This article is written in a response to YB Nik Nazmi’s article written in the Malay Mail yesterday. His article is as follows:
I RECENTLY attended a reunion of my Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) Bahasa Malaysia debating team.
It’s always good to see old friends again but this gathering was extra special given what a closely-knit group we were.
We won the Prime Minister’s Trophy in 1999, being the fourth MCKK BM team to do so.
The team which featured Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah won it in 1980 while PKR strategic director Rafi zi Ramli was part of the MCKK team which won it twice in 1992 and 1993.
The gathering reminded me of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s refusal to debate Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
In June, Najib responded to Anwar’s challenge to debate saying:
“We will look at the situation. If there needs to be a debate between the leaders, then a debate will be held.
But it is not part of our political culture as a whole.
“Most importantly the rakyat has adequate information (in) making a decision.
“And we will provide political parties the opportunity to broadcast their respective manifestos when the time comes.”
It strikes me as ironic that while the prime minister claims debates are not part of our culture, his father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, had established the Prime Minister’s Trophy as a debating contest for fully-residential schools in 1974 at his alma mater, MCKK.
Najib has no qualms attacking Anwar. Yet, when Najib had the opportunity to confront Anwar directly, he did not show up.
The opposition leader was present when the prime minister unveiled the budget, but Najib and almost the entire cabinet were absent when it was Anwar’s turn.
If Anwar was such a bad finance minister, why didn’t they at least turn up in full force to hold Anwar to account?
In fact, if Anwar truly is not a factor in Malaysian politics, now is the chance for Najib to expose this.
The only time Anwar was allowed to be live on national television since his removal was when he debated Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Shabery Cheek on the oil price hike in 2008. But it was quite unfair for Shabery, to be forced to debate the opposition leader.
If debate is not part of our culture, then why did that debate take place in the first place?
How do these critics of debates explain our Parliament’s robust tradition of debate from the times of Dr Burhanuddin al-Helmy, Dr Zulkifly Mohamad, Ahmad Boestamam and Dr Tan Chee Khoon?
If debate is not part of our culture, then why did Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek debate Lim Guan Eng?
The truth is, Malaysians want their leaders to debate and deliberate. While the world might focus on the US presidential debates, it is now widely accepted as part and parcel of democracies: the United Kingdom, Egypt, Indonesia and Japan, among others, all have debates.
In March, the Merdeka Center reported that 54 per cent of Malaysians, including an overwhelming 75 per cent of young Malay voters want an Anwar-Najib debate to be held.
Among fence-sitters, 62 per cent of them want a debate to help them decide on which leader is best for Malaysia.
This brings me back to school debates. Recently we saw Batang Kali Assemblyman Mohd Isa Abu Kasim slapped with a RM1,000 fine for uttering a sexist remark in the Selangor State Assembly, when he asked executive councillor Elizabeth Wong to jangan sampai terlupa jaga hutan sendiri (not to forget to mind her own forest).
In 2007, Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin attracted condemnation when, in response to criticism on the Parliament’s frequent roof leaks, stated that Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan too “leaked” every month.
When I took part in the debate in support of the motion to fine Isa I recalled that I never encountered such crude, disgusting remarks while I was debating for my school. Such language is certainly not part of our culture.
I remember many debaters had ambitions to be politicians while they were at school, but maybe it is politicians like these that could learn a thing or two from school debaters?
A few weeks back, I also was in a discussion in twitter on this DS Najib vs DS Anwar debate saga, and was also asked which side should I choose to support and vote. My answer back then, and till now is still the same – I want to see the debate between DS Najib and DS Anwar (with condition that we, the Malaysians are really up to it and can tolerate the debate in good manner) and Pakatan Rakyat’s shadow cabinet.
And yesterday, I listed out some rationale through twitter to YB Nik Nazmi, carbon copied to Dato Saifuddin Abdullah why despite I agree to the debate, I also want to see PR’s shadow cabinet.
Similar to YB Nik Nazmi, I was also a school debater, back then when I was in SDAR, Seremban. Pretty much, being a debater, I learn a lot, by not just thinking, arguing and presenting arguments, LISTENING also being an integral part of life.
As to what YB Nik Nazmi point out in his article, in a nutshell, I can agree with him.
Considering he uses his debating experience as a platform to point out his idea, I would also to point out that the debating he has gone through should also formally and informally telling him something.
Debate, be it conventional or parliamentary debate format, both outlined 3 speakers each from the government and opposition side, with each speaker has a role to present and defend a motion. There must be a STRUCTURE in the government side and so do the opposition. The government will be lead by the Prime Minister and two ministers, and the opposition will be lead by Opposition leader and two opposition members. Each will have a role and a task, with mainly 1st opposition speaker shadow and rebut 1st government speaker.
In similar mold, in actual life, government and opposition should also be in structure. This will enhance and improvise flow of command, information and coordination. Since many have seen the government (or namely Barisan Nasional) structure, we should also see how Pakatan Rakyat’s structure looks like. Yes, we have DS Anwar Ibrahim as the Opposition leader.. but what about his working structure? Who to succeed him if anything happens? Who to shadow government’s ministers?
The structures also will provide a better view and options for the people. Malaysians will be able to assess the coordination and work structure of Barisan Nasional vs Pakatan Rakyat (and leadership qualities that both DS Najib and DS Anwar has in each cabinet).
I have pointed out before in one of my tweets that shadow government is a MUST see for me because I want to see who is the alternate choice for key minister positions such as defence, homeland security, education, and finance from Pakatan Rakyat.
For example, the usual minister to present National Budget is the Finance Minister. For government, since end of Tun M’s premiership, the Prime Minister also the one holding Finance Minister role, and thus nothing wrong for Pak Lah or DS Najib to present the budget (as they were/are also the Finance Minister). However, this subject has been questioned by many proPR of late.
With DS Anwar keep on presenting Pakatan Rakyat’s alternate budget, my question is… is this indicates that DS Anwar will also be Finance Minister once PR be the ruling government? Is there no other suitable candidate to be Finance Minister in PR?
One argument that I came across was we should wait for list of GE13 candidates, then we can know. Another argument was wait until GE13 ends, then we will know who are the cabinet ministers.
My question is.. why wait? Waiting to see who won or not?
Based on past appointments, from what I can see, some ministers can be appointed from those not winning any seats or even contesting in election. The nearest example is DS Shahrizat. She lose in Lembah Pantai in year 2008, yet, the PM appointed her to be minister.
The same also can be done by PR.
PR will only appoint those who wins only? Is PR going not to appoint those who lose but have good qualities to be a minister?
These are among the reasons why I push for PR shadow cabinet, besides agreeing to the idea of debate between DS Najib and DS Anwar (with conditions). And to note, the conditions is set to us, not to both of them.
What YB Nik Nazmi, I and other debater have debated through a system, a community that cherish and respects debating environment. We debate and argued in civil manner. Shouting, cursing is not part of a healthy debate culture.
However, from few series of debates over the past few months, what we can see is unhealthy developments before and after a debate. Cybertroopers especially spinning issues like nobody’s business. Statements manipulated and false arguments tried to be defended.
Unless the rest of Malaysians can respect the debating culture (not just by wanting the debate), a healthy debate between DS Najib and DS Anwar will be hardly be achieved and giving GOOD options to Malaysians.
For now, I rest my case.
Question on the street: Why do you want the debate and why you choose or not to choose to see PR’s shadow government?