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Debate rages over Lim-Chua rematch

June 3, 2012

Some politicians and analysts are skeptical whether the debate will bring about the desired effect or merely become another political charade.

By Alan Ting

KUALA LUMPUR: MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng are going to engage in another debate, on July 8, to try to convince listeners which party’s policies better benefit the community.

Even as the debate provides another platform for the two leaders to reach out to the audience and deliver their messages, some politicians and analysts are skeptical whether the debate will bring about the desired effect or merely become another political charade.

DAP Central Committee member Jeff Ooi said the Lim-Chua debate organiser, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli), should develop better debate topics, such as “Is there a future for a race-based political party?” which he felt was more relevant than focusing on the two parties.

“I would not bother to watch, even if it is carried live on TV. It’s a done deal. Lim Guan Eng will talk about the Penang model for Putrajaya and Dr Chua Soi Lek will harp on Islamisation of Malaysia and how the DAP is helping PAS. Therefore, I blame Asli for choosing an out-of-tune topic,” he said when contacted.

He said the organiser should “take the debate to the next level” by talking about the two-party system, rather than focusing on the MCA and the DAP, since the political future of the country is not dictated by them.

The first debate between the two leaders was held on Feb 18 in Mandarin on the topic “Is the two-party system becoming a two-race system?” It was telecast live on Astro AEC and a simultaneous Bahasa Malaysia translation was aired over Astro Awani.

While the first debate has been hailed as a success by both sides, some observers pointed out that it was a waste of time, claiming that the debate diverted from its original topic with both speakers using the platform to repeat themselves.

However, for the upcoming debate, Asli CEO Dr Michael Yeoh has reportedly advised the two leaders to go beyond promoting the agendas of their parties and to deal with real issues and policies.

Political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian believes the second debate will provide a rare opportunity for a politician from the opposition pact to reach out to a wider Malaysian audience through the mainstream media.

“For Chua, it would be an opportunity for him to show that MCA has done much and prove that the party is still relevant. DAP, on the other side, said they want to be an alternative even though questions remain whether they want to be an alternative to the MCA or in the context of the broader Malaysian population,” he said.

“But, in the end, the objective of the debate is to grow their support. It is not about who wins or loses, but more of a test about whether we are mature enough to face challenges within or outside the party,” he added.

A misunderstood party

He also said that such debates would not reflect the leadership skills of any politician, as it merely served as a platform for the politicians from both sides of the political divide to explore their policies and agendas rather than showing who can debate.

“There are those who can’t debate, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be good leaders. Maybe a different approach for a different target group is needed,” he said.

Nevertheless, there are still some who view the upcoming debate positively, arguing that such a debate is much-needed by any political party to convey its message.

As pointed out by MCA Central Committee member Ti Lian Ker, the MCA is a very misunderstood party and it has to use any political platform to convey its political struggle and political philosophy.

“We need a platform or avenue. We need a crowd to listen with an open mind. What we faced in the past few years was political bashing, with no regard to nitty-gritty issues. It is these political manoeuvres that totally disregard achievements,” he said.

Ti said he supported the use of English as the language of the second debate as both Chua and Lim were educated in that language.

“After the first debate, both men learned from their weaknesses in order to improve on their second debate. You can expect a more polished and factual political debate, since English is their first language,” he added.

DAP strategist and MP for Bukit Bendera Liew Chin Tong explained that in a democracy, a debate should serve as a forum to discuss policies and agendas, and there is no such thing as “winner takes all and loser loses all”.

“Both sides will benefit. No one can be sure of a 100 per cent win. So, spirit is important,” he said.



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