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readers' submissions

 

The Four Basic Obligations of the Government

by Lay Vicheka

April 19, 2005

An Introduction

Men are innately self-centred, no matter they are sophists, intellectuals, ordinary populace, civil servants, beggars…etc. Due to these characteristics, countless problems are arisen, and if there is no any institution to govern these men’s negative natures, the whole state would steps toward anarchy.  

Cambodian government is, of course, separated between three branches; executive, legislative, and judicial institutions. Indeed, all branches single-mindedly targets to offer possible benefits to its people.    

Professor George Mckenna, in one of his excerpts called “Why Government!”, claims that government has four basic compulsions to be executed (McKenna, 1998, 7)2. 

I. To Establish Justice.

The term “justice” is extremely convoluted to articulate. Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Augustine…etc, all have different opinions for the term “justice”. Not only amongst the people, different forms of government; capitalism, socialism, and democracy, provide different perspectives. We could define the word justice by presenting a figure of a blindfold woman with a set of scales. The scales symbolize balance and fairness; the blindfold stands for impartiality (McKenna, 1998, 7)2. “Justice does not necessarily mean treating everyone alike; otherwise all workers would receive the same pay and all students would earn the same grade, regardless of performance or effort. The impartiality of justice is not completely indiscriminate” (McKenna, 1998, 7)2. 

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from jail that just law is one that seeks to “uplift” people; an unjust law “degrades” them (McKenna, 1998, 8)2. For Aristotle’s perspective, just is “the proportional,” meaning that each person should be given what is due to him or her (McKenna, 1998, 8)2. Plato, spiritually defined justice as initiated by internal soul. Justice in the city depends on justice in the soul. If men had unjust souls and therefore allowed their desires to govern their conduct, they would not, presumably, recognize the need to do only what they were good at and would meddle in others’ affairs (Forsyth and Soper, 1988, 24)3 

Pot Pot, Ieng Sary, Kieve Samphan, on the other hand, took advantages from the word Justice. “The three ghosts4, as the American ambassador called, converted the word justice to fulfill their utopian aspirations. To create justice, the three ghosts evacuated all people from all towns to build up cooperatives in the rural areas. Schools, money, pagodas, private property, and other facilities were totally abolished. Democratic Kampuchea’s constitution (1975-1979), Chapter Nine, Article 12, paragraph 6 stated that “There is absolutely no unemployment in Democratic Kampuchea” (Jennar,1995,86)5. This constitution was the instrument that contains connotation to oppress on its inhabitants.       

Justice occurs only in the peaceful environment. Because peace could allocate the proportional time for people to think, to set their short-term and long-term goals, and therefore, government potentially could enforce their performances. Since its revival from the protracted war, Cambodian government has tried her utmost to prevalently offer justice to citizens. The constitution is one of the most revered symbols of the Cambodian nation. Chapter III, which covers Cambodian people’s right and obligation, from article 31 through article 50, Cambodian people, regardless of sex, religious belief, political stance, age, and other social status are protected by law6. This is the notion to prove that the constitution is the pillar to provide justice to the people. The new Cambodian government which is known as the “the economic government” led by Samdech Hun Sen as the Prime Minister, focuses on several policies; eliminating on-going logging activities, kidnappings, and illegal checkpoints throughout the country, in order to bring about justice to his people (Kim Hourn, 1999, 25)7.       

II. To Ensure Domestic Tranquility.    

Philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr noted that “every community seeks consciously and unconsciously to make social peace and order the first goal of its life” and he also added that “for the simple reason that chaos means nonexistence” (McKenna, 1998, 9)2. As stated above, because men are innately self-important, government is the compulsory institution to cater domestic tranquility.  

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) imagined about a state of nature in which there was no government. There would be no police, no jails, no courts, no legislatures, no government authority of any sort. Hobbes evaluated such a state as a nightmare; everyone would do whatever to gain interests, because they would not be penalized by the court. Hobbes finally summed up such a state as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (McKenna, 1998, 9)2 

For Plato, to tranquilize the state, citizens are to be divided into three classes; the small class of rational people is to rule the state with the support of the ‘spirited’ or soldier class, from whom the rulers themselves, called ‘guardians’, are selected during the common process of education. The masses in the lowest of the three classes are excluded from any part in government; their role is to obey, and to supply the community’s needs by engaging in useful trades (R.M.Hare,1991,65)1 

Madison wrote that since men were no angels, we require some kind of armed umpire to keep us from harming one another (McKenna, 1998, 9)2. Professor George McKenna proclaimed that coercion is the available source of the government to stabilize the state (McKenna, 1998, 7)2, and no one can hold this source besides the government, which is comprised of people.

