Should the Najib-Kit Siang debate take place?

It seems that the proposed Najib-Kit Siang debate has got many Malaysians excited, and the media will naturally promote it as the must-watch event of the year.

Let me state my views on why this debate should be avoided in the new Malaysia.

Firstly, I believe Najib is not interested in the debate itself. Instead, it will provide him with a golden opportunity to reconnect with his still-formidable support base, and even get sympathetic support from fence-sitters.

Whether the debate will be nationally televised or not, social media will ensure that it gets the widest audience possible.

With the country facing a rise in the cost of living, Najib will likely wax on about how life was so much easier for the people under his leadership.

He may selectively remind the audience of how he generously handed out goodies like BR1M, special payments, and bonuses which directly benefitted almost everyone from the farmers, settlers, fishermen and the sizeable civil service to the ordinary man on the street, while conveniently omitting how this affected the country’s finances.

He may also speak on his corruption and abuse of power charges, to an audience which may not be well versed with court proceedings and legal technicalities.

A debate can easily get out of hand, resulting in it being turned into a platform to manipulate the thoughts and emotions of a not-so-well informed audience and to spread misinformation.

Thirdly, a Najib-Kit Siang debate can surely be manipulated by certain quarters as an attempt by the “Chinese DAP” to humiliate a Malay-Muslim ex-prime minister.

Whether we like it or not, the narrative now being used by certain quarters about how Malay-Muslims are being humiliated, threatened and victimised has found traction among a sizeable Malay population.

Carefully edited videos of such a debate would form powerful images that could be used as propaganda to further such divisive racial and religious narratives. Let us not provide more ammunition and play into the hands of such groups.

Najib has already been replaced as prime minister and is now facing numerous charges in court. He has nothing more to lose in this debate but much to gain politically if he succeeds in shaping the perceptions of his audience.

Have faith in the justice system and let the law take its course on the charges faced by Najib and other leaders of the previous administration.

Pakatan Harapan (PH) achieved its political objective in winning GE14. Now is the time to tone down the political tension.

It has been a year since GE14. PH leaders need to ignore and not dance to the tune set by the opposition. Instead, they must step up and do what is needed to put the country back on a strong footing.

Mr Lim Kit Siang, there is no shame in declining a debate challenge from a former prime minister when accepting such a challenge might bring more harm than good to our nation.

RJ Majid is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.