One debate, two ceramahsPosted: February 21, 2012
Much has been said and written about the ‘great debate’ that happened on Saturday between Dr Chua Soi Lek from MCA and Lim Guan Eng from DAP. Even so, I’ll have my take on it, despite running the risk of driving people to tears with boredom from reading about the same issue everywhere they turn, from print newspapers to online news portals and Facebook.
Let’s start with the title of the debate itself – “Malaysian Chinese at the Political Crossroads – Is the Two-Party System Becoming a Two-Race System?” – which is, I believe, misguided. Or misguiding. Either way, it’s not a topic that allows much space for discussion.
Assuming the usual fabric of how a debate is structured, one side should argue for the topic, and the other against. But this assumes that both sides agree that there was a two-party system to start off with. And one other point of contention I have with the topic of debate – if it’s a debate about the Malaysian Chinese at political crossroads, why is race still made a subject for debate? What would have perhaps made a stronger and wider debate topic might be something that involves and influences strongly the Chinese and their livelihood.
So going from there, I suppose it’s not easy to fault both participants for not sticking to the topic. That said, I find myself hard-pressed to find satisfactory arguments from either side during the entire debate. Except for a few sentences of Lim Guan Eng’s opening statement, “two-party system” was hardly even mentioned at all!
Many have pointed out, instead of it being a debate, it felt more like two separate ceramahs happening concurrently and in the same room. It seemed to me like Dr Chua was more eager to talk about what DAP has been doing wrong, and how a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS than anything else. As for Lim, he seemed more than happy to naysay everything that Dr Chua had to say about him and DAP.
Again, the fault may lie in the fact that the topic wasn’t one of the best debate topics in the world. But as leaders of opposite sides of the local political scene, they could have paid more serious attention when doing their homework for this.
Even the audience weren’t very helpful. All the clapping and table banging and foot stamping and occasional shouting only went on to prove that this debate was very fast becoming one of those ceramahs we know so well. They are only blowing their own horns. And when it came question time, one only has to go onto Facebook to see how infamous one attendee has become. A certain Jessie Ooi has certainly made a name for herself for talking about towing cars at 10.30pm in Penang.
Taking all this into consideration, I’m almost convinced that Dr Mahathir is right when he says that Malaysians are generally not mature enough to handle public debates like the one that happened during the weekend. It’s true – when I was listening to the debate live, and also when I was watching the recordings on Youtube, I found myself thinking: “This is nothing like what a debate should be like.”
But as we’ve all been taught, whether through school, by our parents, or via life itself – we learn things by experiencing them. We learn things by making mistakes, and knowing not to repeat them. We learn, and we grow.
So yes, maybe Dr Mahathir is right in saying we’re not quite there yet in terms of maturity levels. But it’s definitely not a reason to stop. If anything else, all the more reason why we should ensure that public debates become more regular in local politics. Not only will it give our politicians some very much needed practice on improving their oratory skills, it’ll help us Malaysians mature.
It would make an excellent debate topic – “Should public debates be made more commonplace in local politics?”