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CnP direct from malaysiakini, pictures and all. (sorry… this is what malaysiakini had label it as ‘lazy blogging’. well… i am lazy and tired now so no comments from me).
15 July 2008
Anwar vs Shabery in historic debate
PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and Information Minister Shabery Cheek participated in a historic debate which was carried live on TV tonight.
The debate entitled ‘Form the government today, reduce fuel prices tomorrow’ was held at the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in Kuala Lumpur.
It began at 9pm and lasted for one hour.
Both Anwar and Shabery, who stood on a stage in a similar set-up to the United States presidential debate, kicked off the session with a 4-minute opening statement each.
This was followed by questions from a three-member panel.
The event was moderated by Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka chairperson Johan Jaafar and two other panelists – current affairs weekly Siasah editor Zulkifli Sulong and Universiti Utara Malaysia vice-chancellor Nordin Kardi.
After their opening speeches, Shabery and Anwar were questioned by the panelists. Following this, both debaters were given the chance to ask each other one question.
The debate ended with a 90-second wrap-up speech.
Anwar: We can slash 50 sen off
Anwar, 60, who was casually dressed in a beige sports jacket and white shirt, was the first to speak and in his opening, he declared that should Pakatan Rakyat come to power, it would, as an early measure, reduce fuel prices by 50 sen per litre.
In order to finance such a measure, Anwar proposed that leakages be plugged and that national power supplier Tenaga Nasional (TNB) reduce their reserve capacity from 40 percent to 20 percent, thereby reducing the amount of funds going to independent power producers (IPPs).
“We have the highest (electricity) reserves in the world. Who profits? IPPs. Why should we allow that? Petronas and TNB have to incur the costss. But IPPs profit,” he said.
By doing so, Anwar argued that the government would have saved RM2 billion. He said an additional RM3 billion needed to finance the 50 sen reduction in fuel prices would be sourced elsewhere.
“Five billion is enough to help lighten the burden on the rakyat. The Perwaja bailout was RM13 billion of government’s money,” he added.
Shabery: Why only 50 sen?
In Shabery’s opening statement, he went on the offensive, pointing out that Anwar’s claim of reducing fuel prices was made prior to the March 8 general elections and as such, the 50-sen reduction should be for the price before the recent fuel price hikes, which was RM1.92.
“If we were to maintain prices of fuel at RM1.92, the amount of subsidies needed is RM50 billion. This would mean that a lot of development projects – schools, rakyat, roads (cannot be implemented) – to maintain our lifestyle,” he said.
Shabery, 50, who was more formally attired in a black jacket and pink shirt, then spent about two minutes arguing that the fuel prices were not the fault of the government but the result of a rise in global crude oil prices.
By the three-and-a-half minute mark, Shabery launched his first of many personal attacks against Anwar by highlighting the opposition politician’s role in organising street demonstrations when he was a youth leader.
Round 2 – questions for debaters
The second phase of the debate involved both speakers responding to a question posed by Johan which reads as follows:
“At the moment, Petronas has only a 20 percent market share of the fuel pumps. This means that the government has to subsidies several giant oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and Shell. How do you view this?”
In response, Shabery touched on the question fleetingly, admitting that the subsidies may go to foreign companies, the rich and foreigners, and then attacked Anwar’s opening statement claim that stemming corruption and government leakages can lead to lower fuel prices.
“Ask Norway and Finland. Ask developed countries with are said to have few cases of corruption. They don’t subsidise their fuel yet they their economies perform well. Malaysia should head in that direction,” he said.
Petronas is rich enough to help
Quick to reply, Anwar chided Shabery for comparing Malaysia with Norway which has a per capita income 10-folds that of Malaysians and this was not a basis for comparison.
Anwar reiterated that subsidies were portrayed negatively by the government when it was not described as such when the government used taxpayers money to help big businesses.
“The amount spent on Perwaja, MAS (Malaysia Airlines) and other bailouts are known as ‘financial aid’ and ‘saving the economy’. But to help the farmers and the fishermen, it is known as ‘subsidies’ – a very negative term,” he said.
Anwar said that Petronas was a rich company which could afford to spend a small portion of its profits to help the public.
This could be done without impeding its ability to operate and invest further.
Round 3: Questions from panelists
The third-phase of the debate involved their appointed panelists taking turns to pose questions to the speakers.
Shabery’s appointed panelist, UUM vice-chancellor Dr Nordin Kardi, instead of posing a question, made a short speech on how Anwar’s plan to use Petronas’ profits to keep fuel prices low was akin to a ‘fighting over the spoils’ in order to be popular.
Anwar answered that Pakatan Rakyat’s policy was not to touch Petronas’ coffers but the dividends the company returns to the government and denied that he was trying to be popular.
