Loh Seng Kok

Parlimen Malaysia

Barisan Nasional MCA

Loh Seng Kok 卢诚国
Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya
(2004 - Feb 2008)

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Debate is central to democracy

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SPEAK UP ! :: theSun Says

Debate is central to democracy

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 talk shows.

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 contest.

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 community.

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 to respond.

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 healthy debate.

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 affairs.

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.

Updated: 01:38PM Thu, 06 Apr 2006


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