil Society — Theory, History, Comparison, edited by John A. Hall, pp. 56–79. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995. White, Christine Pelzer. “Agricultural Planning, Pricing Policy and Cooperatives in Vietnam”. World Development 13 (January 1985): 97–114. White, Gordon. “Prospects for civil society in China: A case study of Xiaoshan City”. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, no. 29 (January 1993), pp. 63–87. Womack, Brantly. “Reform in Vietnam: Backwards toward the future”. Government and Opposition 27 (Spring 1992): 177–89. Woodside, Alexander. “Nationalism and Poverty in the Breakdown of Sino– Vietnamese Relations”. Pacific Affairs 52 (Fall 1979): 318–401.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg > IN SINGAPORE 167 RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STATE AND CIVIL SOCIETY

8 Relationship between State and Civil Society in Singapore Clarifying the Concepts, Assessing the Ground Gillian Koh and Ooi Giok Ling INTRODUCTION There are sections of civil society in Singapore that live a troubled and tenuous existence. Actors in these constituencies see the state as wanting to co-opt or weaken them through a protracted war of attrition. There are other sections of civil society that work quietly and effectively with different levels of encouragement from and co-operation with the state. Even the concept of civil society in Singapore is an intensely contested one as it encapsulates this larger process of contestation and negotiation between the government and civil society actors. This chapter will provide a brief review of the evolution of state–civil society relations since Singapore’s independence in 1965 to the present moment. It will draw on a survey of civil society organizations and examples of interaction between the two sectors for a better understanding of the present relationship and its implications for the nature of governance and political development in the future. HISTORICAL CONDITIONS: EVOLVING ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN GOVERNANCE PAP’s Ideology of Statism Singapore has been widely recognized as a successful developmental state where the state has actively planned and directed the country’s transformation into one of the most competitive economies in the world.

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Gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual average rate of 8.7 per cent per annum (1990 market prices) and per capita GDP increased from $1,567 to $36,963 from 1965 to 2000, reaching a high of $39,585 in 1994 (current market prices).1 The average household earned $4,166 a month and the median household $3,040 a month in 2000 (1990 market prices). The average household income grew at an average of 3.1 per cent from 1990 to 2000, and median income at 2.8 per cent for the same decade. More recently, however, the income of the higher-income households has been growing faster than the lower-income ones such that the income disparity has widened. The Gini coefficient moved up from 0.436 in 1990 to 0.481 in 2000.2 Singapore is a one-party dominant system, where the People’s Action Party (PAP) has formed the government at every general election from 1965 to 2001. Chalmers (1992) has organized the political economy of the PAP’s development and governance strategy in its first two and a half decades in power — we shall call it the PAP Ideology of Statism — into three main tenets. First, economic progress is the ultimate purpose of the political process, with political stability the primary condition for economic development. Second, it is driven by an economic pragmatism, instead of ideology, and seeks to maximize the country’s potential to benefit from conditions of the global market. Thus in the PAP’s statist ideology the state is the lead actor, best placed to define and decide on macroeconomic and development policy. It follows that, third, the state is placed above society and must be free from domestic sectional interests. The country cannot afford to be pulled apart by conflicts among competing interests or pressure groups. The state has to co-ordinate the energies of the people towards economic development. Indicative of the long-standing relevance of this ideology, Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister since 1990, once stated of the role of the government in the following way: As custodian of the people’s welfare, it exercises independent judgement on what is in the long-term interest of the people and acts on that basis. Government policy is not dictated by opinion polls or referenda. (“Government as Trustee”, Sunday Times, 24 September 1995) Goh’s notion of the role of the state converges with Castells’s (1992) concept of the “developmental state”. For Castells, developmental states

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never pretend to be legitimate in terms of the acquiescence of their subjects. Rather, they deem themselves as the avant-garde of the classes and nations not yet fully aware of their destiny and interests — “…the legitimacy principle may be exercised on behalf of the society (the democratic state) or on behalf of the societal project” (p. 57). In the case of Singapore, the state substituted itself for society in defining societal goals, aimed at a fundamental transformation of the economic order, subjecting all else under it. Good governance was built on democratic accountability, long-term orientation, and social justice with the government acting as the “trustee of the people”. These have been the key legitimating principles for the PAP regime, ostensibly endorsed by the majority of citizens through free general elections. Conversely, it has meant that political space for independent political advocacy by civil society groups, professional associations, public intellectuals, and citizens has been narrowly defined and carefully managed by the state élites. Over the years the PAP has equated politics with the sphere of political parties and the popular vote, rather than perceived it as a continuous activity that all individuals and groups can legitimately engage in, at the level of everyday life and the municipal and national levels in the exercise of state and administrative power.3 It follows that public speech and expression made outside of party and electoral politics have been viewed with great suspicion. On as small a stage as Singapore, the high visibility it implies means that the threat of being singled out by the ruling regime as being a rabble-rouser, a threat to public peace and order, or someone who unwisely questions fundamental parameters of policy chills any civic discourse on governance.4 The relative autonomy of the PAP state and its deep distrust of civil society stem from the history of the post-World War II era. In the struggle for independence from the British, the communist and non-communist nationalists united under Lee Kuan Yew. Working with the communists allowed the PAP élites to observe how the power of mass mobilization of various social and civic movements and organizations could be exploited for political ends. Upon the assumption of power, the PAP leadership under Lee proceeded to neutralize any competing centre of power. The regime systematically crippled and subjugated the power of the unions and student movements to achieve political hegemony and direct all socioeconomic power towards the task of development.5 The weakness of civil society today, the insularity of its actors, their conservatism, and fear of risk-taking and persecution can be traced to the

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PAP’s historical distrust of and antipathy towards the civil society’s social power and potential for political mobilization. As suggested earlier, by most accounts, Singaporeans have prospered and tolerated this state-centred model of governance. Interest representation has thus been heavily controlled by the state. Only a narrow range of social groups identified as supportive and useful to the state’s model of socio-economic development have been allowed to flourish.

Political Liberalization: New Ideology of “Active Citizenship” This model of political management and economic development threw up its own seeds of destruction by the early 1980s. The PAP leadership has referred to this as the challenge of the “management of success”. Economic development brought greater social differentiation, and consequently limits to a “one size fits all”, “greatest good for the greatest number” approach to policy. Whether one accepts the notion of the liberalizing middle class or not (Jones and Brown 1994), the changes in social structure have meant that the initial basis for state autonomy and the ideology of statism has changed.6 The problems of managing a class society, meeting the aspirations of the middle classes, and dealing with issues of distributive justice are of increasing salience.7 Rising educational levels in succeeding generations of Singaporeans, it has been argued, have also contributed to a greater sense of political competency and therefore desire for political expression.8 Moreover, as the younger Singaporeans have grown up in an environment different from the independence years of deprivation and struggle for survival, they have also brought a different set of values to bear on the governance equation. Today’s globalized economy also presents a new mobility for the young and well-educated who can take advantage of employment and business opportunities overseas. The government has tried to respond to this by promoting family and community bonds to root such people to Singapore.9 While Singaporeans have generally been described as being passive and politically apathetic up to the 1980s, recent trends suggest that there is now a minority who feel alienated by the existing form of political management (Tan and Chiew 1997). This minority believes that it should have an influence on national governance, but is frustrated by the lack of opportunities to do so. On the other hand, there are other Singaporeans who have taken a more active role in voicing their views in public and to the government. From the mid-1980s a number of non-government

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organizations have emerged to challenge state orthodoxy in various areas of public concern, for instance, gender relations (Association of Women for Action and Research, or AWARE), nature conservation (Nature Society [Singapore]), and ethnic-based self-help (Association of Muslim Professionals, or AMP). The government’s response to some of these recent trends has been to promote an ethos of noblesse oblige and voluntarism among the betteroff in order to tap community-based resources to help the needy and disadvantaged.10 This response seeks to attenuate the increased demands on the state and the politics of envy arising from greater social differentiation. It seeks to stem the emergence of a dependency or entitlement mentality among citizens. An example of this response was its facilitation of the formation of ethnic-based, voluntary, and self-help groups to mobilize, specifically, the better-off in different ethnic communities to help disadvantaged people and under-performing students in their respective communities.11 When Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister in 1990, the New Guard PAP leadership announced that it wanted to introduce a more “compassionate and consultative” government. In 1991 Minister George Yeo made the landmark speech where the government stated its wish to “trim back the banyan tree” of state action to allow for “civic society” to take root and play a larger role in the areas of education and social development.12 In line with this new approach, the state has introduced processes of public consultation in various areas, such as economic planning, land transportation, and urban planning. State power was decentralized to Town Councils for the management of local municipal matters. More recently, the government established Community Development Councils to facilitate multi-sectoral partnerships among the public, private, and civic sectors to address social welfare and development projects at the local level too. After winning a fresh mandate at the polls in 1997, Goh reiterated the government’s welcome for a greater role of civil society in governance. He said there was a need for a civil society to mobilise our people’s energies and talents, and to create a cohesive, and resilient nation…We must change the mindset that only a few leaders at the top of the system need to think and take responsibility for social and national issues…The Government must itself take a step back and perhaps even a back seat, especially on local community issues, and allow

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some free play to develop. (“Civil society needed to mobilise people’s talents: PM”, Straits Times, 7 June 1997) In 1999, after public consultation on issues of social cohesion and political participation in Singapore, the government launched the Singapore 21 Vision (read Vision for Singapore in the 21st Century) which comprised five tenets:

• • • • •

Every Singaporean Matters Strong Families: Our Foundation and Future Opportunities for All The Singapore Heartbeat: Feeling Passionately for Singapore Active Citizenship: Making the Difference

The fifth tenet was an invitation to citizens to take active part in community and civic affairs, to be “participants, and not mere observers, in building the Singapore we want…”. Citizens were to complement the public and private sectors in a form of social tripartism that was founded on mutual trust, respect, and effective consultation.13 These developments were therefore the culmination of changed social conditions, political values, anticipated social demands on the state, and the need to develop a sense of rootedness and ownership of the people in the country. It was a carefully constructed new ideology about citizenship and political participation; a signal perhaps that the government was prepared to cede some political space to newly emergent non-state actors.

CONTESTED NOTIONS OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN SINGAPORE There is a broad spectrum of voluntary groups in Singapore but not all would qualify as civil society, which we take to denote activities that lie between the state and family. At one end of the spectrum of “neargovernment” organizations there are grass-roots organizations supported by a statutory board, the People’s Association; the National Trades Union Congress and its member unions; and the National Council of Social Service which serves as an umbrella body for numerous independently formed voluntary welfare organizations. These organizations provide communication channels between the government and citizens, represent civic participation in care and welfare activities,

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and organize cultural activities with government oversight. They collaborate with the state and usually in a financially beneficial manner to develop their own services and interests. Chua argues that the state needs and works with the above-mentioned organizations because it needs “to reach through the social interstices, especially in view of the anti-welfarist stance of the PAP government” (Chua 2000, p. 17). Here Chua means that a number of voluntary welfare organizations work closely with the state to deliver welfare assistance and services that the PAP government does not want to be directly involved in. In the final analysis, the mutually beneficial arrangements render them “junior partners” of the state. There are, at the other end of the spectrum,the independently constituted associations or individual civil society activists who have staunchly resisted such arrangements, or have been wary of “government-sponsored space for participation”. These associations and activists maintain that their raison d’être is to provide “alternative constructions of the ‘truths’ of societal situations” (Chua 2000). In Chua’s analysis the government places contention and consensus, which are part and parcel of the democratic process and discourse, as being diametrically opposed to each other. As such, when the independent associations pursue a contentious approach, it has led them to a marginalized, “insecure”, and “tenuous” existence compared to such state-dependent associations as mentioned above (Chua 2000, p. 74). While the division of the associations into state-dependent and independent types is useful for the sake of discussion, our survey of civil society organizations suggests that some members of the former that were in a collaborative relationship with the state also found it challenging at times to maintain the integrity of their agenda and organization. The negotiation for space and power between the state and civic actors may intensify as time goes on because any strengthening of the civil society sector, as it matures, will inevitably alter the relationship between it and the state. This negotiation for “space” is encapsulated by the struggle to settle on the choice of terms. The PAP once used the term “civic society” to denote its model of participatory, voluntary culture. This spoke of a communitarian agenda to promote self-help to relieve the welfare burden on the state. The “civic society” term differs from the notion of “civil society”, the preferred civil society actors’ choice, which supports the freedom of speech, expression, and association to check state power. Nair writes:

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the civic society project can be read as an attempt to reprivatise conflicts, which are currently public (read political) and contestable. It springs from a realisation that the state has overextended itself in the management of society…seeks the depoliticisation of a civil society which has been over-regulated and manipulated by the state (1993, p. 16). Later on, when the PAP government eventually referred to the space as “civil society”, civil society actors on the ground wondered if this was just a cynical use of the term. Tay aptly highlights the existence of an ideological gap between the state and independent civil society in Singapore. On the one hand there is the government’s neo-conservative concept of civil society that expects citizens to take on more self-responsibility in local municipal settings and provide care and welfare services to reduce the burden of the state. On the other hand, independent civil society actors conceive of a civil society that would enable citizens to develop a more mature, participative democratic culture which would hold the state accountable for its actions as well as reflect the diverse interests of society (Tay 1998, pp. 244–61). This gap was well illustrated by Tay’s own exchange with Minister David Lim who was in charge of the civic-based facilitation committee for the Singapore 21 Vision. The minister was reported as saying that while the government recognized the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), this did not give them the legitimacy to displace the role and authority of an elected government. He added that his view was that this state–civil society relationship should be based on a culture of co-operation and not confrontation. Both sectors should focus on common goals and interests and work towards them. He cited the role of government-initiated civic committees like the Singapore Environment Council and the Parents Advisory Group on the Internet as examples.14 Tay’s own rejoinder — he himself was a member of a civil society public policy discussion group, the Roundtable — was that confrontation, especially that of ideas, without violence, could be constructive. Also, he asserted that civil society needed to be critical, yet practical, where governments could but would not act, such as the haze and air pollution problem which arose from the largescale fires used to clear forests in neighbouring Indonesia in the late 1990s. Thus Tay argued that “a contest of ideas is absolutely critical for Singaporeans to develop thinking minds and for volunteers to feel that they have a say” (“Contest of ideas critical, says NMP”, Straits Times, 6 March 2000).

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Tay was, however, sanguine that while civil society actors did not feel like they enjoyed the freedom of association they wanted, there was still space within the “working contradiction of government encouragement for civil society”. There was a “field of ambiguity and contest” that gave citizens almost veto power through non-participation if they felt the government would co-opt their initiatives. If this happened, it would make the government project seem hollow and a failure (Tay 1998, p. 256). This is certainly one possible scenario. The government has been at pains to demonstrate that active citizens are hard at work and that the Singapore 21 Vision, for instance, is being operationalized and realized. The S21 Facilitation Committee organizes an annual conference at which they showcase the efforts of citizens and companies putting principles of the Vision into action. These do, indeed, show legitimate civic action at work, suggesting that the neo-conservative ideal is taking off. More recently, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sought to reassure the local and global audience in a British Broadcasting Corporation interview: “all disagreement with Government’s policies is acceptable as long as it is not seditious or raised in a way that provokes racial and religious strife”. He added that active citizenship and debate should lead to consensus, not fractious disagreements among citizens, and that they should be prepared for robust responses from the government. The rights of individuals to speak up must be limited by the rights of the majority of Singaporeans to live in peace, practise the religion they choose, and recognize the due authority of the elected government to make decisions for the nation. As in most cases, the question of the authority of the NGOs vis-à-vis the elected government with its popular mandate has often been cited as the key limitation of any representation of the former in the governance process (“Field for debate ‘wide open’ ”, Straits Times, 5 October 2000). There are certainly others who feel that Tay represents a minority view about what ought to be the desirable “model” of civil society in Singapore. The neo-conservatives argue that there was no inherent conflict between the civic sector and the government, especially as the latter has served society well over the past four decades. Indeed, they argue, there is nothing to be gained by civil society being poised against the state. One writer to the Forum page of the English daily, the Straits Times, argued that the strategic focus of civil society in Singapore ought to be “to create synergy with government resources, not foster divisiveness…where government and people live in mutual support and trust, and not mutual

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suspicion and perpetual conflict”.15 This is a popular notion about civil society. Not surprisingly, civil society actors allude to the presence of various obstacles that impede the growth and development of civil society and independent NGOs instead. Another author on the subject felt that the process of political liberalization, the welcoming of civil society has and will change the way people relate to the state; indeed, Both the government and people sectors seem to have some “adaptive work” to do… . Institutionally, civil society in Singapore is largely a “work-in-progress”. The mobilisation of people and resources in a sustainable organisational arrangement and the building of networks and processes take time. Problems abound. But a start has been made. (Tan Tay Keong 2001, p. 7) In the second half of this chapter, we examine the perception that members of civil society organizations have about the government and review specific instances of interaction between the sectors to discuss some of the difficulties in that “adaptive work” that lies ahead. ASSESSING THE GROUND IPS Survey of Civil Society Organizations The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) conducted what was the first-ever survey of civil society organizations in Singapore in 2000. We successfully polled 109 out of a targeted 1,169 organizations. (See the Appendix for the criteria for inclusion in the study and also the profile of respondents.) The survey covered questions about the organizational set-up, management and personnel arrangements of the groups. More importantly it included pointed questions about their relationship with the state and their aspirations for the future. One question asked participants to pick the appropriate descriptions of their relationship with the government. Table 8.1 indicates their responses. More than half saw their relationship as a collaborative one. As many as four in ten described their organizations as working in support of the government’s stand or direction, while 19.6 per cent indicated that they sought to influence the government. This finding more or less reinforces Chua’s view that a large part of civil society (bearing in mind that our survey already excluded the near-government organizations), seeks a close

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and supportive role to the government (Chua 2000). Indeed, it indicates the predominance of the state’s notion of civil society that emphasizes collaboration between the state and society. Consonant with that collaborative role, Table 8.2 indicates that a good proportion of the respondents enjoyed either personal or professional contact with government officers: 58.3 per cent of the respondents indicated that their organizations enjoyed professional exchange; 29.1 per cent at least an exchange of institutional interests; and 38.8 per cent of them were able to enjoy personal familiarity with relevant government officers. Also

TABLE 8.1 Relationship with Singapore Government Type of Relationship

Percentage of Total Respondents

Influence government Support direction of government Collaborate with government Avoid government Oppose government Indifferent to government Others

19.6 40.2 55.9 1 1 4.9 5.9

Notes: 1. Total number of respondents: 102 2. Number of non-responses: 7 (not included) 3. Respondents were able to choose more than one option.

TABLE 8.2 Basis of Relationship with Singapore Government Basis of Relationship

Percentage of Total Respondents

Personal familiarity with government officers Professional exchanges with government officers Exchanges based on institutional interests Regulation by government Watchdog on government Distant because it is unnecessary Others

38.8 58.3 29.1 24.3 5.8 9.7 5.8

Notes: 1. Total number of respondents: 103 2. Respondents could pick more than one option.

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24.3 per cent described themselves as having to submit themselves to the regulation of the state authorities. Only a very small group, predictably located in the areas of socio-political advocacy, environmental welfare, and one particular trade and occupational umbrella group, described themselves as a check on the government, or “watchdogs”. Of the rest, 9.7 per cent felt that there had been no real engagement, because it had not been necessary; they were in the areas of socio-political advocacy, arts and culture, as well as alumni, racial, and religious umbrella groups. Table 8.3 suggests, however, that there was still not enough of the right quality of communication for a useful working relationship with the government. Participants were asked what the main obstacles were in that relationship. Of the responses 49.5 per cent from groups across different categories felt that there was a lack of appropriate communication channels, perhaps “appropriate” being the operative word here in the light of the earlier table. Also 46.4 per cent, again across different categories, felt that there was a lack of familiarity with the other party. Issues of trust and a fear of loss of autonomy and legitimacy on the part of civic actors, and a perceived fear of the loss of power and authority on the part of the government, were less important but still a factor in the relationship. All the socio-political advocacy groups that responded felt the fear of a loss of their autonomy was a hindrance to them. A quarter of the forty-four respondents from the welfare support and charity category also cited this factor as an obstacle. TABLE 8.3 Obstacles to Better Working Relationship with Singapore Government Type of Obstacles

Percentage of Total Respondents

Lack of familiarity Lack of appropriate communication channels Lack of common interests Lack of trust Fear of loss of power and authority on government’s part Fear of loss of autonomy and legitimacy on the part of civic actors Others

46.4 49.5 23.7 19.6 17.5 11.3 13.4

Notes: 1. Total number of respondents: 97 2. Number of non-responses: 12 (not included) 3. Respondents could pick more than one option.

