It is surprising that the police would prohibit a debate between two politicians, and even more surprising that the organisers had to notify the authorities.
If the organisers of the debate between minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had to notify the police under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, what about debates at schools and universities? What about forums or even sleepovers among friends?
The police should not be violating our right to peaceful assembly.
We should be able to gather anywhere and anytime we want to as long as it doesn’t involve violence. Requirements like notifying the police 10 days before an assembly are onerous.
It’s also strange for the police to say that the Nazri-Mahathir debate cannot be held at a school, which should have been completely appropriate for an event involving the exchange of ideas and opinions.
Malaysia should be more open to debates.
If debates were commonplace during elections, we would likely see less racial and religious campaigning as candidates would be forced to talk about their stand on various issues.
What do we know about our MPs’ position on things like health care, climate change, or affirmative action, just to name a few?
Corruption also shouldn’t be the only yardstick to measure candidates for political office. Every politician will claim that they’re not corrupt anyway.
Neither should “development” be used as a not-very-subtle threat to get votes. Malaysian citizens, regardless of their political leanings, have the right to development because public funds come from all taxpayers.
Not only are debates useful for thrashing out issues, they also allow people of differing opinions to come together and to see the other side’s viewpoint. Otherwise, we would generally gravitate towards forums whose speakers share our opinion, as we don’t want to be the oddball in the audience.
When I recently organised a debate on RUU355 between two teams of lawyers (Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Haris Ibrahim on one side, Lukman Sheriff Alias and Aidil Khalid on another), the audience consisted of supporters from both sides, though admittedly, there were more RUU355 critics.
However, an RUU355 critic told me that he was glad to see the pro-RUU355 debaters as he had always wanted to hear their views. A few RUU355 supporters also asked Ambiga and Haris questions.
Both teams said that they enjoyed the debate too.
So debates, although competitive in nature, can sometimes help bridge the divide between people of different opinions and expose us to views outside our social media bubble.
We will be forced to think about our own stand on issues when we’re exposed to diverse views expressed in a debate.
Malaysians need to be able to think for themselves, instead of outsourcing mental exercises to political and religious leaders.
Censorship and bans are unacceptable in a democracy. The State should not be telling us how to think.
Citizens should have the freedom to decide what to read, what to listen to, what to consume, who to have sex with, and to make pretty much every other decision in their private lives.
Source : Boo Su-Lyn is a feminist who loves reading fiction @ Malay Mail Online