Seeking lessons from the star-studded debate

By Dr Mustafa K. Anuar | February 20, 2012
The Malaysian Insider

FEB 20 — Saturday’s much-hyped debate, “Chinese at a crossroads: Is the two-party system becoming a two-race system?”, between Democratic Action Party (DAP) Secretary-General (and also Penang Chief Minister) Lim Guan Eng and Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) President Dr Chua Soi Lek captured the attention and imagination of many concerned Malaysians and predictably made it to the front page of the MCA-owned Sunday Star.

Starting from the front-page story, headlined “Raising the bar”, the Sunday paper took the readers through to the inside pages, particularly pages 6, 8, 10 and 12, with everything that to do with the debate.

This ranged from news reports to interviews with individuals who had intensely watched the debate to commentaries by the paper’s usual columnists. The common thread that tied these items together was generally a positive slant towards the MCA president, i.e. the purported protagonist, which is really not news at all to mainstream media-weary Malaysians.

But if there’s a lesson to be learnt from all this excitement it is that Malaysians from all walks of life, as also observed by the Sunday Star, do crave for, nay demand, good debates and level-headed discussions about things that matter to their collective political, economic, social and cultural life. Debates test the oratory and argumentative skills of the politicians concerned.

But more than that, debates and discourses inform the ordinary rakyat that there are always two, if not more, dimensions to an issue, which eventually can help them make an informed decision or choice. This is also true of media coverage of issues and events. Papers like The Star would raise the bar if they allow sufficient space for a diversity of voices other than that of the Barisan Nasional (BN) folks.

To be sure, consumers of Malaysian mainstream media have over many years invariably received information and opinions primarily coming from BN politicians. The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance has been relatively under-reported by the mainstream media.

If anything, PR often gets to the front pages of the mainstream press only for the “wrong reasons.” This is, of course, not to say that the misconduct of the PR shouldn’t be highlighted. What we’re saying is that misdeeds such as corruption and poor governance (as well as good policies and measures) are not the preserve of certain political parties, and thus the mainstream media should report accordingly as journalistic ethics would demand so.

Ordinary Malaysians do not like to be browbeaten or, more so, lied to, especially by politicians and their elected leaders because obviously it is so insulting to their intelligence. Hence, for example, in major financial scandals such as the ones surrounding the recent National Feedlot Centre and, not too long ago, the Port Klang Free Trade Zone, and controversies such as the proposed 1 Care project and the Lynas plant, readers and viewers would expect the mainstream media to provide details from various sources of information — and not just those coming from the authorities and the ruling party.

Let the readers be the judge after reading the news. This also applies to Saturday’s debate. It would do the readers justice if this Sunday newspaper had given Lim Guan Eng more editorial space rather than a brief inclusion in the “What they said” box on page 6.

In a sense, there isn’t a need for a deliberate dumbing down by the country’s mainstream media for many Malaysians are capable of thinking critically and don’t, as some politicians would insist, become easily confused or duped.

Incisive commentaries are also most welcome but they shouldn’t be, as it is the SOP (if not the DNA) of most mainstream press these days, focused only on the misdeeds of politicians from Pakatan. For instance, when it comes to personalities like Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Guan Eng, certain Star columnists become visibly animated and livid in their so-called analyses.

And this brings us to the Sunday paper’s editorial, headlined “Public entertainment is no sin and cinemas are no vice.” The paper’s opinion revolved around the issue of PAS’s Selangor assemblyman Dr Shafie Abu Bakar who apparently wanted to ban cinemas in the area of Bangi.

While one may disagree with the said politician pertaining to his questionable argument about cinemas leading to vice, in the interest of journalistic fairness and democracy, Shafie deserves a right of reply from the paper as he is indeed the maligned party.

In this editorial, the Sunday paper also went on to rightly argue that it was about time PAS’s partners in PR stated “clearly where they stand on these public interest issues. Let the public know; elections require people to make informed choices, so failure to inform people of their options amounts to gross neglect and wilful negligence.”

True, as mentioned above, the rakyat can make informed choices and decisions only after they manage to get as much information as possible. However, most mainstream media, particularly those newspapers that claim to be championing the voice of the ordinary rakyat, have neglected their social responsibility to impart vital and adequate information to the general public.

Public debates involving politicians, to be sure, aren’t the be-all and end-all in a democracy because the rakyat as citizens can — and should — take their discourses up to another level instead of just being mere spectators to debates. They can, for instance, participate in petition campaigns, public forums, and street demonstrations. This is what is meant by participatory democracy.

In a democracy, dissenting voices are part and parcel of societal life just as opinions in agreement with the government have their rightful place. So is it asking too much for an equal space in the media for dissent? After all, to quote big chief of The Star Wong Chun Wai, “dissent does not make one subversive and anti-national.”

