Ambiga takes on Khairy in electoral reforms debate tonight
Umno is pinning its hopes on Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin to stop Bersih co-chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan in her tracks tonight at a public debate on electoral reforms, three days to the April 28 nationwide rally for free and fair polls.
"Electoral reform debate tonight 8pm at Bukit Utama Golf Course. For seats contact @malaymail." Khairy said on his Twitter.
"No, there is no live TV coverage of the debate between @Ambiga_S and me tonight. Ask @malaymail if there's live streaming online."
The debate is being organized by the Umno-linked Malay Mail newspaper.
Lip service and lies?
May pundits see the debate as a move by Prime Minister Najib Razak's Umno party to show that it is not against reforms and greater democratic space. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied the Najib government has been openly against any move to improve the electoral system despite lip service that it is all for "transformation".
According to Bersih and other critics, Najib is actually doing the opposite in reality. They point to his pushing through 11th-hour amendments to Election Offenses Act in the wee hours of the morning on the last day of Parliament last week.
Indeed the move to stop the Parliament's clock just to ram in changes that Ambiga has said would make it all the tougher for reforms to be tabled has raised eyebrows within the nation and overseas.
Bersih 3.0, the third rally organized by the coalition of NGOs, will be held not just in Malaysia but in 70 cities in 29 countries this Saturday. In Malaysia, the rally will be held in several key states, while the main sit-in demonstration will be at the Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.
Bersih has targeted a total crowd size of 500,000 including participants at Global Bersih.
For tonight's debate, Khairy is expected to tear into Ambiga's argument that the Najib administration has been deceiving the people it was serious about polls reforms when it has actually backtracked.
A common argument often seen in the Umno media is that 'cheating' at the ballot boxes is not new, why the sudden concern now. The answer usually given is that the 13th general election is expected to be the 'dirtiest' one ever. This may be true as it is the view of most pundits.
However, the overriding point is that there is no timeline on when Malaysians should demand clean polls. As pundits have said, it should have been done much earlier but in the past.
But prior to the 2008 general election the people were not as aware of their rights as they are now and to a large extent, this was due to the emergence of the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Should be televised live
In just 4 years, the Opposition has managed to show how important a two-party system is to counter the endemic corruption in the country and how basic it is to the survival of a nation's democracy.
Both Khairy and Ambiga are expected to acquit themselves well tonight. Khairy, an Oxford graduate, is a good speaker and so is Ambiga, the former president of the Bar Council.
"It is a pity it will not be televised live but I guess Umno won't dare take the chance that Bersih will be more convincing in its arguments," PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng told Malaysia Chronicle.