When former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, challenged me to a debate in an interview with Free Malaysia Today on Tuesday, my foremost thought was whether one should debate with a kleptocrat and a pathological or habitual liar.
I had added that if there is a debate, probably the best subject is “How Malaysia became a global kleptocracy and how we can become a leading nation of integrity”.
Najib did not mind being called a kleptocrat and a pathological or habitual liar, and agreed immediately to the topic, although he added cryptically: “But in fairness, we should also discuss other topics during the debate.”
In response, I said I was appointing Syahredzan bin Johan, my political secretary and Ahmad Faiz Mustafa, my parliamentary liaison officer, to liaise with Najib’s officers to finalise details of the debate after Hari Raya.
I also welcomed Malaysians who have views on the subject “How Malaysia became a global kleptocracy and how we can become a leading nation of integrity” to email their views and suggestions at [email protected]
For the past 48 hours, I had been inundated with an avalanche of advice through email, WhatsApp and even by phone, including by Malaysians from overseas, 99% of whom urged me not to debate with Najib at all.
Undoubtedly, Najib is the most malignant political force in the history of Malaysia – he is not only a global kleptocrat, a habitual liar but also the greatest threat to the vision of a united, progressive and prosperous Malaysia in his immoral, unconscionable and irresponsible support of the toxic and vicious politics of lies, falsehood, hate, intolerance and extremism to effect the worst racial and religious polarisation and national division in Malaysian history.
This is a sample of the advice which I have received –
In the past year, there had been a systematic and unconscionable attempt to intensify and escalate racial and religious polarisation in Malaysia.
The most recent example is the statement by a Muslim NGO leader regarding Pos Malaysia issuing a stamp featuring St. George’s Church in Penang.
The Muslim NGO leader took to Facebook to complain that the stamp was another example of how Islam was being bullied since Pakatan Harapan rose to power in May last year and that it could lead foreigners to think Malaysia is a Christian state when it actual fact, the stamp was part of a series on places of worship in Malaysia, which was first issued in 2016, two years before Harapan came to power.
As there is great likelihood that the debate on “How Malaysia became a global kleptocracy and how we can become a leading nation of integrity” between Najib and myself could be turned into a Malay vs Chinese conflict, when the battle against corruption, abuses of power and criminal conduct like money-laundering is not a racial or religious issue but an issue of good values and good governance, I have decided not to proceed with the debate with Najib.
The DAP is now a member of the Pakatan Harapan coalition government and a new discipline is needed among the component parties in the Pakatan Harapan coalition to also think of the interests of the coalition if we are to succeed in our common vision spelt out in the Pakatan Harapan general election pledge to build a New Malaysia – comprising the five pillar objectives to reduce the costs of living, achieve institutional reforms, engineer economic growth, restore power to Sabah and Sarawak and to build an inclusive and moderate Malaysia.
This is the work not of one hundred days or months but of years and decades. It calls for steadfast commitment to bring about unity, freedom, justice and prosperity to Malaysia and to all Malaysians and not deepening racial and religious polarisation or the vicious and toxic politics of lies, falsehoods, hate, intolerance and extremism.
I know my decision will be greeted with tempests of allegations that I am a coward. My 53 years of politics is an open book for Malaysians to judge whether I am a coward or not, and I am always prepared to subject myself to the judgement of Malaysians. However, there is one thing I will not compromises – the higher interests of the nation and Malaysians.