In the past thirties years, Cambodia had come across terrible ordeals of war trauma. In her brand-new renaissance, the government has put her ultimate endeavour to convert the whole Cambodian state into an island of peace. Knowing that unless people have adequate facilities to live in human conditions and dignities, the government has actively played her role, in order to attain that goal, in both local and international stages. Constitution plays the gigantically crucial role to turn the whole Cambodian state into the stable island. 

As the result from tireless efforts, Cambodian government was able to resume its seat at the United Nations, became the full member of ASEAN in December 1998, and has also attained other political policies (Kim Hourn, 1999, 25)7.      

III. To Provide for the Common Defense.

Cambodian government knows who they were in the past, who they presently are, and prospectively who they would be in the future by setting the accurate goals. Chapter I, article 2, of the Cambodian constitution states that “The territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia absolutely can’t be invaded, that has stipulated in her map…”8 The past thirty years of war has dramatically taught Cambodians on how to strengthen their stance in the present as well as in the future time. 

Government allocates budget to defend its people and integrity; moreover, many bilateral and multi-lateral agreements, related to protecting its border, protecting Cambodian people living abroad, harmonizing regional territorial integrity, fighting against terrorism…etc. Chapter I and IV are the genuine outcomes of the Cambodian government to provide for the common defense. It is the government who has adequate resource to prevent the internal conflicts and external invasion.      

IV. To Promote the General Welfare.

Maslow asserted that People desire for hierarchy of motives; starting from physiological needs to safety needs to love needs, esteem needs, and finally self-actualization needs (Myers,1990, 314)9. Besides the three chronological obligations of the government written above, government is assigned to be the welfare-supplier to all the Cambodian citizens. Business regulation, helping the disabled and orphans in the form of payments or shelters. For this purpose, varieties of institution, governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations have been established to accelerate the process. Constitution also claims the role of the government on this goal. 

Government should be like a tree that unconditionally and tirelessly provides shade to all who are in need. Or like the parents who cater cares for the children. Government would always heroically venture to sacrifice everything for the goods of its citizens, as Buth Savong wrote in his book called “The Lesson for Life”;             

                        Enlightened Shade, Enlightened Life

In the dry season, absence of wind, in the middle of field, the heat is enormously high, but the tree can still bare such an ordeal respectfully.

Look! Admire the tree that provides cool shade to men and animals, always be tolerant to the sun’s ray, in accordance to her nature.

Likewise, the guardian/breadwinner is the comfortable shade of the other, he or herself has to possess the quality of endurance, struggle for the hardship.

Admire the parents! Both of them are the guardians/breadwinners of the child/children, how have they endured the suffering.

Enlightenment that is achieved by gigantic endeavour, is always be the shade of heart.

………..(Buth Savong, 2003, 58)10. 

In the book entitled, “The Tao Inner Peace”, Diane Dreher suggested the style of leadership through Taoist philosophy. In that book, she stated that leader would resemble the water, which is always cool and timelessly beneficial.

                        “The best people (government) are like water.

They (government) benefits all things,

And do not compete with them.

They (government) settle in low places,

…………………………………………….

Tao.(Tao 8)” (Dreher, 1990,180)11.

Conclusion.

Government is a mean to an end! There is no need at all, if men are innately insightful, philosophical, psychologically enlightened, or if the government does not function well as expected. But since men are evil creatures, government is required to cease the upheavals of the people, as well as benefiting the people from all walks of life. The four basic duties stated above, is initial answer to the question “why government?” Still government has endless contracts, which they have done with the people during the election campaign to be executed. 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. R.M.Hare (1991). FOUNDERS OF THOUGHT. Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King’s Lynn.: Great Britain. 

2. George McKenna (1998). THE DRAMA OF DEMOCRACY. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.: USA. 

3. Murray Forsyth and Maurice Keens-Soper (1988). THE POLITICAL CLASSICS. Biddles Ltd Guildford and King’s Lynn.: Great Britain.

4. William Shawcross (1979). Sideshow; Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia. Printing House (unkwon).: New York. 

5. Raoul M.Jennar (1995). The Cambodian Constitution (1953-1993). White Lotus Co Ltd, Bangkok.: Thailand.

6. See Cambodian constitution (1993), Chapter 3, Article 31 to 50, page 7-12.

5. Buth Savong (2003). LESSON FOR LIFE. Phnom Penh Printing House.: Cambodia.

7. Keo Kim Hourn (1999). Grassroots Democracy in Cambodia; Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects. Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.: Phnom Penh.

8. See Cambodian constitution (1993), Chapter I, Article 2, page1.

9. David G.Myers (1990). Exploring Psychology. Worth Publishers, Inc.: USA

10. Buth Savong (2003). LESSON FOR LIFE. Phnom Penh Printing House.: Cambodia.

11. Diane Dreher (1990). THE TAO INNER PEACE. HarperCollins Publishers.: New York.

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The author is a second year student of law at the University of Phnom Penh.

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