KUALA LUMPUR, April 17 — The highly anticipated debate between PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will take place at 9pm on May 12 at Dewan Tunku Canselor, Universiti Malaya (UM). 

In the first joint press statement by Umno and PKR, party representatives, Isham Jalil and Fahmi Fadzil said that the debate will have three parts.

The first segment will discuss the financially-troubled Sapura Energy Berhad, the second will focus on Malaysia’s future in terms of its economy, politics and direction, and the third will involve a question-and-answer session. 

Representative of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Fahmi Fadzil speaks during a press conference on the Najib vs Anwar debate, Kuala Lumpur April 17, 2022. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Representative of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Fahmi Fadzil speaks during a press conference on the Najib vs Anwar debate, Kuala Lumpur April 17, 2022. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

“We believe that many are looking forward to this debate. 

“We also believe this debate will give Malaysians the opportunity to assess and put forward different ideas, arguments and views, in a neutral environment that reflects a more mature political culture,” said Fahmi.

Isham said Malaysia Gazette’s Haslina Kamaludin would moderate the debate.

As for attendees, Isham said the hall seats up to 500, and that guests would be divided into three groups: Najib’s camp, Anwar’s camp and VIPs, officially invited media and the public.

“We will work out the registration link for the media and the public. From there, unofficial media will be allocated spaces. The rakyat can also register to attend, and they will be chosen by ballot,” he said.

He added that those who cannot get into the hall can view the debate outside, where large screens will be set up under canopies.

Fahmi added that the arrangements are still under discussion and that both parties are examining how to better manage the on-site viewing of the debate.

Isham said that Anwar and Najib agreeing to face off is a good step forward for the Malaysian political scene.

“I feel it is time for Malaysian politicians to get used to debating. In developed countries, their politicians are so used to debating — to discuss differences of ideals.

“So we must get used to debating current affairs, especially when the general election is coming soon,” he said.

Fahmi agreed with Isham, who said that he hoped events like this would open up Malaysians to a more mature political scene.

“We have to remember, these two figures have a long history in Malaysia’s politics, and I am sure there are those who question why Anwar would debate Najib when Anwar was jailed during Najib’s administration.

“But what I see is that we can follow the lead of these two political figures, who are willing to put aside their differences to give confidence to Malaysians to live harmoniously.

“We can forgive but maybe not forget, yet we must move on. We must see who has the better and more rational ideas, and like it or not, in the current political situation, friends and enemies are now the same — and what helps us stand out is our ideas, image and the way we present our views,” he said.

Earlier this month, Najib responded to former PKR MP Rafizi Ramli’s challenge to a debate on the bailout of Sapura Energy Berhad, by saying he wanted to debate Anwar instead.

Najib also said that it was Anwar’s representative who had agreed with his representative to hold the debate after the fasting month, and claimed that PKR was now alleging Najib was afraid of debating.

Najib denied this and gave his guarantee that he would debate Anwar about the financially-troubled Sapura Energy.

Anwar then accepted the former prime minister’s challenge to debate, adding that his stand on the matter remained clear and unchanged since he first threw down the gauntlet to Najib to debate the economy more than a decade ago, which never materialised.

“Now he chooses to challenge me during the early part of Ramadan month, after failing to answer Rafizi Ramli’s rebuttals on the issue of Sapura’s ‘bailout’ at a time when the poor and small traders are not cared for.

“I am ready to face and debate Najib Razak at any time for the people and country,” he said.