It is hoped that The Star — and the rest in the journalistic fraternity — walks the talk, and not leave some ordinary Malaysians starry-eyed.
Dr Mustafa K. Anuar, an academic by profession, is intrigued by Homo sapiens, especially those who behave as if they’re Permanent Residents of Planet Earth and whose appetite for economic and political power is insatiable and, last but not least, others who rock ‘n’ roll.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 2:36 pm

    //Dr Mustafa K. Anuar, an academic by profession, is intrigued by Homo sapiens, especially those who behave as if they’re Permanent Residents of Planet Earth and whose appetite for economic and political power is insatiable and, last but not least, others who rock ‘n’ roll.//

    Then there are those who think they are the Tuans of Planet Earth, while the others are merely Pendatangs on the planet

  2. #2 by SENGLANG on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 2:52 pm

    I was Star reader for many many years since I was in school until recently that I have given out. I did not know the mis-informative reporting on LGE until I read about it on Malaysiakini.

    There is not points of keep reading this mainstream paper since 308 as they have distorted most of the news on the opposition. While it is understand that the news paper have their publish guideline but they need come to that extend to spinning news out of no where. It is time that for any concern Malaysian not to support that unprofessional news paper. Stop reading the Star paper now.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 3:06 pm

    TheStar is owned by the mca, hence its staff are paid by Chua SL. Any Star reporter who writes good of the dap will be sent packing before he can say ‘mama mia’.

    It is like expecting Harakah to praise CSL for his performance in the Batu Pahat hotel room

  4. #4 by Peter on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 3:21 pm

    I was really amazed we still have bitch like this so called Jess or by whatever name in MCA. This finally proved that if we have po_n_tar quality heading a party what does one expect la. She is a typical by-product and a total disgrace to the whole Malaysian chinese women community, by shouting thru her stinking mouth instead thru her brain. On one side, I bet if she has any.
    If our chinese community has such member or leader like her in future, god help us. This rude and rowdy MCA member reflects the general state of the party today. The party is long gone, lacking vision. Hmmm….has it ever occurred to you folks that she could have done this deliberately? May be she was paid to do it. May be she thought this could gain her ‘fame’ nationally.

  5. #5 by SENGLANG on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 4:10 pm

    When the kereta tarik woman shouting at the microphone she just look like a hungry wolf want to swallow whole meal ofher prey. While the prey was seen looking amused by landing his ears to get when she try to shout about.

    The mouth open up as big as it can with the teeth protruding out, the eyes are burnt with fire, while the craws were pointing sharp up the sky. She look so angry and hungry as seem she has not been eating for months. May be she was left nothing to eat after UMNO members have gone and left the tables. That why she look the way as it was last Saturday

  6. #6 by Bigjoe on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 4:57 pm

    What the debate confirmed is basically MCA under the thumb of UMNO-Perkasa/BN is basically doing, what imperial times calls, ‘going against Heavan’s Mandate’..

  7. #7 by Winston on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 9:59 pm

    The next debate, a very keenly awaited one, is a debate between
    Najib and Anwar.
    The title is – Corruption In The Government!!
    This subject will no doubt stir up so much interest that a stadium
    would be needed to accommodate the crowd.

  8. #8 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 - 2:49 am

    Dat Selayang 泼妇骂街 MCA 黄糩满 must hv learnt her style of yelling n finger pointing, shaking fr d COWwitch (saliva raining fr d huge wide mouth)
    No understand Y dat Selayang 泼妇骂街 MCA 黄糩满 DID NOT feel 4 d WIFE-CHEATER’S WIFE n yell + finger point at d forni catious WIFE-CHEATER?

  9. #9 by monsterball on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 - 4:01 am

    All we know Lim Guan Eng dare to walk into an MCA hall and out of the 600 filled…400 are MCA members shouting and insulting LGE.
    That’s not a debate at all.
    That’s a BN puppets house.
    The debate made Malaysians shouting for more.
    Top of the list Anwar Vs Najib….no respond.
    Then Hadi challenged Najib to respond.
    And so many PR politicians asking for debates with Hussien and the likes of him…no respond.
    I say…Lim Guan Eng have exposed how undemocratic …ungentlemanly UMNO b politicians are and as for MCA….Chua can talk till all the cows come home…he better get it clear….majority Malaysian Chinese hates MCA.
    He knows it….all MCA members know that….yet they keep smiling and feeling so proud.
    What kind of creatures are these people selling their souls to be rich without working?
    Love to see a 2nd round between theses two at Penang…and lets see how Chua perform again.
    90% of his speeches are condemning DAP.
    It’s more an election speech than a debate…..and Lim Guan Eng was never given enough time to reply with so many questions thrown at him by MCA spectators and DAP supporters were never given a chance to question Chua….until last minute.
    It was an obvious unfair moderator …who might have no choice to be unfair at an MCA rowdy gatherings.
    I salute Lim Guan Eng being calm and composed like a gentleman.
    Bottom line….let voters decide.

  10. #10 by k1980 on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 - 7:47 am

    Jess = Angela Yammie, the one in the hotel room video?

  11. #11 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 - 10:11 am

    I can’t believe with all the comments in this thread about CSL ‘s famed video, no one here has pointed out its two different type of ‘stars’ – real political star vs porn star..

  12. #12 by rockdaboat on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 - 8:15 am

    If MCA thinks that the debate can bring them more Chinese votes then they can keep on dreaming!

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