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After Bersih debate cancelled, underdogs get airtime on forum

Published:  |  Modified:

SEMENYIH POLLS | They may be seen as two underdogs in the ongoing Semenyih polls but PSM's Nik Aziz Afiq Abdul and independent contender Kuan Chee Heng will now have their chance to be heard by a much larger audience.

Electoral reforms coalition Bersih said that following their cancellation of a debate initially planned to also feature BN and Harapan candidates, a new agreement has been reached with Astro to televise another session hosted by Malay daily Sinar Harian.

"Bersih 2.0 is pleased to announce that after discussions with Astro, we agreed that they should live telecast 'Wacana Sinar's Semenyih Pasca PRK' where Nik Aziz Afiq Abdul of PSM and Kuan Chee Heng, the independent candidate, will be on the panel," Bersih said in a statement today.

According to Bersih, the forum - also featuring two other panellists - will be held at Dewan Karangkraf, Seksyen 15, Shah Alam on Feb 27 from 3pm to 5pm and aired live on Astro Awani channel 501.

"With the live telecast by Astro of the forum where Nik Aziz and Kuan will be on the panel with two other panellists, they will have the opportunity to speak to tens of thousands on why they should be elected as the state assemblyperson for Semenyih...

"(This is) something that both the Harapan and BN candidates will miss out on," said Bersih.

Bersih on Thursday cited the non-participation of BN's Zakaria Hanafi and Harapan's Muhammad Aiman Zainali as a reason to cancel the debate, originally scheduled to be held on Feb 25.

In its statement today, Bersih noted criticisms from certain quarters who claimed it had marginalised the smaller parties and independents by being dictated to by the main parties.

Clarifying its decision, Bersih said the proposed debate would have been telecast live on national TV by Astro and live-fed to TV1 as it was during the Cameron Highlands by-election - a process which required extra resources for both parties.

"An understanding we had with these broadcasters was that we would secure the participation of all or most of the candidates before they would consider a live telecast.

"We fully understand their need to justify the cost incurred to set up a mobile unit to do a live telecast from a remote location in Semenyih," it said.

"Bersih also commends the progressive team behind Astro which shares our desire to see public debates as a new norm in politics and media organisations, like Sinar Harian, that provide platforms for public interest discourses,” it added.

Noting the success of its inaugural candidates' debate during the Cameron Highlands by-election, Bersih said it will continue to do so in the upcoming Rantau by-election.

"We hope all candidates, especially the ones from Harapan and BN, will have the guts to talk about their visions and missions before camera for the national audience," said Bersih.

In rejecting Bersih's invitation, Zakaria had said it would not help him to solve the people's problem, while Aiman said he would not join the debate as his main contender from BN was not joining as well.

When contacted, PSM central committee member S Arutchelvan said Nik Aziz has accepted the latest debate invite.

Similarly, KL Lee, the spokeperson for Kuan, also confirmed that the independent candidate would show up for the Feb 27 debate.

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