"Vote for change", "Give us a chance", "We have changed". Before the 308 political tsunami, I would have not believe these are the words BN is telling us, the rakyat. Yet it is true, these slogans seems synonymous with BN in recent days. But it was Pakatan who had first talk about "change" that helped created the political tsunami in the last general election. BN hijacked Pakatan's idea, disguised it as 1Malaysia and turned it around into a weapon against Pakatan. No doubt that the millions spent on APCO is at work here, and working so well - money well spent!
Pakatan needs to react, especially in the face of the recent defeat at Hulu Selangor. Stop giving excuses. What was so appalling during this by-election was not the "dirty tricks" by BN but that Pakatan seems to be scrambling all over the place trying to react to a well-coordinated attack by BN. Pakatan was throwing arguments all over the place without a central theme. Meanwhile, BN had all their arguments well connected and channelled through the same theme - "we've changed" and "1Malaysia". Pakatan still reacts ONLY as an opposition party and resort to attacking BN on corruption which plays in very well with BN's theme that they are now a "changed person". Furthermore, Pakatan's campaign is lacking in giving rakyat a clear vision of Malaysia under its rule. This is well echoed by my friend, Onion, here which she asks "Where is PR leading us to?". People want Malaysia to be more than just free of corruption, people want a vision for Malaysia!
On the eve of the by-election, I was fueled with this anger that I wanted to write this love-hate letter to PR. How could they have not seen this coming? I wanted to write a hate letter to Pakatan for its growing failure to counter the BN's campaign of "we've changed" and "give us a chance". I wanted to write this letter to Tony Pua of DAP and cc my DAP friends, which include Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching. However, I chickened out the last minute. They are so many brilliant politicians in Pakatan that I refuse to believe that they have not thought of what I wrote below. Still, I'm itching to publish my love-hate letter. So, here it is below, the email that never got out. My love-hate letter to Pakatan Rakyat.
Re: Some suggestions for organising arguments during election campaigns
Sorry for the rather lengthy email, but do bear with me.
I am a Pakatan supporter. I am following closely the recent by-election in Hulu Selangor. Since at the moment I am in the UK, I am only following this by-election by comparing news report from thestar.com, Malaysia-today, Malaysiakini, MerdekaReview and MalaysiaInsider. From what I read, I was disappointed by the campaigning efforts done by the Pakatan in this by-election. It wasn't because the lack of organization of talks and banners. That, I believe you'd know much more than me. But the organisation of arguments to counter BN's accusations and campaigning was really mediocre at best. It wasn't because there was a lack of brawn, but I reckon it was the lack of brain. To be more specific, the overall impression of Pakatan in this by-election was that it lacked focus and that every argument Pakatan had thought of, BN was up for it.
I might be a bit naive, and might not have interpreted the actual situation correctly since I'm only following the by-election remotely. But I'd like to present some of my ideas on how Pakatan should "arrange" their arguments in an election campaign, in which if you think what I said is useful then use it. Otherwise, just ignore. After all, I am only trying to help and what I might said might have already been done.
I was trained as a debater for many years and then coached for many more. So what I say here, will definitely resonant with the people which I have put in the cc list (Teo Nie Ching, Serdang MP; Chow Yu Hui, DAP strongman in Bentong; and Snowpiano) whom you know and whom I have worked with countless time over many national and international debate competitions. And as I said, I'm fully aware that the real "war" out there can be vastly different from a debate competition. Still, I think there are similarities. Here, I list down 4 important elements and I hope it could be of use:
1. A central theme
In the weeks before US declared war on Iraq, the American President, Secretary of state and all other members of the White house always begin and end their speech with "let there be no doubt..." to tell the audience there was no doubt about the threat of Iraq's WMD. This is an example of using a central theme. In a debate competition, we speak for almost an hour. In a by-election, the candidates speak for even longer. But the audience have very limited memory. For countless and countless of minutes, the audience will only remember, at most 1-3 sentence. What this 1-3 sentence that the audience take back from the ceramah is important. And if we emphasize too many things, focus will be lost. This 1-3 sentence that will remain in the audience mind long after the ceramah ends is our central theme, this is where arguments stem out from and eventually get channelled back into.