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Participants were then asked in an open-ended question about how the working relationship with the government could be improved. The most favoured responses were: to create more varied and enhanced forms of communication; more extensive engagement, transparency in state activities, and greater trust; and greater recognition, respect, and understanding of their contribution to society and participation in governance. This was the case for groups across the different categories. Funding was not as important in comparison. Table 8.4 presents those responses. Finally, participants were asked in an open-ended question to identify reforms outside of their organizations that would be needed for them to function more effectively. The issue of communication of their message and engaging public support was the most popular response, with 44.9 per cent citing it. But close behind was the call for a review and change in government policy related both to their areas of activity and to the sector in general, with 32.7 per cent of the respondents citing this. This response was common across the different categories. Refer to Table 8.5 for the other areas that were cited. The survey presents us with a broad overview of the ground and its relationship with the state. There is a section of the voluntary sector in Singapore that maintains a good working relationship with the state. There is also another section that fiercely defends its independence from

TABLE 8.4 Strengthening Working Relationship with Singapore Government Type of Suggestions

Percentage of Total Respondents

Funding NGO linkages/network Given recognition, support, understanding, and legitimacy Communication, feedback, and consultation with government NGO inclusion in decision-making on government-related boards or committees Transparency, mutual trust, open, and proactive engagement Others

8.2 7.2 35.1 46.4 10.3 38.1 24.7

Notes: 1. Total number of respondents: 97 2. Number of non-responses: 12 (not included) 3. Respondents indicated one or more suggestions and/or ideas. 4. “Others” includes responses indicating a satisfactory/comfortable relationship, no visible problems to merit suggestions, or no known suggestions.

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TABLE 8.5 Desired External Reforms from Singapore Government Suggested Reforms

Percentage of Total Respondents

Public awareness and support Reviews and change in government policy Open and accessible bureaucracy and government leadership Funding Network building and collaboration (with both civil society organizations and government agencies) Others

44.9 32.7 10.2 10.2 17.3 24.5

Notes: 1. Total number of respondents: 98 2. Number of non-responses: 11 (not included) 3. Respondents indicated one or more desired external reforms. 4. “Others” includes responses of “Not Applicable” and “None”.

the state, as an arena for free civic engagement that will occasionally find itself in a difficult relationship with the state. It is conceivable that groups may also move between these two positions, depending on whether their interests are being threatened by further engagement with the state. This also illustrates the larger theoretical point that the state itself has an integral and potentially positive role to play in the promotion of civil society. To quote Jayal (2001), “To the extent that it guarantees (or does not guarantee) freedom, rights and equality of its citizens, it can encourage or inhibit civil society.”16 Respondents to the survey indicated that they had two main target audiences, the public as well as the state. In a regime like that in Singapore the state can set the tone for the rest of society to support particular civil society actors. While there are only a few socio-political advocacy groups and environmental welfare groups, they tend to view themselves as watchdogs on the government and one could argue that whether they have the support from the state is irrelevant. Communication channels between the state and civil society organizations need to be better developed. The mass media needs to bridge the gap. There are other areas of government legislation and policy that need to be reviewed to facilitate the progress in their work. In the next section, we cite specific practices or incidents to further demonstrate the sort of contestation and negotiation that takes place between the state and civil society in Singapore.

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The “Rules” of Engagement We will begin with a review of the legal and soft restraints to the growth and development of civil society cited by civil society actors themselves. Other constraints encountered by civil society, such as limited resources, will also be taken into account. We will also discuss the difficulties faced by the state in trying to maintain social and political control while it tries also to accommodate the pressure for greater participation in governance from civil society. One restraint lies in the area of the freedom of association. Civil society organizations are required to register under the Societies Act. Often registration applications would be rejected if the Registrar deemed that the groups were likely to be used for unlawful purposes or purposes that may be prejudicial to public peace, welfare, and good order or against the national interest. This is highly discretionary power where the Registrar is not obliged to give a reason for rejecting any application. While an appeal can be made to the Minister of Home Affairs, this is unsatisfactory because he is likely to refer back to the Registrar’s notes for his decision.17 The administrative practice of giving groups applying for registration a standard template by which to draw up their constitution has also been criticized as stultifying. Another problem is that amending a group’s constitution is a highly onerous task because while the amendments must be approved by the majority of the members at a general meeting before submission to the Registrar, the latter is not obliged to approve the changes. Upon registration, the state authorities would closely monitor the organizations to make sure that they keep to the objects of their constitution and mission. The authorities would haul in those organizations which they deem to have strayed from their constitution and mission. This was the case of the very public controversy in 1986 when the Law Society was considered to have strayed beyond its boundaries in commenting on the proposed legislation on the control of the foreign press in Singapore. Accusing the Law Society of placing itself on a collision course with the government, the latter introduced an amendment to the Legal Professional Act to prohibit the Law Society from commenting on existing or proposed legislation, unless its views were expressly sought by the government. It follows that any unsolicited expression of opinion by the Law Society would cause it to be seen as a political pressure group. The most recent development in this area was the introduction of the Political Donations Bill which prohibits foreign-sourced donations to groups that are gazetted by the government as being political associations. A

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group would be considered political if it gets involved in a discussion on “current policy of the Government or an issue of public controversy in Singapore”. While the government argued that this Bill was to keep foreigners out of Singapore’s politics, it would also mean that organizations such as policy discussion groups would need to be very careful to avoid being gazetted as political associations and thus having their finances subjected to close scrutiny. In this new Information Age, Internet-based portals that discuss Singapore politics have sprouted up, with the most notable being the Singapore Internet Community (Sintercom). The Sintercom case illustrates how illprepared the regulators are with the new medium. When it first sought to register, Sintercom was queried on where its business was located. This, of course, was impossible since its members and contributors were located all over the world. Neither could Sintercom identify its office-holders since it was a cybercommunity which operated with no formal hierarchy. As a result, its application was rejected as it could not comply with the Registrar’s standard format for registration. It was deemed to lack the features considered necessary for the proper management and control of a society (“How uncivil really is the Societies Act?”, Straits Times, 22 January 2000). Most recently, Sintercom came up against legislation relating to the freedom of expression by way of rules for broadcasting on the Internet. The Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA), despite earlier assurances that it would not do so, approached Sintercom in July 2001 to request that it register as a political website. It was clear that the state wanted to hold someone responsible for the contents on the website, which was an indirect tactic to ensure that the contents would not be “against the public interest, public order or national harmony” or “offend against good taste or decency”. Its editor decided to comply but asked the SBA to indicate what sort of articles would be allowed for “broadcasting” on the website. While the SBA was obliged to clarify which materials were appropriate by the law, it refused to do so. Thus, as much as the founding editor wished to comply with the government regulation, it seemed that the bureaucracy was not prepared to meet its obligation to advise the webmaster. This led the founding editor of Sintercom to state: I found there are lots of institutional roadblocks for people who want to be active. The government wants you to volunteer, but

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I feel they don’t want you to be critical and try to change the system through civil society activism…So you lose heart when you feel what you’ve done is not getting anywhere (“Speaking your mind online without fear”, Computer Times, 22 August 2001). Eventually, out of a sense of frustration and because of the lack of accountability of the licensing body, those involved decided to shut down the website. With the growing diversity of society, and indeed civil society, the state can ill afford to be seen to be regularly confronting civil society organizations and forcing their closure. The state must realize that it has to be far more creative in its dealings with civil society than it has been before. Other restraints in the area of freedom of expression that have been cited as obstacles to civil society development are the Public Entertainments Act that licenses public rallies and the Internal Security Act. The presence of these two Acts clearly affect and circumscribe the outreach work of civil society actors. The Roundtable, a non-partisan policy discussion group, has often called on the government for “greater latitude to be given to individuals wishing to voice opinions through free-speech venues”. Another obstacle civil society activists have complained about is the “civil service intransigence” on policy matters. Citing several occasions when citizens had spoken up about public projects and policies, activists felt that these suggestions were either being made to a blank wall or were being stonewalled. The Roundtable argued: The point is not that civil-society groups are always right. It is that the civil service and other institutions should listen and respond… . If the ideas are sensible and well thought through, they deserve a fair and even-handed reply on the issues. (Simon Tay, Zulkifli Baharudin, and Cherian George, “Role of civil service in civil society”, Straits Times, 17 February 2000) The government argued that with specific regard to the occasions cited in the Roundtable article, either it had responded to the citizens’ suggestions or the protagonists seemed to have dropped the case (Lim Huay Chih, “Public consulted on library, Chinatown”, Forum page, Straits Times, 25 February 2000). Also, while it agreed that open discussion, debate, and open minds were essential for the process of public engagement or

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consultation, the two parties differed on what precisely constituted this process. On the government side, it claimed that because the public expected discussion to its satisfaction, this was too open-ended, and could paralyse the government: “Participants in the public debate must also acknowledge that there has to be a realistic time-frame for consultations”.18 Thus we witness some civil society actors trying to work out a meaningful modus vivendi with the government for greater political participation. A broader issue we mentioned earlier is the struggle over defining the boundaries of civil society; principally, the struggle is over a legitimate space for political participation for civil society in the context of efforts by the state to depoliticize the sector. A recent incident illustrates this amply. It involved the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP), an independent self-help group, and its November 2000 proposal for an institutionalized collective leadership for the Malay-Muslim community comprising what they termed “independent, non-political leaders”. It was proposed that the leaders be selected by the community and would be expected to exercise moral authority in galvanizing the community towards its socio-economic development. This proposed alternative leadership would be placed in apposition to the role of Malay-Muslim PAP Members of Parliament, the “Malay MPs” for short, and their limitations in dealing with issues close to the heart of the community — madrasah education, representation in the armed forces, and socio-economic achievement, which continues to lag behind the other ethnic communities. To quote an AMP member: The Malay MPs were caught in the middle. They had to speak up, but they must also toe the Government line. It was a delicate balance. If we had institutionalised collective leadership system, the independent leaders would be in a better position to express the real ground feelings.19 The government delivered a robust three-point rejection of the AMP proposal. First, it asserted that this would set an untenable precedent where ethnic communities would press for more space and concessions for themselves which, in turn, would undermine the multiracial approach to life in Singapore. Second, the proposal was perceived as a political challenge to the Malay MPs. Finally, related to the second point, the AMP was regarded as having strayed into the political arena and begun to show an ambition beyond what the government had supported it to do. In the end the AMP was reminded that they had received funding and preferential

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rental rates for its premises from the state (“Racial politics will undermine S’pore: PM”, Straits Times, 6 November 2000). The implication was that they should stay in line to continue to enjoy the support from the state. To illustrate the government’s preferred role of civil society actors, Prime Minister Goh compared the AMP to the government-initiated Mendaki (a Malay-Muslim self-help group). He praised Mendaki for focusing on “unglamorous” work like running tuition classes for Malay children from low-income families and other efforts to advance the performance of Malays in schools and workplaces. In contrast, he held that while the AMP did do some “unglamorous” work, it had also started to raise “political issues” such as meritocracy and marginalization of the Malay community (ibid.). The government’s perception was therefore that the AMP was using its connections in the Malay community to establish an alternative centre of power or authority, and had naively imagined that it could still be viewed as being apolitical. For the government, the AMP had moved beyond the realm of civil society into the space of partisan politics. The proposal was deemed to have questioned the government’s view and practice of multiracial management of the national community as well as the authority and value of the PAP’s MPs. The AMP was challenged to become an institutional member of Mendaki and to contribute to a “co-ordinated leadership” mechanism where groups could co-ordinate and collaborate their activities to avoid duplication and make the best use of limited resources. After the controversy, the AMP had its funding reduced while groups associated with Mendaki had their funding increased. The space that was promised to house the AMP in a governmentfunded, newly built community club was also reduced. The reason given was that the state polyclinic located in the same building now needed larger premises. As a result of these negative encounters, scepticism about the government’s claims that it welcomes civil society’s contribution to governance has yet to be dispelled. On its part, the PAP government is wary of groups and individuals who seek to espouse a certain brand of philosophy that seeks to “change society” from what the latter might think are “sanctuaries”, like the universities, religious organizations, and professional organizations. Often enough, if they are viewed to have plumbed a line long and hard, the government would challenge them to contest those ideas on a political platform. The choice is often posed this way: “Become a political party and contest your ideas in an election and win popular mandate to prove support for the ideas. Otherwise, you are not

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prepared to take responsibility for your views and have no right to state them and confuse the public.”20 The government prefers “helping hands” that work quietly to contribute to improvements in the welfare of the disadvantaged within the parameters of policy and guiding principles of the ruling regime. On the flip side, there are indications that some of the constituencies that make up civil society in Singapore are undaunted by the institutional and soft restraints imposed upon them. The AMP has publicly turned down the government’s suggestion for “co-ordinated leadership” and continued to engage with the state as well as its own constituents. Recently, the AMP has remained publicly engaged, especially as the Malay-Muslim community has come under scrutiny in the aftermath of the September terrorist attacks, the arrests of members of an alleged local Muslim terrorist network in Singapore and public debate on the use of tudung by Muslim girls in national schools. To be fair, however, there are examples of successful efforts by civil society actors in influencing public policy. One of these is the government’s moratorium on reclamation plans for an area that covers rich, natural marine habitats called Chek Jawa off Pulau Ubin, an island east of Singapore. This was a private citizen’s initiative mounted with support from the Nature Society (Singapore). The effort included a public petition, field expeditions for the public, detailed studies and valuation of the marine wildlife, and representations to government officials. This case also indicates that the state is not a unitary monolith. Some state agencies may be more amenable to public engagement on policy issues than others. CONCLUSION: GETTING THE BALANCE RIGHT? The foregoing has highlighted the context and conditions within which a host of different civil society organizations work in Singapore. While there has been some progress in the development of civil society since the 1970s, clearly there are also constraints and difficulties that have to be overcome to foster closer state–society relations. In our survey civil society organizations expressed their hope for more institutionalized channels for exchange between the state and non-state sectors to improve the relationship. Over time it may be possible to find that the state sector comes to anticipate or accommodate values usually associated with civil society in its own modus operandi. It is understood policy papers submitted to Cabinet level in government now bear a section on anticipated public reaction to recommendations. Civil servants are required to reflect on

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anticipated policy outcomes through public consultation on new initiatives or at least explain why consultation was not conducted. This offers opportunities for greater interaction between state actors and civil society actors. It is also possible that, given the limitations that curtail public space for the expression of alternative views, what will happen is that citizens will sublimate their civic energies to the level of informal or loosely structured groups. We know of activities that are organized privately by intellectuals at home to discuss public affairs and self-help initiatives that take place at the neighbourhood level to meet shared needs. These are spontaneous and everyday-level activities that the concept of civil society, as formalized groups that make interventions in public space, does not capture. The government’s initiatives to foster social activism through Community Development Councils has also been an increasingly popular channel for programmes of voluntary groups and the energies and community spirit of individual citizens. While it was recognized in our survey that civil society organizations wished to improve on their communications strategy, it should be noted that the mass media in Singapore has been increasingly willing to provide a platform for the airing of the public views and those of civil society organizations in its coverage of local issues. The relationship between the state and civil society is a question of a balance of power, a contestation or negotiation for space, within the context of the ability of the ruling regime to prove its legitimacy to govern as it does. The state of play between the sectors often differs from one policy arena to another, shaped by historical specificities and the current strategic value of it to the parties involved. In the context of Singapore, as civil society matures, the task of governance will no longer be about the simple, uni-dimensional pursuit of the good life. There will be multiple definitions of the good life and complex, competing demands on policy to meet those definitions. As things progress, there are two options for the role of the state that seem open to it. The first is for the state to allow itself to play a minimal role of regulator, upholding rules of engagement by which civic groups compete for their vision to prevail and win the resources to achieve it. The other is for the state to be actively involved as one of three equal partners — the public, private, and civic sectors — in defining, co-creating, and achieving a shared vision of how to attain the good life. The first route would require that the state provides clarity in the rules of engagement, it must be a good neutral arbitrator and facilitator for the process of negotiation between

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civic groups, and of course provide for the credible enforcement of the decisions taken. The second will call for a wider, bottom-up, more complex and involved process of trust-building that, we believe, will a nation make.

Appendix IPS Survey of Civil Society Organizations

The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) conducted a survey of civil society organizations in 2000. At the time the Registry of Societies had listed 5,387 societies and Appendix Table 8.1 is a breakdown of them according to the Registrar’s categorization. Since those categories were too broad and included organizations that, though independently constituted, were nevertheless closely related to the government, through say the People’s Association (a statutory board), we refined the categories of the remaining organizations that met our criteria of independence. To pick a system that would meet the standards for cross-country comparability, we used as our main reference the Johns Hopkins Comparative Non-profit Sector project, which was a study of the basic character of the non-profit sector in thirteen countries.21 Having assessed various models and selection criteria for non-profit organizations, the researchers on the project adopted the “structural-operational definition” that comprised five key criteria.

• • • • •

Organized, either by way of formal legal institutionalization or possessing organizational permanence, with regular rules of procedure. Private, not under the control of the government or part of the system of government institutions. Non-profit-distributing, such that profits are not returned to the owners or executive governing board, but channelled back into the mission of the organization. Self-governing, possessing independent control of their activities without being subjected to external entities. Voluntary, the presence of voluntary participation to justify its voluntary nature.

This helped us pin down the core definition of the non-profit, civil society sector.

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APPENDIX TABLE 8.1 Registered Societies in Government Gazette (21 July 2000)

Category of Organizations Sports and Recreation Religious Racial/Ethnic-based Old Boys’/Alumni Culture and Arts Welfare-based Trade and Occupational Political Groups/Parties Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) Residents’ Committees (RCs) Civil Defence Committees (CDCs) Police Boys’ Clubs (PBCs) Total number of societies

Total Number in Category

Percentage of Total Number

855 995 398 513 680 396 908 25 86 514 14 3 5,387

15.9 18.5 7.4 9.5 12.6 7.4 16.8 0.5 1.6 9.5 0.3 0.1 100

Note: All percentage figures are set to the first decimal place.

The main categories in our target population that were sent the mailed questionnaire were: 1. Racial/Religious Umbrella Only the main representative umbrella bodies for each of the ethnic groups were targeted. In our multiracial context, religion often interlinks with uniquely distinguishable racial ethnicity. The core activities of such groups are the preservation and promotion of ethnic culture, religion, and social welfare and development. 2. Clan This was a sub-group of the Racial/Religious Umbrella. These clan associations are self-help groups created on the basis of kinship, village, or regional ties among the Chinese who had emigrated to Singapore. They were set out as a separate category because of their very exclusive member base. 3. Socio-Political Advocacy This category comprised discussion groups on all aspects of sociopolitical development in Singapore. They included registered societies

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but were expanded to include organizations registered as companies and Internet-based entities. 4. Arts and Culture This group included major and medium-sized organizations that had been active in the development of the theatre, dance, visual arts, and the promotion of various ethnic cultural heritage. 5. Environmental/Animal Welfare This group included organizations that had campaigned against environmental pollution, for the conservation of our natural environment, and for animal welfare. 6. Welfare Support and Charity This group included organizations that dealt with a wide range of social, health, and welfare issues, ranging from research and development, service provision to education. 7. Trust Funds While this group did not usually entail much voluntary participation, we felt that their philanthropy either helped to establish other civil society organizations or supported the causes taken up by such organizations and hence should not be left out. 8. Trade and Occupational Umbrella Representative umbrella organizations that provide and exchange upto-date knowledge and resources to enhance specific occupational trades or the business environment, though business firms themselves would not qualify for inclusion. 9. School Alumni These would organize social activities and fund-raising projects for their alma mater among themselves or extended to the larger public. Citizens’ Consultative Committees, Residents’ Committees, Civil Defence Committees, and Police Boys’ Clubs were not included in this survey because of their organizational relationship with government institutions, and thus their non-private and non-self-governing status. The Sports and Recreation group was omitted since such activities are targeted and organized around the restricted promotion of members’ personal

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leisure interests, rather than on activities that are directed towards serving public and collective interests. In addition, the coding and objective of the questions in the questionnaire would not have been perceived as relevant to the activities of this group, suggesting a higher likelihood of nonresponse. The Religious group, comprising churches, temples, and other forms of formal religious representations, may have fulfilled most of the criteria but its activities focus on restricted religious groups and not the general public or a collective public interest. However, many religious organizations initiate or organize welfare services, and such organizations were incorporated into the welfare support sector in the survey. Political Groups/Parties could not qualify for inclusion, since the participation of any political party in this survey would mean that the ruling party in government, namely the PAP, would have to be included, and that would be going against the grain of the structural-operational definition, in terms of being private and self-governing entities. With respect to the organizations in the IPS survey, the priority was to obtain a representative selection for each category. Upon evaluation of the full list of societies in the Gazette, many were found not sufficiently organized on a scale that enabled a regularity of activism, thus falling short based on the methodological principle of being organized and consistently active. A majority of societies listed in the Gazette were registered to meet the legal rules of enforcement outlined in the Societies Act, which restricts any form of public association or activities without formal registration.22 This led to the decision to include only groups that appeared sufficiently organized and had a clear idea of representing some public collective interests as opposed to an unusually specific or restricted area of interest, for example, the Computer Society versus a specific interest group like the Interactive Financial Services Alliance. The Respondents We successfully polled some 109 civil society organizations spread over a wide range in terms of the types of organizations, work done as well as agendas followed. Appendix Table 8.2 provides a profile of them set against the profile of the targeted population of 1,169 organizations. Given the percentage of respondents according to their categories vis-àvis the percentage of the groups in each category of all those polled, we note the severe under-representation of the clan groups. Indeed, the overall profile of respondents is highly unrepresentative of the profile of the sampling group.23

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APPENDIX TABLE 8.2 Targeted Population and Respondents

Category of Organizations Racial/Religious Umbrella Groups Clan Groups Socio-Political Advocacy Groups Environmental/Animal Welfare Groups Arts, Culture, and Media Groups Welfare Support Groups Welfare Charity Groups Foundations Trust Funds Trade and Occupational Umbrella Groups School Alumni Total

Total in Percentage Percentage of Category of Total Respondents Response 55 405 7 18 140 93 200 22 40 67 122 1,169

4.7 34.6 0.6 1.5 12.0 8.0 17.1 1.9 3.4 5.7 10.4 100

8 7 3 5 22 18 30 0 1 11 3 109

7.4 6.5 2.8 4.6 20.4 16.7 27.8 0 0.9 10.2 2.8 100

Note: All percentage figures are set to the first decimal place.

