Mr Prime Minister, debate this!

by Praba Ganesan
The Malaysian Insider
Mar 15, 2012

MARCH 15 — So Najib does not like to debate. But why not?

Some people don’t like to eat oranges, we let them be.

So I suppose if some have the right to not like round juicy objects which are hard-going — peeling with your hands and all (so prole!) — you can equally extend this right to Datuk Seri Najib Razak in other arbitrary matters, such as refusing to debate publicly about our country’s current path and how to raise the bar as a progressive society.

However, the prime minister has to keep some consistency, just so the historians characterise him right later.

He should start by closing down Parliament. This is an institution intended to encourage our finest political minds to have laborious, unyielding and rarely funny discussions about the country, mostly by disagreeing.

The idea was, I hope it still is, that by getting people to argue their own side or opinion or position and putting them up against others who do not quite agree with them, then more equitable, meaningful ideas are given life. That by talking about something with great discipline we discover better ways to do the things we already do or even things we should be doing. They debate, so our lives become better.

But this is dangerous, since debate is not part of Malaysian culture or Malaysians are not ready for it.

So since Parliament exists for debate, then the prime minister has to stop it. For eventually things like the Prime Minister’s Question Time will lead to, hold on, yes, oh yes, debate.

Second, he might want to explain if he does genuinely dislike debates, then why is it that he is talking through our TV sets everyday of our lives. More so, lining up with him there’s a whole bevy of people — his deputy and a motley crew of ministers — all nudging each other aside so they get more airtime on TV stations.

They clearly like to talk, and talk a lot, just like Najib. And it does seems, Najib has so much to say, all the time.

So what’s missing here, between these talking engagements and loathing this debate thing — where, surprise, surprise, people are also speaking.

This is most ponderous. Most mystifying. Almost worthy of hiring consultants with jargon guns.

Ah, they talk back. In this debate thing, people talk back to what the prime minister says. They would say in these debates “that will never happen while they are in power” other nasty things like enquire about Najib’s ideas and thoughts. Horror, grief, shame, people asking Najib about the contentious bits in his policies.

Najib must go awhirl at the mere mention of such a reality. Fleeting thoughts pass him, he wonders, what happened to those good old days when feudal lords spoke and the rest listened?

I say, you say

The deputy prime minister does point out that leaders don’t need to engage those in power, they just need to service the people.

On the face of it, it has some merit, but let’s take a step back and consider it. Why do we debate?

This is what I used to tell my students, pardon if it sounds patronising.

A long time ago, when human societies were shaping up — living in caves, clubbing animals and chasing their partners — might was right. Primacy was established by brute strength. Scoring on a date back then took a completely different dimension.

At this point, the students would look at me puzzled.

It dawned through trial and error, or more apt — hit and miss — that all the violence was starting to wear everyone down.

There must have been this enormously dramatic moment, when someone screamed, “Hey, can we stop? I’m tired of waking up sore. Why don’t we just talk about it and decide?”

Thus the first debate probably started. Two individuals or groups wanting the same thing having to talk about which or what should prevail, that reason should be the guiding light since interests are at odds.

Through a series of discourses, societies find their communal reason or purpose.

Communal reason or purpose is not inherited, it is conversed. Which is why great societies are associated with traditions of speech, debate and engagement. Conversely, when those societies forcibly remove speech, debate and engagement, decay sets in.

They derive their purpose from the intellectual stimuli produced by contrasting ideas.

Summary: A beating is not the only solution. Sometimes you can just talk about it.

But things don’t just resolve themselves because a different way has emerged. Human society, as advanced as it seemingly is, has without fail is confronted with the choice of reason or force.

Obviously, those with force, power, resource or whatever you may call it shudder when they face reason. Even if they fear not reason, they realise if reason is excluded their superior force will always the day.

They seek ways to reduce the need for discourse and increase the focus on force-resource. Relying on their monopoly over carrot and stick to douse our collective will to argue our case.

Hey, us on the other side of the track

I’ve known guys like Najib all my life. They like to win by not competing. Why compete when you can declare yourself the winner, over and over?

But do people like Najib know the rest of us? They think everything is about managing the masses. Sure, we want food on our tables and our healthy children having a place to sleep.

However we have ideas, just like the prime minister or even his personal driver. In a democracy where there is universal education, people without ideas will be scarce. In abundance are those who disagree, and here’s the news Tengku Adnan, if you are unwilling to deal with a Malaysia that disagrees with you more often than not, then your political viability has already expired years ago.

All that is denying a full-on, nationwide debate of everything is the state’s physical might. But every day that is becoming less and less relevant. The debate, this conscious discussion on this country’s conscience will continue on, general election or not.

