This issue has cropped up with Chen Show Mao telling the ruling govt that they are just providing an alternative voice, maybe a govt in waiting, and not the enemy of the state. For decades, the political opposition has been tacitly seen or projected as enemies of the state with many ended up in jail or humiliated. In earlier days there were the communist inspired doctrine of armed revolution to topple legitimate govt and practicing the art of statecraft is a matter of life and death. Has anything changed? Are the opposition parties still being seen as enemies of the state?
Who are looking at opposition parties as enemies of the state or enemies of the people? Is such a label valid and deserving? Political parties naturally see each other as opponents in the political contest for the right to govern a country. The mature western polities have accepted and are willing to live with multi parties and no longer see each other as enemies. In third world polities, the immaturity and ruthlessness of their political leaders will conveniently put opposition party members behind bars as enemies of the parties but dressed up as enemies of the people and the state. And they have full control of all the govt machinery, including civil servants, the military and the police to be their hatchet men, to do the dirty works for them. The motivations of their civil servants, the military, police and grassroots organizations are varied. What is fearful and frightening is that these people refused to think, refused to differentiate between right and wrong, or for self interests, willingly do harm to fellow citizens simply because the ruling govt made them to do it.
The unthinking civil servants and uniformed officers could unintentionally or intentionally become accomplices in oppressing the people, the opposition parties, as if they are the enemies of the state. In the course of political development and the maturing of statehood, civil servants and uniformed officers tend to distance themselves from becoming cronies of unscrupulous political leaders and refuse to have innocent blood tainting their hands. The war crime trial in Phnom Penh against Khmer Rouge leaders is a living example of how civil servants went about killing fellow citizens without questioning their conscience.
The maturity of statehood, of arriving at the first world of civilized nations can be measured by such developments. Civil servants and uniformed officers must develop an independent mindset, and not be compromised into oppressing citizens on grounds of political differences. It is also unbecoming for govts to compromise civil servants and uniformed officers by expecting them to conduct political inquisition or persecution of the people.
In mature polities, such things are now passé. Civil servants and uniformed officers are well educated, sophisticated and know their rights and duties as public officers of the state and not officers of a ruling party. They are public servants paid by public money to serve the people and the state, not to serve any political party. When such a state is arrived, statehood has reached manhood.
And political parties, including dissenting and diversed views and voices will be accommodated as part and parcel of, or family, of the polity. The new term for such a development is inclusiveness. They are not enemies of the state but patriots wanting to make the country a better place for all. The western states are quite comfortable at this level of their political development.
Are we in the same happy state of affair? Can we claim that we are a mature polity where politics and affairs of the state are quite distinct to everyone?