Notes 1 From Statistics Singapore, , a service provided by the Singapore Department of Statistics. 2 “Household Income Growth and Distribution”, Advance Data Release no. 7, Singapore Census of Population 2000 (Singapore Department of Statistics). 3 To quote Professor Chan Heng Chee, writing in 1974, this was the result of the “steady and systematic depoliticisation of a politically-active and aggressive citizenry”, in Chan Heng Chee, “Politics in an Administrative State: Where Has the Politics Gone?”, reprinted in Understanding Singapore Society, edited by Ong Jin Hui, Tong Chee Kiong, and Tan Ern Ser (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1997), p. 294. See also Sheila Nair, “Political Society”, Commentary 11, no. 1 (1993): 16; James Gomez, “Civil and Political Society in East and Southeast Asia: The Contest for Political Space” (unpublished), on strategies to depoliticize civil society. 4 Often held up as an example of this in recent times is the Catherine Lim affair. For a brief analysis see, Kevin Tan, “Understanding and Harnessing Ground Energies in Civil Society”, in State–Society Relations, edited by Gillian Koh and Ooi Giok Ling (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 103–4. Other examples include the arrest in May–June 1987 of twentytwo persons under the Internal Security Act, allegedly to thwart a Marxist conspiracy planned by intellectuals conducting classes with foreign workers under the auspices of the Catholic Church, and the controversy of the proper

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role of the Law Society in 1986 when it commented on government legislation relating to the control of foreign press. For a detailed history of the strategic collaboration within the PAP of Lee Kuan Yew, his wing of the party with the leftist forces that had their base in the Communist Party of Malaya, to organize mass movements to gain selfgovernment and independence and then, how the party under Lee marginalized and decimated the power of the leftists and related civic movements to gain hegemony, see Lee Ting Hui, The Open United Front. The Communist Struggle in Singapore, 1954–1966 (Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996); Dennis Bloodworth, The Tiger and the Trojan Horse (Singapore: Times Books International, 1986); Richard Clutterbuck, Riot and Revolution in Singapore and Malaya, 1945–1963 (London: Faber & Faber, 1973). Also, Frederic C. Deyo, Dependent Development and Industrial Order: An Asian Case Study (New York: Praeger, 1981); Garry Rodan, The Political Economy of Singapore’s Industrialization (London: Macmillan, 1989). For a quick illustration, see Chua Beng Huat, “Domestic Politics”, in Singapore: The Year in Review 1996, edited by Gillian Koh (Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Policy Studies, 1997), pp. 35–41. Chua Beng Huat and Tan Joo Ean, “Singapore: New Configuration of a Socially Stratified Culture”, Occasional Paper no. 127 (Singapore: Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, 1995); Garry Rodan, “Class Transformations and Political Tensions in Singapore’s Development”, in The New Rich in Asia: Mobile Phones, McDonald’s and Middle-Class Revolution, edited by Richard Robison and David S.G. Goodman (London: Routledge, 1996); Yao Souchou, “Consumption and Social Aspirations of the Middle Class in Singapore”, Southeast Asian Affairs (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1996). Higher educated individuals seem to have a higher sense of political efficacy (they feel that they have an influence on national policies) and also have a higher desire to influence national policies. Unfortunately they are also the most likely to feel alienated. This is based on a study which looked at attitudes to political participation given educational level and ethnicity. See Tan Ern Ser and Chiew Seen Kong, “Citizen Orientation towards Political Participation in Singapore” (1990), reprinted in Understanding Singapore Society, edited by Ong Jin Hui, Tong Chee Kiong, and Tan Ern Ser (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1997), pp. 328–45. Another study confirms the tendency for the sense of political competence and desire for political participation and expression to be related to age and education, to various levels of statistical significance. See Ooi Giok Ling, Tan Ern Ser, and Gillian Koh, “Political Participation in Singapore: Findings from a National Survey”, Asian Journal of Political Science 7, no. 2 (1999): 126–41. Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister’s National Day Rally Speech (Singapore: Ministry of Information and the Arts, 1996).

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10 George Yeo, “Civic Society — Between Family and the State”, National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) Inaugural Lecture, 20 June 1991, at World Trade Centre Auditorium. 11 These are Mendaki, the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), and the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA). 12 Yeo, op. cit. 13 “Active Citizens: Making a Difference to Society”, Subject Committee Reports of the Singapore 21 Committee. Originally from . 14 “NGOs should cooperate, not confront”, Straits Times, 27 February 2000. 15 Michael Heng Swee Hai, “We can create an alternative model of civil society”, Straits Times, 8 March 2000, Forum page. 16 N.G. Jayal, “India”, in Governance and Civil Society in a Global Age, edited by Y. Tadashi (Tokyo: Japan Centre for International Exchange, 2001), p. 126. 17 It has been reported that the Registrar had approved 99 per cent of the 220 applications he had received in the three years up to 2001. (Andy Ho, “Revisiting the Banyan Tree: Civil Society 10 Years On”, Straits Times, 30 June 2001.) This, however, excludes the groups that have chosen instead to register as companies under the Registry of Companies and Businesses because they felt it too onerous to do so as societies. This was the case of Think Centre, which was in essence a policy discussion group, and Mediawatch Community, which was in essence an independent local press watchdog. One of the more well-known cases of denial was to a gay rights activist group called People Like Us which was refused permission without explanation. In fact, it was also subsequently denied permission to hold a public forum. It was told that the authorities had ruled on that line because Singapore’s conservative majority did not condone the “alternative lifestyle” the group represented. 18 Lim Huay Chih, “Open-ended debate would paralyse Govt”, Straits Times, 2 March 2000, Forum page. 19 “Can the Malay leaders bridge their differences on key issues?”, Straits Times, 21 October 2000. 20 Views of a Cabinet Minister at the closing dialogue session of a conference on civil society, Civil Society: Harnessing State–Society Synergies, May 1998, organized by the Institute of Policy Studies. 21 Refer to L. Salamon and H. Anheier, Defining the Nonprofit Sector (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997). 22 Societies Act, Chapter 311, Section 14 (Statutes of the Republic of Singapore). 23 A discussion of the problems and nature of response to the survey can be found in Constance Singam, Tan Chong Kee, Tisa Ng, and Leon Perera, Building Social Space in Singapore (Singapore: Select Publishing, 2002), pp. 189–206.

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References “Active Citizens: Making a Difference to Society”. Subject Committee Reports of the Singapore 21 Committee. Bloodworth, Dennis. The Tiger and the Trojan Horse. Singapore: Times Books International, 1986. “Can the Malay leaders bridge their differences on key issues?”. Straits Times, 21 October 2000. Castells, Manuel. “Four Asian Tigers with a Dragon Head”. In States and Development in the Asian Pacific Rim, edited by Richard P. Appelbaum and Jeffrey Henderson. Newbury Park and London: Sage Publications, 1992. Chalmers, Ian. “Loosening State Control in Singapore: The Emergence of Local Capital as a Political Force”. Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science 20, no. 2 (1992). Chan Heng Chee. “Politics in an Administrative State: Where Has the Politics Gone?”. Reprinted in Understanding Singapore Society, edited by Ong Jin Hui, Tong Chee Kiong, and Tan Ern Ser, p. 294. Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1997. Chua Beng Huat. “Domestic Politics”. In Singapore: The Year in Review 1996, edited by Gillian Koh. Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Policy Studies, 1997. ———. “The Relative Autonomies of the State and Civil Society”. In State– Society Relations, edited by Gillian Koh and Ooi Giok Ling. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Chua Beng Huat and Tan Joo Ean. “Singapore: New Configuration of a Socially Stratified Culture”. Occasional Paper no. 127. Singapore: Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, 1995. “Civil society needed to mobilise people’s talents: PM”, Straits Times, 7 June 1997. Clutterbuck, Richard. Riot and Revolution in Singapore and Malaya, 1945–1963. London: Faber & Faber, 1973. “Contest of ideas critical, says NMP”. Straits Times, 6 March 2000. Deyo, Frederic C. Dependent Development and Industrial Order: An Asian Case Study. New York: Praeger, 1981. “Field for debate ‘wide open’ ”. Straits Times, 5 October 2000. Goh Chok Tong. Prime Minister’s National Day Rally Speech. Singapore: Ministry of Information and the Arts, 1996. Gomez, James. “Civil and Political Society in East and Southeast Asia: The Contest for Political Space”. Unpublished. “Government as Trustee”. Sunday Times, 24 September 1995. Heng Swee Hai, Michael. “We can create an alternative model of civil society”. Straits Times, 8 March 2000, Forum page. Ho, Andy. “Revisiting the Banyan Tree: Civil Society 10 Years On”. Straits Times, 30 June 2001.

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“Household Income Growth and Distribution”. Advance Data Release no. 7, Singapore Census of Population 2000. Singapore Department of Statistics. “How uncivil really is the Societies Act?”. Straits Times, 22 January 2000. Institute of Policy Studies (IPS). Views of a Cabinet Minister at the closing dialogue session of a conference on civil society, Civil Society: Harnessing State–Society Synergies, May 1998, organized by IPS. Jayal, N.G. “India”. In Governance and Civil Society in a Global Age, edited by Y. Tadashi. Tokyo: Japan Centre for International Exchange, 2001. Jones, David M. and David Brown. “Singapore and the Myth of the Liberalizing Middle Class”. The Pacific Review 7, no. 1 (1994): 79–87. Lee Ting Hui. The Open United Front. The Communist Struggle in Singapore, 1954-1966. Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996. Lim Huay Chih. “Public consulted on library, Chinatown”. Straits Times, 25 February 2000, Forum page. ———. “Open-ended debate would paralyse Govt”. Straits Times, 2 March 2000, Forum page. Nair, Sheila. “Political Society”. Commentary 11, no. 1 (1993). “NGOs should cooperate, not confront”. Straits Times, 27 February 2000. Ooi Giok Ling, Tan Ern Ser, and Gillian Koh. “Survey of State–Society Relations”. Social Indicators Research Project, Executive Summary Report. Working Paper no. 5. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, 1998. “Racial politics will undermine S’pore: PM”. Straits Times, 6 November 2000. Rodan, Garry. The Political Economy of Singapore’s Industrialization. London: Macmillan, 1989. ———. “Class Transformations and Political Tensions in Singapore’s Development”. In The New Rich in Asia: Mobile Phones, McDonald’s and Middle-Class Revolution, edited by Richard Robison and David S.G. Goodman. London: Routledge, 1996. Salamon, L. and H. Anheier. Defining the Nonprofit Sector. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997. Singam, Constance et al. Building Social Space in Singapore, pp. 189–206. Singapore: Select Publishing, 2002. Singapore Department of Statistics. Statistics Singapore, . Societies Act, Chapter 311, Section 14 (Statutes of the Republic of Singapore). “Speaking your mind online without fear”. Computer Times, 22 August 2001. Tan Ern Ser and Chiew Seen Kong. “Citizen Orientation towards Political Participation in Singapore”. Reprinted in Understanding Singapore Society, edited by Ong Jin Hui, Tong Chee Kiong, and Tan Ern Ser, pp. 328–45. Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1997. Tan, Kevin. “Understanding and Harnessing Ground Energies in Civil Society”. In State–Society Relations, edited by Gillian Koh and Ooi Giok Ling, pp. 103–4. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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Tan Tay Keong. “Social Capital and State–Civil Society Relations in Singapore”. Working Paper no. 9, p. 7. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, 2001. Tay, Simon. “Towards a Singaporean Civil Society”. Southeast Asian Affairs, pp. 244–61, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1998. Tay, Simon, Zulkifli Baharudin, and George Cherian. “Role of civil service in civil society”. Straits Times, 17 February 2000. Yao Souchou. “Consumption and Social Aspirations of the Middle Class in Singapore”. Southeast Asian Affairs. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1996. Yeo, George. “Civic Society — Between Family and the State”. National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) Inaugural Lecture, 20 June 1991, at World Trade Centre Auditorium.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg >

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9 Civil Society in Malaysia An Arena of Contestations? P. Ramasamy INTRODUCTION Academic interest in theorizing about civil society would not have come about without certain empirical developments in the last two decades or so. Specifically, the struggle initiated by non-state forces against the authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and parts of Asia made clear that civil society could play an important role in the democratization process. Furthermore, the failure of certain well-established democratic regimes to alleviate problems of poverty and income distribution and to bring about a more participatory political process served to rekindle hopes in societal organizations that were relatively independent of the state (Joseph 2002).1 While empirical developments served to highlight the significance of civil society in addressing the problems overlooked by authoritarian and formally constituted democratic regimes, conceptualizing and defining civil society continued to be fraught with difficulties. As such, currently there is still no common agreement as to what is civil society and how it will serve the normative requirements of democracy and good governance. This chapter has a number of objectives. First, it will discuss the dominant conceptions of what is civil society by considering the liberal and Marxist positions. These two theoretical paradigms are by no means homogeneous as there are different strands within each of them in terms of how they conceptualized the notion of civil society. Second, an alternative perspective on civil society would be provided by considering the merits of the Gramscian thesis which argues that civil society should be understood as the terrain of contestation between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces (Gramsci 1975). Third, there will be a brief discussion about the nature of scholarly discourse on democracy and its relationship to civil

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society in Malaysia. Fourth, this chapter will seek to ascertain the relevance of the alternative Gramscian approach to understanding the nature of civil society in Malaysia (Gramsci 1975). CONCEPTUALIZING CIVIL SOCIETY The mainstream or liberal position on civil society argues that the general welfare of society and the process of democratization are enhanced if groups, organizations, and associations act as a buffer to prevent the state from assuming too much control of society. Essential to the liberal idea of a vibrant and democratically organized civil society is that citizens “collectively act in the public sphere to express their interests, passions, exchange information, achieve mutual goals, make demands on the state, and hold state officials accountable” (Diamond 1994, p. 3). Although modern liberal writers invariably focus on the need to reduce the role of the state in fostering civil society, early writers argued otherwise. Early Greek and Christian writers felt that the state and society should not be thought of separately as the role of the state was needed to create the values that held society together. Aristotle believed that the use of reason in guiding society must conform to the policies of the state, and Hobbes that virtues of fundamental importance, such as respect, justice, and gratitude, should be realized by the force of the state. Machiavelli, despite his strong relativist thinking, was not in a position to support the creation of a separate sphere in society as long as it did not work to undermine the functions of the state or its rulers (Delue 1997, chapters 3, 5, and 6). The intellectual mainspring for the present modern liberal version of civil society emanated from the writings of Locke, Kant, Mill, and others. These writers shared the belief that the separation of society from the functions of the state was crucial for freedom and religious autonomy. Locke’s “separate sphere”, Kant’s “balance of interests”, and Mill’s “participation of groups” were important arguments in support of the need for a space between the state and civil society (Delue 1997, chapters 7, 9, and 11). And finally Adam Smith, one of the early thinkers of political economy, argued that civil society as the sphere of economic activity of individuals and families should be free from the controls of the state (Caporaso and Levine 1992, pp. 36–38). The modern liberal conception of a good society in part assumes that it has a very strong and vigorous civil society, a sphere separate from the concerns of the state. Such a conception would not have gathered momentum merely because of the political realm; rather it was the economic realm

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that probably contributed to the idea that politics should be kept away from societal concerns so that individuals would be able to pursue their livelihoods with minimum restrictions. Thus in talking of good governance in modern or contemporary terms, it was inevitable that the liberal proponents had advanced the argument that there must be a separate sphere in modern societies that would enable individuals, associations, and organizations to function independently of the state in order to promote values, ideas, and principles essential for the functioning of democracy. There is, however, no consensus with regard to whether the role of civil society is merely to check and balance the power of the dominant state. Moreover, Gellner (1995) argues that moving away from the centralized nature of control might bring about other forms of control or tyranny; for example “… traditional man can sometimes escape the tyranny of kings, but only at the cost of falling under the tyranny of cousins” (1995, p. 33). He in fact maintains that the definition of civil society should not be constituted on the basis of a bi-polar opposition between pluralism and monocentrism but, rather, that it could be organized on the basis of certain “modularity”. By modularity he simply means that men can develop links with organizations or associations that are not necessarily bounded by some “blood ritual” and thus they can leave associations when disagreements arise without being accused of treason. In other words, civil society provides for the forging of links that are flexible, specific, and instrumental. Indeed, for Gellner, the “modularity of man” enables two outcomes — “it makes possible civil society, the existence of plural associations and economic institutions; and it makes mandatory the strength of ethnic identity, arising from the fact that man is no longer tied to a social niche, but to a culturally defined pool” (1995, p. 54). The idea of civil society need not only be conceived in conflict or antagonistic terms between the state and societal groups and organizations, even though this particular perspective has become quite popular of late in societies governed by authoritarian regimes. Within the liberal modern tradition, there is a viewpoint that does not see the role of the state and societal organizations in antagonistic terms. On the contrary, based on the experience of Anglo-American democracies, this viewpoint looks at the role of the state and civil society in complementary or symbiotic terms. The intellectual origins of this view could be traced to the writings of Tocqueville (1966), who argued that there is a linkage between voluntary associations and democracy. In his classic book Democracy in America he showed that civil associations — churches, schools, families, professional bodies, and others — had a positive impact on the working of American

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liberal democracy. Robert Putnam (1993), the Harvard political scientist, too subscribes to the view that associational activities and the presence of democratic cultural values, such as trust, tolerance, civic mindedness, and others, contribute to the stability of democracies. The consensus view of civil society thus would not be in agreement with those who endorse conflict, advocacy, and agitation to bring about the desired changes to society (Joseph 2002). Despite the caveats raised by Gellner and the consensus view of society, the modern liberal argument about civil society as a sphere where voluntary groups limit state domination remains a popular one. The popularity of this argument is due to a number of factors and events. The removal of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe and Latin America by societal forces and the failure on the part of democratically elected regimes in certain regions of the world to address basic issues pertaining to the welfare of their citizens have served to bring about a situation where societal forces are expected to play a more countervailing role. Besides this, the long history of colonialism, the current nature of development path, the emergence of authoritarian states, and the curbing of societal forces by the state ironically promote not so much the consensus model but rather the conflict model of civil society. In this respect the prospect of democratization in authoritarian societies presupposes not developing and sustaining associational links with the state but encouraging societal groups to constrain and reverse the totalizing control of the state. AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE Contrary to the liberal notion of civil society, a sphere crucial for the promotion of rights and for the general advance of democracy, Marxists do not share this optimistic view. Marx (1970) laid down the parameters for an alternative thinking of civil society through his critique of Hegel. Hegel (1952) identified civil society as a particular sphere in a market setting that allowed individuals to pursue their self-interests guided by the laws and regulations imposed by the state. As far as Hegel was concerned, the state basically embodied the good ideals and virtues of the larger general community. In contrast, for Marx civil society was not a simply a sphere where individuals pursued their interests under the guidance of the state, but a capitalist society of class divisions and articulation of class interests. Conversely, the state was not something neutral and standing above the society as the final arbiter, but rather an instrument that was controlled and

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manipulated by those who controlled the means of production. It follows that the real emancipation of men comes not by men adhering to high values and norms of the state, but rather by consciously realizing their structural economic and social positions. Thus only when the working class become conscious of their exploitation and misery will they take the necessary means to bring about the end of the capitalist system and substitute it with a socialist/communist system. Thus, as far as Marx was concerned, it was pointless to talk about civil society or the role of the state in advancing the cause of ordinary men and women. As long as the state and civil society functioned in a capitalist society, it was impossible for both to serve the majority of the working people. So Marx’s critique of the state or civil society was really a critique of the capitalist society that functioned on the basis of class exploitation. The evident failure of the working class movement in Europe to bring about the revolutionary situation in the early twentieth century forced Antonio Gramsci, the secretary-general of the Italian Communist Party, to ascertain why communist revolutions failed to materialize. Gramsci’s investigation, among other things, led him to consider the relationship between the superstructure and the economic base. He claimed that Marxists after Marx failed to highlight the superstructural aspects of capitalist societies by focusing too much on the economic base as it was thought to be the fundamental determinate factor shaping class consciousness and struggle. Indeed, Gramsci concluded that it was the failure of Marxists to come to terms with the development of civil society in capitalist countries that prevented them from understanding the political process that was so crucial for the advancement of the communist revolution (Gramsci 1975). One of the main reasons why communist revolutions did not take off as expected was because the ruling classes in capitalist societies were able to dominate the arena of civil society with their ideology. It was this domination through the process of socialization and imposition of ideas, values, and norms that the dominant classes were able to convince the working class of the relevance of the capitalist ideology. Because the left did not pay much attention to civil society, it was not able to counter the propaganda of the capitalists with their own version of a future society. For Gramsci civil society, unlike the liberal version, is not a sphere that acts as a buffer against the state, but rather an arena of constant competition, conflict, and clash of ideas. Whoever controls civil society succeeds in manufacturing consent among the masses. This idea of obtaining consent through the realm of ideas was described by Gramsci as hegemony (Femia 1981, pp. 31–35).

