The anticipated MCA vs DAP debate on the future of the Chinese added little value to the analysis of the nation’s key political issues and challenges facing Malaysians.
The contrast was compelling. MCA chief Dr Chua Soi Lek went up on stage in an offensive mood aiming to defend his party and incompetent leadership. The party has over the decades been protecting and defending Umno’s interests at the expense of MCA.
To Chua, the debate was just another “sprint to the finishing” line to revitalise the dimming party’s image on the radar of the Malaysian public.
But political analysts and keen observers are questioning the wisdom of the opposition DAP in wanting to eagerly jump in to embrace this debate without realising the political implications and impact upon its own party or its nemesis, the MCA.
Prominent academician and former director of Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) Prof Lim Teck Ghee said the debate added little value to the analysis of the nation’s key political issues and challenges facing Malaysians.
“Apart from the immediate impact which is to strengthen the feelings of the respective core supporters of the two parties… the (benefits of the) debate in the longer term appeared to be accruing to MCA,” said Lim, reflecting on the impact of the event held on Saturday.
Rotten wood cannot be carved, so the saying goes. But Lim thinks otherwise.
“A party in death throes arising from the corruption and political inadequacies of its largely discredited leadership seems to be given a new lease of life,” said the academician.
A relevant observation which the DAP may not be fully aware of.
Floor orchestrated by MCA
From the vantage points of DAP and MCA, the political objectives of the debate could differ.
To MCA, it could be chen er da tie (strike while the iron is hot) while DAP was more keen on the adage “facts speak louder than words” (shi shi shang, yu xiong bian).
For DAP’s secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, it was an event he hoped would take root as a component of democracy – Malaysian style.
It is a debate that Guan Eng hoped would foster an intellectual culture and be nurtured into becoming part of the political participatory process.
In between, Malaysians from the Chinese community had naively dreamed that the debate would be similar to the standard and quality of an American presidential debate with its emphasis on truthfulness, facts, information and clarity on national vital issues related to the theme: “Chinese at Crossroads – Is the two-party system becoming a two-race system?”.
Did the debate contribute to a “win-win” scenario? Did the event cause a head-over-heels affection from the Malaysian public?
The conclusive feedback and commentary analysis of political observers and non-partisan Malaysian Chinese are proving to be just as controversial if not more interesting than the debate itself.
A former MCA insider and party veteran from Kluang Johor, SL Ho (not his real name) who had actively organised MCA events, claimed that the party headquarters had likely orchestrated the logistic tactics in denying the DAP participants domination during question time.
“Hence, the full attendance of MCA so-called delegates is clearly evident of this deliberate pre-planning to control the floor situation.
“They could even designate some prominent party leaders to humiliate the debater (from the opposition side) with irrelevant remarks to embarrass the opposition.
“…. jeering at Guan Eng could have been spontaneous but nevertheless could have been approved by their team leaders at the event,” Ho added.
MCA supporters lacked discipline
Ho said the embarrassing indiscipline of the MCA supporters reflected the quality of their top leadership.
Another former state MCA leader from Selangor concurred with Ho. According to him, the “disgusting monkey-like heckling, jeering, shouting of MCA supporters was an embarrassment but it probably reflected the type of leadership at the helm now”.
“Not surprisingly, the MCA culture of leadership crisis had nurtured and groomed a generation of young leaders just like that newly recruited Selangor MCA Wanita member, Jessie Ooi, who disgracefully displayed her irrelevant comments of tow-cars, which is completely out of focus,” said the ex-leader from Selangor.
Retiree accountant KS Goh, 60, who viewed the debate broadcast through Astro, noted the event showed a natural bias towards MCA.
“There seems to be no equal opportunity given to the DAP during question time.”
But Goh also questioned the competency of the organiser in handling the details of the event.
“Compare this (MCA-DAP debate) with the US-presidential debate, you can see participating professionals and NGO leaders even journalists fielding questions and not just supporters of Republicans and Democrats.”
Critics were in general agreement that the procedural standard and even the theme chosen for the debate were ill-organised and completely out of focus.
While some said the debaters had their respective strengths and weaknesses in dealing with the hot topics thrown at each other, there was general consensus that they were carried away by the emotional support, and eventually strayed from the chosen theme.
“While both sides may want to claim victory, it was a disappointing debate. Perhaps we were expecting too much,” Teck Ghee said.
No depth in debate
Teck Ghee also commented on the poor format and lack of depth on debating the issues.
“The failure of the DAP to insist on the debate being focused on ‘Malaysian’ as against ‘Chinese’ issues is especially perplexing,” he said.
Despite all these negative feedback, both MCA and DAP are likely to welcome future debates.
Whether such debates will play an effective role in enabling the Malaysian public to gauge the political parties on issues, is still open to question.
“The debate did not change my perception towards the party. As the Chinese saying goes, ‘yi chou wan nian, liu fang bai shi,” William Low, 57 said.
CEO of a corporate company and Chinese-educated William Low explained that the bad reputation of a person or of a party leadership, according to a wise Chinese saying, can last 10,000 years but a good reputation can last a hundred generations.
Indeed, I agree with this saying.
Stanley Koh is a former head of MCA’s research unit. He is a FMT columnist.