“The amount we specified – 50 sen – is not an amount which is overboard. This is an early measure. Shabery said I promised more. Correct.
“The reason why I said it is an early measure is because the negative effects on the economy (caused by fuel price hikes) is not supported by the people. It is only supported by Barisan Nasional MPs,” he said with a wide smile.
But Shabery failed to answer
Meanwhile Anwar’s appointed panelist, Siasah editor Zulkifli Sulong, then asked Shabery on the government’s claim that the RM4 billion saved from the March 2006 fuel hike to be spent on improving public transport.
“But according to what was told in Parliament, only RM834.7 million was spent. How did this happen? This time however, the government can save RM13 billion… what would happen to the ‘bigger savings’ this time?” asked Zulkifli.
Shabery shot down Zulkifli’s question by saying that at the time of announcement, oil prices were US$70 per barrel while now it was US$140 per barrel, but did not respond to the question on public transport.
Instead Shabery went to talk about how Venezuela and Iran had low oil prices but staggeringly high inflation and how the Malaysian government had weathered through the ongoing food crisis and still keep rice prices lower than even Thailand, a rice producer.
“So what we’re trying to say is that (problems) can be solved with proper subsidies. We don’t have to have street rallies and we should thank God that we can gather here today (to debate) and not get involved in obscene concerts,” he said, who received wild applause from half of 300-strong crowd who were supporters from BN.
Zulkifli tried to jump in to say that Shabery did not answer his question but this was waved off by moderator Johan, who asked the magazine editor to ask his question to Anwar.
July 15 2008
by Chan Kok Leong
Debate: Mayhem in the media
The historic live debate between a government minister and an opposition stalwart might have been a civil affair but things however got a little rowdy in the media room.
The event at the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka building in Kuala Lumpur tonight was marred by punches, kicks and a broken camera.
The situation got out of hand when overzealous marshals attempted to stop the photographers seeking to leave the media room located above the hall right after the debate.
The marshals had attempted to stop the photographers and camera persons from getting out until the speakers and other VIPs had left the hall.
When the Edge Financial Daily executive producer Othman Abu Bakar got as far as to the staircase, one of the marshals stuck out a leg causing him to trip and fall.
According to Channel News Asia cameraman Hanafiah Hamzah, one of the marshals allegedly punched Othman when he picked himself up.
The ensuing melee resulted in Othman’s camera being broken while two more photographers from Berita Harian and The Sun were punched and kicked.
"This happened right in front of the police who came to escort us down," said Hanafiah.
Hanafiah, Zulkifli Ersal (The Sun), Khairul Hasnor Mohamad Khalili (The Edge), Halim Barbar (Sipa Press) subsequently made a police report regarding the assault at the Dang Wangi police station at about 12 midnight.
As for the debate itself, it was not quite a walkover by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Shabery, who is younger by 11 years, managed to hold his ground against the 61-year-old seasoned politician known for his fiery oratory skills.
Looking sharp in an all-black suit with gold buttons, the minister cut a picture of confidence as he fielded questions from the former deputy premier and the panel.
However, many felt Anwar emerged victorious in the debate while others pointed out that the duo had merely skimmed the surface of such a complex subject within the allocated one hour.
While Anwar stuck to his guns by promising immediate slashing of the fuel price by 50 sen and the failure of the Barisan Nasional government to address leakages and corruption, Shabery defended the hike with the "world phenomenon" argument.
At times, Shabery even resorted to personal attacks, recounting the days when Anwar was in government.
The Terengganu-born minister used up precious minutes in the hour-long debate to question Anwar’s record as finance minister, especially the lopsided independent power producer (IPP) agreements and the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis during his watch.
One particular failure of the minister was his inability to answer Anwar’s appointed panelist, Siasah editor Zukifli Sulong’s question on why the government has not improved public transportation after the 2006 petrol hike as promised.
Malaysians ultimate winners
But Anwar himself also fell a bit short in some areas.
His main point of re-negotiating IPP agreements to recover RM2 billion and to use that to subsidise fuel cannot be considered as a long-term solution.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Shahrir Samad, who was part of the audience, questioned the argument.
"Even if the IPP agreements were re-negotiated, the additional income is Tenaga Nasional Bhd’s, not the government’s," he said after the debate.
"It still doesn’t solve the issue of higher fuel prices and the higher subsidies which the government has to bear," he added.
Despite their different political affiliations, both debaters behaved well, though the same could not be said about their respective supporters in the hall, who shouted and booed during the debate.
However, outside Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, some 200 PKR supporters kept their cool under the watchful eyes of police personnel.
There may have been no winners tonight but there were 25 million Malaysians who no doubt would have taken a liking to a new phenomenon – live political debates on TV.