Sunday, July 8, 2012

The danger of solving one crisis with another crisis

Another “constitutional crisis” in the offing this week? You must be joking. We don’t consider a “crisis” a crisis anymore. It has become just an ordinary part of your political life.

The origins of a crisis are quite easy to come by in Thailand’s political circus these days. All you need is for a politician to point an accusing finger at his opponent and starts filing a complaint with one of the “independent agencies” for a ruling.

It doesn’t even have to be a political issue. The complaint could be about anything at all as long as it pits one against the other and that a “third party” has the constitutional right to decide who’s right and who’s wrong.

The first sign of a “crisis” is when one of the parties concerned begins to believe that he or she stands to lose in the process. The first salvo would be against the independent agency involved. It would be portrayed as being biased or leaning towards the other side.

The forming of the crisis continues into the second stage even before the first hearing on the case begins. Supporters of one side would start to give interviews with a threatening tone: If the verdict doesn’t come down in favour of us, we will mobilize people to protest.

The party that is convinced that it would win the case will trumpet the whole exercise as the process of real democracy that the other side is trying to undermine.

It used to be that members of the independent agency would keep mum, believing that as long as they carry out their duties strictly according to the law of the land, the public would understand and no amount of public outcry from one side or the other would affect their work.

But that’s not the case anymore. Even members of “independent agencies” set up under the constitution aren’t quite sure about the public being on their side only if they do what they are supposed to. “The public,” it seems, has been split into factions by the relentless pressure from parties to the conflict – so much so that it has become a general belief that if you keep quiet in a storm of verbal exchange, you might be admitting the allegations they thrust upon you.

That’s why we have recently witnessed prosecutors, judges and other members of the judicial branch joining the fray of public discourse, which, unfortunately, has been mostly negative. The judicial officials have felt the need to explain their position so that some segments of the public would not be swayed by pure self-serving politicians.

This week, the Constitutional Court is holding hearings over allegations that the ruling Pheu Thai Party’s attempt to amend the constitution is “unconstitutional.”

It’ classic confrontation Thai political style once again. The ruling party says the current constitution isn’t democratic enough. They promised the electorate that once elected, they would push for charter changes. Now that they have the majority in the House, they would fulfill their election pledge.

The opposition and some senators say that the ruling party’s move is aimed at rewriting the “whole” constitution which, according to this line of argument, is “unconstitutional” because changes could be made only article by article.

Of course, both could right and both could be wrong. So, the opponents to the government brought it up to the Constitutional Court to decide who’s right and who’s wrong.

As soon as that happened, the ruling party said they sensed a conspiracy which, they claimed, could lead to the dissolution of the Pheu Thai Party. That means the ruling party thinks it could lose the battle and is doing everything possible to tell the judges that the red-shirt people won’t tolerate that kind of verdict. They say it’s not a threat. It’s simply a statement of intention.

The Constitutional Court is inviting both sides to produce their witnesses and written statements. It is due to hand down a decision soon. No doubt, the judges, once again, have come under intense pressure, not for the first time, of course.

Another crisis? No, to some Thais who can’t bother to follow political news with any great interest, it’s just another hiccup.

And when you treat a serious ailment as a mild cold, that’s when the country has been plunged into a real time warp. We don’t learn from the past. We can’t handle the present. We can’t see the future. It’s pitch dark out there.

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