In a move that was the first of its kind in this country, the leading Opposition figure and former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the current Information Minister Dato’ Shabery Cheek went head to head in a public debate shown live on TV on July 15th 2008 with the topic I translated as ‘Form the Government today, reduce the oil price the next day’.
Overall, the debate was conducted in a fair manner with each debater given 4mins at a time to present their points. Despite a reminder by the Chairman/Mediator, it certainly didn’t take long for the Ruling Party’s rep to start personal attacks on the former DPM. He defended his action as “to create doubts and questions over the credibility of the opponent” especially the former DPM’s rebel years as a student activist in 1974 and his terms as a Minister and later DPM in the ruling government. Anwar chose to keep the personal attacks on his stride and went on to present his facts and figures the way he used to during his time as a Finance Minister. *Anwar was taken into police custody the day after the debate to testify against the sodomy charges upon him and released on bail on the day I wrote this*
For me, a public debate between TWO opposing parties has long been a turn in my country’s democracy (or lack thereof) I have eagerly awaited since my days as a student in the
When I just arrived in the UK, the country was gearing up towards a National Election that would determine the fate of the then Ruling Party the Conservative led by PM John Major (the successor to Iron Lady Ms. Margaret Thatcher).
What I was fascinated by were:
1. The THREE major parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat) were each given a fair “campaign time” on national TVs to promote their parties and persuade the voters as to why they should be elected.
2. When I registered myself for a UK National Security number in my 3rd Year, I had a major surprise of my life when a letter arrived two days later informing me of which polling district I belonged to despite my status as a mere student.
3. The live airtime of the Parliamentary debates on TV where you can see the MPs showing their true colours and actual level of intelligence *sarcasm here*
At the same time Stateside, the presidential race was on and the one I certainly was drawn to was:
The series of Public debates between the candidates on their policies and major issues should they be elected.
Imagine my shock when I came back to
1. Even with my registration as a voter, the government conveniently made a rule that new voters had to wait 8 months from date of the registration to allow it to “mature” first. Then, you are qualified to vote after the maturity period was over. ~ Is there such a thing as a Database of people’s names that matures? What sort of crap is that?
2. Students were blocked from getting involved in any political parties because the powers-that-be claimed that “students are obliged to remain neutral and should concentrate on their studies and prepare themselves in building the Nation” ~ How hypocrite! I was once dragged by a friend of mine to vote for another student acquaintance in the ruling party’s sub UMNO
However, we were not as stupid as they thought. It was obvious that:
They knew the young voters were more likely to have different views of the political world than the veterans and vote for the Opposition. It was further fuelled by the fact that Anwar was very popular among the younger crowds and this was acknowledged by many. It was risky for the ruling party and the stupid rule was implemented amidst outcries from the younger generation.
Despite his shortcomings, I still salute the Information Minister for his guts to come forward to speak for the ruling National Coalition party. It is due to his open policy that
Anwar? His true match will be and has always been the equally intelligent and formidable Tun Dr. Mahathir the former Prime Minister himself. *Here is Dr.M and his wife at the back in this sweet photo*
Maybe the Almighty sent Anwar to this world for this purpose. If it wasn’t for him and everything that happened, our country might not have been alerted to shift gears. I still see this as a step towards a more open democracy (without foregoing the Islamic values) and there is no need to call upon the Information Minister’s resignation as some Malaysians have called out for since the debate on 15th July. This country needs more gutsy leaders instead of the cowards who choose to live in denial (I won’t name anyone but any sane Malaysians understand what I mean).
My dream is for this country to flourish with an uncorrupted democracy with a healthy balance of Islamic values and leaders who always put the people first and foremost.