Public debates on various issues at the national level are something to be encouraged. If these public debates involve notable personalities or leading politicians, then it is certainly welcome.
In this context, the proposed debate on kleptocracy between Najib Razak and DAP leader Lim Kit Siang might fit the bill.
However, on deeper reflection, I am not sure whether the debate, to take place after the Hari Raya, might contribute significantly to the discourse on current issues. The problem is not Lim, but Najib.
Lim is an exemplary figure in Malaysian politics. He has fought years for the betterment of Malaysian society to the extent of being arrested and detained more than once under the Internal Security Act. He exposed corruption and abuse of power during Barisan Nasional’s rule.
He has all the credentials, experience and tenacity to debate with any leading figure in Malaysian politics. In Parliament, he has proven to be a fantastic debater. He might be with the present government but he has no vested interest and would be willing to debate with Najib or any others.
Should Lim debate with Najib?
I think the public is divided on this. Many are of the opinion that if Lim debates with Najib, he might end up giving some “respectability” to Najib.
Unlike Lim, Najib needs all the publicity he can get because he wants to give the impression that he did nothing wrong with regards to 1MDB. He wants to give the impression to the public that all the charges against him might not stick once the truth comes out during the trial in court.
So, the debate is useful to him in terms of getting the publicity to prove that he has done nothing wrong. He is not interested in winning the debate against Lim but for the debate to serve his personal agenda.
In brief, it might not be a debate for Najib; just another platform under the glare of the media to get the maximum exposure — “Malu apa Bossku”.
It is up to Lim to debate or not to debate. The issue is really the credibility of the candidates.
Najib is no match for Lim, but then Najib will have his support base on the grounds of race and religion. PAS leaders will be part of his chorus team.
The debate might take place or might not. If there is fear that some irresponsible parties might use the opportunity to create trouble, then the views of the police might prevail. We have to wait and see.
Whether there is a debate or not, whether the court cases are pending or not, I wonder how Najib can weave himself out of the financial fiasco that was created when he was the prime minister.
Even if Najib comes up with superior arguments, which I seriously doubt, many see him as the main person fanning racial and religious sentiments in the country.
PAS, for all its sanctimonious pretensions, stands as co-perpetrator with Umno in undermining the present political stability of the country.
P Ramasamy is a DAP leader and Penang deputy chief minister II.
The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.