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Marx did not really describe in detail the notion of civil society but only to state that it was part and parcel of the capitalist society. Among Marxists, Gramsci should be credited for giving full expression to the notion of civil society as an arena of contestation. The state in Gramsci’s definition does not merely dominate and control society through coercive means but also by sustaining ideas, norms, and values so that the long-term interests of the capitalist society would be safeguarded. This is the reason why Gramsci felt that left-wing intellectuals should pay more interest to intellectual rather than coercive domination and that alternative visions of society should develop and sustain counter-hegemonic visions in the realm of civil society (Femia 1981, p. 56; Sassoon 1987, pp. 249–55). From a methodological sense, the Gramscian theoretical framework is quite useful to understanding many empirical situations. There are a number of reasons why this is so. First, the Gramscian conception does not see the interests of the state and civil society in antagonistic terms; on the contrary, it argues that there is an integral relationship between both in the enforcement of domination. Second, not all members of civil society are opposed to the state as there will be sections of society in favour of the state and other sections opposed to it. Third, the state is not something aloof from civil society, but rather it will seek to dominate civil society through various means. Fourth, civil society is an arena of contestation; whichever force that succeeds in dominating the civil society will succeed in manufacturing the necessary consent for political domination. Fifth, since civil society in an arena for the competition and conflict of ideas, the state might not have a complete domination of this arena as differences are bound to emerge with the participation of nonstate forces (Noumoff 2000). CIVIL SOCIETY DISCOURSE IN MALAYSIA Scholarly discourse about civil society in Malaysia is invariably linked with the larger question of democracy. Although not all the writings touch on the concept of civil society — they merely focus on the nature of democracy in Malaysia and to what extent the country could be fully described as democratic — recent works on the Malaysian political system, however, tend to posit a relationship between democracy and civil society.2 Writings on Malaysian democracy could be generally classified under two categories. In the first category, scholars do not bemoan the lack of democracy in Malaysia, but rather seek to provide explanations as to why democracy has not fully developed in the country. In the second category,

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there is an attempt not only to analyse the nature of Malaysian democracy or the political system, but also how it has been constrained by the nondevelopment of civil society. The writings of Crouch (1996), Zakaria Ahmad (1989), and others argue that although Malaysia cannot be fully described as a developed democracy, there are certain democratic features that have to be acknowledged. Zakaria describes Malaysian democracy as “quasi” in nature; although not fully democratic according to Western definition, there are features, such as electoral competition, the presence of opposition parties, periodic elections, and others, that would render the country democratic to some extent. He also notes — perhaps to some extent seeks to justify — that Malaysia’s transition to a fully democratic nation is complicated by the nature of the political system; the division between races, the need to maintain Malay dominance, and not the least the dependent nature of the economic system. Crouch, in a similar vein, seems to think that the Malaysian state is both repressive and responsive; in other words, there are both democratic and undemocratic features in the Malaysian political system. The absence of full democracy is explained by the nature of the political system, the ethnic divisions, the fragmented nature of the class structure, the dependent status of the economy on foreign capital, and the need to maintain and perpetuate Malay dominance. The second theme on the writings on Malaysian democracy would constitute the works of Jesudason (1995), Khoo (1997), Loh (2002), and Case (1993, 1999). These writers tend to argue quite forcefully that constraints faced by democracy in Malaysia are inextricably linked to the nature of its civil society. Jesudason characterizes the Malaysian political system as “statist” in nature to indicate the state’s significant role in structuring politics and social life in the country. Although the political system is not totally devoid of democratic features, such as the holding of elections, the presence of political contestations, and the availability of certain institutional features, it is the overwhelming dominance of the state that has foreclosed the development of a vibrant democracy. Specifically, he argues that it is the encapsulation of the civil society by the state not only in the political management of the society but also in economic development that constrained the rise of non-state forces in contributing to the general development of the society. Khoo (1997) considers the Malaysian political system as a “double-edged character”, containing both democratic and undemocratic features. He seeks to explain the presence of undemocratic features on the basis of three factors: the containment of

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class conflict, the management of ethnic conflict, and the need to preserve and advance capitalism. Case classifies the Malaysian state as “semi-democratic” because the government constrains but does not ban societal organizations, holds periodic elections, and allows the functioning of opposition parties more as safety valves rather than permitting them to raise issues into autonomous political claims (1993, p. 187). In an article written later (1999, pp. 6–9), he talks about the pressures of civil society on the regime, especially those related to the arrest and detention in 1998 of Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister. Lastly, Loh thinks that the convergence of interests between political élites, business classes, and others on the question of developmentalism constrained the rise of civil society, resulting in the non-liberalization of the political sphere (2002, pp. 45–49). The two groups of scholars provide some indication as to how the study of Malaysian democracy has been approached. While the first group of scholars are keen to explain the limited nature of democracy in Malaysia, they do not link its practice to the function of civil society. Only in the second group, we find there is a major attempt to link the limited nature of democracy to the absence of a viable civil society in Malaysia. For instance, the works of Jesudason, Case, and Loh would constitute important ones in raising the significance of civil society and why it should be strengthened to allow for the emergence of a more substantive democracy in Malaysia. The notion of civil society that they are advancing seems to be line with the liberal conflict perspective in which societal organizations exert powerful influence in constraining and checking the power of the state (Jesudason 1995, pp. 353–54; Case 1999, pp. 6–9; Loh 2002, pp. 45–49). Discourses about democracy and its relationship to civil society in Malaysia have to date generated useful empirical data. Most of these works functioning within the larger liberal perspective seem to take for granted that democracy can be revived or furthered if the forces of civil society take on a proactive role both in terms of advocacy and in constraining the pernicious role of the authoritarian state. However, the liberal perspective on civil society in Malaysia conceptualized frequently in oppositional terms to the state might not pay much attention to those components of civil society that have ongoing associational links with the state. Furthermore, the liberal perspective seems to posit the argument that the very nature of civil society’s opposition to the state means that there exists a deep ideological and political divide. Such differences cannot just be invented as opposition per se might not be based on certain fundamental

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ideological and political principles. More importantly, the liberal perspective fails to fathom that civil society might not designate a particular social segment but rather an arena of contestations of ideas and thoughts. Such a perspective, if adopted, might enable us to see different kinds of political contestations and the extent of their ideological differences with those who control state power. Going back to the Gramscian stand that civil society is an arena of contestations between differing political forces, it must be borne in mind that contestations cannot be assumed present in all empirical contexts. If there are no vigorous contestations of ideas and thoughts in civil society, then we must ask why there are no contestations taking place. In societies that are not democratic the space for contestation of different kinds of politics is very limited. What essentially prevails is that, given the authoritarian nature of regimes, political contest is often minimized by ensuring that the civil society is under the hegemony of the state. Opposing political options and regime challenges in the sphere of civil society are not allowed, and in some situations the regime would not have any qualms in repressing any challenges through the use of laws and often overt repression. Furthermore it must be realized that the existence of a civil sphere in any society cannot be taken for granted. Just because there has been recent interest in the relationship between civil society and democracy, the former cannot be just invented. The problem is not so much that of forces of civil society challenging the totalizing control of the state, but rather how the state dominates civil society and the manner in which it deals with other non-state forces that challenge its domination. Such a line of thinking would fit very well with the Gramscian notion that civil society is not a sphere of activity that is independent from the state but rather an arena where ideas, thoughts, ideologies, and political principles are contested and debated. For the state, civil society is not so much an independent sphere, but a medium through which it can impose its own version of what is good for society as a whole. The Gramscian perspective provides a very useful analytical tool to understand the Malaysian situation by considering the civil society as an arena of contestations of ideas between those who control the state and those who oppose it for various reasons. This interactive notion of civil society will provide some clues as to how the Malaysian state uses the arena of civil society to manufacture legitimacy for its political control and what the challenges are to this particular hegemony. Furthermore, this interactive notion of civil society also provides indications as to how the

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Malaysian state has used ideology and politics to entrench itself in power for many years. MALAYSIAN CIVIL SOCIETY: A GRAMSCIAN PERSPECTIVE In order to view the Malaysian political system from a Gramscian perspective, the discussion will be organized along the following subthemes: the nature of contestations, the political option of the state, how this political option was hegemonized, the nature and function of non-state political contestations, and constraints imposed by the state. The consideration of these in a inter-related manner will provide some insights about the overall nature of civil society in Malaysia. More importantly, it will serve to strengthen the argument that civil society is not independent of the state but rather an arena of contestations between the forces of the state and the counter-hegemonic forces. In Malaysia civil society can certainly be described as an arena of contestations in a limited way. In the period after independence the Malaysian state utilized the sphere of civil society to impose a particular kind of ruling ideology. Immediately after political independence, the inter-racial bargain and compromise between Malays and non-Malays in the Alliance ruling coalition provided a kind of consociational framework for the regime’s political legitimacy. This framework outlined broadly the rights and privileges of the different ethnic communities in Malaysia, principally between Malays and non-Malays. The state’s political hegemony was not so much obtained through a kind of intellectual consent, but, rather, it had to do with the nature of constraints imposed on civil society. While non-state political contestations were allowed to function in a limited way, the state ensured that these political articulations would not impair its political hegemony. From within, the state under the control of the Alliance coalition had to deal with certain leaders of the component parties who were not pleased with the consociational arrangement and who sought to challenge the prevailing status quo by questioning the special position of Malays and the economic domination of the Chinese. More often that not, serious internal challenges were dealt with by the practice of expulsion from the respective component parties. Challenges to the consociational arrangement from without were from opposition communal and non-communal political parties. While the opposition communal parties took extreme racial positions, non-communal challenges emanated from left-wing inclined political parties that sought to present class-based solutions to resolve the problem of the ethnicization of politics.

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From the New Economic Policy (NEP) era onwards, the state moved away from a multi-racial framework to a political ideology that was based on the interests of one ethnic group. While the earlier consociational model provided for some kind of inter-ethnic checks and balances, the political model that took shape during the NEP era was based on the concept of Malay dominance. Some scholars tend to describe this kind of inter-ethnic coalition based on the dominance of one ethnic group as the political model of control. However, this control model or ideology could not have been introduced in the public arena without the state making available the pre-conditions. Thus, the formation of a grand ethnic coalition called Barisan Nasional (BN) or the National Front, the admission of a number of political parties from different parts of the country to enlarge the ethnic coalition, the inclusion of certain opposition parties such as Pan Malayan Islamic Party (PMIP) and People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the amendments to the country’s Constitution to entrench Malay political domination, and others further strengthened the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) as the dominant political party of the new coalition. These changes adopted during the NEP era enabled the ruling party to pursue its goals without much opposition from civil society. Oppositional forces that challenged some of the policies of the regime faced difficulties in broadly articulating their demands or even faced outright repression. The prominence of ethnic ideology in Malaysia over the last few decades cannot be simply attributed to the use of coercive methods by the state. While the state’s coercive role was always there, the regime’s long-term political stability compelled the state to take into account consent from the masses. Thus, since 1970 the last three decades of uninterrupted political control has gained for the regime, among other things, some kind of consent for its political formula. In this respect, the periodic election victories earned by the regime would indicate that coercion alone might not be the only factor in explaining the political success of the regime. But then consent is not total, which explains why the regime is sometimes forced to rely on laws, regulations, and outright suppression to silence dissent. Non-state contestations in civil society involve the role of opposition political parties and the critically minded non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Although these represent different sections of the society, they do co-operate on certain issues, such as promoting democracy and human rights and demanding that the state adopt more progressive values in the administration of the country. Contestations from the opposition political parties have been more visible given their high profile in society. Political

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parties such as the Democratic Action Party (DAP), Keadilan (Justice Party), and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) have been quite critical of the regime from various angles. While DAP and Keadilan have sought to pressure the government to bring about changes that are more democratic and humane, PAS has been concerned with the promotion of Islam and the ultimate introduction of an Islamic state. It is not that these parties do not co-operate on some common grounds, but PAS’s insistence on the pursuance of the Islamic state option has made it difficult for DAP to extend its co-operation fully to the opposition front.3 It is because of PAS’s insistence on pursuing the Islamic state objective that DAP left the opposition front of Barisan Alternatif (BA). Today the opposition front exists by virtue of the pact among PAS, Keadilan, and Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM). Apart from the opposition political parties, non-state contestations are initiated by a number of critically minded and highly politicized NGOs. Many of these organizations were formed to address societal issues neglected by the state. For instance, NGOs such as Suara Raykat Malaysia (Peoples’ Voice, or SUARAM), National Consciousness Movement (ALIRAN), Angkatan Belia Islam (ABIM), Association of Chinese Schools Board (Dong Jiao Zong), and lesser ones such as Just World Trust (JUST) and Centre for Peace Initiative (CENPEACE) have been very critical of the state on a wide variety of issues. Many of them have been unhappy with the state of democracy in Malaysia, the lack of human rights, the limited freedom of the mass media, the denial of cultural rights to certain ethnic communities, and the use of repressive laws by the regime. Since these organizations are critical of the state, little or no attention has been paid to them. More often than not the views and arguments of these critically minded NGOs would be dismissed by the state on the grounds that they are anti-development and sponsored by some foreign agencies for the pursuance of some ulterior motives. The activities of the opposition political parties and those of the critically minded NGOs have meant that civil society is Malaysia is not completely dominated by the political ideology of the state. While the political parties such as DAP and PAS have been able to challenge the popular electoral support for the state, the impact of NGOs has been more indirect. The politically minded NGOs that were mentioned above might not have a direct impact in terms of influencing the policy directions of the state, but they nonetheless function in a manner to provide alternative conceptions of civil society. Thus, while opposition political parties and politically orientated NGOs might not have the political and ideological means to

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dominate civil society, they have the limited capacity to prevent the state from completely monopolizing this particular arena. Thus the state’s hegemony over civil society is not total. Over the years there have appeared various kinds of contestations to the state’s hegemony, principally emanating from the activities of oppositional forces, both political parties and NGOs. The very fact that these organizations can function and question the state’s hegemony reveals that the Malaysian society has undergone rapid socio-economic changes in the last two decades or so. Contestations of the state’s monopoly of civil society have been made possible by a number of developments. First, educational opportunities created by the rapid economic growth saw the emergence of a large Malaysian middle class. The rise of the middle class and its general uneasiness with too much governmental controls led some sections of it to champion the cause of democracy and good governance. In this respect, opposition political parties and some NGOs have come together to promote the larger democratic cause in the country by questioning the state’s overall domination. Second, the fall of many undemocratic regimes in the global arena influenced to some extent the democratic campaign in the country. For instance, the network established between local NGOs in Malaysia and elsewhere sustained the campaign for democracy through the provision of funds and intellectual assistance. Third, the campaign for democratization in the country was sustained, ironically, by the authoritarian practices of the regime, the rise in corruption and abuse of power, the lack of good governance, the use of repressive laws, and the state executive’s domination of the judiciary and the legislature. Although the ethnic ideology of the regime has come under heavy criticism, the opposition forces are not really in a position to present an effective alternative formula that would be multiracial in nature. The division within the ranks of the opposition between those who support the notion of an Islamic state and those who prefer a more multiracial approach, the strong pull exerted by the ethnic ideology even within the ranks of the opposition and to some extent on certain NGOs, the rise in the ranks of the middle class and their conservative orientation, and the occasional crackdown initiated by the regime have served to strengthen the regime’s domination of civil society. The state’s domination of civil society does not mean that its ethnic political ideology is intact, from an intellectual perspective. As stated earlier, the presence of coercion and the slow but inevitable socialization of the Malaysian society directed by the norms and values of the regime have made the ethnic political ideology quite dominant. However, on the

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intellectual level the state’s ethnic ideology, which advances bumiputra rights, has come under heavy criticism of late. From a larger democratic and egalitarian perspective, the state sanction of the rights of one ethnic group on the basis of certain historical and cultural factors seems difficult to justify. The idea that support and assistance from the state should be based on need rather than one’s ethnicity has become a rallying point for some sections of the society, such as the NGOs which are critical of the state. The government’s uncritical allegiance to the existing ethnic ideology has raised concerns about the distribution of goods and services for the benefit of the larger society. As it is there are criticisms that this method of reward has only benefited Malays who have special links with the political élite in UMNO. In the Malaysian context as elsewhere, it would be difficult to make sense of civil society and the nature of contestations without relating it to the economic or material dimension (Mouzelis 1995). In this respect, it would be worthwhile for us to speak of the political economy of civil society in Malaysia. As to why there are limited contestations within the realm of civil society and why there is a need for the state to enforce its domination forcefully, we must turn to the economic logic of the regime. It is clear that state authoritarianism was not so much to promote a particular ethnic ideology but more so to promote a particular variant of capitalist development. While the earlier period witnessed a truncated version of the laissez-faire system, the NEP era witnessed a strong interventionist state with the sole aim of addressing Malay economic grievances. In this respect, in the Malaysian context civil society became the perfect realm to realize the economic objectives of the regime. The necessity to push for the state’s strong presence in the economy would not have taken place without its domination and manipulation of the civil society. The use of the term affirmative action to justify pro-Malay policies, constant references to racial riots, the need to restructure wealth and abolish poverty, and others were used in varying ways to justify and condone the actions of the state. But then, as we have discussed, since consent was more long term than short term, the coercive apparatus was constantly invoked if ideological legitimation did not function as expected. Needless to say, the overall objective was not just the promotion of a particular ethnic group, but rather it also had to do with the nature of capitalist development in the country. Political scientists like Lipset argue that a high level of economic development gives rise to stable democracy. Of course, Lipset himself

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acknowledges that while economic development might give rise to stable democracy in the long run, in the short run, however, economic development might be disruptive to society (Lipset 1960, chapter 2). In so far as Malaysia is concerned, Crouch (1996) points out that material growth in the last few decades has not been accompanied by any perceptible signs of democratic liberalization. On the contrary, political controls have been introduced and sustained so that economic development would proceed without major political opposition. The different periods of the Malaysian political transition, the manner of economic development, the dependence on foreign capital, the strong role of the state in economic affairs, and others have all together predisposed the state to undertake economic development in a highly interventionist manner. So in a sense, constraints placed on civil society to protect the legitimacy of the state have been more due to the nature of economic growth desired by it. In this respect, a limited democratic participation of citizens, controls on what can be raised as political issues, control of labour and trade unionism, and others have been predicated on the need to promote a particular variant of capitalist development that depends very much on the suppression of the rights of the citizenry in many forms. The situation of labour provides a clear example of the nature of democracy in the country. In Malaysia the labour force — comprising nearly nine million workers, with most concentrated in sectors such as manufacturing, plantation, and service — contributes much to the development and prosperity of the country. But then labour is not only poorly organized but lacks a decent wage structure as well. There is no national minimum wage for workers, except for those working in the oilpalm industry. Only about 10 per cent of the workforce are organized in national unions and forming even in-house unions seems to be difficult for labour. In the manufacturing sector, where foreign multinationals are concentrated, wages are poor, not to mention the sub-standard working conditions. The state refuses to budge on the question of minimum wage because of its general fear that foreign capital might not readily come to Malaysia. In order to attract foreign investors, a number of concessions have been readily provided for them, such as tax holidays, generous repatriation of profits, and the absence of union. Beyond this, the presence of very restrictive labour legislations makes it difficult for labour to organize and to make systematic demands to improve their economic and social well-being. The recent implementation of AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Area) has emitted some ominous signals that whatever minimal benefits

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won by labour over the years might be diluted as the region moves in the direction of a free trade area.4 From the 1980s onwards, the moves by the state to undertake economic liberalization, structural reforms, and others were necessitated more by the demand of international capital than anything else. For instance, the move to implement the privatization programme, attempts at deregulation and structural reforms, financial changes, and others had basically nothing to do with the objectives of the democratization of the society. On the contrary, at least in the Malaysian case, economic reforms only saw the establishment of more controls over the citizenry. Unlike the West, where the political realm has some degree of autonomy, in some developing countries there is a close nexus between politics and economics. It would be difficult to understand the nature of civil society by only paying attention to the realm of the superstructure; rather an attempt should also be made to examine how the economy and its nature of development impose severe constraints on the democratization process. The state in Malaysia allows some space for the articulation of different political options within the already existing restricted sphere if these do not pose fundamental challenges to the manner in which it manages the country. Challenges that are interpreted as dangerous or having the potential to disrupt the development objective of the regime face the prospect of disruption or outright repression. There are numerous cases in the developmental experience of Malaysia that would indicate how the regime dealt with challenges over a long period of time. Of course, state élites often describe Malaysia as a democracy by pointing out the examples of the presence of certain democratic institutions, the commitment on the part of the leadership to uphold principles of democracy, the presence of civil society, and others. However, in the words of Francis Fukuyama, these formal principles might not render a country fully democratic in the substantive sense of the term. While ideological commitment to democracy and the presence of certain democratic institutions are important, they by themselves do not entitle a country to be fully classified as a democratic one. In the case of Malaysia the political rhetoric of democracy from time to time, the presence of elections, political parties, and parliament, and a weak opposition hardly qualify Malaysia to be a vibrant democracy. Malaysia might qualify as a formal/procedural democracy, but not a political system that has fullfledged democratic features. In this respect, Malaysia seems to have a long way to go. The very controlled manner of the conduct of elections, the

