Monday July 9, 2012
It’s debatable who triumphed
By JOCELINE TAN
The second debate between MCA and DAP leadership was less about convincing the audience about whose policies had better served the people than two fierce Chinese leaders slugging it out for the Chinese vote.
THERE was much less hype in the run-up to the second debate between the two leading figures in Chinese politics.
The novelty of the DAP and MCA leadership going head-to-head in a public debate had passed.
Both MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had proven after the first debate that they are more than capable of taking on each other before a live audience.
As in the first debate, Lim had the advantage of being the top dog because he is the Chief Minister of Penang, an MP and an assemblyman.
Dr Chua, on the other hand, has only his party post to ride on and his party is struggling to regain the confidence of Chinese Malaysians.
Given that Lim is in charge of one of the most developed states in the country, he would have more bragging rights as regards the topic of the debate – “Whose policies benefit the country most?”
But not long after the opening remarks by both speakers, Lim went off the debate path and ventured into ceramah mode and after a while, Dr Chua felt compelled to address him on at that level.
Both launched into attack mode, with neither really answering the questions raised.
They were both more interested in scoring points with accusations rather than giving good, convincing answers on issues.
As Fui Soong, the CEO of the CENSE think-tank, said in her forthright way: “It was like cock-fighting. Lots of posturing and both men going at each other, back and forth. There was not enough intellectual content.”
In fact, the whole thing became rather childish at times, an example being when Dr Chua poked holes at Pakatan Rakyat’s Buku Jingga.
Lim, instead of defending the allegations, said that Dr Chua must have read the wrong Buku Jingga.
That is the sort of answer one would give at a ceramah and not at a national debate.
And no one could quite figure out why Lim was pushing for a debate between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He did that right at the start and again towards the end.
By the time the moderator called for a five-minute break, the two debaters had gone well off-topic and were instead taking well-aimed shots at each other.
Dr Chua had accused DAP of being a chauvinist party that is more interested in the “politics of hate and blame” rather than nation-building while Lim declared Barisan Nasional as corrupt and bashed Umno left, right and centre.
Lim is not exactly the best orator on the political ceramah circuit but he is a seasoned speaker and his ceramah style was in full display for much of the two hour-long session.
He had a lot of punchy and pithy lines.
But the thing about the ceramah mode of speaking is that it leans towards drama and exaggeration which is entertaining, but less suited for a debate audience.
Lim was in his street-fighter element when running down Barisan and mocking Umno.
This forum, which comes more than four years into his Penang tenure, would have been the ideal platform for Lim to showcase his achievements as the chief administrator.
But through much of the debate, he was far more successful in rubbishing Umno than convincing the audience that his government and his policies had benefited the people more than the policies of Barisan.
Dr Chua does not have the ceramah flamboyance of his rival.
But he has shown in both debates that his forte lies in being factual and analytical and he thinks quite well on his feet.
He is no drama king and he does not embellish the facts to entertain the people although he can be quite caustic in his rebuttals.
But as many who watched the debate would agree, it is evident that Dr Chua understands policies, is good at facts and figures and his experience in the Government comes across quite clearly.
For instance, when Lim tried to politicise the privatisation of the Penang port, Dr Chua argued the rationale of the move with statistics.
His other advantage was that he could sell the “Najib brand name” whereas Lim was rather reticent about the “Anwar brand” even while endorsing him as the prime minister candidate.
Dr Chua came across as rather staid and serious compared to Lim’s more showy style.
But Lim might want to moderate his ceramah style when speaking before a thinking audience.
He has what the Malays term a senyum kambing side about him when running down his opponents and while that goes down well with his supporters, those less acquainted with his style may find it sarcastic or even arrogant.
A little humility would have served him better.
He is the Chief Minister of a key state and he should try not to sound like an Opposition leader.
Both men started well but as the debate progressed, Lim’s ceramah style put him ahead.
However, Dr Chua made a much more sensible summing up while Lim went over the top with a rousing speech rather than a conclusion.
Said Fui: “I feel kind of cheated. I had expected more but I feel like I didn’t learn anything new.”