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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Malaysian Politics: Chua-Lim Debate Sets New Standard

Debate on Chinese issues sets new level in standard of political maturity in the country

KUALA LUMPUR: The highly anticipated debate between MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has set a new standard of political maturity in the country.

No winner or loser was declared but the two leaders achieved the objective of reaching out to the Chinese community in one of the most exciting televised debates to articulate their parties' views and directions.

Both leaders have also agreed to a second round, which is expected to draw an even bigger audience as it will be conducted in either English or Bahasa Malaysia.

Yesterday's debate, conducted in Mandarin, has set the pace for a new political culture where leaders from opposing parties are able to come together on the same platform to debate issues with a clear head instead of just firing salvos from different ends.

Those who saw the debate generally felt that both leaders showed courage as they took on sensitive questions such as those pertaining to corruption, the hudud law, land issues and Chinese schools.

There was maturity in the way they presented themselves before the audience at the Berjaya Times Square venue and hundreds of thousands more watching the debate live at home or in coffee shops, food courts and other public places.

While the debate sometimes veered away from the main topic “Chinese at a Crossroads: Is the Two-Party System Becoming a Two-Race System?”, it was nevertheless an exciting hour of verbal sparring, juxtaposed with Chinese proverbs to convey their messages better to the community.

By dinner and supper time yesterday, the debate had led to more debates at kopitiam and eateries throughout the country on who was the better speaker and which party could best represent the community.

Transcript of the opening remarks in the debate between MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng

(Before the debate, moderator Tan Ah Chai (CEO of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall), Dr Chua (CSL) and Lim (LGE) went up the stage to an enthusiastic round of applause. Both speakers drew lots to determine the first speaker. Dr Chua was to go first. The debate started with the Moderator's opening remarks and introduction of the two speakers).
CSL: Dear Speaker, distinguished Chief Minister of Penang, and members of the floor, good afternoon. In a democratic society, a two party system is a good idea if there are adequate check and balances in place. Unfortunately, after March 3 (in 2008), the opposition has been practising the politics of hate as it relentlessly attacked the government to gain power.

DAP is, now, not the DAP from the past. After it enters into a pact with PAS, PAS can control everything in Pakatan because they have the manpower and resources. So it would not be impossible for PAS to create a government that will implement the hudud law.

When PAS becomes dominant, the opposition will say don't worry, it will all be good. This is the biggest political lie. Look at Kedah - men and women need to sit separately. No alcohol in Kelantan, no cinema in Bangi. This clearly shows DAP is a slave to PAS.

We want to congratulate the DAP on misleading the rakyat and spreading propaganda, because when it comes to promoting and packaging their agenda, the DAP could get an Oscar for it. For 48 years, DAP was supported by the Chinese, and they have gained their support by "repackaging" their agenda. In DAP's history of 48 years it has only contested in Chinese majority areas, adopting the policy of using Chinese against the Chinese.

The DAP wants to teach Umno a lesson but they dare not face Umno. In fact, they only challenge the Chinese based political party.

DAP often says that its party has been given the Chief Minister's position in Penang. However, this also gives false hope to the Chinese that this could be possible in other states too. I would like to tell them that currently, in other states, it is not possible in this political climate.

DAP today has changed, and no longer is the DAP of the past. Today, in alliance with PAS and PKR, DAP is no longer championing the DAP agenda, but instead helping PAS and PKR to come into power.

In the last general election, for instance, DAP has won more seats than PAS and PKR combined. Logically, the "big brother" or Pakatan leader should be from DAP. But no, the "Big Brother" is still PKR and many mentris besar are from PAS.

In a multi-racial country, we also cannot accept Islamic rule. So, we have to oppose PKR because PAS' biggest supporter is PKR.

LGE: Dear Speaker, MCA president Dr Chua, members of the floor. I thank the organisers for organising this debate. Debate is an important element of democracy. That is why, I hope that debate will have a role to play in the democracy of this country, similar to the US and Europe.

I think what the Malaysians really want is not to see both of us debate. What they want to see is a debate between (Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and (Pakatan leader) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The one who does not have the courage to come to the debate, cannot be a Prime Minister.

Dr Chua accused DAP as a party that is being used by PAS. But we often hear, Najib say that PAS, instead, is being used by DAP. I believe that this contradictory stand is a tactic often used by Barisan Nasional.

In Pakatan Rakyat, we do not use each other. We are just prepared to be used by the rakyat. We are not against the Malays or non-Malays, but we are against corruption and poor governance.

