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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Oily Slopes of Debate

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Walski's in absentia apology forenote: Yes, he's been away. Apologies for the long absence, but between the trip to Jakarta, and clearing the backlog of work after coming back - not to mention the tiredness of both - this blog hasn't been updated for well over a week. Walski still owes you the Jakarta trip report, but for now, something completely different. And probably more pressing.

Walski's untimeliness apology forenote: The events that have transpired today will probably have made the discussion about last night's debate pretty moot. This post was supposed to have been out earlier today, but because of Walski's schedule and the crap-disguised-as-broadband that his office has for a network, it's only now that Walski can post this, from home.


Mirriam-Webster defines it as:

a contention by words or arguments, as
a) the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure
b) a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides

As you know, last night the nation was given the opportunity to watch something rather unprecedented - a debate, televised live, between an opposition politician and a minister from the ruling party, BN.

The topic was a very current one, surrounding the recent massive hike in fuel prices - "Form Government Today, Fuel Price Down Tomorrow".

Anwar Ibrahim vs. Shabery Cheek, the Minister of Information. For those of you who may have missed it, it is available in its entirety (albeit in 8 parts) via YouTube. Walski has taken the liberty of including the entire hour in the full post.

Originally, Anwar had challenged either the PM or his deputy to a debate. Instead, they sent Shabery. Walski managed to watch the entire thing via YouTube, and came to one conclusion - Shabery was not there to orate. He was sent there primarily to attack Anwar, using the issue of fuel price as a platform.

Malaysiakini, as a follow up to the debate, had set up an opinion poll to gauge what the viewers thought, and in particular, between Shabery and Anwar, who came out tops. The results were released this afternoon, and are not the least bit surprising.

The essence of debate, to Walski, is successfully presenting your opinion and arguments surrounding the topic being debated. Several times during the debate, Shabery used the opportunity to attack Anwar personally. Anwar, a more seasoned politician, did well to fend those attacks, and even at times counterpunch Shabery with a few jabs of his own.

The one-liner quickie summary: Shabery went to the debate with an agenda and a gameplan of undermining Anwar. Anwar, on the other hand, was there to debate.
(the full debate, and more, in the full post)

But hey... don't take Walski's word for it. Here is the full debate, in eight parts, via YouTube. If you have not yet watched it, you really should do so, then make your own judgement.

Part 1 (of 8)

Part 2 (of 8)

Part 3 (of 8)

Part 4 (of 8)

Part 5 (of 8)

Part 6 (of 8)

Part 7 (of 8)

Part 8 (of 8)

And there you have it - an hour of historic television. Well, in the Malaysian context anyways. Sister in arms, Marina M., was one of the first to post a review of the debate last night. In her words, she felt that "Anwar started off shakily but soon warmed up. While Shabery started off smooth and then got shaky".

Walski will have to admit that he's not a big fan of Anwar Ibrahim. But last night's debate made one thing clear. While Anwar was a spokesperson for Pakatan Rakyat, presenting the coalition's stand with greater substance and conviction compared to his opponent, Shabery presence was more in a role of bumbling hitman. And if Shabery were to be taken as representative of BN/UMNO, then from a perception point of view, Walski must say that the government is absolutely bankrupt of ideas, resorting instead to personal attacks on their opponents, rather than offering anything substantiative.

Which leads us to this other definition of debate - "de stuff you put on de hook to catch de fish with".

In which case, Shabery (and by proxy, BN/UMNO) bought it - hook, line and sinker...