CAMERON HIGHLANDS: M. Manogaran is disappointed that the Barisan Nasional candidate for the by-election here, Ramli Mohd Nor, did not turn up at the first-ever televised debate among the candidates.
The debate was organised by election watchdog Bersih 2.0 at the Heritage Hotel in Tanah Rata.
Manogaran, the Pakatan Harapan candidate, said he wanted to hear Ramli's stance on certain issues.
"I feel he did not dare to come forward and face the public. if you're not brave, don't become a candidate in this by-election," he said during his winding-up speech, adding that he perceived this as an "insult".
Also participating in the debate were independent candidates Sallehuddin Ab Talib and Wong Seng Yee.
The debate was moderated by Prof Madya Dr Faisal S. Hazis from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and broadcast live on Astro Awani and RTM1.
The debate allowed for each candidate to speak about their campaign platform, before answering questions from the moderator and the audience.
Topics raised included orang asli socio-economic development, land issues and even education.
Wong expressed his intention to fight for land for the orang asli community, while Sallehudin discussed education issues faced by the marginalised community.
Manogaran said even if he won or lost the by-election, he would still sue the Pahang state government for failing to protect the welfare of the orang asli community here.
After the debate, Dr Faisal expressed his satisfaction, adding that the outcome of the debate was immaterial.
"This is quite unprecedented and a good move if we really want to have free and fair elections. Candidates, especially from the opposition and independents, can appear on television to communicate directly to voters," said Dr Faisal.
"The debate could have been much richer if all four candidates were present. Unfortunately, one of the candidates spoke patronisingly about the orang asli community, and if our Barisan candidate was there, he could have rebutted him,"
Ramli, who is from the Semai orang asli tribe, had declined to participate in the debate.