Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lompat Si Katak, Lompat!


Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, President, Parti Bersatu Sabah and Deputy Chief Minister Sabah

Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee, President, Sabah Progressive Party

Dr Azmi Sharom, Associate Professor, Law Faculty, University Malaya

What else could this week have been about but frogs?

I don’t like frogs except on my dinner plate. Is that an attitude our politicians share? Frogs but only on our terms, frogs are all right as long as they hop over to our side. Food for thought. 

I wanted someone who had had a personal experience in frog-handling. Current players being too caught up in the drama of the day, I had to settle for past actors. The most recent frog-hopping incident that brought down a government, barring the current crisis in Perak was in Sabah in 1994 so to Sabah we went. I set up an appointment with a Sabah politician and sent a crew there to set-up a video link recording, while I remained in the studio. On the day the crew arrived in Sabah, a day before recording, we were told that the politician was too busy to keep the appointment. What followed were frantic phone calls to Sabah and a bit of pleading on our part and our TV3 colleague in Kota Kinabalu on our behalf. In the meantime, I called another Sabah political leader as a back-up plan. As it turned out, both accepted and that’s the story of how we ended up with 3 guests for this episode.

The other guest was Azmi Sharom who said an anti-hopping law would be undemocratic. How then would he deal with politicians who hop with ignoble intentions? He proposed that other agencies in the state, such as the judiciary and the anti-corruption agency be strengthened. On a lighter note, the make-up artist found him really cute. 

ntv7’s Chinese talkshow “Editor’s Time” discussed the same topic for one episode and ended it with a song by Taiwan popstar A-Mei with a spoof music video of the 3 + 1 Perak assemblypersons. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Police Accountability - what does it mean?


Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Home Minister

S.Arutchelvan, Suaram

A. Kugan’s death in police custody was the reason for this episode. Exactly how accountable are our police for their actions? And does holding them accountable necessarily mean we are not supporting the police force as we should? That’s the “you’re either with us or against us” argument, made famous by George W. Bush. Who should be policing the police? Has it come to the stage where we may need protection from the police? And with a public that’s clamouring for less crime on the streets, is it acceptable to knock a suspect around if it helps to solve a crime, lock up one more criminal or save a life? Those were some of the questions posed in this episode.

What else did I learn from this episode?

Lesson 1 – It’s who you know that counts. Sometimes a well-crafted and persuasive letter can only get you so far, you would still need someone to put in a good word for you. That’s what got me one of my guests for this episode.

Lesson 2 – always put your guest at ease first before you put him on the defensive.  Never attempt to do it the other way round. Unless you’re looking for trouble and are partial to shouting matches. But that would only make it even harder to ask the tough questions. Suffice to say I don’t think Syed Hamid would want me interviewing him again anytime soon. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Internal Security Act - Retain, Review or Repeal?


Dato’ Nadzim Johan, Executive Secretary, Malaysia Muslim Consumer Organisation
(pro ISA) 

(against ISA) 

The ISA had always been on our list of topics for the show especially after the arrest of Teresa Kok, Tan Hoon Cheng (arrested for her own protection though, as the Home Minister himself explained later. A rather novel use for an old legislation, I must say.) Raja Petra Kamaruddin that night in September.

The obvious choice of pro-ISA guest would have to be someone from the government. But my attempts were stone-walled by press secretaries (who take instructions from their bosses?). “Topic a bit too hot now”. Oh well. So we got someone from Perwaris into the studio. After all, they had been holding demonstrations asking for the ISA to be retained.

There was a dearth of well-reasoned, informed arguments out there on why the ISA ought to be retained. I called up friends who are practicing lawyers, but who (unfortunately in this instance) also happen to be fervently against the ISA, to pick their brains. They are so accustomed to arguing against the ISA that I don’t really learn anything new. Short-cut attempt to research topic nipped in the bud. 

24 hours to recording and my original anti-ISA guest cancelled on me. Federal court hearing would trump a tv show anytime. Panic attack! Thankfully, there are very many experienced lawyers out there who know the issues like the back of their hand. Haji Sulaiman Abdullah was kind enough to appear on such short notice (although he made me answer some difficult questions on why I wanted him on the show. A question that had me stumped. I thought, isn’t it obvious? So I explained my reasons and it was a done deal).

Guest situation resolved I sat down to go through my research but couldn’t do much with a horrible cold and a splitting headache. Reams of research were left unread as I popped a bill and headed off to bed at 8pm. Yikes. The next morning, as soon as recording was over, I knew I had been too easy on Haji Sulaiman. A few minutes after the episode aired, I got a couple of text messages telling me I should have been harder on him.