A general election is not “the end all and be all” of a country, its people are.

I refuse to live in a country where the privileged shut me out of the discussion because we did not go to the same school or play hop-scotch in the same gated community.

This doggedness is not just in me, it is in many of my countryman, which is why by the day it is becoming far more uncomfortable for the elitist community always thinking their resources will keep them above the law, and certainly above any need to defend their positions.

Najib can choose to eat oranges but not debate, but the time to choose is slowly drawing to a close in Malaysia.

He must know that trying to win on his terms, without needing to intellectually defend his positions under pressure, is a fubar.

He may keep some votes and stop the bleeding by staying away from debates, but he must know the votes he loses from now on will never return.

So Najib, care to debate now?

  1. #1 by Godfather on Thursday, 15 March 2012 - 11:31 pm

    Najib will pee in his pants if he has to debate Anwar. All UMNO leaders are like that: too fat and unwieldly as a result of having too much to eat. Why would they bother to debate ?

  2. #2 by k1980 on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 1:54 am

    jibby should try watching the British Parliament in session, whereby PM Nick Cameron instantly answers any questions or points raised by the opposition leader, Ed Milliband.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 2:08 am

    The only literary character that best resembles Jibby is Fagin the Jew, in the novel “Oliver Twist”.

  4. #4 by Bunch of Suckers on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 2:54 am

    He is relying on “You help me; I help you” strategies. Debates are not UMNO/BN suckers’ strategies!!!

    On simple Parliamentary Questions, BN/UMNO suckers took months, even years, to reply. On debates??? You must be kidding!!! Audiences would be yawning and sleeping, even walking out or dying on spot…

    They are damn good in sucking only…

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 3:15 am

    Praba goads Ah Jib Gor to engage in televised political debates. Praba says Ah Jib Gor is a debate dodger and shirker. Well he is – compared to (say) Anwar. It is natural that as much as a person is entitled to leverage on his assets, so he is entitled to dodge that which exposes his weaknesses. Ah Jib Gor may have reasons other than inability to debate. Likely he does not want certain allegations to be mentioned on national television. Whatever the merits or shortcomings of televised political debates – especially in Parliament – cannot be extended to argue the case why a politician must accept a televised debate challenge. The fact that a politician does not want to engage personally in a televised political debate does not mean he is against political debate in general whether in print, blogs parliament or other forums.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 3:31 am

    Praba’s argument that if you don’t debate on television you may as well “start by closing down Parliament” just does not hold. Parliamentary debates are to reflect representation of different groups in deliberation of laws to be passed. Its service to the cause of Democracy is to provide a forum for conflicting view points to meet, clash and if possible reconcile through debates of elected representatives. The objective of parliamentary debates is different from that of a televised political debate which is to judge the candidate’s capability and issue/policy positions. But even this is debatable. Telegenic looks, poise under pressure, quick with retort may give an impression that he’s better candidate/politician/leader – which he may not necessarily be. Now Tun Dr Mahathir would, in this department, probably fare pretty well in televised public debates but does it make him a better politician than the one he talked down with his sneers & paraprosdokians??? And also lets get real – how much complex policies can one grasped within the short slot on national television that cannot be better and more elaborately explained via another medium? Opposition supporters are pushing for such debates – not only because they are entertaining and interesting by themselves- but also because this is one efficient way for Opposition to reach out to a large national audience in political campaigning that mainstream media controlled by BN does not provide the level playing field. The assumption here is of course that ruling party controlling television net works and media reporting on the debates cannot tilt the level playing field unfairly against the Opposition. This may or may not be a correct assumption! Only more debates will tell.

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 5:08 am

    Ah Cheat Kor said: CAN 1, no problemo. But 1st U debate with my PhD char bor, OK?

  8. #8 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 8:50 am

    Jib Jib Boleh!

    Ros Ros Cantik!

    Jib Jib Boleh!

    Ros Ros Cantik!

    Jib Jib Boleh!

    Ros Ros Cantik!

    Yeah ppl, say this three times and you will surely realise that Jib indeed boleh and Ros is actually cantik.

    Its true. Try it. Say it out loudly. Let your neighbours hear it.

    Jib Jib Boleh.

    Ros Ros Cantik.