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periodic gerrymandering of the electoral system, and the power of the executive in riding roughshod over the legislature and the judiciary are some of the main reasons why the country cannot be classified as a democratic one but can at best be described as “quasi-democracy”, “statist democracy”, or even “pseudo-democracy”. Such a political system cannot be fully expected to provide the necessary freedom for individuals, groups, and classes to articulate their larger democratic concerns. Can the state’s domination/control of civil society in Malaysia be reduced in the near future? While there will be ongoing contestations between the state and non-state forces for the control of civil society, it is, however, doubtful that the non-state forces are powerful enough to limit the role of the state. Given the close nexus between politics and the nature of economic development, chances are that the state will continue to impose political controls on the society to promote a particular kind of capitalistic development. Since economic development means, among other things, the promotion of the liberalization of trade, removal of trade barriers, attraction of foreign direct investments, and opening up of markets, the state will ensure that these aspects of capitalist development will not be jeopardized by the opposition forces. In other words, future economic development will necessitate the state to maintain or impose further controls on the society to derive full benefits from globalization. CONCLUSION It need not be reiterated that the Gramscian methodology of understanding civil society is dynamic, for it enables us to examine and analyse different kinds of political contestations emanating from the state and non-state forces for domination and control. In Malaysia, while we can accept that civil society is a contestable terrain, the nature of contest is skewed very much in favour of the state. Since civil society is a coveted terrain for the purpose of political legitimacy in sustaining specific policies and for the larger purpose of capitalist development, the state in Malaysia serves to constrict and marginalize non-state forces from taking an active part. It is not that there are no contests but that the nature of participation works to the disadvantage of non-state forces like opposition political parties, NGOs, and others. The Malaysian situation reveals clearly that the state, by a combination of coercive and non-coercive measures, has succeeded in imposing a particular kind of ethnic ideology on the society as a whole. Non-ethnic contestations have been raised from time to time, but they fall short of seriously challenging the ideological basis of the state. Of course,

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state actions in civil society are not reducible to mere ethnic concerns, but more importantly to sustain a particular variant of capitalist development. Events in the last one decade or so indicate that the emphasis on globalization within the framework of a neo-liberal strategy might possibly impose more constraints on non-state actors taking part in the democratization process. Notes 1

2

3

4

Of late, the relevance of civil society is not only discussed in the context of authoritarian societies but also in societies that practise one form of democracy or another. Numerous works on democracy in Malaysia might not have paid much attention to the concept of civil society. But of late the concept of civil society seems to be invariably invoked in discussing the problems of democratization in Malaysia. Events following the 11 September attacks have made it difficult for organizations and political parties to vehemently advocate the Islamic position. There is fear that the regime might interpret such an advocacy as a form of terrorist activity. The full implementation of the objectives of AFTA might be conducive to big businesses and corporate organizations, but labour stands to lose much. There is fear that labour might lose whatever rights it has gained over the years.

References Caporaso, J.A. and D. Levine. Theories of Political Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Case, W. “Semi-Democracy in Malaysia: Withstanding the Pressures for Regime Change”. Pacific Affairs 66, no. 2 (Summer 1993): 183–205. ———. “Politics Beyond Anwar: What’s New?”. Asian Journal of Political Science 7, no. 1 (June 1999): 1–19. Crouch, H. Government and Society in Malaysia. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1996. Delue, S.M. Political Thinking, Political Theory and Civil Society. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997. Diamond, Larry. “Rethinking Civil Society — Toward Democratic Consolidation”. Journal of Democracy 5, no. 3 (July 1994): 4–17. Femia, J.V. Gramsci’s Political Thought: Hegemony, Consciousness, and the Revolutionary Process. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981. Gellner, E. “The Importance of Being Modular”. In Civil Society: Theory, History, Comparison, edited by John A. Hall, pp. 32–55. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995.

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Gramsci, Antonio. Prison Notebooks. Vol. 2. New York: Columbia University Press, 1975. Hegel, G.W.F. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, translated by T.M. Knox. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952. Jesudason, J. “Statist Democracy and the Limits to Civil Society in Malaysia”. Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 33, no. 3 (November 1995): 335–56. Joseph, Sarah. “Civil Society vs State? Civil Society, Political Society and NonParty Political Process in India”. Economic and Political Weekly, 26 January 2002. Khoo Boo Teik. “Democracy and Authoritarianism in Malaysia since 1957: Class, Ethnicity and Changing Capitalism”. In Democratization in Southeast Asia and East Asia, edited by Anek Loathamatas, pp. 44–73. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1997. Lipset, S.M. Political Man. New York: Doubleday, 1960. Loh Kok Wah. “Developmentalism and the Limits of Democratic Discourse”. In Democracy in Malaysia: Discourses and Practices, edited by Loh Kok Wah and Khoo Boo Teik, pp. 19–50. Richmond: Curzon Press, 2002. Marx, K. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, edited by Maurice Dobb. New York: International Publishers, 1970. Mouzelis, N. “Modernity, Late Development and Civil Society”. In Civil Society: Theory, History, Comparison, edited by John A. Hall, pp. 224–49. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995. Noumoff, S. “Civil Society: Does It Have Meaning?”. In Development: The Need for Reflection, edited by Myriam Gervais, pp. 105–14. Montreal: CDAS, 2000. Putnam, Robert. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. Ramasamy, P. “Civil Society—Beyond the Liberal Mindset”. Malaysiakini (online), 21 May 2001. Sassoon, A.S. Gramsci’s Politics. London: Hutchinson, 1987. Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America, edited by J.P. Mayer and Marx Lerner. New York: Harper and Row, 1966. Zakaria Haji Ahmad. “Malaysia: Quasi Democracy in a Divided Society”. In Democracy in Developing Countries, edited by L. Diamond et al., pp. 347– 82. Vol. 3. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1989.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg > ETHNICITY

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11 Civil Society Discourse and the Future of Radical Environmental Movements in Thailand Chantana Banpasirichote INTRODUCTION This chapter questions the relevance of the new emerging concept of civil society in Thailand, specifically while it has expanded the public space for environmental activism, civil society has also shackled the radical wing of the environmental movements. Because environmental problems are closely linked with poverty and income disparities, the issues of environmental justice raised by the radical movements do not situate favourably within the consensus-dominated civil society discourse. Thus while the concept of civil society is gaining popularity, the radical environmental movements are facing more obstacles and have to work much harder in the present political setting. As such the radical movements’ direct actions will continue to be a pervasive feature of civil society as long as the discursive practice approach does not genuinely embrace the issues of environmental injustice and the state continues its repression of the radical movements. Nevertheless, the radical movements face a dilemma between continuing their style of demanding social justice and, at the same time, maintaining the public’s trust in an atmosphere of political reform. In other words, the political legitimacy of the radical environmental movements is being put to a test.

DEVELOPMENT OF RADICAL ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENTS Thai radical environmental movements emerged as a result of political liberalization and the increasing occurrences of environmental crises.1 The politicization of environmental issues coincided with the new emerging

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activism among progressive elements of the middle class, led by student activists, amid the advent of political liberalization in the early 1980s.2 Specifically, two major protests against the Nam Choan Dam in Kanchanaburi and the Tantalum Industrial Plant in Phuket marked the beginning of the politicization of environmental issues (Hirsch and Lohmann 1989).3 By the 1990s the nature of environmental activism began to change when environmental issues became overtly linked with development and politics. Indeed, when the economic boom began to take its toll on the environment, it increasingly radicalized the environmental activism as the developmentalism4 strategy caused social and economic dislocations as well as ecological changes; for example, the numerous community resettlement programmes, the increase in death tolls from industrial hazards and accidents, and the vanishing fishing grounds and self-sustaining wetlands. Not surprisingly, since the impacts of the environmental degradation were felt most acutely by the rural marginal groups, the radical environmental movements became identified with their struggles (Pasuk et al., 2002). Discontents among the affected marginal groups were manifested nationwide in the form of sporadic protests (see Appendix A). In 1995 the largest mobilization of the affected groups established the powerful social movement the Assembly of the Poor (AP). The movement put together over a hundred specific demands on various development and environmental issues, and empowered people by networking and making alliances with various other sectors in society. In terms of composition, the movement was made up of grass-roots groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), with the former operating on the basis of their self-interests and the latter translating their demands into policy questions. Frequently then, in pursuing alternative development, the grass-roots groups and NGOs complement each other (Prapas 1997; Suthy 2001; Chantana 1998). Obviously, the characteristics of radical movements are largely appraised in terms of the types of action they have undertaken. In the eyes of both the general public and government, radical actions include destroying and trespassing government property and buildings, road blocks, burning of politicians’ effigies, performing cursing rituals, and camping out in front of government buildings; also, there were situations where the protests ended up in violent confrontations with the police. These types of action are regarded as too threatening for the authorities because the general public is still not used to such bold actions. There is, moreover, a misperception that actions violating the laws are violent despite the reality that most civil disobedience demonstrations are orderly and peaceful and

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that the right to protest is stipulated in the Constitution. Thus although the radical feature of the environmental activism signifies acts that challenge the state power, the general public’s perception might still be prejudiced by the overt physical violent and illegal actions. In contrast, the public’s understanding of violence is not extended to the coercive, frequently violent, methods exercised by the state in the name of preserving law and order and protecting the interests of its citizens.5 The environmental movement in Thailand is dominated by pressure groups that emphasize policy advocacy. Their main form of action is social protests with direct confrontation with the state. Given the complex web of injustices embedded in the environmental conflicts, the demands pressed upon the state by the rural marginal groups frequently resulted in nonnegotiable stalemates. For instance, the protracted struggle over the Pak Moon Dam proved that all the compensation paid to the victims of the dam could not settle the conflict unless the dam gates are opened to free the Moon River. Indeed, the no-compromise stance adopted by the activists indicates that their demands involve more than just compensating the victims of the environmental impacts. On the Pak Moon Dam case, activists questioned the generally held argument that the dam would bring about desirable development when, in fact, the people affected by the dam did not want to give up their decent livelihood by the river for double cropping of rice elsewhere or for factory work away from home.6 It is apparent that the prolonged environmental struggles are largely due to the conflicting roles of the state and the people in the decision-making process and the system of natural resources management. The environmental activists’ demands usually encounter state-instituted policy framework and decision-making process that are biased against them. Thus, since radical environmental activism is usually in conflict with the state policy, uprooting the existing state environmental policy and system of natural resources management has become an underlying agenda of the radical activists.7 Also, radical movements arose from environmental conflicts where the marginalized poor became antagonistic opponents of the state.8 Undoubtedly, the rise in the people’s environmental protests in the past ten years reveals that there exists an unbridgeable gap between the different systems of ecological knowledge. As the environmental politics has become more discursive, issues of knowledge and power have become more closely linked. NGOs and protesters have been challenging the professional knowledge in policy-making while promoting local wisdom (pume panya tongtin). For example, they point out that the seemingly never-ending arguments over the “carrying capacity” of the environment

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is due to the failure to develop a stock of knowledge that connects both local and professional wisdom. In addition, because of the lack of a knowledge base, people are disadvantaged in their attempts to establish their local knowledge systems and practices as equally legitimate. This problem has led the local movements to expand and widen their alliances in order to strengthen their negotiating power as well as to enhance the legitimacy of local knowledge systems. It is evident that political development has importantly shaped the nature of the environmental movements in Thailand; indeed, the environmental and political reform movements mutually reinforce one another. The politicization of environmental issues has to some extent changed the image of politics as coming closer to the activities of the common people. Nevertheless, although there is much talk about good governance and public participation in the policy process, the lack of a clear and acceptable public participation framework in the policy process has allowed vested interests to interfere in the environmental campaigns and advocacy. Without a proper channel for a two-way communication between the state and people, the policy process, in spite of the pluralistic political backdrop, has remained frustrated by vested interests such that the politics of grass-roots environmental movements has become increasingly contentious. SOCIAL AND POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS OF RADICAL ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENTS As the radical environmental movements are unusual in Thai politics, it is not quite generally understood how they have been configured. There are analyses on the radical and grass-roots movements that might open to further debate their position in politics. Class Composition of the Movements Suthy Prasartset (2001) sees the AP as a new kind of social movement that cuts across class divisions. This is because the AP is made up of members from the grass-roots communities but has formed extensive alliances with other sectors, such as the urban middle classes, academics, media, and NGOs. Thus the AP calls for immediate political attention to the impacts of conventional development, such as the plight of dam victims, and also brings up bigger questions of political reform and rethinking of the development paradigm. Nevetheless, there is no mistaking that the AP’s

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actions are mainly to help the poor who are victimized by the environmental degradation. By their actions the AP has brought the poor back into focus after their being passed over as an issue, demanding political consideration during the period of high economic growth. Generally, issues raised by the radical movements, such as land reform, community rights, access to natural resources for the marginalized, and demands for recognizing the legitimacy of local wisdom, would not receive much empathy from the well-to-do urban classes. Niti Eosriwong, the renowned populist-academic and social critic, observes that the middle classes in Bangkok are largely ignorant of the plight of the poor living in rural areas and dependent on scarce or rapidly dwindling natural resources. He believes that the middle classes’ prejudice against the poor is an important factor impeding the discourse on the draft community forest bill that would legally enable local communities to use and manage their forests (Niti 2002, p. 47). Thus although the perception of the radical grass-roots movements as having cross-class alliances is correct, it remains a fact that their agenda primarily seeks redress for the marginalized poor. The Movements and the Politics of Livelihoods The fundamental cause pushing the grass-roots radical movements is the degradation of sustainable livelihoods that are linked to the country’s development directions. The radical movements are clearly different from environmental groups, such as nature conservationists, that solely emphasize the environment or nature protection, and sometimes, in fact, they come in conflict with each other. Moreover, while the radical environmental movements identify themselves with the broad democratic movement, the nature conservationists tend to lean towards the authority of the state to manage the environment. Also, for the radical movements it is difficult to extricate the environmental issues from the socio-economic and democratic context and, indeed, for them classes, poverty, and the environment are very much inter-related.9 Hence they often demand that the public take a meaningful political stance on issues relating to the environment or social justice even though more often than not the public are divided when the issues of equity are raised. Role of NGOs in the Grass-roots Movements Organizationally, the radical environmental movements are composed of two major layers of actors: NGOs and organized local people (Chantana

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1998; Prapas 1997). Although there is growing participation by local groups in environmental activism, NGOs remain necessary alliances for the radical movements because only a combination of NGOs and local groups can help to balance the existing unequal power relations in Thai society. Invariably, however, the presence of both NGOs and grass-roots actors would result in the movements seeking the immediate fulfilment of the needs of local groups on the one hand and demanding for more longterm policy changes and reform on the other.10 It must be admitted that the struggle for long-term policy and social reform requires a capacity that would be beyond the grass-roots level. With the participation of NGOs, grass-roots groups, such as dam victims and people displaced by other development projects, have coalesced into an environmental movement brought together under the overarching agenda of environmental justice and the right to access and make decisions on natural resources. Nevertheless, this organizational innovation needs further modification in the NGO–grass-roots relationship before both could be accepted as legitimate players. The Movements and Social Change Although radical actions often catch the public eye and demand government attention, the social change it has brought about is only incremental. The general anticipation of the outcome of the movements is threefold: immediate measures to restore livelihoods, policy changes, and social reform. While the state’s responses to its demands have fallen short of the grassroots network’s expectations, the latter’s actions have nevertheless led to modifications in the public policy process. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that the radical movements’ engagement in environmental conflicts has helped to open up the democratic policy- and decision-making processes. This change, however, remains a work in progress and its future depends very much on several factors, including the outcome of political reforms and the persistence of the radical movements. State responses to protestors’ demands remain largely the result of pressure from direct actions and not that of winning the political discourse.11 Public awareness of environmental injustice, unsustainable use of resources, and the community rights to natural resources remains deficient and not yet receptive for change towards a more environmentally sound development. The radical movements have situated their struggle from the perspective of victims of environmental destruction or threats without drawing sufficient interconnections with the

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rest of society. Unsurprisingly, the urban middle-class public remain quite ignorant and naïve about the problems of environmental impacts and unable to identify with the radical movements’ actions, which they usually equate as effecting the interests of particular groups. After a decade, the most obvious impact of the protests organized by radical movements is the extensive revisions of large-scale projects that did not sufficiently address the issues of environmental and social impacts. Large-scale projects now face greater public scrutiny and certain mechanisms of public participation are being questioned, particularly the public hearings and the social and environmental impact assessments (SIA and EIA). Indeed, environmental conflicts have inspired the emergence of the National Environment Quality Act in 1992 that strengthens the accountability of EIAs and public participation. In general, radical movements have contributed to the deepening of Thai democracy such that the idea of people exercising their power has gradually been implanted in the environmental movements. While it is only recently that people have gained the confidence to challenge the state authority on environmental issues, nevertheless, this knowledge has been disseminated by networks and quickly picked up by people throughout the country. Consequently, the victims of development and environmental destruction have taken a more active role in the struggles. Local people have created a political space where they attempt to demystify the benefits of dams or the myths about pristine forests, raise debate about industrial safety and hazards, and eventually question why the state should have the sole authority to make decisions over the use and management of natural resources. In short, local movements are beginning to insist on the rights of the marginalized. The Movements and the Counter Forces The opposition to the radical movements comes from local authorities, government officials, and other groups, such as nature conservationists. The officials and mainstream policy-makers view the protesters as a threat to national security. National development, they assert, will not be possible if the radical movements do not attempt to compromise. Perhaps, in a sense, the single most powerful countervailing force that the radical movements face is none other than the state itself. In fact, the actions taken by the state could be considered a form of structural violence that seeks to repress the capacity of the people to defend themselves and indeed frequently the protesters’ direct actions are

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far less threatening than the legally sanctioned force used by the state authorities. Police officials, forest rangers, or provincial defence authorities often use physical force to evacuate people from the forests, burn down the cottages of fishermen for obstructing tourist sites, and arrest the leaders of protest groups. This use of official force would not include other incidents where many protest leaders were killed by unknown persons.12 Significantly, the public often view the violent actions of the police and state authorities against the dissidents as perfectly justified and legitimate. The Internal Security Department, which was almost abolished after being found not necessary under the 1997 Constitution, has recently revitalized itself by taking the initiative to deal with protesters.13 Although it claims not to use force, the state has intentionally treated protesters as enemies. It has segregated radical movements from the rest of civil society by disseminating information to the public to mystify the protesters’ arguments. Instead of using processes of peaceful conflict resolution and democratic decisionmaking, the state bypasses the protesting groups and attempts to mobilize the public to view the protesters as threats to national security or economic development. In various ways then, the radical movements are rapidly being delegitimized and are unable to find a foothold in civil society, especially since the level of tolerance of the state for newer democratic settings is unacceptably low. Indeed, the state’s responses to the radical movements might undermine the country’s democratic atmosphere and confuse civil society. The end result is that, given the prevailing circumstances, a high degree of distrust exists such that it increases the fragility of democracy and the vulnerability of the radical movements.14 Environmental movements today seem not to be effecting policy changes as much as in the earlier periods and, moreover, it appears that there is a shift in the new environmental politics towards a more discursive practice. The radical movements that once won the arguments over the Nam Choan Dam (Panu 1987) are now facing more counter-forces in the now contested spaces of civil society. The radical movements were more effective at the beginning of political liberalization when society felt the domination of the state. After the Nam Choan Dam controversy, the state and its machinery have somehow also played the discursive game. Arguments propagated by the state thus often affect the legitimacy of the radical movements on several counts; for instance by labelling the radical protesters as “antidevelopment movements”, or “violence-prone movements”, “lawless”, and “not genuine”. Environmental movements were already in existence before the term “civil society” was widely used in Thai society. The introduction of the

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term increases the sense of pluralism as more diverse groups were formed and recognized. Nevertheless, the radical movements, which were not many and very much grass-roots based, were criticized by both the state and the ignorant public for their direct action approach and a non-compromise stance. Scepticism and criticism of the radical movements, led mostly by the state, seem to be concomitant with the proliferation of the idea of civil society, particularly after the economic crisis in 1997. This might have something to do with the connotation of civil society itself as well as the prevailing role of the state in civil society. To understand this contradiction within Thai civil society, it is necessary to capture the characteristics of Thai political change and the current debate on civil society. PEOPLE’S POLITICS IN THAI BUREAUCRATIC POLITY The history of modern Thai politics formally began with the establishment of the constitutional monarchy in 1932. This political change, however, did not translate into an instant reformation of the existing political power structure and thus a small group of élites continued to monopolize political power. It was to take more than fifty years for Thailand to become a quasidemocracy around the 1980s, and another ten to fifteen years to achieve political reform by constitutionalism in the mid-1990s. However, the legacy of highly centralized state and bureaucratic polity that has come to characterize Thai politics over a long period of time still exists. Throughout the process of political change there has been the incessant competition between the bureaucratic and extra-bureaucratic polities. While the expansion of extra-bureaucratic polity has opened more political space, the state has managed, nevertheless, to keep the extra-bureaucratic polity confined within the private sector such that the people are still marginal within this political space. By the second half of the 1990s, the political development had reached a stage where a bourgeois democracy had emerged (Suchit 1996, p. 106). Hence it was only after the promulgation of the new Constitution and the beginning of the political reform in 1997 that civil society has sought to challenge and monitor the state. The characteristic of Thai politics and political changes has certainly influenced the nature of civil society and its relationship with the state. Civil society has emerged and was formed in a political environment where non-state actors were not well institutionalized in the policy and

