Hook, Line & Stinker

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….

Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

Walski isn’t against debates. But his beef with the debate that took place last Thursday night between Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Former Crime Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is this: why on Earth should Najib be given any kind of legitimacy?

This he made quite clear in one of his recent tweets:

But that’s now water under the bridge; the so-called “debate” is over and done with. Walski put it in quotes simply because it wasn’t a true debate, but more a stage managed dialog/pseudo-debate between two very divisive characters in today’s Malaysian political landscape.

If you missed it, or want to watch it again, you can do so below (fast forward to 9:20 min, which is the point where the debate actually begins).

There were two topics that were discussed: should Sapura Energy be bailed out, and what should be the direction to move the nation forward. For Walski, the contents of what was said wasn’t so important – there was nothing new, or novel, or ground-breaking that was mentioned.

What is important, however, is the basis of what was said, and where each one of them comes from.

Sapura Energy: Blind Bailout vs. Due Diligence

In the case of Sapura Energy, Najib suggested a bail-out that he claimed wouldn’t cost the government a single sen, providing two options:

  • for Petronas to acquire/takeover Sapura Energy
  • government guaranteed loans by banks to take the conglomerate out of the red (sound familiar?)

Frankly, it doesn’t take a financial genius to suss out that both solutions are deceptive and deceitful, and in fact WILL cost the government. The second option is exactly what happened with 1MDB, for which the government has to service the debt.

And as for the first option, allow Walski to ask this simple question: WHO owns Petronas?

Answer: it is WHOLLY OWNED BY THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT.

So, apart from the die-hard Bossku worshippers who’ve demonstrated that they have the collective IQ of a brick, who is Najib trying to con this time?

Walski needs to make this important disclaimer: he is no big fan of Anwar.

But between the two, it’s clear from the debate that Najib is incorrigible; bailouts are the only way, and worse, bailout first due diligence later. This borders on idiocy from a business perspective, but try telling that to the mindless TERBAEK Bossku minions (read: UMNO and their supporters).

Anwar, on the other hand, called for a forensic audit before any bailout actions be made. He also called out Najib’s assertion that “no government funds” would be incurred by asking the question of who owns Petronas.

So, what happened with Sapura Energy, once hailed as a darling of the homegrown integrated oil and gas service provider, to a situation where it’s pretty much on the verge of going belly up? It’s a long and convoluted tale, but this recent article from The Edge provides a good picture. In summary, partly mismanagement and partly market prices for hydrocarbons.

The bigger question from the debate, however, why the obsession to ensure that Sapura Energy doesn’t fail? (more on Najib’s part)

The Way Forward For Malaysia

The second topic of the night focused on what, in the opinion of the two debaters, would be the way forward for Malaysia. And here, too, nothing new or novel was proposed by either Anwar or Najib. But what they did say spoke volumes.

The thrust of what Anwar Ibrahim proposed hinged on structural reform, transparency, and the fight against systemic corruption. These are things that the Opposition Leader has long been pushing to the fore, as well as what PH was trying to do during the 22 months they were in power.

On the other hand, Najib’s idea of a better Malaysia: mega projects and GST. As if these two would be the panacea to right the ills that plague Malaysia. He also mentioned eradication of corruption, to which Walski couldn’t help but laugh. In essence, what he wants is to take Malaysia back to the days of unfettered largesse with little if any oversight.

Which do YOU think would serve Malaysia better in the long run?

So there was a debate. Now what?

Was there a winner in the debate? Did the debate itself matter? Will anything useful come out of the debate? Now that we’ve had the debate, what’s next?

The whole premise of the debate wasn’t hinged on winning or losing. But in terms of what was delivered, was there a clear “victor” between the two? Walski’s answer to that: it’s irrelevant.

Frankly, even entertaining Najib to a “debate” – a term used very loosely because the event was a stage-managed PR exercise more than anything else – gave the man undeserved legitimacy. Currently a convict awaiting sentencing appeal, nobody should have entertained the notion of having a debate with him in the first place.

But that aside, a clear dichotomy emerged: it was proper structural reforms vs. same ‘ol, same ‘ol largesse without oversight.

For Walski, between the two, and taking into account the current state of the nation, it’s blatantly clear which would bring about a better Malaysia. It boils down to a choice between rebuilding and strengthening the nation’s institutional foundations, or dancing and fiddling with reckless abandon while Rome burns to the ground.

What transpired on Thursday night may not be enough for many to make a decision. For sure, the so-called debate wouldn’t have swayed any fence-sitters. Partisan supporters would already have made their mind, regardless of whatever BS was flung (and there was a fair bit of it) to and fro.

But when it comes time for GE15 – whenever that might be – ask yourself this question: which of the two approaches would help create a Malaysia that you aspire for your children, your children’s children, and the many generations to come?

As far as Walski is concerned, however, the answer is straightforward and clear…

Post-script:

Rumor has it that the originally mooted format of the debate would have made it closer in feel to an actual debate. But one side didn’t agree to a more debate-like debate, so the other side had to accede. So it was more of a stage-managed dialog as opposed to a real debate. The audience was by invitation only, and the questions posed by the “audience”, too, was curated. Originally, it was suggested that questions posed to each debater would be by a member of the opposing party. The same side that didn’t want a more proper debate opposed this, hence what we got was a carefully curated event from start to finish.

Someone somewhere once defined debate as “de stuff you put on de hook to catch de fish“. Walski just wonders if there are those who actually bought what was being said, hook, line and sinker…

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