KOTA KINABALU August 16, 2012: Local students who call themselves as the Solidariti Anak Muda Sabah (SAMS) have challenged Tawau politicians to a debate on the best way to develop the district.
The movement members who align themselves with civil society group Demokrasi Sabah (Desah) in a press conference here yesterday issued an open challenge to various political parties operating in the district, after their previous invitations to debate were flatly declined.
Representative from Desah, Jan Chow SAMS, who spoke on behalf of the students, said they had invited leaders from Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) in Tawau to the debate planned to be held on Aug 25.
“We have been communicating with them and waiting for their response for over a month, negotiating conditions for the debate.
“We fulfil them and they give us more conditions to meet, until finally they simply declined. So instead of sending another invitation and they giving us another set of requirements again, we decided to just openly challenge them.
“Hopefully, this way they will be more inclined to accept the challenge,” she said, adding the debate was aimed at highlighting development issues affecting Tawau as well as promoting debating culture among Sabahans.
Chow said among the reasons given for declining the invitation were health issues as well as insisting on the debate to be conducted between politicians from other parties and not with the students.
He said all of the politicians involved, including Sabah DAP chief cum Sri Tanjong assemblyman Jimmy Wong, have basically rejected the invitation.
According to her, Tawau Member of Parliament Datuk Chua Soon Bui had said that she would participate in the debate, but only if it was with other politicians.
Other leaders even rejected the debate by labeling it as an illegal gathering, she added.
“I could not understand why Bersih cannot be a legal gathering and this debate when it is properly organized. It makes sense politicians want to speak to other politicians but students and the youngsters too have the right to share their views, to question and get an explanation from their politicians.
“I think the problem with our politicians is that they think the debate is about who win and lose, but debate is more about to see the quality of the debater, how much you have inside you,” added Chow.
Final year student of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Tan Taek Jiao, who will be one of the speakers to represent SAMS at the proposed debate, said students and the younger generation in general want to have a more active participation in policy and decision making, and public debate is one of the effective ways for them to do this.
“At the end of the day, the policy made by politicians will affect our lives too. So, why can’t we have a say in it, share our views on matters affecting us.
“We don’t care who is on top, the government or opposition. What matters to us is the policies adopted and how they will affect us,” said the former UMS Debate Club president.
Another speaker, Rashida Kamal from Universiti Tunku Abdul Razak (UNITAR) said the debate also represents the importance of non-participant group’s participation in decision-making in line with the democratic practice in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Desah’s new deputy chairman Ronnie Klassen, said his organization fully supports and subscribes to the idea of youth having a louder voice in deciding the fate of the country.
“One of the things that has been articulated by the youth is that they want to be heard, and this is a very accurate request. Representing about 45 per cent of the registered voters in the country, they should indeed be heard,” he said.
Ronnie urged leaders in Tawau to take the opportunity and use the proposed debate as a platform to tell the people about their party’s policies, plans, and why they should be chosen by the people as their representative.
Declining the debate, he added, would only given perception people to think that they (politicians) have something to hide or simply have no vision to share with the constituents.
“Barisan Nasional wants to wrestle Tawau seat in the coming election but it won’t be able to win by merely talking about GTP and all that on paper.
“If they feel they are worthy of the people’s vote, they should come out and debate with the existing representatives and let the people see why they are they better choice,” he said.