In the recent by-election, Pakatan seems to be saying a lot. Yet, it is difficult to identify what is the point-of-the-day. If I would want to pin-point one, it would be that BN is corrupted. This theme is fine and had work in the past. However, the theme by itself must be able to anticipate and counter whatever BN's rebuttal could be. BN has been saying this for a long time now, "We're changing under the new leadership. We're more open and less corrupted. We're changing." Therefore, by saying that BN is corrupted is only playing into BN's game because they would just say, "yes, maybe we are corrupted in the past, but that is changing under Najib's rule".
Pakatan needs a stronger theme. E.g. "Corruption before, during and after...". This would place Pakatan in a more comfortable position to defend against BN's banner like "Kita mampu berubah" because a lot of the corruption actually happened after Najib took over or when Najib was the M.O.D. Yes, it could be true that even without such a theme, Pakatan would be able to counter BN's call that they have changed. But the essence of the point here is that the audience have short-term memories and cannot remember everything everyone had said. At the end of the day, they just remember the themes from BN and Pakatan. If BN's is "we can change, we have changed", while Pakatan's is "They are corrupted", the audience may be just swayed into giving BN a chance.
Another feature of a good theme is that it must be on the attack, not on the defence. For example, by saying that "Pakatan is for justice" is on the defence. Why? Because this slogan is open for BN MPs to open their salvo and slander all they want during their ceramah to say that Pakatan is not really for justice but are really for ...something else. But if we can have a slogan such as "We vote for more than just money" would then, I believe, put BN on the defence. The former allows ample space for BN to redefine 'justice' into something that fit into their model, whereas in the latter case BN is forced into explaining what they are doing is more than just about money. There's a lot which we could say from this slogan, e.g. "BN is only for money", "development and making ppl rich is important, but not through corrupted means", "money is important, but with BN money is only with the cronies", etc. This slogan would reminiscent with "a corrupted BN" yet at the same time say that Pakatan is also for development, but much more...
With a good central theme and slogan, we could channel all our individual arguments against BN into one unified "big argument". Whether, it is the VK Lingam case, the submarine that doesn't submerge, or PKFZ scandal, etc. Obviously, with more brain-storming, better themes and slogans can emerged. The important thing I want to emphasize here is that there must a be a central theme that links all the smaller issues mentioned in all the ceramahs, otherwise they become lost in a goo of arguments. And that this central theme, must not only be representative of what Pakatan fights for, but must also counter what BN would try to represent.
Lastly, but not the least, themes used by Pakatan had always been about portraying BN as corrupted. But it has never been about the vision of what Malaysia would be with Pakatan's rule. It's time for Pakatan to stop campaigning as merely opposition, but also as a viable government that would bring Malaysia to greater heights. What would Malaysia look like if Pakatan takes over Putrajaya? Obviously, by declaring that it will be a "Fair and Just Malaysia" will not be sufficient. It's a bit too cliche! I admit it's not easy to come out with such a very good slogan and I admit that 1Malaysia is a pretty darn good slogan that connects with every race and every issue that Malaysians face. So Pakatan should think of something better, maybe something like "More than just development for Malaysia" to reiterate that Pakatan will not only bring developement, but much more than that, i.e. for all people and through proper means. My fellow friend, Onion, had write something similar about this here (this last paragraph was added in after the by-election).
2. Do not try to portray Pakatan as perfect angel, and BN as a perfect devil.
Leave some space for both Pakatan and BN. Praise BN occasionally and condemn Pakatan occasionally. It is more convincing playing to be imperfect.
