The Malaysian political scene has become so noisy that it is now quite a challenge for the media to determine what is worthy of reporting and what is not. An average working day sees the media outlets fairly inundated with statements, counter-statements and calls for press conferences from both veteran political players and Johnnies-come-lately, all clamouring for attention.
Many issue statements that boil down to nothing more than mere threats or publicity stunts that make no difference to the average Malaysian’s life. We’ve come to a point where journalists are forced to watch a second-rate demagogue flush legal papers down a toilet in the name of news.
So when youth activist Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman recently challenged 1MDB President Arul Kanda Kandasamy to an open debate on the state-owned investment firm, one has to ask: What’s the point?
So far, Arul has less-than-deftly dodged attempts to draw him into a debate saying that his lips are sealed by police investigations into the 1MDB matter. Indeed, all attempts to get more damning information on 1MDB are currently doomed to dead-end hell.
Yes, there remains hope for the possibility that the whole matter will be blown apart by some Watergate-like revelation down the line. But that isn’t going to happen through a public debate, and it is surprising that Syed Saddiq does not seem to have realised that. His challenge, ostensibly to force Arul to face his fears, seems more like a publicity stunt than a vigorous search for the truth.
In making his challenge, Syed Saddiq pointed out that both he and Arul were students at the Royal Military College (RMC) and both were debaters. He said that a true RMC old boy and debater would not treat another the way Arul had been treating him. “Be a true RMC boy,” he said. “If you’re not in the wrong, accept my challenge. Don’t shy away. Be a principled person.”
Are we living in the real world? Is the Pope Catholic? If a tree falls in the forest, will there be a public debate about whether it did?
If you have to tell the man you’re accusing of complicity in grand corruption to stick to idealistic schoolboy principles, you’re probably not going to get anything. Syed Saddiq knows this. Arul Kanda is well aware of this. So one has to wonder why Syed Saddiq thinks that any of this is worth a shot.
What sparked the challenge was yet another occasion of Syed Saddiq being barred from attending a talk by Arul at Universiti Malaya. Attendance was indeed heavily controlled, and some UM students have accused the authorities of trying to brainwash them. That should have been the crux of Syed Saddiq’s argument. His repeated calls for a public debate so far only make him look hungry for attention, and it’s not doing his crusade any good.