Monday, December 19, 2011

Mudslinging or debate?

One Man's Meat

The two antagonists have twittered agreement to debate, but getting them into the same room to thrash out the Lynas issue without scoring political points is quite impossible.

IF a debate on Lynas were ever to happen, it might be as civil as a nuclear bomb. Fresh from the civil and intellectual public debate mobilised via Twitter between Kedah Gerakan Youth chief @TanKengLiang and the Bar Council’s @EdmundBon on the Peaceful Assembly Bill on Dec 11, Twitterers were clamouring for more debate.

The next day, @TaiZeeKin tweeted: “After @TanKengLiang on PABill, let’s keep the fever going by our 2nd (debate) series, @Fuziah99 vs @TiLianKer on Lynas!” Twitterers on TwitterJaya (the moniker of the Malaysian Twittersphere) are familiar with the “radioactive” tweet exchanges between Kuantan MCA division chief Datuk Ti Lian Ker and Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh on the controversial Lynas rare earth project.

To some, the prospect of a public debate between MCA central committee member Ti and PKR vice-president Fuziah is as mouth watering as a mug of KR1M choco malt.

@szeming87 tweeted: “I would love to see debate on #Lynas (between) @TiLianKer & @Fuziah99.”

Almost immediately after @TaiZeeKin issued the debate challenge, @TiLianKer replied: “Sure! (I) can give a point or two on how 2 b a responsible people’s (representative) without aiming to score political brownies by blasting.”

And @Fuziah99 tweeted: “I accept. Have been challenging @TiLianKer for a debate for a long time before this.”

In explaining why he wanted to debate Fuziah, Ti said: “I have been wanting to call her bluff and have been throwing her challenges for a debate ever since she blasted irresponsibly with inadequate facts and distorted information on Lynas calculated to incite anger against the leaders (especially PM, Pahang MB and even DYMM Tuanku Pahang) and fear of the masses for their health and safety.

“There have been much proven untruth and conflicting information in Fuziah’s public statements. For example, she alleged that we are using China standards and not stringent Australian standards, which is false,” he said.

Ti explained that he was “not pro Lynas, nor am I a spokesman for Lynas”.

“But I am interested to seek a solution to an issue that could have been avoided had our (Kuantan voters’) people’s representative exercised due diligence or process!”

Fuziah accepted the debate challenge despite a tweet being confined to 140 characters.

“It is not a real platform for intellectual discourse or exchange of constructive ideas. Lynas is an issue which needs to be understood properly,” she said.

“It is also an issue which is multifaceted and needs to be looked at from various angles before one can make a decision on its safety or on the viability of the project.”

Fuziah added her observation was Ti was more interested in attacking her on a personal level rather than talking about the Lynas issue.

It is not the first time both politicians have accepted a debate challenge on #Lynas, however.

Ti recalled that he was the first to issue a challenge.

But, he said, Fuziah insisted on a debate in Kuantan as “she has the upper hand in terms of a militant emotional crowd there”.

“The debate should be on neutral ground with a rational, intellectual, sincere audience out to seek a solution or a win-win situation for all parties,” he explained.

“Subsequently, whenever we engaged in a debate in TwitterJaya, she will throw a challenge but she insisted on a political agenda i.e. to pander to the emotions and fear on the ground in Kuantan whereby any attempt to explain the facts and science of rare earth will be seen to be (coming from) a ‘traitor’.”

Fuziah has a different recollection.

“I don’t ever remember him agreeing to a debate. Every time he attacked me publicly, I challenged him to a debate but he had always declined, citing that he is no expert on the issue. Furthermore, no organiser has come forth before,” she related.

“As far as I remember, I have personally challenged (Ti) to a debate at least three times. And it was on Twitter every time.”

From their exchanges, it looks like a mud-wrestling match is a more apt description than a public debate.

When both politicians agreed to the debate on Monday, @skeatx tweeted: “This will be more of a mudslinging match instead.”

If @WanSaiful (Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs Malaysia CEO, who moderated the Tan vs Bon debate) could get Ti and Fuziah in the same room for a debate, he probably would win a Nobel Peace Prize.