SEMENYIH, Feb 21 — Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has defended Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate Muhammad Aiman Zainali’s refusal to participate in a debate with his rivals in the Semenyih by-election.
Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq, who used to be a debater in school, said the 30-year-old Muhammad Aiman was known for not being talkative and was more of a person who emphasised on producing results.
“At this stage it is too early to say, but if you look at his track record, he is more towards taking action than talk. That I think is his strength,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting with PH Youth leaders here.
On Tuesday, Muhammad Aiman declined election watchdog Bersih 2.0’s invite for a debate, saying he wanted to focus on meeting voters and residents of the constituency in the run-up to the by-election on March 2.
Bersih 2.0 had reportedly planned to hold a debate involving candidates in the by-election at the University of Nottingham Malaysia here on February 25.
Syed Saddiq also pointed out the redundancy of having the debate if key candidates were absent as the debate will just be a speech where one presents one’s manifesto.
“I was made to understand that the Umno candidate had refused to take part in the debate and at that stage we discussed whether there is a need to proceed because you need as many candidates as possible,” he said.
Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Zakaria Hanafi has also reportedly declined to take part in the debate.
Only Parti Sosialis Malaysia candidate Nik Aziz Afiq Abdul and independent candidate Kuan Chee Heng have stated their wish to partake in the debate.
Responding to questions posed by reporters on Muhammad Aiman’s shortcomings as a public speaker, and his inability to communicate with the media effectively, Syed Saddiq said the former should be judged based on his actions.
Meanwhile, he said he was not worried about the surge in popularity of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s ‘Bossku’ persona that could overshadow Muhammad Aiman’s campaign trail.
“I think it is a double-edged sword because everyone will be looking at Najib and shift attention away from the BN candidate.
“However I am not here to speak ill of Najib and for this by-election; PH is focused on service politics by spreading the success of the state government,” he said.