  9. #9 by Winston on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 9:38 am

    What to talk about?
    Definitely not about scams and scandals.
    And any subject that is taboo to them.
    I understand that even in Parliament, if the opposition wanted to enquire about anything that they don’t like, those asking the awkward questions will be asked to sit down or worse, be asked to leave Parliament.
    Or be suspended.
    In fact, what debate is there?
    Even Parliament is a sham!!
    Or shame?
    But the BN has found a very successful formula to fool the most of the people all the time and they have held on to that.
    It is to mislead the rural folks who are fed lies and lopsided news on a daily basis by their party-owned MSM.
    Since these folks, especially the older ones, are not particularly well informed and have to rely on the MSM they are ideal subjects for their propaganda machines.
    But, of course, the winds of change are blowing as their progeny are much better educated, much more traveled and have a better outlook.
    They will be the bearer of change in the outback.
    That’s why the BN has gone bonkers and are talking nonsense all the time now!
    Not only that, but the cybertroopers they employed are doing the same thing!
    The latter of course help to shoot their bosses in the feet!

  10. #10 by mauriyaII on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 9:59 am

    Debate? That is the last word that the Pee Em Najib would want to get embroiled in. Debate is anathema to him and his cohorts in Dumbno.

    If ever he is cornered unwittingly into a debate, the outcome would be disastrous not only to him but more so to the audience. He would ramble, scream and screech about 1Malaysia even if it is not the topic of the debate just to obfuscate, divert and render the debate thoroughly useless.

    He is and has been a clueless, flip-flop, idiotic liar using his forked tongue and doublespeak in his harangue.

    He has lost touch with reality and cannot walk the talk. 1Malaysia – people first, performance now – is just drivel where he and his implementation of policies are concerned. He won’t be in a position to debate on 1Malaysia, let alone other important transformational ideas that need to be debated in order to stop the rot in the country.

    When a person in high office is indecisive, says one thing today and says just the opposite the next day, what credibility can the rakyat expect?

    He is another snake-oil salesman promoting his merchandise (1Malaysia) in his numerous walkabouts among the gullible public. He knows that not everyone is fooled about those publicity stunts unlike his psychopaths in UMNO and its various offshoot NGOs such as Perkasa, Pekida, etc.

    It takes a man of calibre, integrity, intellectual maturity and the inherent belief that everyone has a right to his ideas even if they are contrary to his own to debate in a coherent and civil manner.

    Najib has shown in most of his speeches that he is more of a rabble-rouser, apt at playing to the gallery rather than a charismatic leader well-informed about the challenges facing the country.

    So, let us not delude ourselves into believing that Najib will rise to the occasion, take the bull by its horns and surprise us with his debating skills especially against the likes of Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang or Karpal Singh, just to name a few.

  11. #11 by cseng on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 10:06 am

    Winston, well said.

    If issue like NFC not allowed to be debated in parliment, don’t call it parliment, just call it opera theater.

    Hiding behind NEP, weakened one’s ability to compete.

    Hiding behind MSM’s ‘self control’, OSA, ISA, NFA of authorities, you think you could cover the sky with one palm.

    Hiding behind Taiko Umno, BN components never grow up.

    Hiding behind Pendikar Mulia’s authrority, you make parliment a opera theater.

    Hiding behind RM500 you received, is massive deficit to be paid by your children.

    Hiding behind Lynas, come along 12 yrs tax holiday with longterm radioactive risk.

    Stop hiding, come out and face the reality. Maybe hiding for too long, and you get addicted! then go ahead hide your head under the sand.

    Just give the gov to PR after we bankcrupt, as what Mat Sabu say.

  12. #12 by Bigjoe on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 11:03 am

    No way. All Anwar need to do is debate the listing of FGVH and Najib would be dead. Its clear what they are doing now which is taking felda agency land and bailing out FGV which is failing. There is no reason to involve FGV in anything they want to do actually..

  13. #13 by tak tahan on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 12:48 pm

    Abang Jib:Rose,rakyat nak sangat abang debat dengan Anwar la.Abang no sweat with all that cuma sibuk dengan transformation program,ie ETP,GTP,KERETAPI,ABC,HEHEHE dan sebagainya.You see Rose,abang no time la.

    Fat Rose:Ah bang,panggil saja la Koh Tsu Koon mewakili abang.Lagi pun dia tu captain of ETP,…semua apa tu.English pun dia pandai speaking kan?Lets decide this.

    Abang Jib:Tak boleh tak boleh.Dia tu boh-hood lah.Tak boleh diharap sangat kecuali di pakai sebagai puppet.Baik la,abang akan berdebat dengan Anwar.Tak kasi dia chance langsung!Abang sure win.

    Fat Rose:Begitu la bang..mesti ada ummp.Abang flip-flop kasi Anwar pening-pening!OK i make the arrangement tomorrow.

  14. #14 by cemerlang on Friday, 16 March 2012 - 3:41 pm

    Because your mouth is the opposite end of your anus.

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