I have my doubts about this title because now we are already in a two-race system, because the Prime Minister himself is still talking about the Malays and non-Malays frequently. The Deputy Prime Minister has also said that for him it is "Malays first".

What we want is a two-party system where all Malaysians could be taken care of. Right now, we see that Umno takes care of the interests of the Malays, the MCA takes care of the Chinese, and the MIC takes care of the Indians. As for DAP, they couldn't figure out who we represent.

A two-party system will take care of everyone, and every Malaysian will be taken care of. We don't agree with the idea of Malay supremacy. What we want, is for the power to lie in the hands of the rakyat. I do not know which Umno leader will have the courage to champion Malaysian supremacy instead of Malay supremacy.

The Barisan National attacks the opposition front, accusing it of racism, as it continues to point out cases of corruption. However, corruption has no skin colour. Pakatan will ensure transparency by revealing the assets of its leader, conducting open tenders, taking corrupt officers - and not innocent citizens like Teoh Beng Hock - to task.

We could also say, if not for the support of 40% of Malays in Penang, I won't be standing here as chief minister. I hope the public will support us for a change of Government.

This then is the two-party system that we want - let the rakyat decide the government.

A good verbal fight

On The Beat By Wong Chun Wai

Lim failed to respond to questions concerning DAP’s stand on hudud law and Pakatan Rakyat’s economic plans.

IT was billed as the Battle of Two Fighting Cocks and Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and Lim Guan Eng certainly lived up to the expectations of Malaysians.

Right from the start, they traded verbal blows with each other but still maintained the decorum expected of speakers in their positions.

The highly-charged atmosphere, with supporters of both sides applauding every point, also ensured that the one-hour war of words came to a fitting climax, heralding in a new political culture that will hopefully pave the way for future debates of this nature.

Questions from the floor were passionate although in some instances they deviated from the topic of the debate. But both speakers did not allow themselves to be rattled. They acquitted themselves well and maintained the spirit of being able to disagree without being disagreeable.

That the debate was conducted fully in Mandarin, even though both speakers were not Chinese-educated, reminded us of the reality that in this country we are able to understand one another, no matter the language, and the days of speaking only to a single-language constituency are over.

The fact that many of us, including this writer, had to rely on the Malay translation by Astro, also confirms that politicians have to be careful about what they say because the message will always get through, no matter the language.

But it was a jolly good show, all things considered. Dr Chua has certainly set a precedent when he decided to take on DAP strongman Lim.

Their styles are different and both have their strong points.

As is normal in all debates, zooming in on the opponent’s Achilles heel often results in the opponent doing his best to skirt around the issues. That much was obvious when Lim failed to adequately respond to Dr Chua’s questions concerning the DAP’s stand on hudud law and Pakatan Rakyat’s socio-economic plan.

The MCA president’s experience was obvious, especially as he rounded off the debate with his anecdote to Lim about the heroes in the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Lim, however, was also able to highlight the point that a viable two-party system simply means that any side can be thrown out if it does not live up to the people’s expectations.

It is common for opposition leaders to throw challenges but it is rare for those who represent the government to take them on.

In the political history of Malaysia, one can count by the fingers the number of public debates that have taken place between the two sides.

There have not been many debates of this nature because it is always easier for the politicians to take their rhetoric to ceramahs in front of their own supporters where they know their adversaries are not in attendance.

The entertainment approach appeals to the crowd and the speaker does not have to be on guard with whatever he says even if it can be outlandish.

But in a one-to-one debate such as the one we witnessed yesterday, especially in front of a televised audience, it is a different ball game.

The most recent debate between two Chinese politicians was way back in August 2008, soon after the political tsunami.

Back then, Lim and Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon squared off in a debate touted as “Chief Minister versus ex-Chief Minister” and the topic concerned a land controversy in Penang.

Another debate took place in the 1990s between the then Youth chiefs of MCA and DAP, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and Lim respectively, on the rather interesting topic of “Who is the political parasite?”

This writer covered the event which was carried over two nights. It enthralled a packed audience at the Selangor Assembly Hall. Everyone had their view as to who won but I think both were winners for their readiness to debate against each other.

Although it was highly entertaining, that debate lacked constructive purpose and focus and I believe both veered away from the topic, which itself was too general.

One of the most watched televised debates was between PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and then Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek in 2008. They faced off to argue about the rising price of oil and the opposition’s boast that if they came to power, they would reduce the oil price the next day.

It was quite brave of Shabery, a relatively junior minister then, to take on Anwar, given the latter’s reputation as an orator. In the end, both men actually did well although Anwar did have the edge.