Pakatan always try to be perfect in the eyes of the audience, whereas sometimes it is better just to admit some of the accusations that BN hurled at Pakatan. E.g. Pakatan have disagreements, but at least Pakatan say it out in the open and agree to what we disagree. And yet, Pakatan still have many more in common.
Pakatan may not have made every poor soul in Selangor to be rich in 2 years, so obviously someone may feel that the Selangor govt. had not do anything. But Pakatan govt. is doing that bit by bit in this 2 years. Pakatan had definitely done more to many ppl in the past 2 years than what BN had for 50 years.
BN is not all evil, they did build a few Chinese schools. but they demolished more. BN did help some poor Malays, but help their own cronies even more. For every MYR 1.00 to the poor, MYR1,000,000.00 goes to the crony.
Also praise that not everyone in BN is an evil. There are some good people, but there are too little and insignificant that when it comes to big decision, they don't matter. Conversely, they are still some rotten tomatoes in Pakatan but there are insignificant and when it comes to the big decision, the highest leaders always agree to the right decisions. Besides, these rotten tomatoes are jumping ship to the other side of aisle, rejoining the original rotten tomatoes.
This is a bit like Tai-Chi. You take the negative energy hurled at you by your opponents and turn them around into a positive energy.
3. Help the audience differentiate fact from fiction
Whether or not Malaysia is a Muslim state, is being debated. But BN govt gave away gambling and liquour license is a fact.
Whether Anwar 'liwat' Saiful or not, is still under trial. But Chua Soi Lek's rock hard evidence of affair and oral sex is not even charged.
Tell the audience, maybe there are somethings that cannot be proven at the end of the day even with all the cirumstantial evidence.But those that have been proven with clear cut evidence, all points to BN as being evil, yet nothing has been done. Draw parallels between accusation from BN which in most cases are yet to be proven with the accusation with PR where it has been proven beyond doubt.
Tell the audience it's ok if you do not believe everything I said, but at least there are some evidence that prove BN's corruption are beyond any doubt. Agree with the audience that no matter how much we try to defend Anwar's case, BN will have something new to say. At the end of the day, there may still be some doubts. But Chua Soi Lek 's involvement in an affair and oral sex was proven beyond doubt. Absolutely no room for doubts on that, and yet he was getting off scot free? This is, in a certain degree, playing as I mentioned in (2) i.e. playing to be imperfect.
We can never anticipate 100% what BN would say. But we could safely anticipate most of their main arguments. Our campaign must be such that we force BN into a corner, into saying only the things we want and nothing more than that.
We must speak on their behalf before they do. For example, they are likely to attack Pakatan saying that Pakatan is in a mess - each party has different ideology, MPs are leaving and they are bickering in the public. But Pakatan could say that, "yes we have disagreements. but we voice them out in open, and agree to what we disagree. Even so, we have far more agreements than disagreements. This in contrast with a "hand-kissing" Kamalanathan that says "botol" to every single UMNO request. In order to force them into a corner, these "anticipations" have to be said before they actually occured, i.e. Pakatan must be brave enough to say "yes we have disagreements, but ..." before UMNO starts firing at Pakatan saying, "they always have disagreement". It is only through this way that we may force UMNO into a position we want them to.
To be fair, Pakatan has been doing most of this all this while. But I am not sure whether it is being done in a conscious way or unconscious way. Even so, I think the message can be clearer e.g. there is usually very little emphasis on playing imperfect. (point no.2). If I were the lead campaigner for Pakatan in H.S., I would judge myself whether the rakyat had received the following messages in a very clear and loud manner:
1. Vote for more than just development.
2. 50 years on and every 4 years they still ask for a chance? Why believe when they've been lying for so many years?
3. Support Malay rights - but Malay rights through corruption and dirty means? No thanks.
4. We have disagreements and we believe that this is better than kissing hand and kowtow to the "Big Brother UMNO".
Chin, Shin Liang
I end this post with a powerful speech about 尊严 from DSAI.