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political processes. There are several key conditions that have contributed to shaping the dynamics of civil society in Thailand. First, certain significant political incidents in the past have produced generations of active citizens who subsequently became important catalysts for social action. In this respect it is important to note the generation of people who experienced the tumultuous events of 14 October 1973 and 6 October 1976 and re-emerged to build the democratization process during the pro-democracy uprising in May 1992 (see Appendix B). Former student activists who were forced to hide in the forests after being persecuted as “communists” by the state later returned to civilian life and benefited from the booming economic growth in the second half of the 1980s. This generation of former student activists thus formed a segment of the new middle classes that took an active role, well known as the “mobile-phone mob”, in the pro-democracy protests in May 1992. The May Incident led to the beginning of political reform in 1997 with broader public participation that included a spectrum of diverse civic groups engaged in political activities across the country. It is obvious that a series of political actions were an important learning process essential for the expansion of civil society in the late 1990s. Second, political reform has not come without resistance. It is important to recognize that there are competing forces between the bureaucratic and extra-bureaucratic polities. For several decades since the beginning of the constitutional monarchy Thai politics has been dominated by a small group of élites. As the state administration was, and still is, highly centralized, it has resulted in a rigid, paternalistic political culture. Nevertheless, there has also been a growing extra-bureaucratic force led by the student movement and further expanded by the business sector.15 The emerging political participation of the student movement and business associations has important ramifications for the prevailing contestation between representative and participatory democracy. Indeed, the reform period of Thai politics could be seen as a tug of war between the élitist and the populist proponents with the large extent of the 1997 Constitution illustrating the compromise and the conflict between the two camps. Third, although democracy has already been implanted in Thai society, trust is not yet an established feature of the political culture. The multiple check and balance mechanisms provided by the 1997 Constitution, for instance, the Constitutional Court, the National Election Commission (NEC), and the National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC), are subjected to public scrutiny and criticism. The people’s elected

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representatives cannot claim public trust because of their continuing practice of bad or money-oriented politics. More importantly, direct public participation is not well received by the general public because of the fear that such actions could be motivated by vested interests or instigated by rival political parties. Unsurprisingly, civic actions against state policies are often viewed with suspicion as being masterminded by a “third party”. This is naturally not healthy for the overall development of civil society. Although democratization is believed to be a non-reversible process, at the moment democracy is still fragile precisely because of the distrust of politics caused by the persisting influence of patron–client relations in modern organizations, such as the personal connections between local and national politicians, or between the business tycoons and bureaucrats.16 If ever a transitional period of Thai politics can be defined, then the political reform starting in 1997 can be considered as a turning point. The most important point is that even though the political culture is changing only in small sections of the society, the popular movement signifies a new political culture battling with the traditional politics of the powerful élite. This is becoming more obvious with the implementation of the 1997 Constitution whereby the recruitment of membership for several new commissions, the drafting of organic laws for the enforcement of the Constitution, and other processes act as a platform for competition over new political positions and ideas. While pressure politics seems to be the only alternative for acting outside parliamentary politics, it has yet to establish a smooth relationship with the parliamentary system. Indeed, pressure politics remains employed largely by the progressive segment of civil society whose own legitimacy remains precarious. THAI CIVIL SOCIETY: VISIBILITY AND LEGITIMACY In recent years, the Thai people have become an important political entity with increased relevance in the political participation process. In the early period of the democratic transition, legalized people’s organizations were mostly under the control of the state. Precisely because politics was under the control of the state for more than half the period of the development of democracy in Thailand, there was more participation by state-mobilized people and groups in the policy sphere and political activities. The state and political parties even interfered in, and dominated, the labour unions and weakened their overall growth in the early stages of democratic development (Chai-anan and Morell 1981, pp. 181–200).

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Nevertheless, in spite of the pervasive state control of politics there have been occasions when the people emerged in the public space to challenge the power of the state. Thus in the period leading to the redemocratization and political reform today there were major social and political actions that could be considered to be manifestations of civil society activities: the student movement (1970s), environmental movements and NGOs in policy advocacy (1980s), the new middle classes in the “mobile-phone mob” in the May Incident (1992) and, in its aftermath, the AP (1995), the people’s network for anti-corruption, and several groups working on political reform (2000). The non-state actors in the political and policy arena have been primarily identified with the student movement and NGOs. However, with the increasing political liberalization the student movement subsided as an active democratic force. By the mid-1980s, the increasing involvement of business associations in politics had changed the traditional bureaucratic polity into a liberal corporatism. In addition, the extra-bureaucratic polity had also expanded with the growing NGO sector. With the rise of the environmental crisis, NGOs, having absorbed a large number of the former student activists from the 1970s, became increasingly more politicized and emerged as a major anti-state group. Finally, in the aftermath of the May Incident in 1992 more new actors emerged to participate in public actions, such as the civic groups that focused on pressuring for constitutional and political reforms. After the promulgation of the Constitution in 1997, civic groups persisted in their pro-reform actions and also their monitoring of the political reform process. Among these civic groups can be included the Campaign for Popular Democracy, the Federation for Democracy, the Protection of Civil Rights and Freedom Group (led by Veera Somkwamkid), and the Institute for Political Development. Undoubtedly, the Constitution opened up a wider political space for these civic groups to initiate political campaigns, gain more confidence, and enjoy the legitimacy for acting for reform. Obviously, actors in these political events include some segments of the middle classes but, for various reasons, it appeared that the presence of the lower classes was not evident in the public spaces and political reform actions. This does not mean, however, that there were no members of the lower classes in the political and public actions, but rather that they formed the mass base rather than the core group. The Farmers Federation of Thailand, for example, was an important organization that united with the student movement in questioning the legitimacy of the authoritarian

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government during the 1970s pro-democracy uprising. The organization came to an end when their leader was assassinated in the early 1980s — this was after the similar deaths of other farmer leaders. Labour unions also played a significant role in the May Incident of 1992. Years later farmers’ protests re-emerged as independent interest groups and in alliances with NGOs within the environment and natural resources movements. Around 1995, a new farmers’ protest appeared in the public arena in the form of a large networking of victims of dams and other largescale development projects, that is, the AP (Chantana 1998). More than ten organizations assembled to pressure the state to solve the livelihood problems of the poor and development injustice. Networking and alliance building have become a strategy for empowerment for the non-state actors. The organizational innovation is seen as a symbiosis between the interestbased groups (development victims) and the cause-based groups (policy advocacy) to secure higher legitimacy in the space of non-parliamentary politics. The AP has provided more visibility for the poor, who were forgotten during the euphoria of rapid economic growth and the “bubble economy”, and reignited the discourse on poverty. A significant progress of social movements, apart from the organizational innovation as in the case of the AP and other alliance-building efforts, is the move towards addressing more complex issues, such as anti-corruption, fair elections, community rights to natural resources, development justice and human rights, and consumer protection. These difficult issues touch on the fundamental problem that requires real and genuine reform and substantive democracy. At this point, social actions stand on two stepping stones, one on deepening democracy and the other on social justice. CONTESTED CIVIL SOCIETY It will be a mistake for actors in the radical environmental movements to assume that there are only progressive groups in civil society. Conversely, the conservative groups in civil society cannot assume that civil society is composed of only like-minded groups. Although many people do not think that the state has a place in civil society, in reality public officials are all over the place intervening in the affairs of the people. Also, one could argue that the business sector uses the public space more efficiently and effectively compared to the civic groups. In short, the existence of a plurality of groups with potentially competing, or even conflicting, interests and ideologies means that civil society has become a contested space.

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Of particular concern is this predicament: although civic actions are encouraged by the 1997 Constitution, a large segment of society continues to have reservations about opening up the public participation too liberally. In this regard, the NGOs and civic groups that challenge the state power and problematize the structural issues are seen as too radical. In Thailand the term “civil society” does not differentiate between the political space of the state, the market, and the society. It was first brought to public attention by the political crisis after the May Incident and then further elevated during the economic crisis to help guide social and political reform. The term was therefore used strategically to reiterate the role of active citizens in bringing about reforms. By the same token, civil society was equated with the expansion of the horizon of collective action to cover more than what was originally seen as the sphere of student activists and the NGO movements. There is also a tendency to include the state and part of the market in civil society (Jamaree 2000; Chuchai and Yuwadee 1997). In the end, what matters more is not who but whose power counts in the public space. The dominant argument about civil society connotes a consensus notion; for example, Dr Praves Wasi, a respected social critic, proposes a benja parkee or five-party civil society model comprising academics, the people, NGOs, the state, and business. Obviously, civil society, literally pracha sangkom in Thai, is conceived in terms of establishing social synergy. Chai-anan Samudavnija points out that in the Thai political context, there is a possibility that the state would get involved in the process of civic actions (Chuchai and Yuwadee 1997). In practice all the parties, including the state, use pracha sangkom to justify their actions. In general, the prevailing Thai civil society offers a notion of corporatist relationship with the state, promotes consensus, and calls for mutual public responsibility. While the mainstream argument portrays only the positive dimension of civil society, the reality is markedly different. The beginning of this chapter outlined cases of conflicts over resources and environmental issues, which do not seem to fit well with the description of the consensus model of civil society. The views from below find that Praves’s version of civil society is élitist and does not afford a place for the marginalized people (Somchai 1999, p. 11). Jamaree too recognizes that it is natural to find conflicts in civil society and thus argues that the main concern should be about how civil society could resolve conflicts without using force (2000, p. 35). Like many other development discourses in the past, the state not only plays a considerable role in the politics of discourse on civil society, but

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also keenly attempts to promote its own version of civil society. The Ministry of Interior has created the Prachakom, or People’s Forum, which is compatible with the consensus notion supported by the five-party civil society model. The state established the Prachakom at the provincial, district, and sub-district (tambon) levels as a means to “make” civil society. Prachakom comprises a considerable number of representatives from each village to work with local officials to discuss the government development agenda, such as social and economic plans. It was later used as a mechanism to distribute and monitor the government village fund, a popular policy of the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra since 2001. This chapter takes for granted that it is not necessary to go into an elaboration of the academic and public intellectual debates on the meaning of civil society. A thorough review has already been done; for example, Chuchai and Yuwadee (1998), Jamaree (2000), and Somchai (1999). Furthermore, discussions on civil society are useful but of not much concern to the radical movements because the questions related to their bargaining power have been pursued. Therefore, the arguments on civil society would be best appreciated by the discursive practice of civil society by different groups, including the state. Environmental actions within civil society are good evidence of a contested civil society. Based on a review of major studies on civil society, the ongoing radical environmental activism, and the responses of the state, this chapter outlines two different perspectives on how civil society situates itself in Thai society, between an orientation of consensus and confrontation (Table 11.1). The dichotomy is useful only when there is a need to compare the

TABLE 11.1 Civil Society – A Dichotomy Consensus-Prone Civil Society

Confrontation-Prone Civil Society

• Partnership and co-operation • Main actors in urban middle classes, the state, and business • Cross-class • Representative democracy • Against physical violence • Aim for active citizen and civic responsibility

• • • • • •

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Check and balance Common people and the marginalized Participatory democracy Recognition of class differentiation Against structural violence Aim for policy change in social and environmental justice

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radical movements with the mainstream civil society perspectives. In reality, there is a high possibility of an overlap between the two orientations. For example, some environmental NGOs often adopt different strategies, depending on different political situations. From the point of view of asymmetric power relations in Thai society and the existing obstacles to the ongoing political reform, it is almost impossible for the grass-roots movement to overcome the barriers without going through the confrontation strategy. It must be reiterated that Thai political culture has not entirely changed even though the 1997 Constitution had been drafted with public participation throughout the country. The two major opposite ideas about civil society have certain implications for the radical environmental movements today. It is clear that the grassroots and some environmental and political reform NGO movements do not find the corporatist relationship with the state fruitful. A series of negotiations and bargaining in different kinds of settings, such as task force committees, do not usually provide mutually satisfactory outcomes. Pressure politics by mass mobilization and public campaign through the mass media is still the predominant approach employed by the grass-roots movements. From the conservatives’ perspective this pressure politics disturbs the social order because it is perceived to be undermining state stability. Since the pressure politics does indeed shake not only the stability but also the political status quo, the conservatives have much reason to be disturbed. Thus they offer their idea of pracha sangkom, which is softer than the pressure groups and social movements, and attempt to delegitimize the radical grass-roots movements. While there is a consensus on the national agenda like the drafting of the Constitution in 1997, Thai society remains divided on certain issues. These issues are juxtaposed between the national and local interests, the poor and middle class style of livelihood, and the state authority and rights of marginal groups. For example, Thai society cannot find a common stand on land distribution, community access to the forests, national policy on energy and energy surplus, the impact and the benefits of large dams, or the siting of waste-treatment plants. Favourable conditions have enabled civil society to make much progress since the economic crisis and the beginning of political reform in 1997. The political change can be observed in terms of both quantity (diverse groups) and quality (complex issues). The question is whether the change in civil society can make a difference to political reform and further strengthen Thai democracy. On the surface, the political situation is changing very rapidly, especially under the influence of the 1997 Constitution, but

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this does not necessarily mean a change in existing power relations. To some analysts, civil society, particularly in the Asian context, can be manipulated by the state (Chandhoke 2001). The political infrastructure for better public participation is materializing and will be in place soon. In this process of democratic consolidation, the people have witnessed political abuses and manipulations of the new reform mechanisms, such as the public hearing and the Information Act. Moreover, the dominant presence of highranking bureaucrats and business representatives are evident in most of the newly established politically autonomous organizations such as the NEC, Commission on Information Disclosure, and the controversial Commission on Telecommunications and Mass Media. The weakening bureaucratic polity is now taking on a new form within the constitutional mechanisms of multiple checks and balances. The political culture is believed to be changing but only within a limited circle. Perhaps the development of civil society is not quite as substantive precisely because the nature of the growth of Thai civil society has possibly in fact hindered the capacity for political change. There are two important observations explaining the dynamic of civil society. First, the change in civil society is seen as more vertical than horizontal. The active groups have become more and more vocal but they are still vulnerable because they have not achieved broad, citizen-based movements. In other words, while the movements have managed to link with the decision-making processes, they have not managed to be more persuasive with the public at large. There are still not enough social activists or activism to support much-needed public actions to sustain the ongoing reform process. Second, there still exist countervailing forces within civil society itself. While there are groups that advocate democratic reform, right wing populist and élitist factions are also manifesting themselves in the reform process. Moreover, civil society in Thailand is also being criticized by the grassroots activists as becoming an endeavour exclusively based on the urban middle classes. FUTURE OF RADICAL ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENTS The future of radical environmental movements will depend on how civil society evolves from now on. Some determinant factors include the counterresponses of the state, the unravelling of environmental issues, and how development projects are implemented. If the state continues to implement

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development projects forcefully and aggressively, then the grass-roots environmental activism will continue to be radical. This will remain the case as the new political reforms do not provide proper channels for the people to participate more effectively. As long as deliberative democracy cannot be established in a way that will enable the marginalized to play an equal role in decision-making, radical movements will continue to exist during the process of political reform. However, the radical movements remain vulnerable given that they have to struggle against various opposing forces. Policy advocacy for community rights and an environmentally sound economy has not been successful because it generates too much tension within the contested spaces of the development discourse among the incompatible vested interests, that is, the urban capitalists, the middle classes, and the rural poor. The civil society discourse has created another understanding of collective action apart from that of radical NGOs. The appearance of the state and the business sector in the public space in a way delegitimizes anti-state actions in civil society. The fact that civil society does not specifically recognize class differentiation has contributed to an insensitivity to the agenda of the marginalized people in society. It is understandable that the urban middle classes, the dominant actors in civil society, are predisposed to the issue of clean politics rather than issues of environmental and development justice. Despite not blending well within a consensus-prone civil society, the state of radical environmental movements, nevertheless, is dependent on the condition of civil society. It can be said that Thai civil society is still in the process of evolving and continues to learn from various experiences, such as how civic organizations can be mobilized (Anuchat and Kritaya 1999). As pointed out earlier, while a small number of citizen groups and organizations have become excessively active and highly articulate, the rest of civil society and the society at large are unable to keep pace with them. More broad-based or membership-based civic organizations can help to enhance the new political culture and a healthy civil society. Thailand’s radical environmental movements will persist in their efforts to challenge the unbalanced power structure. They will naturally become more radical in direct response to the increased attempts by the state to manipulate civil society. A certain degree of anarchism could arise and politics become more contentious amidst the existing artificial consensus of the state-influenced civil society. In this scenario, both the state and the actors of the radical movements will be responsible for the social and

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political costs of political reforms, including physical violence or the loss of trust in democratic systems. Thailand’s civil society may have opened up more possibilities for people’s politics but the content of the politics itself has not changed much in the country. In the context of asymmetric power relations, it would be risky to adopt the idea that civil society would create a level playing field for every group. In fact, there is less possibility for the radical movements not to use direct actions and more easily co-operate with the state. Indeed, the proliferation of the concept of civil society is something the radical movements have to deal with, that is, by winning the public argument through communicative action. Viewed from this point, the radical movements in Thailand, which are composed mostly of the grass-roots and marginalized people, could find the battles in civil society quite lonely. It is not so much their playing field as that of the counter-forces provoked by the state to influence and manipulate civil society. Ideally, although less contentious politics is desirable for the political reform, it should not be at the cost of compromising with the political status quo. The development of civil society concepts needs political relationships other than merely corporatist schemes. This equally calls for an innovative strategy by the radical movements. In the long run, the twin actors of the grass-roots people and the NGOs in the radical movements need to become separate entities, which would result in a more diversified approach of environmental activism and a more meaningful participatory political culture.

Appendix A Major Incidents of Environmental Protests Nam Choan Dam (1987–88): Student activists and local residents of Kanchanaburi protested against the multi-purpose dam project which would flood a large area of national forest reserve. The project was finally halted. Tantalum industrial plant (1986): Phuket residents and student activists (Kana Kammakarn Anurak Sappayakorn Tannachat and Sapaap Waedlom 16 Sataban [The Conservation of Environments and Natural Resources Committee] protested against the operation of the tantalum industrial

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plant that would cause air pollution over Phuket. The protest turned violent during which the plant was burned down and finally shut down. Pak Moon Dam and other anti-dam movements (1990– ): Protest against the hydropower dam over the Moon River in Ubonrachatanee. A series of protests and negotiations have taken place over the last fifteen to twenty years. Protesters came from different sectors, including national and local politicians and human rights NGOs. The protest was picked up again, after the dam was completed in 1992, by the network of dam victims (the Assembly of Dam Victims) and a grass-roots NGO, and together they formed a very strong protest organization called the Assembly of the Poor. This protest is seen as a classic example of the longest and largest people’s protest. At present, the negotiation is still going on over the restudy of environment and social impacts, community rehabilitation, and the possibility of permanently closing down the dam. Other dams, such as Kang Sua Ten, Rasrisalai, Lam Dom Yai, and Rub Roh, are also under pressure from protesters who are demanding a restudy of the environment and social impacts to be integrated in the cost-benefit analysis and a democratic decision-making process. The anti-dam network is also linked with the international campaign. Demarcation of the national forest reserve and the movement on community forest (1992): The sudden crisis of floods in certain southern provinces in the mid-1980s led to a logging ban that cancelled all commercial logging concessions and emphasized protecting and increasing the natural forest area through the expansion of “protected areas” such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. More than a hundred thousand households, including ethnic groups living in the forest areas all over the country, suddenly became “illegal occupants” and were forcibly removed. Violence broke out at various places where the government attempted to evacuate or resettle the communities. The community forest movement (1932– ) has established a network and started a debate over the people and the forest. The movement has reached a point where a new community forest bill was proposed by the people sector. The draft bill was recently passed by the Lower House of Parliament but was, however, subsequently blocked by the Senate members who have suggested amendments that violate the basic principles contained in the draft on community management of forests. Myanmar–Thailand gas pipeline through the national forest reserve (1998): Local citizens and an alliance of environmental NGOs and academic-

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activists protested against the construction of the gas pipeline, run by the Petroleum Authority of Thailand, through the national forest reserve. In the end, the government allowed the project to continue under the condition that the environmental impact assessment was amended and that it would follow the recommendations of the national hearing committee. This case set off a new trend of environmental politics over development discourse in the mass media. Anchovy dispute (1999): A network of coastal small-scale fishermen, mostly in southern Thailand, collaborated with the local and national NGOs on sustainable resources management to fight against the use of lights as part of fishing gear. A large number of small-scale fishermen used their boats to block the passage to the open sea in Songkhla to pressure the government to prohibit the use of lights by commercial fishing vessels. Although the appointed state committee introduced the zoning principle as a compromise solution, the fishermen were not satisfied because they had little confidence that it would be enforced. Klong Dan wastewater treatment plant and other cases of not-in-mybackyard syndrome (1995– ): Local residents of Klong Dan, Samut Prakarn province, have been fighting against the unusually large-scale wastewater treatment plant located in the last agricultural area of the province. The local struggle has linked with the international campaign against development funding agencies such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The project was tainted with accusations of corruption and a lack of proper environmental impact assessment. So far there has been no political response. Now, as the project is close to completion, people are seeking an appeal from the administrative court to nullify the implementation of the project. Similar cases of siting of waste treatment plants also occur in many other parts of Thailand. The well-known cases are the Pluak Daeng’s industrial waste treatment plant, where the leader of a protesting group was killed, and Raja Dewa’s dumping site, where the leader was also killed. Anti-coal power plants in Prachuab Khiri Kan (1994–): Local residents fought against the construction of two coal power plants to be located in Boh Nok and Ban Krud in Prachuab Khiri Kan province. This movement initiated a debate regarding the reliability of the national energy policy. While a decision was made to temporarily halt the project, the people are prepared to stage civil disobedience if the plants are allowed to be constructed.

