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Pua vs Arul: A Battle For Perception

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Tony Pua has finally got what he has been asking for. Arul Kanda Kandasamy, President of the much-maligned 1MDB, has agreed to take him on in a live televised debate with no preconditions. Months of dogged persistence on Pua’s part has delivered him to this point. Arul will now be forced to answer questions straight from Pua’s mouth.

However, after Arul accepted the challenge, Pua has been talking less about a debate than about a question-and-answer session. Indeed, if we care to rewind to his first statement on the matter, the original challenge was for Arul to appear on a talk show that Pua would host.

Pua intends to hold all the cards and have a go at Arul with the righteous fury of the rakyat. Since the format is not that of a debate, Arul will not be able to challenge Pua on equal ground. Pua intends to hold an interrogation, and Arul is aware of this.

Regardless of the format, what Pua must understand is that this will be a battle for public perception. It will be the calm, assured professional who comes out on top, and judging by what we have seen of Arul Kanda, there is no reason to believe that Pua will easily overcome a seasoned debater and a man who has become increasingly comfortable fielding questions from a sceptical audience and voracious media.

Pua is passionate, but on a live televised stage, passion can work against you. Pua is also not the most articulate of our politicians, and Arul will have the advantage, given his background. Whoever loses his cool will come off as immature and disrespectful, especially given the live television format. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle once you’ve let it out.

Also important to note is that this will perhaps be the most public forum that Arul has engaged a member of the opposition in. With that in mind, the confidence with which he accepted Pua’s challenge leads us to believe that Arul will be very well armed indeed. Before this, he has been reluctant to engage the opposition in a meaningful manner.

His sudden change of demeanour indicates that the man has a plan for Pua.

Overall, whatever format the confrontation takes, it will merely be the latest chapter in the long-running feud between Arul and Pua. But perhaps this time, we may get some concrete answers on 1MDB and whether or not it can pull itself out of debt while the public scrutinises it for any hint of wrongdoing.

The expectation of hearing those answers will make sure every Malaysian will be tuned in to RTM on the day of the confrontation. And Arul had better have some good answers.- Text: Scott Ng/Free Malaysia Today

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