The People's Justice Party of Malaysia (Keadilan) president Anwar Ibrahim

This morning, we lovers of democracy woke with a heavy heart to the news that came from Washington. A protest turned insurrection that occurred at the US capitol building earlier today was a nightmare brought to life for those of us dedicated to a peaceful world where our systems of governance allow for people to exercise their freedoms and build a better world together.

We take stock of the fact that these were not peaceful protesters simply exercising their constitutional right to assemble, but more an angry mob, armed and using such rhetoric as “no one gets out alive, not today.” We also recognise these protesters, as a break from the convention of peaceful demonstration practised elsewhere in the US and around the world.

We must not let the actions of the few reflect or diminish the cause of the many. Democracy shines brightest when the people are free to stand in opposition, but this abuse of duty and sullying of democratic ideals threaten us all.

Prior to the mob’s storming of the capitol, President Donald Trump made a speech as part of the “Save America” rally at the White House filled with insightful language and war-like rhetoric. Many of those who attended his speech this morning went on to take part in the storming of the US capitol which resulted in the interruption of Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results, which resulted in the election of President-elect Joe Biden.

The result of the mob’s march was an evacuation of the building, the theft of property, and an armed standoff that resulted in the death of one woman.

The situation in the US today stands as a prime example of our deeply polarised world, quickly driven to action through hate, fed by fake news, misinformation, and manipulative rhetoric of a xenophobic nature, and a more difficult hurdle that all of us who believe in democracy must face and get over if we are to make a better future.

In our New Year’s reflection, we must continually ask ourselves how we can make this year better than the last, asking in our critical reflection how we can improve ourselves and make the world better for our neighbours.

I applaud the US Congress for continuing their most important work once the building was secured. We must denounce those who incite violence with their words and any government that manipulate their people in such a way as to create divisions and vehement anger.

I echo the sentiments that former US president Barack Obama presented in the form of a challenge to the US and, dare I say, the rest of us, “They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires. Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames.”

The job of any democratically elected government is to satisfy and fulfil the mandate given by the people in their most sacred and honoured duty every election cycle. Today, Americans should be able to rest easy in a celebration of democracy in action, but instead are faced with the challenge of our times.

But democracy cannot be rushed, and while we cherish each victory, we must equally consider each side-step or even step backward, so that we may be better tomorrow.

My thoughts and prayers go out to President-Elect Joe Biden, his incoming administration, and the American people as they weather these tribulations.