Thursday, April 13, 2006

Public Spiking on Public Speaking

TokKu – The quality of public speaking of the House of Commons (Citizen Hall) were getting the public spiking recently in terms the lack of substance and rude language used. Pubic speaking can also be defined as a situation where one is speaking to the public and the public also start speaking among themselves – initially with soft whispering and then it grow into louder murmuring until they shout at one another drowning the main speaker. If it’s a dinner speech, the sound of the fork and spoons clanging are more audible than the main speaker’s voice. If you‘re in that kind of public speaking, better end your speech to save the embarrassment on both sides. The best public speaker is the traditional medicine peddler (penjual obat) who delivers eloquent lectures to sell the “obat kuat” (traditional aphrodisiac). Every one is very attentive to hear his next words and next joke which are very entertaining. However, the penjual obat may not a good orator since he cannot sway the crowd’s emotion to buy his medicine.

The parliamentary debate is not being televised live but only shown on the close circuit TV at the lobby or in the cafeteria. Some cannot go into the main hall due to the limited seats available at the officers section or public gallery. Others like to wonder around the lobby to wait for their topic to be debated during the question time or the first, second or third readings. There are those who like to stay at the cafeteria where the discussion can be more interesting over a cup of the tarik. Previously, there was only one common canteen for the parliamentarian, government officers, reporters and public gallery. But, now the parliamentarian has special rooms with drinks and snacks. Probably, it follows the principle of the separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judiciary to the separation of rooms between the representatives and the constituencies. It used to be just loud speaker to broadcast the debate outside the hall but with the modern technology, there is the CCTV that shows the happening in the hall. Sometimes, you can hear the ringing of the bell that is calling the MPs to come into the hall mainly due to short of quorum at voting time or when issue of attendance is brought by concerned members that reminds of the schooldays when the bell rang. However, the full attendance can be seen during important occasion the opening session when the three components of the legislation sat together – the King, the House of Commons and the Senate - similar to the State of the Union address in the congress. It is fully televised on one Friday afternoon budget speech and it will have the whole country wide audience listening carefully what tax will be abolished or when will the Value Added Tax (VAT) will be imposed. Lately, short video clips from the CCTV are being slotted in the TV news. Even it is only a short video clip, it gets lots of public spiking and probably that’s the reason why the session is not fully televised.
The public views on the standards of pubic speaking are that some of them don’t know how to speak. Even though, they know to speak but were very ambiguous on the issues discussed. However, the standards had improved some what – from the days of merapu to a more school debate and even occasional bantering and quarrelling. The opposition is also very vocal and knowledgeable and more are professionals in their field and they can talk. It should be noted that in parliamentary speaking there is a strategy. Don’t underestimate that the one who talk a lot and talk nonsense is not that clever. Strategically, he is clever in consuming the limited time, thus giving no chance to the other side to speak. One can comprehend this in the context of football or hockey game. When a team is winning, the players will play around by keeping, dribbling or kicking the ball to one another, thus denying the opponents from having control of the ball. Remember the hockey game between Malaysia and Pakistan in the recent Commonwealth Game which frustrated India. This tactic serves very important strategic functions but to the uninitiated it may seen like monkeying around. (We should not resort to derogatory name calling since the same argument can be applied in reverse - that it takes a thief to catch a thief; and it takes a monkey to identify another monkey!) Of course, it is a truism that there are no speakers in the parliament except for one, the Speaker. The others are all the representatives of the respective constituencies who are only known by their constituencies such as Yang Berhormat Ipoh Timur, Yang Berhormat Kepala Batas or Yang berhormat Pekan. Therefore, the naming of the constituencies has to be carefully chosen so that there will never be Yang Berhormat Batang Berjuntai or Yang Berhormat Nonokan.
Sometimes, there is the tongue lashing (bertikam lidah) which is a serious verbal combat. It is not as bad as the Japanese, Taiwan or Indian Parliamentary session. You can see fist fight, kick boxing, hair pulling and the throwing of the shoes to the other member across the floor. The term “to cross the floor” has a different meaning in Japan where it is not the government crossing to the opposition but only the shoes of the opposition crossed the floor to join the Government side. As to the hair pulling, that’s the ladies unarmed combat. When the kampung ladies quarrel and fight, it may come to the hair pulling and trying to strip the opponent’s sarong. The one with the sarong down will be definitely be the loser since she will ran away embarrassed. One picture is worth one millions words and one punch or kick worth millions CD pictures since action speaks louder than words. No such things had ever happened in our parliament. Two opposing members may be at each other throats in the debate but later, they will belanja each other “teh tarik” and “cucuk udang” in the cafetaria.
There is such thing as the parliamentary privileges. The members can say anything in the House and no legal action can be taken. If the same accusations were to be uttered outside the parliament, they can be sued and we often heard they were daring each other to repeat it outside. However, some are in the habit of using rough and rude words. Often, they were asked to withdraw and deleted form the Hansard. Everything was recorded in the Hansard which as still kept as a tradition but with tape recording. Video recording, it should opt for the modern technology-perhaps digitized Hansard. In fact, in keeping with the modern the TV had shown the video clips of the MPs where we have some insight into it. Other wise, the limited public gallery may be occupied by the school children or the rombongan from the remote kampungs. When we were in form sixth in the sixties, the visit to the parliament’s public gallery was a big event with high expectations. But it fell flat and that impression still stays on until now. Parliament speaking is not public speaking since they are speaking to fellow MPs. The MPs should improve on their delivery of the ideas. If not, they should be whipped by the “Chief Whip”, by the Minister of Parliament and the Back Benchers Club chairman to upgrade and improve their oratory ability. I wonder what the translation the term “Chief Whip” in Malay language – may be it is “Ketua Cemati.”

In the British parliament in Westminster, the MPs were given only a long leather bench with no table. The microphone is hanging from the ceiling like the theatre setting. Only in tabling serious budget etc, that the leader of the government or the opposition were given the rostrum. Other back benchers were expected to talk off the cuff but definitely, they do not talk off the topics. Those in the House of Lords are with knowledge and wisdom in the debate. Those in the House of Commons (Citizen Hall) are the representative of the people. So, it is what the people choose – one who can talk, one who cannot talk, one who can shout etc. It is the people choice and one cannot blame the representatives as such as they were the chosen one. Even though one is of high academic qualifications and high oratory skill, if he is not chosen by the people, he is not in there. The people representatives have to fight for the people needs. I remember meeting an intellectual MPs but he has not the people touch and not public friendly at all. Those type should be in the judiciary or remained in the academia and not in the legislative or peoples representative.
On the other hand, behind the MPs are the government officers who loyally take the notes and pass notes and other during the oral question or wrap up session. . It is not surprising to see that new Ministers, Deputy or Parliamentary Secretary who goes to answer the question time with 10 -15 officers trailing him. On the other hand, the real veteran Minister will be confident on their own – some has the philosophy that if there is a question, there must be an answer. It is interesting to be the Honourable Minister but at question time – especially the supplementary question is the difficult ones to answer – that really test your mastery of the issues. It is not that easy to spot questions – but the experienced well seasoned ones will know the question and will give the right witty answers. In the early days, when the kampong people were not very familiar with the English word “parliament”. The House of Parliament was wrongly transliterated as “Rumah Pak Leman”. The MPs now should be more professional parliamentarian since gone are the days when the debate is like chatting at “Rumah Pak Leman.”


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  • At 4:04 PM, Blogger harm_lass said…

    Liked your coral post and also this post. However can't relate to this one as I am spared the experience of being in a Rumah Pak Leman.



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