The debate between Lim Kit Siang and Najib would have been a highly anticipated event for both Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional supporters. Kit Siang, a 53 year veteran of Malaysian politics is one of the most vocal members of the opposition before their surprise win that led Pakatan Harapan to Putrajaya. Malaysians deserve a healthy debate and equally important an important one, “How Malaysia became a global kleptocracy and how we can become a leading nation of integrity”.
However, that anticipation will be unfulfilled as Kit Siang pull out of the debate with Najib. In fact, by pulling out it made bad for Pakatan Harapan rather than declining Najib’s invite in the first place.
Part of the reasoning for this is that it would put Pakatan Harapan’s big boss, prime minister Mahathir in a bad light as it was under him the turn to kleptocracy started. So Kit Siang would have to admit on that fact as he had written multiple books over the decades on Mahathir’s scandals. This would have not only made the already bad dissatisfaction of Pakatan Harapan economic management worse by admitting that their current leader was the cause of the downward spiral.
But Kit Siang failed to see the opportunity of a debate with Najib. An opportunity to directly confront the man who has single-handedly masterminded the kleptocracy of international significance. For more than three years prior to the shocking defeat of Barisan Nasional that led Najib to step down of as the leader of UMNO, Kit Siang and DAP have been “fighting the good fight” over the 1MDB scandal.
There were articles and blog posts outlining missing 42 billion and the infamous 2.6b donation from the Saudi government. Any of these could have been directed at Najib in a “no holds barred” engagement. Malaysians would have finally benefitted in the true political debate rather than cheap hostile tactics employed by Al Jazeera to drive up ratings. Kit Siang had nothing to lose and everything to gain from the debate.
But alas, Kit Siang pull out of the debate sullying his reputation and force DAP into an excuse making a stance for his withdrawal. It also made Najib look stronger than he was and implied that Kit Siang and DAP are afraid of him.
Then to make things worse, Kit Siang went on to claim that he took the advice of Malaysians who didn’t want him to engage “tarnished” Najib. There were also excuses that it would cause incidents that would affect racial harmony and national security.
At a time where support for DAP and the Pakatan Harapan government is all time low, this debate could have put a big dent on Najib’s armour, if not even a crack. But the reverse happened. By missing this opportunity, any of Kit Siang’s further attack on Najib will just be seen as sour grapes.