Here are the reasons why:
A voluntary resignation is not a sign of weakness, but of courage and strength. General Douglas MacArthur, in his speech to cadets at West Point, said:
“Duty, Honour, Country – those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”
As prime minister, it would be my utmost duty to govern the country in such a way that it remained peaceable and ordered. Right now, there is no order, no peace. As such, I have failed in my supreme duty. So my second duty is to leave my job, voluntary, without anybody kicking me out. That is honour, because I know my action is in the best interest of the country, not that of myself or my family. By removing myself from office, I would get the country out of a jam that no one but me can solve. The country is at a dead end, and breathing in bad air; it is suffocating. My resignation would bring about much-needed breathing space, enabling the country to survive this dangerous juncture.
In submitting my resignation, I would ask all the conflicting parties to stand down, and that the election be postponed until such time that the country is genuinely ready. There is no good reason to burn another Bt3,800 million for nothing. Taxpayers and others have seen enough of their money go up in smoke.
I would explain to those pushing blindly for an election despite the political mess, that they have it all wrong. A free and fair election is the result, not the cause, of democratic principles. An election in and by itself is meaningless unless democratic principles are in place. These are the principles of transparency, equality of all citizens, functional independent institutions, respect for the rule of law, and a separation of powers with adequate check-and-balance mechanisms.
There are good reasons why people yearn for real democracy, but an election is not even a sufficient condition of democracy. Despite holding general elections, many developing countries remain as undemocratic as love and money. An elected dictator is not an oxymoron. Under such regimes, leaders treat their countrymen as simpletons.
I would then ask people of all stripes to learn from Nelson Mandela. First, treat your enemies with respect and empathy. Mandela described apartheid as the denial of basic respect for black people. He won the trust of both whites and blacks because he was willing to respect all alike. “My people said I was afraid,” he recalled. “They said I was a coward because I reached out to the Afrikaners … They have seen the result. We have peace.”
Second, like Mandela I would warn my fellow citizens that we cannot start with a blank slate. Political reform cannot start from “year zero” because there is no such thing. Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot killed millions in vain bids to disprove this.
No, reform has to be built from common ground, no matter how small it is. And on this matter, having no position to lose, I would be totally honest with the people and admit that real reform cannot be expected from any sitting government. It is too preoccupied with daily affairs to be bothered with long-term matters like political reform. This is not to mention the lack of incentive.
Third, I would not care if people accused me of speaking on behalf of my brother and our cronies when I echoed Mandela’s wise words: “Don’t punish people – even when they deserve it.” Mandela reportedly made pacts with many “devils”. The man himself said we punish others to affirm our own moral superiority. He affirmed his by forgiving them. I would then leave it to my people to think for themselves, and decide how they want to do it.
Finally, in signing my resignation, I would attempt to assure myself once more – it is so difficult to be completely convinced of this – that nobody is irreplaceable. This age-old adage is worth repeating. Mandela said it, as did William Clay Ford, Jr, who pulled his great grandfather Henry’s auto empire back from the brink.
I would also remind myself (and my brother, if he allowed me) of the warning Ford Jr delivered in 2005 – that he had watched smart, intelligent leaders go soft after listening to their yes-men. Ford said what really scared him was a lifetime witnessing CEOs start to believe in their own infallibility amid the coaxing of their sycophants. This happens to many good people, I would reflect, not exclusively to me, or my family and followers. It was easy for us to forget to be humble. It was deeply cutting to hear the Army chief say, “If there were no wounds on the cow’s back, the crows would not hover over it.” But after a brief moment of reflection, I think he got the point.
In bidding farewell to the public, I would tell them that I prefer to resign rather than sitting tight in my prime minister’s chair watching my countrymen tearing each other apart, spilling blood over the land we all call home. I prefer to let go of my grip on power, because that is the only honorable thing left to do at this juncture as a leader. Our national wounds, inflicted by all sides, are so deep and wide that healing will take a Herculean effort on everybody’s part. My resignation would be the beginning of that long and arduous healing process, with many bumpy spots down the road.
In this final moment of my time in the office, I would know it was irrelevant to even think about pride and dignity. As Confucius pointed out, a wise man has dignity without pride; a fool has pride without dignity.
I would let history be my judge.