The much awaited debate between Secretary-General of DAP (Democratic Action Party) cum Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (LGE) and President of MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) Chua Soi Lek (CSL) ended just a while ago. The title of the debate was: Chinese (Malaysians) at a Crossroads: Is the Two-Party System becoming a Two-Race System? It was conducted in mandarin.
My tweets on the debate can be found here. It was written in Malay to serve as a translation of the debate for non-mandarin speaking readers to follow the debate.
A few quick comments on the debate:
1. The debate setup was bad; audience was unfairly distributed. The mostly pro-CSL crowd cheered every time CSL made a point and jeered at LGE. The two Q & A sessions became platform to bash LGE because priority was given to pro-CSL individuals to ask questions. One individual asked LGE why turtles are banned in Terengganu (presumably when PAS, DAP’s coalition partner was holding state power), which is a very odd question. I cannot verify the so-called ban, but how can one ban turtles? Another person emotionally shouted at the microphone asking LGE why assessment rate was raised in Penang, the state where LGE is Chief Minister. As a city councillor, I can verify that there was no increase in the assessment rate since 2008 when the DAP and Pakatan Rakyat took over as state government.
Although the debate was organised by MCA’s think tank the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (INSAP), the organiser should ensure a fair debate setting. Nonetheless, kudos to all parties for holding this very rare political debate and allowed it to be telecast live nationwide.
2. Kudos however must be given to chairperson Tang Ah Chai, a renowned political analyst who managed to keep the cool throughout the debate although it can be seen that even he lost control of the unruly crowd at times.
3. The summary of LGE’s speech: Malaysia needs a 2-party system and not a 2-race system as practiced by MCA and Barisan Nasional. Corruption has reached a critical level and Barisan Nasional is not able to divorce itself from its racist ideology and culture of corruption, cronyism. Not only the chinese wanted change, but the malays and Malaysians of every race, this was evidence in the 308 political tsunami. DAP joined the Pakatan Rakyat coalition together with PAS and PKR on a written common policy platform. DAP and PAS are working together on the basis of such platform, notably on the ideal of democracy, justice and good governance. If given federal power, Pakatan Rakyat’s economic blueprint will be based on transparent system of governance to avoid leakage, anti corruption policy, private-public partnership to fund development and increase wealth as well as guaranteeing social economic wellbeing of the people. These are now being practiced, for example in Penang and will be a model when Pakatan Rakyat wins Putrajaya.
4. Summary of CSL’s speech: DAP is empowering the Islamist PAS and a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS. If Pakatan Rakyat takes over Putrajaya, Malaysia will become an Islamic state. DAP’s partnership with PAS is a lost to the chinese. MCA, a 60 years old party has contributed much to the nation although it has its own setbacks. But MCA’s performance is proven, especially in education where it set up the Tunku Abdul Rahman college. The Pakatan Rakyat is a young coalition, only 3 years old, and has many weaknesses, so it cannot be trusted to be the ruling party.
5. Of course, much was commented on the title of the debate itself, but I think one cannot blame MCA, being a chinese-based party to be interested in this topic. However, the question then is, whether DAP should accept the debate challenge? I believe DAP and LGE have done the right thing to be part of the debate. Three reasons, firstly, this issue is still a genuine concern for many chinese in Malaysia having lived under a much racially polarised country for the last 50 years. Secondly, it was a rare opportunity for the DAP to present its policies on national tv; and thirdly, it is time to set the record straight about the politics of race in Malaysia. In regards to the latter, I think LGE has done reasonably well by steering the crucial question away from race to socioeconomic issues such as corruption.
6. Overall, I must say that this is a good start for opening up the democratic space in Malaysia. Leaders of all parties should be given airtime to state their views. However, this particular debate would be a bad-model to follow not only due to the bad crowd management, but also the unfair setup and at times, both speakers avoided crucial questions thrown at them.
7. On Twitter and Facebook, the conversations surrounding the debate was very lively, with supporters of both sides providing live updates as well as commentaries (for better or worse). My own twitterverse contribution has been copied to this page.
(Photos above are taken from the Internet)