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Appendix B Synopsis of Thai Political History and Dynamics of Civil Society Year

Important Political Events

Dynamics of Civil Society

1932

• Change from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy • Democracy by the power élite

• State-initiated groups, e.g., co-operatives, trade unions

1948

• Establishment of Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) with armed force1

• Underground opposition movement and armed conflict

1959–1960s: • Short period of developmental Sarit, Thanom, state, authoritarian government and Prapas • Centralized planning regimes • Strong bureaucratic polity • Corruption scandal

• State-initiated groups, e.g., co-operatives, trade unions, farmer groups • State-mobilized participation • Continuing armed conflict

14 October 1973

• First student uprising against the authoritarian regime • Democracy flourishes until 1976

• Student movement • Federation of Farmers Associations

6 October 1976

• Political violence, army massacre • Right and left wing civil of students, and return of society, violent conflict authoritarianism • Student movement joins CPT • Right and left ideological conflict

End 1970s– • Half-democracy2 early 1980s: • More political liberalized policy Kriengsak and • End of armed conflict with Prem regimes CPT and amnesty policy • Fourth and latest CPT General Assembly3 (1982)

• Emerging extra-bureaucratic polity, business in politics, state corporatism • Ex-student activists become NGOs in community development • State–civil society reconciliation • Decline of communist movement

Late 1980s: Chatichai government

• Expansion of business in politics, higher number of Members of Parliament (MPs) and Cabinet members from business sector • Stronger presence of NGOs in environmental movement • Politicization of environmental issues

• “Buffet Cabinet”, money politics,4 and “bubble economy” • Legitimacy crisis of civilian government • Return of military coup and formation of National Peace Keeping Council, 1991

continued on next page

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Appendix B – cont’d Year

Important Political Events

Dynamics of Civil Society

17–18 May 1992

• Bloody May Incident, missing • Manifestation of new middle victims in protest against military class in politics coup-led government • Legacy of 14 and 6 October student movements in • “Mobile-phone mob”5 • Redemocratization and redemocratization political reform

1996: Banharn government

• Constitutional reform process • Prevailing of bourgeois democracy6 • Competing élitist and populist version of democracy

1997: Chaowalit government

• • • •

2000

• • • •

• Country-wide people’s participation in drafting of Constitution • Consolidation of grass-roots and radical democracy, e.g., Assembly of the Poor • Localization of civic actions on political reform

Economic crisis • Spontaneous civic groups Promulgation of new Constitution emerge after economic crisis Decentralization in progress • Good governance and civil Legacy of bureaucratic polity society as national strategy and resistance to political reform for economic crisis • Sustaining grass-roots movements against “national development” scheme • Formation of civic network on anti-corruption • Corporate good governance

New political institutions New elected senates Public sector reform in process Representative vs participatory democracy • Political atmosphere of distrust

• State-mobilized civic groups in national development planning exercise • NGOs and grass-roots movements • NGOs and civic groups interface • Economic nationalism in civil society7

Notes: 1. On 14 October 1973 the first student-led uprising against the military dictatorship occurred. Mass demonstrations by students demanded that the military dictators step down and restore elected rule by the Constitution. The military government fell and democracy flourished briefly from 1973 to 1976. 2. On 6 October 1976 the backlash against pro-democracy forces resulted in the bloody massacre of students during their demonstration in Thammasat University. The massacre marked the high point

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CIVIL SOCIETY IN THAILAND 257 of growing tensions between the right and the left wing groups. Student activists were no longer seen as heroes of democracy but were painted as leftists and, after the backlash, a large number of activists fled into the jungle to join the CPT. Political repression began to dominate the political scene once again and the student movement subsided. (Chai-anan and Morell 1981, pp. 137–72) 3. The date 17–18 May 1992 marked the latest mass demonstrations for democracy and a protest against the 1991 coup leader, General Suchinda Kraprayoon, and his return to power as Prime Minister in the new government after the army-led National Peace Keeping Council was abolished. The demonstrations were led by various democracy groups in Bangkok and provincial towns while the student movement remained auxiliary. The event marked a redemocratization process, indicating the society’s limits of tolerance to undemocratic means of retaining political power. The May events led to the beginnings of constitutional reform, decentralization, and the growth of civic groups pressing for greater democracy. Sources: 1 Thippaporn (1987). 2 Prudhisan (1992), p. 89. 3 Interview with an ex-student activist, Assoc. Prof. Jaran Dittha-apichai, 25 January 2001. 4 Suchit (1996), p. 87. 5 Anek (1993). 6 Suchit (1996), p. 106. 7 Kamprakard chaat niyommai [The declaration of new nationalism], Political Economy Series (for the Community) no. 15 (Bangkok: Faculty of Economics, Center for Political Economy, 2000).

Notes 1 In its earlier phase, environmental campaign was not so political as the focus then was more on the conservation of natural beauty for amenity purposes. Moreover, the campaign was largely limited to the élite and the urban middle classes (Santita 2000). Today some organizations that still follow this tradition involve, for instance, animal lovers, reforestation, reuse and recycle activities, and campaign against street littering (Jak 2000). 2 The global environmental discourse has also been a significant influence on Thailand’s environmental movements, ranging from ideas about conserving “pure and unspoilt nature” (taken up by Thailand’s nature conservationists and the forestry department to call for more protected forests) to the more recent debates about global warming and climate change (used by campaigners fighting against coal-fired power plants). Other environmental discourses in the international arena, such as the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, also influenced Thailand’s environmental movements, such as issues relating to the roles of the corporate sector or the urban-based consumer class. Some of these discourses are also being drawn or influenced by international social or environmental groups that are now based in Thailand, some prominent examples being Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, and the Heinrich Boll Foundation from Germany. (Interview with Rajesh Noel, Project for Ecological Recovery, Bangkok, 25 August 2002.) 3 The Nam Choan Dam case could be considered as a backlash of the student movement against the military dictators. The Tung Yai Naresuan scandal in

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6 7

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the nation forest reserve, in which the high-ranking officials violated the forest and wildlife protection regulations, triggered the concern for environmental protection with a political connotation. Development, which is generally perceived as becoming Westernized and industrialized, has become an ideology that governs policy decisions. It is important to note that most environmental actions address the problems to the state. While Preecha Piempongsan observes that environmental movements in Thailand seem to fight against no specific target, he finds that most actions hold the state responsible for the problems (Preecha 1991, pp. 134–37). Also true is that while most environmental problems take place in the periphery and actions have become more localized in the past four to five years, the political opportunity for the movements still depends on the national political platform. Actions that originate at the local and provincial levels become politicized only in the heart of the country, Bangkok, where the central government exercises the power. ; , accessed during April– May 2002. To explore the causes of radical environmental protests, the following summary indicates the degree of fundamental problems.

Protests

Problematic Issues

Klong Dan wastewater treatment plant

• Trade-off of the best mussel farming grounds • Potential loss of fishing occupation and food security • Corruption scandal relating to land purchase • Massive cost overrun • No environmental impact assessment (EIA) • Limited local participation • Not-in-my-backyard syndrome

Dams (Pak Moon, Rasrisalai, • Trade-off of forests and wetlands for Kang Sua Ten, etc.) development • Loss of subsistence economy based on rivers and fisheries • Partial EIAs and social impact assessments (SIAs) • Myth of dams as development • Cost-benefit analyses undervaluing the forests and wetlands

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8 9 10 11

12

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Coal-power plants in Prachuab Khiri Kan

• Pollution • Questionable EIA • Distorted people’s participation/flaws in public hearing • Dubious national policy on energy surplus • Alternative energy debate • Loss of coral reefs and local tourist attractions

Malaysia–Thailand Joint Development Area (JDA): Gas pipeline construction in Songkhla

• Questionable EIA • Local interest vs national interest • Risk of massive pollution from uncontrolled industrial development • Impacts on traditional Muslim community ways of life • Limited people’s participation

The issues raised by the environmental protesters basically reflect complex problems within the “modern development” paradigm: • undesirable development patterns and unsustainable use of resources, • fragility of local livelihood, • environmental risks and impacts, • community rights and the right to make decisions on the use of local natural resources, • development and environment injustice, and • undemocratic policy process. Pasuk Pongpaichit points out in her research the fact that the fight for a radical change belongs to the poor (Pasuk et al. 2002, pp. 22–23). This observation is not different from that found in other developing countries (Gardner 1995). The twin actors have been the topic of much political debate, in particular, the dominant role of NGOs in the radical movement. The draft Community Forest Bill, if it is finally passed by the Parliament, will be one indicator of the changing trend of the struggle, from relying on direct action to a more argumentative kind of politics of discourse. There was the first report about the violence against the people’s movements, “The Situation of Human Rights Defenders (2001–2)”, prepared by The Human Rights Defender Committee, a coalition of NGOs, and presented at the seminar Conflicts in Natural Resources Management and Situation of Human Rights Defenders, organized by Campaign for Popular Democracy, 25 August 2002.

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13 In an interview high-ranking officials as well as some military commanders revealed plans to use the same psychological warfare against the protesters that was previously used in the fight against communist insurgents during the height of the Cold War (Poochadkarn, 24 May 2002). 14 It cannot be denied that people in the radical movements have invested their lives in the struggle and put their trust on the new and expanding democratic spaces. They are pioneers of the new participatory political culture. Apart from the loss of a number of leaders in the struggle and cases of communities becoming rivals due to conflicts over the benefits or threats of large development projects, what matters the most is that people in these movements have lost trust in the system. This has pushed civil disobedience in the radical movements to the edge of anarchism — a feature of these movements that sits uneasily in the judgement of the larger public and of which the public neither likes nor fully understands. 15 The work of Anek Laothamatas (1992) on business associations argues that through corporatism the bureaucratic polity has been displaced by an extrabureaucratic polity. 16 Last, but not least, one must not forget that the constitutional monarchy makes Thai democracy different from other similar structures in Asia or elsewhere. The symbolic influence of the King and the institution of the monarchy has to some extent contributed to the emphasis of consensus in both the political community and civil society.

References Anek Laothamatas. Business Associations and the New Political Economy of Thailand: From Bureaucratic Polity to Liberal Corporatism. Boulder: Westview Press, 1992. ———. Mobile Phone Mob: Bourgeoisie and Businessmen and Democratic Development. Bangkok: Matichon, 1993. Anuchat Puangsamlee and Kritaya Archvanitkul, eds. Khabuankarn pracha sangkom thai kwam kluenwai pak ponlamuang [Thai civil society: The making of Thai citizens]. Bangkok: Project for Civil Society Research and Development, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources Management, Mahidol University, 1999. Callahan, William A. “Black May, NGOs and Post-State Politics”. Journal of Social Science 29, no. 2 (May 1994): 82–89. Campaign for Popular Democracy Newsletter. “2 tossawat kor ror por bon sentang karnmuang paak prachachon” [Two decades of campaign for popular democracy on the road to people’s politics], no. 28 (July–December 1999). Chai-anan Samudavanija. “Annakot khong pracha tippatai lae lak rattammanoon nai pradhes thai” [The future of democracy and the principles of the Thai Constitution]. The Manager, 3 July 1999.

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Chai-anan Samudavanija and David Morell. Political Conflict in Thailand: Reform, Reaction, Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Oelgeschalager, Gunn and Hain, 1981. Chandhoke Neera. “The ‘civil’ and the ‘political’ in civil society”. Democratization 8, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 1–24. Chantana Banpasirichote. “Opening Up Politics: The Advocacy Role of NGOs”. Paper presented at second Chulalongkorn University–University of Hong Kong Political Science Conference, 13–14 March 1998, in Bangkok. ———. “Civil Society and Good Governance: A New Chapter of Thailand Political Reform”. Paper presented at the conference on Democracy and Civil Society in Asia: The Emerging Opportunities and Challenges, 19 August 2000 at Queens University, Canada. Chen Pei-Hsiu. “Reforming Thai Politics?: The Politics of Thailand’s Reforms”. Paper presented at the Seventh International Conference on Thai Studies, 4–8 July 1999, in Amsterdam. Choltis Tangcharoen. “The Role of Civil Society in Consolidating Democracy”. Paper presented at the conference Towards Political Scientists Dialogue on Challenges of Democratic Consolidation and Regional Security: Korean and Thai Views, organized by the Korean Political Science Association and the Political Science Association of Thailand, 20–21 July 2001, in Bangkok. Chuchai Suppawong and Yuwadee Kadkarnklai, eds. Pracha sangkom tassana nak kid nai sangkom thai [Civil society: Views of Thai thinkers]. Bangkok: Maticon, 1998. Chulalongkorn University, Faculty of Political Science. “Governance”. Proceedings I of the Seminar to Commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Faculty of Political Science. Chulalongkorn University, 1998. Doneys, Philippe. “Non-State Actors and Political Reform: Women’s Groups and the Public Sphere in Thailand”. Paper presented at the Seventh International Conference on Thai Studies, 4–8 July 1999, in Amsterdam. Far Eastern Economic Review, “People’s advocate — A once-jailed activist turned lawyer is in the forefront of a grassroots campaign for political reform”, 23 March 2000, p. 28. Gardner, Sarah Sturges. “Major themes in the study of grassroots environmentalism in developing countries”. Journal of Third World Studies 12 (Fall 1995): 200–44. Hann, Chris. “Introduction: Political Society and Civil Anthropology”. In Civil Society: Challenging Western Models, edited by Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, pp. 2–26. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. Hewison, Kevin. “Emerging Social Forces in Thailand: New Political and Economic Roles”. In The New Rich in Asia, edited by Richard Robinson and David S.G. Goodman, pp. 137–62. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. Hirsch, Philip and Larry Lohmann. “Contemporary politics of environment in Thailand”. Asian Survey 29, no. 4 (April 1989): 439–51.

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Jak Sangchai. “Environmental actors in Thailand”. Journal of Public Administration (NIDA) (in Thai) 401, no. 3 (2000): 47–73. Jamaree Chiengtong. Wiwatanakarn khong pracha sangkom nai pradhes thai [The evolution of civil society in Thailand]. Bangkok: TDRI, 2000. Kamprakaad chaat niyom mai [The declaration of new nationalism]. Political Economy Series (for the Community) no. 15. Bangkok: Faculty of Economics, Center for Political Economy, 2000. Karnmuang mai [New Politics], special issue on “The Nation” 1, no. 4 (March– April 2001). LoGerfo, James Paul. “Civil Society and Democratization in Thailand 1973– 1992”. Ph.D. thesis. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1997. McCargo, Duncan. “Alternative Meanings of Political Reform in Contemporary Thailand”. The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies 13 (1998): 5–30. Narong Chokewattana. “Karnmuang pak prachachon rieb riang chak karn banyai nai huakoh ponkratob turakit chak wikrit karnmuang patchuban” [People’s politics from the public lecture on the Business Impacts from the Current Political Crisis], organized by Love Bang Chak Group, Thai Saving the Nation Group, and Democracy for the People Group, 16 August 2000, in Khon Kaen. Naruemon Thabchumpon. “Naewkid lae watakam wadua tammaraat haengchat” [Concepts and discourse on good governance as the national agenda]. In Tammarat judplian pradhes thai [Good governance: The turning point of Thailand], edited by Pittya Wongkun, pp. 119–42. Globalization Series no. 6. Bangkok: Thailand Research Fund and Poompanya Foundation, 1998. National Economic and Social Development Board, Office of the. “Good Governance: The National Agenda”. Proceedings of the Forum for Good Governance of Thailand, series of ten forums held during 24 March–27 May 1998. Niti Eosriwong. “Por ror bor paachumchon paa lae prachachon ja pai tang nai?” [The Community Forest bill, where are the forest and the people heading?]. Keynote speech given at the seminar on The Community Forest Bill: Between Autocratic State and Community Rights for Justice, 28 March 2002, at October 14 Memorial Hall, organized by Business Network for Social and Environment in collaboration with the People’s Network on Community Forest. Also presented at The Community Forest Bill and Thailand Direction: Four Thinkers Pursuing the Community Forest Bill, a seminar organized by the Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, in collaboration with several networks, 10 May 2002. Nitirat Sapsomboon. “Atammaraat haeng chaat” [Mal-governance]. Siamrat sabda wijarn, 3–9 May 1998. Panu Yamsri. “Influence and Power of Environmental Pressure Groups over Government Decision-Making: A Case Study of the Nam Choan Dam Issue,

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1982–1986”. M.A. thesis, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, 1987. Pasuk Phongpaichit. “Civilizing the State: State, Civil Society and Politics in Thailand”. The Wertheim Lecture, 1999. Amsterdam: Centre for Asian Studies Amsterdam, 1999. Pasuk Phongpaichit et al. Withee cheewit witee soo: kabuankarn prachachon ruam samai [Livelihood, struggle way: The contemporary people’s movements]. Chiangmai: Silkworm Books, published for Thailand Research Fund, 2002. Prapas Pintobtaeng. Karnmuang bon thong tanon 99 wan samacha konjon lae prawatisaat karn duenkabon pratuang nai sangkom thai [Politics on the street — 99 days of the Assembly of the Poor and the history of public protest in Thai society]. Bangkok: Krierk University, 1997. Preecha Piempongsan. “Kabuankan kluenwhai singwadlom” [Environmental movements]. In Polawatt Thai mummong chak settasart karnmuang (Thai dynamics: A political economy view], edited by Pasuk Pongpaichit and Sangsit Piriyarangsan, pp. 123–46. Bangkok: Political Economy Center, Faculty of Economics, Chulalongkorn University, 1991. Prudhisan Jumbala. Nation-building and Democratization in Thailand: A Political History, p. 89. Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute, 1992. ———. “Naewkid pracha sangkom nai pradhes thai” [Ideas of civil society in Thailand]. Paper presented at the Research Seminar on Legal Measures in Strengthening Civil Society in Thailand, 2000, organized by Thailand Center for Environmental Law Foundation. Prudhisan Jumbala and Chantana Banpasirichote. “Thai Middle Classes: Between Class Ambiguity and Democratic Propensity”. Research paper submitted to Academia Sinica, Taiwan, 1999. Santita Ganjanapan. “Kwam kluenwai singwadlom lae kwamkid sii khiew nai muang” [Environmental movement and green idea]. Sangkomsaat (Chiangmai University) 12, no. 2 (2543): 210–40. Sayamon Kayoorawong, Achara Rakyutitam, and Krisada Boonchai. “Kabuankarn krueakai klum kasetakorn paak nua puea pitak sitti chumchon nai karnjadkarn sappayakorn tammachat lae tamrong attalak tang chatpan” [The networking of the northern peasant groups for the protection of community rights in natural resources management and the affirmation of ethnic identity]. In Lookkeun soo: kabuankarn prachachon ruam samai [Stand up to fight: A contemporary people’s movement], edited by Pasuk Pongpaichit et al. Research report submitted to Thailand Research Fund, 2000. Seksan Prasertkul. “Pattanakarn kwamsampan rawang ratt kab sangkok nai pradhes thai” [The evolution of state–civil society in Thailand]. In Wipaak sangkom thai [A critique of Thai society], pp. 87–150. Bangkok: Amarin Printing for the Social Science Association of Thailand, 1994.

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Somchai Phatharathananuth. “Civil Society, Radical Democracy, and Democratization in Thailand: An Isan Perspective”. Paper presented at the International Conference on Thai Studies, Institute for Asian Studies, 1999, in Amsterdam. Suchit Bunbongkarn. State of the Nation: Thailand. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1996. Suthy Prasartset. “Grassroots movements in Thailand: The case of the Assembly of the Poor”. International Christian University Publication III-A. Asian Cultural Studies, no. 10 (March 2001). Thippaporn Tesrien. “The CPT and the CCP: A Study of the Ideological Relationship between the Two Communist Parties in 1969–1982”. M.A. thesis, Chulalongkorn University, 1987. Thirayuth Boonmee. Samkom kemkaeng tammarat haeng chaat koo hayana pradhes thai [Strong society: Good governance of Thailand — a strategy to salvage the national crisis]. Bangkok: Sai-tarn Publisher, 1998. ———. “The Imagined Civil Society”. Paper presented at the Seventh International Conference on Thai Studies, 4–8 July 1999, in Amsterdam.

