SPEAK UP ! :: theSun Says
Debate is central
Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin is disappointed
that opposition party leaders have spurned offers by Radio
Television Malaysia (RTM) inviting them to take part in its
The reason for their reluctance cannot be a lack of subject
matter for discussion, since these leaders readily take to
the rostrum at many a public forum.
Anyone watching RTM's talk shows cannot help noticing the
tactical disadvantage that an oppositionist is placed at in
such a partisan environment. So it is no surprise that the
invited leaders prefer to give such occasions a miss,
sending instead a junior colleague to the gladiatorial
It is encouraging that RTM is providing space for the
discussion of the many matters of deep concern to the people
that have begun to spring up in the public domain with
rising frequency of late.
However, a satisfactory atmosphere for impartial analysis
needs to be systematically established as a matter of course
as the nation continues to engage with issues that involve a
whole range of fundamental rights - socio-cultural,
economic, political, religious and human rights included.
As we continue to examine our collective condition in all
its complexities, sensitivities and underpinnings, the
public space must expand apace to allow democratic
discussion to thrive in an atmosphere of civilised dialogue.
Along the way, those who hold dissenting views will gain the
confidence to speak up, secure in the knowledge that they
will not be vilified merely for expressing their views.
Respect parliamentary privilege
Kelana Jaya MP Loh Seng Kok is facing the wrath of the Umno
Youth for raising some prickly issues in Parliament.
Suggestions by Loh touching on religious and racial issues,
including the setting up of a department to "resolve
religious misunderstandings", have been interpreted by his
detractors as an affront to the sensitivities of the Malay
As a result, some 50 Kelana Jaya Umno Youth division members
turned up at his service centre with a protest letter
demanding an explanation and threatening action if he failed
What is worrisome about this episode is that the
parliamentary privilege of elected representatives to raise
issues of grave concern to the electorate faces the threat
of a political blockade. This mobilisation of cadres is an
unhealthy way of pressurising leaders and can easily stifle
Such a tendency must be discouraged if we want to preserve
the integrity of the democratic institutions that serve as a
system of checks and balances in the conduct of national
If vexing questions affecting different interest groups in
society cannot be raised in parliament without fear of
reprisal or intimidation, the latent unhappiness against
unpopular actions will tend to find other outlets.
Thu, 06 Apr 2006