P Ramasamy offers Kit Siang a way out from debating Najib

P Ramasamy, Malaysiakini

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 former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang might fit the bill.

However, on deeper reflection, I am not sure whether the debate, that Najib suggested should take place after 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 society, to the extent of being arrested and detained more than once under the Internal Security Act 1960. He exposed corruption and abuse of power under the BN administration.

He has the credentials, experience and tenacity to debate with any leading figure in local politics. He has proven to be a fantastic debater in Parliament for many years.

Lim might be with the present government, but has no vested interests, and would be more than able to debate Najib or any others. But should he?

Muddying the waters

I think that the public is divided on the matter. Many are of the opinion that if Lim debates with Najib, he might end up giving some ‘respectability’ to Najib. After all, there is nothing for the former premier to lose.

Unlike Lim, Najib needs all the publicity he can get, to because he wants to give the impression that he did nothing on the 1MDB matter. He wants to show the public that all those charges against him might not stick once the truth comes out during court trials.

So, the debate is useful to him in terms of getting space to prove that he has done nothing wrong. He is not interested in winning the debate as such, but for it to serve his personal agenda.

In brief, it might not be a debate for Najib, just another platform under the glare of media to get maximum exposure – ‘Apa malu 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 the ex-premier will have his support base on the grounds of race and religion. PAS leaders will be part of his chorus.

The debate might take place or it 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 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.

Beyond this, even if Najib comes up with superior arguments during the debate –which I seriously doubt – the fact remains that he is chief perpetrator of fanning racial and religious sentiment 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 the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II for Penang.