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Reproduced from Civil Society in Southeast Asia, edited by Lee Hock Guan (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at < http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg > INDEX 265

Index Abbasid caliphate, 49–50 Abd al-Majid, 36 Abdurahman Wahid, 224 Ahmad Ibrahim, 45 Al-Mawardi, Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Habib al-Basri al-Baghdad, 32, 34, 35, 50 America African Americans, 23 association freedom of, 7 capital, social, 8 democracy, 23 life associational, 78, 79 society civil associations, 5 political associations, 5 political society, 5 See also United States America, Latin authoritarian states, 23 removal of regimes, 201 civil society, 22–23 democratization, 23 Anwar Ibrahim sacking, 122, 127, 140 Aquino, Benigno “Ninoy”, 61 assassination, 14, 60 Aquino, Corazon “Cory”, 62, 64, 65, 68, 69 presidency, 65–66, 67, 105, 108 Aristotle on society, 199 Arroyo, Gloria Macapagal-, 70, 72 presidency, 72, 73 Asia, Southeast authoritarian states, 12 colonial, 10–11 associational space, 10–11

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265

associations, voluntary, 11 civil societies, 11 political participation, 11, 24 trade unions, 11 communism, 12 democratization “Asian values”, 20 economic growth, 12 ethnic divisions, 11 ethno-nationalism, 11 organizations class-based, 11 political forms indigenous, 10 society, civil, 10–13 concept, 19, 20 indigenous, 10 social capital version, 20 associational life, 6, 9 associations, civil, 5, 6 authoritarian regimes, 206 Balkan states civil society, 5, 9 Buddhism dhamma, 91 sangha, 91 cyber-, 91, 92 Three Gems, 91 websites Buddhanet, 93 Dharmanet, 92–93 capital, social, 6, 7, 9, 14, 15, 79 capitalism mobile, 89 Catholic Church, Roman Internet, 79 Chamlong Srimuang, 88 China, 146

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266

INDEX

Chinese Communist Party, 158 intellectuals, 156 oppositional activities, 158 organizations quasi-official, 157 party-state–society relations mutual infiltration, 159 civil society. See society, civil Cold War and civil society, 23–24 communism, 4, 22 collapse, 158 state role, 4 communist revolution failure, 202 cyberspace, 89, 90 landscape, 90 networks, 90 “places”, 87 Czechoslovakia Charter 77 group, 4 civil society, 23 Davide, Hilarion, 71, 72 democracy, 1, 6, 7, 8, 28, 39, 40, 200 constitutionalism, 40, 41 democratization, 213 governmental accountability, 40 political participation, 9 social capital contributing to, 9 weakness, 28, 29 dhamma digital, 81, 91 digital technology, 94 digitalized space, 86, 91, 92 economic development, 212 Enrile, Juan Ponce, 64, 74, 77 Estrada, Joseph, 67, 68 presidency, 69–72 arrest, 73 impeachment, 69–72 support for, 73, 74

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266

Europe working class movement, 202 Europe, Eastern, 7, 22 authoritarian regimes removal of, 201 civil society, 3, 8, 23 democratization, 8, 9 intellectuals, 156 totalitarian states demise, 8, 23 family, 9 globalization, 89 glocalization, 97 Goh Chok Tong, 168, 171, 185 Gorbachev, 8 governance good, 200 government parliamentary, 146 Gramsci, Antonio on civil society, 202 arena of contestation, 203 on communist revolutions, 202 Havel, Vaclav, 5, 22 Hegel, G.W., concept of civil society, 3, 4, 8, 201 Hobbes on society, 199 Hogan, Fr Walter, 56, 76 Honasan, Gregorio, 64, 66, 74 Indonesia, 12 Anti-Racial and Ethnic Discrimination, 225, 226 Arabs, 221, 222 Chinese, 221, 222 anti-Chinese riot, 220 citizenship, 220, 225 discrimination against, 18, 227

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INDEX 267

citizenship, 225 civil rights movement and ethnicity, 217–30 prospects, 228–30 conflicts, 223 Constitution, 1945, 222, 224, 230 human rights, 227 democracy, 223 development, 222 democratization, 21, 218 developmentalism, ideology of, 219 discrimination, 227 refuting, 229 discriminative regulations, 225 ethnic conflicts, 218, 220, 229 cause, 218, 219 ethnic identity, 18 ethnicity and civil society, 221–23 Gerakan Perjuangan AntiDiskriminasi (GANDI), 220, 224–25 programme, 224 human rights, 217, 228, 229 violations, 229 Indians, 221, 222 Indonesian Communist Party, 219 Islam civil, 20 Javanese, 221 Komite Nasional Hak Azasi Manusia (KOMNAS HAM), 225 New Order, 219, 227, 230 culture, 222 human rights violations, 228 Papua, 223 politics of identity, 223 President, 230 religions, 219 Riau, 223 social conflict, 222 social hierarchy, 221, 222

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267

society rigid, 229 society, civil, 217–21 and ethnicity, 221–23 translation, 217–18 Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa (SNB), 220, 225–27, 228 Informational Age social formations, 86 social logic, 85 societies, 86 Internet, 94 civic potential, 78, 79 communications tool, 79 generating social capital, 79 nomadic power, 96 religious communities, 79 rhizomatic nature, 90 social arrangements, 79 spatiality deterritorialized space, 96 lack of, 95 structure, 90 virtual communities, 78 Iran, 48 Islam, 36, 37, 48, 221 civil, 28 and civil society, 28 and democracy, 27 freedom, 146 laws, 39, 50 Islamic state, 35, 36, 39 definitions, 31–32 responsibilities, 32 Italy associations, civil, 6 democracy, 6 Jews, 38 contract, 37, 38 Jinnah, Muhammad Ali, 37 Jit Poumisak mapping of Thai history, 89

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268

INDEX

Korea, South democratization, 23 Lacson, Panfilo, 72, 74 Lee Hsien Loong, 175 Lee Kuan Yew, 169 Lenin, 22 life, social, 85 Lim, David, 174 living digital, 90 Machiavelli on society, 199 Madina, al-, 230 civil society, 218 Constitution, 36–40 contracts, 37 Mahathir, 43, 142 and Islamic state, 29 Malaysia, 12 All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), 124, 125, 126, 132 associational space, 13 Barisan Alternatif (BA), 16, 29, 30, 122, 127, 129, 135, 209 manifesto, 128 Barisan Nasional (BN), 29, 30, 35, 122, 127, 128, 132, 135, 208 women issues, 129 capitalist development, 211, 212, 214 Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), 42 citizenship, 35 communal culture, 126 consociational arrangement, 207 Constitution, 35, 36 amendments, 43 and Islamic state, 40–48 democracy, 203–5, 212, 213, 214 campaign for, 210 complications, 204

12 CSISEA Index

268

constitutional, 13 constraints, 204 features, 204, 205 Democratic Action Party (DAP), 29, 30, 41, 122, 127, 128, 131, 135, 139, 209 democratization, 13, 215 “Asian values” argument, 13 economic development, 212 reforms, 213 ethnic ideology, 208, 210, 211, 214 Federation of Malaysian Consumers’ Association (FOMCA), 125 Gerakan, 31 Guardianship Act 1961, 132, 133 Internal Security Act (ISA), 126 Internet, 24 investment, foreign concessions, 212 Islamic Aqidah (Faith) Protection Bill 2000, 133 Islamic groups, 126 Islamic state, 13, 14, 20, 29–36, 40–48 Islamization policy, 133 judiciary, 140 labour, 212 minimum wage, 212 movement, 135 unions, 212 wage structure, 212 Malays, 211 dominance, 208 pro-Malay policies, 211 special position, 207 Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), 30, 31 Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism (MCCBCHS), 31, 41

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INDEX 269

middle class, 210 National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), 125 New Economic Policy (NEP), 208, 211 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) human rights, 140 political, 125 politicized, 209 women’s, 15, 124 opposition division, 210 Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), 13, 16, 29, 40, 122, 127, 128, 129, 131, 132, 137, 138, 209 gender bias, 129 Islamic state, 29, 30, 47, 48, 49, 129, 132, 209 stand on apostasy, 128, 129 Parti Keadilan Nasional (KeADILan), 127, 128, 209 Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), 127, 128 Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS), 15, 16, 123, 125, 126, 127, 130, 132, 138, 139 constituency, 133 labour issues, 134–35 lobbying, 134 programmes, 134 response to electoral politics, 133–35 strategy, 133–34 political context, 127–29 political ideology, 208 political system, 204 hegemony, 207 reformasi movement, 127 Sisters in Islam (SIS), 15, 16, 47, 123, 126, 127, 128, 132, 133, 138, 139

12 CSISEA Index

269

advocacy for reform, 136 constituency, 136 constraints, 136–37 mission, 136 programmes, 136 research activities, 136 response to electoral politics, 135–38 social contract, 41, 42, 46 society, civil, 17 arena of contestations, 206–14 citizen’s perspective, 123 constraints, 205, 207, 212 economic objectives, 211 liberal perspective, 205–6 political economy, 211 role of, 123 and the state, 123–27 state control of, 214 statist perspective, 123 state challenges to, 213 ethnic ideology, 17 hegemony, 210 SUARAM, 125 United Malays National Organization (UMNO), 13, 32, 128, 208 power struggle, 140 Women’s Agenda for Change (WAC), 123, 126, 129, 130, 132 aims, 132 Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI), 15, 16, 122, 125, 127, 130, 131, 132, 138 Women’s Crisis Centre, 127 Women’s Development Collective (WDC), 132 women’s movement participation in 1999 general election, 122–39 responses to election, 129–33

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270

INDEX

mapping, 88 Marcos, 12, 61, 62, 63, 64, 108 flight, 54, 65 martial law, 57, 60 Marx, Karl on bureaucracy, 22 concept of civil society, 4, 201 men emancipation, 202 Middle East civil society, 28 Mitra, Ramon, 67 Muhammad, Prophet, 36, 37, 38, 39 Myanmar associational space, 13 nation concept, 24 ethno-nationalism, 24 Ngo Xuan Loc, 152 Ottoman Empire citizens, 36 Pakistan, 37 Philippines, 12 Alliance for Women’s Health, 106, 117 Associations of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), 58, 69 Bishops–Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development (BBC), 61, 67 Catholic Church, 14, 20, 54–76 assets, 74 Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), 58, 60, 62, 63, 68, 69 programmes, 59 social force, 75 “Cha-Cha” (charter-change), 68–69 Christians for National Liberation (CNL), 57

12 CSISEA Index

270

Coalition against Trafficking in Women, 117 colonial, 56 Communist Party, 62 Constitution, 66, 68 democracy, 56 democratization, 12, 14, 15, 20, 21 DIWATA, 106 EDSA Dos, 69–72 Tres, 73, 76 Uno, 62–65 El Shaddai, 55, 70, 74 election 1986, 62–65 feminist activism conditions enabling, 105 feminist politics, 103 Freedom from Debt Coalition, 117 General Assembly Binding Women for Reform, Integrity, Leadership, and Action (GABRIELA), 106, 107 Government–NGO Network, 108, 109 Hukbalahap, 56, 76 Iglesia ni Kristo (INK), 55, 73, 76 independence, 56 Institute of Social Order (ISO), 56 Japanese occupation, 56 KALAKASAN, 106 Katipunan ng Kababaihan Para sa Kalayaan (KALAYAAN), 103, 106 Kilusan ng Kababaihan Pilipina (PILIPINA), 103 Kongreso ng Mamamayang Pilipino II (KOMPIL II), 70, 71 Lakas ng Kababaihan (Group of 10), 106, 111, 118

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INDEX 271

Lipunan ng Bagong Pilipina (KABAPA), 106 Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA), 102–3, 118 martial law, 12, 57, 58 National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, 108 National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), 57, 60, 61, 64 National Democratic Front (NDF), 57 National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), 62, 63 nationalist movement, 103, 104 New People’s Army (NPA), 57, 65 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 66 peasant unrest, 56 Philippine Ecumenical Committee for Community Organization, 58 religious affiliation, 55 riots, 57 SALIGAN, 67 SARILAYA, 118 SIBOL, 106, 107, 118 social structure, 56 social tensions, 57 society, civil, 12 and Church, 54–76 definition, 55 and state, 20, 54–76 squatting, 68 Ugnayan ng Kababaihan sa Pulitika (UKP), 109, 118 Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), 67 Urban Land Reform Task Force, 67 women-specific issues, 103

12 CSISEA Index

271

Women’s Action Network for Development (WAND), 106 women’s movement, 15 drawbacks, 105 first wave, 102 ideological differences, 104 internal tensions, 104 origin, 102 perceptions about, initial, 103–4 second wave, 102–4 state collaboration, 15, 101–19 state collaboration, against, 111–12 state response, 112–14 Women’s Studies Association of the Philippines, 118 Poland civil society, 23 Solidarity, 4 politics of retreat, 159, 162 Praves Wasi, 247 Putnam, Robert, 78, 79, 201 on civil society, 6–7, 8 on social capital, 14 and democracy, 23 Qur’an, 36, 38, 39, 50 Ramos, Fidel, 54, 64, 67, 77 presidency, 67–69, 105 Reid Commission, 44 religion and politics, 28 and secular democracy, 28 Reyes, Angelo, 72 simulation, 87, 88 Sin, Jaime Cardinal, 14, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 67, 68, 69, 70, 72, 74, 75, 76 Singapore, 12, 21 “active citizenship”, 17, 170–72 association, freedom of, 181

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272

INDEX

Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP), 186 collective leadership, 184–85 associational relationships, 123 associational space, 13 associations independent, 173 political, 181–82 Chek Jawa, 186 communists, 17 Community Development Councils, 171, 189 democratization, 13 “Asian values” argument, 13 governance, 187 influence on, 170 public consultation, 171 gross domestic product, 168 per capita, 168 income household, 168 Law Society controversy, 181 Marxist conspiracy, 192 mass media, 187 Mendaki, 185 organizations near-government, 172–73 non-government, 171, 174 People’s Action Party (PAP) civic society, 173–74 Ideology of Statism, 167–70 legitimating principles, 169 politics, 169 Political Donations Bill, 181, 182 Roundtable, 183 self-help, 171 Singapore 21 Vision, 172 S21 Facilitation Committee, 175 Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA), 182 Singapore Internet Community (Sintercom), 182–83 societies, registered, 189

12 CSISEA Index

272

Societies Act, 181 society, civil, 17 boundaries, 184 citizen’s perspective, 123 concept, 17, 167 contested notions, 172–76 political space, 169 reforms desired from government, 180 relationship with government, 177, 178, 179 restraints, 181–86 role in governance, 167–72 –state relationship, 17, 167–88 statist perspective, 124 survey of organizations, 176–80, 188–92 weakness, 169 state power decentralized, 171 Singson, Luis “Chavit”, 69 Sison, Jose Marie, 57, 76 Smith, Adam on civil society, 199 social movements new, 85 socialism, classical, 161 society authoritarian democratization, 201 capitalist, 202 civil society, 202 good, 199 society, civil aim of, 1, 124 arena of contestation, 203, 206 non-state contestations, 208 concept, 1–2, 4, 8, 19, 21, 27–28, 198 conceptualizing, 199–201 conflicts, 5, 8 control of, 202 co-opted value, 155–56

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INDEX 273

definition, 160, 198, 200 modularity, 200 sociological, 8 and democracy, 18, 22, 28 and democratization, 198, 199 development, 21 discourses on, 2 ethnicity, 20 Internet, 21 logic of, 3 main streams of, 124 mainstream position, 199, 201 meanings of, 1, 2 penetrating, 147 perspective on alternative, 201–3 Gramscian thesis, 198 religion, 20 role of, 200 self-regulating, 8 social capital model, 124 and state, 20, 203 views of, 2–10 conflict, 2, 3–5, 7, 8, 201 consensus, 200, 201 social capital, 2, 5–7, 9 Soeharto, 218, 219 control, 219 developmental state, 219 fall, 220 South Africa democratization, 23 Soviet bloc institutional parasitism, 158 opposition movements, 158 Soviet Union, 8 Novy mir, 156, 162 totalitarian system, 3 collapse, 23 space of flows, 96 mental, 88 Spain in Philippines, 56

12 CSISEA Index

273

state, 147, 160, 200, 201, 203 bureaucracy, 3, 4 and civil society, 20 control of society, 199, 203, 206 developmental, 168–69 generating social capital, 9 role, 199 and society, 199, 203 Suchinda Kraprayoon, 257 Taiwan democratization, 23 Thailand, 12 administrative system decentralization, 95 anchovy dispute, 254 Assembly of the Poor (AP), 235, 237–38, 245, 246, 253 Bangkok, 81, 82 elevated systems, 82 marginal nature, 83 monasteries, 82 social orderings, 82 urban landscapes, 83 Buddhism cyber-,14, 15, 21, 79 monasteries, 80 new, 80–96, 91 virtual, 87 websites, 87 civic groups challenging state power, 247 coal power plants, 254, 259 Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), 255 computers, personal, 93 Constitution 1997, 95, 242, 243, 244, 245, 247, 249 dams, 258 anti-dam movements, 253 democracy, 240, 242, 243, 244, 251 demonstrations for, 257 pro-democracy movement, 88

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274

INDEX

democratization, 13, 18, 21, 243 demonstrations, 88 digital divide, 94 environmental issues campaign, 257 movements, 257, 258 politicization of, 234–35, 237 environmental movements, radical, 18–19, 20 class composition, 237–38 and counter forces, 240–42, 251, 252 development of, 234–37 future of, 250–52 NGO role, 238–39, 259 organization, 238–39 politics of livelihoods, 238 social and political implications, 237–42 and social change, 239–40 environmental protests, 252–54 radical, 258–59 Farmers Federation of Thailand, 245, 246 farmers’ protests, 246 force, official, 241 forest, community movement on, 253 forest reserve, national, 253–54 Internal Security Department, 241 Internet access, 95 cafes, 94 labour unions, 246 liberal corporatism, 245 lower classes, 245 May 1992 Incident, 243, 245, 246, 256 middle classes, 238, 240, 245, 250, 251 monarchy, constitutional, 242, 260

12 CSISEA Index

274

Nam Choan Dam, 252, 257 National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec), 94 National Environment Quality Act 1992, 240 National Peace Keeping Council, 255, 257 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 19 environmental, 249 policy advocacy, 245 politicized, 245 Pak Moon Dam, 236, 253 People’s Forum, 248 Phuket, 94 tantalum industrial plant, 252– 53 political history, 255–56 political reform, 242, 243, 244, 249, 251 monitoring, 245 politics bureaucratic polity, 242–44, 250 content, 252 culture, 243, 249, 250 distrust of, 244 extra-bureaucratic polity, 242, 243, 245, 260 participatory, 250, 252, 260 pressure, 244, 249 repression, 257 poverty, 246 projects development, 251 large-scale, 240 religion sangha, 91 religious discourses alternative, 88, 89 religious movements, radical, 90

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INDEX 275

religious reform, 92 rural urbanization electronic, 95 social space reconfiguring, 81–96 society division, 249 society, civil, 12–13 activities, 245 class differentiation, 251 concept, 19, 234 conflicts, 247 consensus, 247, 248, 260 contested, 246–50 countervailing forces, 250 definition, 247 development, 250 dichotomy, 248–49 discourse, 234–57 dynamics, 243, 250, 255–56 evolving, 251 middle classes, 250, 251 organizations, 95 –state relationship, 242, 244 state role, 247–48 visibility and legitimacy, 244– 46 Songkhla gas pipeline, 259 state administration, 243 student activists, 243 movement, 245, 255, 256, 257 Tambon Administrative Organizations (TAOs), 95 virtual community, 94 wastewater treatment plants, 254, 258 webmasters, 92 Thaksin Shinawatra, 248 Thammakaai modernist, 85, 86, 89, 90, 93

12 CSISEA Index

275

Tocqueville, Alexis de on civil associations, 200 on society, 5 tracings, 88 United Nations women’s role, 105 United States in Philippines, 56 See also America utopia new, 92 Vatican, 64, 68 Velarde, “Brother Mike”, 55, 70, 71 Ver, Fabian, 77 Vietnam associational space, 13 Chuong Duong Bridge incident, 161 doi moi, 16, 147, 148 political liberalization, 151 Ha Trong Hoa affair, 150–51 media, 16, 145 activism, 155 as civil society actor, 149–52 and doi moi, 150 exposé of corruption, 152 management, 149 newspaper production, 150 press activism, 150–51, 156–57 –state dynamics, 152 struggle paradigm, 152–55 Nguyen Ngoc affair, 151 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 145, 148, 149 society, civil, 16, 145 autonomy, 145–46, 149, 157– 59 effectiveness, 144–60 state, 144, 145 –media dynamics, 152

27/10/04, 10:53 AM

276

INDEX

“mobilizational corporatism”, 147 nature of, 147–49 –society relations, 144–45 Thang Long Aquatic Theme Park corruption scandal, 152 Truyen Thong Khang Chien affair, 151 Vietnam Communist Party (VCP), 144, 147, 150 Sixth Congress, 161

12 CSISEA Index

276

Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF), 149, 160 Villar, Manuel “Manny”, 70 Western absolutism, 24 civil society, 7 Yeo, George, 171 Zaiton Kassim, 131

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