Debate: A Western Tributary?

Eveybody knew of the debate between UMNO’s Youth Leader, Khairy Jamalludin and PKR’s Strategics Director, Mohd Rafizi Ramli about ‘The Termination of PTPTN (The National Higher Education Fund Corporation) and the Future of Higher Education‘ organized by Karangkraf on the 22nd of May 2012.

And we also witnessed the debate between MCA’s President Datuk Sri Chua Soi Lek and DAP’s Secretary General Lim Guan Eng debated on the topic ‘Malaysian Chinese at Political Crossroad back in February 2012. Read all about it on Star Online.

But I’m not writing this entry to state my opinion on the topics debated by all these political leaders. I’m here to share my opinion on ‘debate’. As for me, a debate  is where a speaker (in this case, a political reader) can portray his/her true leadership skills, express his/her ideas that can be benefited and thus, building peoples’ confidence on the speaker. It creates an impression of a reliable and trustworthy person and a caliber leader.

Then there’s a statement was made by Datuk Ahmad Maslan, UMNO’s Head of Information said that ‘budaya debat adalah budaya Barat yang masih belum boleh diterima di negara ini (debate is a western culture that is still not acceptable in this country)’ – Sinar Harian.

Debate? A western colonization? Not acceptable? Then, why in the first place, I debated in various competition during my school years? And aren’t we already influenced by the cultures from the west? Just look at what you’re wearing now, fast food, music, films, ideologies and many more. While we hold strong to our eastern cultures and values, we have adapted cultures and values of the western world which is one of the factors why we are able to move forward.

And yes, I do understand that not all of the western cultures and values are acceptable in our society. But as the Malay proverb goes ‘buang yang keruh, ambil yang jernih‘ which clearly explains that to take in the factors/ideas/knowledge that will benefit us and put aside those that aren’t. It’s clear and simple as that.

And that includes debate. Debate is contention in argument; dispute, controversy; discussion; especially the discussion of questions of public interest in Parliament or in any assembly– Wikipedia. Just take a read on the benefits of debating [source]:

  • Debating offers an important argumentative and persuasion skills, which ultimately help someone later on in life, especially in career paths that require this form of activity, such as politics or marketing.
  • Debating teaches how to be an effective speaker, using language in a fluent and clear manner to be understood by the audience. Skills like this are needed to prepare oneself for tomorrow’s world.
  • Debating enables a person to meet new people, make new friends and become part of a vibrant and inclusive community.
  • Debating permits a person to achieve at high levels.
In this context, debate among political readers, as I have emphasized before and I’m going to emphasize again, debate can portray strong leadership skills, become a caliber leader and by debating as well a speaker can create an impact of the purposes he/her is fighting for and thus, being trustworthy to the people. And in return, the people will put their faith in the leader and give full support.

Taking all the benefits into consideration, I don’t see why debating is wrong. What can we learn from Datuk Ahmad Maslan’s statement is, if we shut ourselves from any influences, any values and cultures, we can never move forward, we are stuck in place and time because we are ignorant to the fact that these values and cultures could lead us to a better nation. And of course, we should be smart in filtering these values and cultures; what’s good and what’s not.


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