But the biggest debate, unfortunately, did not take place in Malaysia but in the United States where Anwar, who was then in Umno, took on PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang at the University of Illinois in 1982. This was the period of kafir-mengkafir, where each accused the other of being infidels.

At that time, PAS followers refused to attend prayers in mosques led by imams perceived to be aligned to Umno, which was also accused of working with infidel parties like MCA and Gerakan.

But, of course, there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics. Who would have thought that Anwar would now be a PAS ally in Pakatan?

It augurs well for our political maturing process that younger leaders are coming to the fore.

Recently, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin took on PKR’s Rafizi Ramli in the United Kingdom and the debate was conducted in a civil manner. Intellect and knowledge were the important factors in their debate.

Certainly, we hope that yesterday’s debate between Dr Chua and Lim will spur more Malaysian politicians to spar with each other in the same way.

Malaysians are pretty tired of the current name-calling politics where intellectual discourse seems to be absent.

Democracy is not just about voting once every five years. It is also about being able to articulate one’s thoughts openly. Dissent does not make one subversive and anti-national.

We as stakeholders cannot leave demo­cracy entirely to the politicians. We must be ready to broaden our minds by reading and analysing everything.

It is not just the Chinese who are at the crossroads, as the overall theme of the Asli/Insap forum indicated. All Malaysians are at the crossroads and we have to be sure which road we take. There is no room for second guessing.

Verbal combat with their own agenda

Analysis By Joceline Tan

The debate will probably be remembered less for what was actually said than the way the two political leaders took on each other in a high-octane atmosphere.

THERE had been so much hype over the debate between Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek that some were afraid that the outcome would be an anti-climax.

But it turned out to be quite an interesting debate – for what was said as well as the way the two leaders carried themselves and handled the rather high-octane situation.

It was a clear-cut fight and as former think-tank head Khaw Veon Szu pointed out, both men came on stage with an agenda which they tried their best to exploit to the maximum.

Right from the start, it was clear that Dr Chua’s aim was to tell the audience out there that MCA had accomplished real things for the Chinese and he wanted to expose Lim’s showmanship and politics, and to nail him on how DAP intends to reconcile its partnership with a party that has the Islamic State and hudud law as its goal.

Lim’s aim was two-pronged – he wanted to remind the Chinese that MCA is with Umno, currently the target of Chinese discontent.

Lim has been trying to portray himself as the underdog in the run-up to the debate but he is coming from a position of strength as the Chief Minister, party secretary-general and an MP-cum-assemblyman and he spent quite a bit of time trumpeting what he had done in Penang and the Buku Jingga.

In fact, it looked like Lim came prepared with a stack of notes and actually read from the notes when making his preamble. Many of those watching the debate were puzzled when he kept referring to the notes on the rostrum, flipping the pages even when he was answering questions from the floor.

In hindsight, it was evident he was not really answering the question but had decided to stick to the script. As a result, he ended up saying most what he had come to say.

“Many people could see that he was reading from a prepared text. But it’s a shame he did not really address the questions,” said MCA vice-president Gan Ping Sieu.

In between, there was lots of gamesmanship as well as one-upmanship.

One hour is really too brief for two parties with so much history between them to actually do much but more than one hour may have been too much politics for some people to swallow on a Saturday afternoon.

And as usual, the most asked question was: Who won?

It is hard to say actually. Both men did their share of attacking, they showed they were not afraid to take each other on and even though both men are actually “bananas,” they handled the language very well. Neither of them were educated in Chinese schools but went to national schools. They only picked up Mandarin in earnest after going into politics.

They are known as “bananas” among those who are Chinese-educated, the inference being that they are Chinese (yellow outside) but Western in thinking (white inside).

Lim has evidently picked up the lingo along the ceramah route and he used quite a number of phrases that had a catchy rhyme. For example, he said people did not want lies (bei pian) but they want change (yao bian).

Dr Chua demonstrated that he is quite well-versed in Chinese history; he told Lim not to emulate the fierce and ruthless general Zhang Fei but to be more like Liu Be, a benevolent ruler who was guided by the legendary strategist Zhuge Liang.

Not many people will remember what was said months down the road but what the two leaders actually achieved out of it.

Dr Chua has certainly carved a new notch as an MCA president who is not afraid to take on his opponent. He was the real underdog because unlike Lim, he has neither a government post nor did he contest the last general election. And it takes a lot to stand up there and take Lim on, given the DAP’s supremacy in Chinese politics today.

The MCA president was quite unflappable and he is certainly able to think on his feet without having to refer to any prepared text.

