Kit Siang says debate with Najib off amid fears of racial conflict

Lim Kit Siang attends the 2019 DAP National Conference in Shah Alam May 5, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Lim Kit Siang attends the 2019 DAP National Conference in Shah Alam May 5, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — DAP’s Lim Kit Siang has today retracted his agreement to debate scandal-plagued Datuk Seri Najib Razak, citing fears that the event may be turned into an ethnic conflict.

In a statement, the Iskandar Puteri MP has also pre-empted any accusations that he is a coward for deciding so, telling the public instead to judge himself by his 53 years in politics.

“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,” he said.

The DAP stalwart said in the past year, there had been a systematic attempt to intensify and escalate ethnic and religious polarisation in Malaysia.

Lim gave the example of Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), who was recently slammed by the public for accusing a Pos Malaysia-issued stamp featuring St George’s Church in Penang as an example of Islam allegedly being “bullied” under Pakatan Harapan’s administration — despite it being issued back in 2016.

He also admitted that in the past 48 hours he was inundated with messages and calls, most of whom urged him to not debate Najib, who he called “the most malignant political force in the history of Malaysia”.

“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 judgment of Malaysians. 

“However, there is one thing I will not compromise — the higher interests of the nation and Malaysians,” Lim said.

Najib and Lim both agreed to a public debate earlier this week, with the former suggesting the debate take place after Aidilfitri next month and for the event to be broadcast “live”.