Lim is better known as a ceramah orator who breathes fire when put behind a rostrum. He showed a more civil side and despite his over-dependence on his notes, he very cleverly side-stepped tricky issues that come from partnering an Islamist party.

Their bigger audience was of course those outside the hall. Lim is already well-known to his Chinese audience and the debate gives him the chance to reach out to the non-Chinese, to show them the other side of his personality.

As for Dr Chua, he should score some points with the Chinese who are always looking for leaders who can think, work and fight at the same time. After yesterday, many Chinese would conclude that this is one MCA president who speaks up and is not afraid of challenges.

If one has to identify a loser, it would the overly boisterous segment of the audience, some of whom think they are at a school debate. A debate should not be determined by how much noise is made. The quality of questions could also have been better and there were several who spoke as though they were there to quarrel rather than pose questions.

But there was also unanimous agreement that the moderator Tang Ah Chai was commendable. Tang has a social activist background and has often been associated with the Opposition. But he was professional and many liked the way he handled the speakers and the floor.

Tang said it for many democracy-loving Malaysians when he concluded that everyone should have the chance to speak up on the future of the country and that even if people disagree with one another, they should listen and have the courage and maturity to appreciate what is good for the country.

Chua: If Umno falls, PAS will benefit more, not DAP or PKR


PAS will be the principal beneficiary if Pakatan Rakyat comes to power in the next general election, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said.

The MCA president said if Umno fell, the principal beneficiary would be PAS and not the DAP or PKR.

“This is common sense. So, let's not be deceived by dishonest rhetoric. Let us face the hard truth.”

Pointing out that a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS and PKR, he said that to empower DAP is to strengthen PAS.

“This would pave the way for PAS to be the taiko or lao da (big brother) in the state and federal government.

“In Perak in the last elections, DAP won 18 state seats, PKR won seven seats and PAS won only six seats, but it was a PAS candidate who became the Mentri Besar (Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin),” Dr Chua said in his opening speech at the Malaysian Chinese at Political Crossroads conference in Kuala Lumpur.

During the conference, the much-anticipated debate between Dr Chua and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng on Is the Two-Party System Becoming a Two-Race System was held. The event was jointly organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) and MCA think-tank Insap.

Dr Chua said the DAP, which liked to allude to their success in forming the Penang state government and having a DAP leader as the Chief Minister, has been giving false hope to the Chinese that this is possible in other states.

“By tradition, this is only possible in Penang but not other states as yet,” Dr Chua pointed out.

He said the DAP had been planting hope in the minds of about 6.5 million Malaysian Chinese that a Chinese-led government is possible and that the Malaysian Chinese had been short-changed by the MCA.

The MCA president noted that the next elections is at a crossroads not just for the Chinese alone, but also for the nation and all Malaysians.

Dr Chua likened Lim to a true street fighter constantly issuing countless statements to condemn or challenge others, and forgetting that he has a state to look after.

The Pakatan in Penang, he said, had yet to deliver its many promises; like building an international golf course, low cost houses, upgrading the public transport system, easing the horrendous traffic jams and upgrading the numerous run down hawker centres.

He also reminded Lim that the increase in foreign direct investments in Penang was a result of the federal government's transformation programmes under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's leadership which saw an increase in the nation's competitiveness, ease of doing business and better public security.

Dr Chua also cautioned that Selangor would face serious water shortage if the state government did not address the issue fast.

“If the Pakatan Rakyat delivered all its promises as stated in the Buku Jingga, it will cost taxpayers a total of RM199bil to RM254bil and the federal budget deficit will rise to 27.5% of year one.

“Public debt will soar to RM617.1 bil in year one. Malaysia will go bankrupt by the second year of Pakatan's tenure as the budget deficit will have exceeded 10% of the GDP and public debt will have exceeded 100% of the GDP,” he said.

Related Stories:
Malaysians from all walks of life hungry for more debates
Large crowd jostles for space outside forum hall
Dr Chua vs Guan Eng: Part 2 coming your way
Dr Chua vs Guan Eng: What they said
Analysts agree Chua had the edge over Lim and was the better debater
Kudos for moderator who kept the peace
Forum kicks off with Chua's fiery speech
It's not even a battle of wits, says Chua
Proverbs used to push their points across

 Related posts:

Malaysian Two Party System Becoming a Two-Race System?” A question of one or two sarongs!
Malaysian Chinese Forum kicks off with a bang; Chua-Lim showdown!
Is the Two-Party-Sytem becoming a Two-Race-System? Online spars started ahead of tomorrow Chua-Lim debate!
Malaysian Chinese at a Political Crossroads forum; Chua-Lim Debate on 18/2/2012

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