KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The live telecast of the debate between opposition lawmakerTony Pua and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) president Arul Kanda Kandasamy has been called off by Malaysian broadcaster RTM, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak on Wednesday (Nov 4).
Datuk Seri Salleh said this was because the offer made by RTM was for the two personalities in particular, and not anyone else.
"The debate has been called off as far as the live telecast is concerned, because Pua has pulled out," Mr Salleh told reporters outside the Parliament building on Wednesday. "If they (the opposition) want to continue the debate among themselves, they can do so. But it will not be telecast live," he said.
Mr Salleh said the initial challenge was made by Mr Pua and accepted by Mr Arul, adding that RTM was merely providing a platform for the debate to take place.
"We have only extended an avenue for the public to listen to the debate. RTM is not the organiser," he said.
Mr Salleh had originally suggested that the debate be held this Friday, from 9 to 10pm and broadcasted on RTM1.
Dewan Rakyat speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia had ruled that Mr Pua, who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), should not debate against Mr Arul as it would be in conflict with his role in the PAC and affect the integrity of the Parliament.
The PAC is conducting investigations into the troubled state investor. Mr Pua, the Democratic Action Party's (DAP) national publicity secretary, is a staunch critic of 1MDB, whose struggles with a RM42 billion (S$13.8 billion) debt pile has resulted in mounting calls for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation.
In an immediate response, DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng said the Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance would find another debater to replace Mr Pua even though RTM has withdrawn its offer to broadcast the debate live. It also said the debate would go on despite the RTM move.
"RTM is not the only channel that is able to broadcast the debate. There are other available avenues and we will explore it," Pakatan Harapan chief secretary Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters after a meeting between the component parties in the alliance.
The alliance also added that it would announce a replacement for Mr Pua at a press conference in Parliament on Thursday (Nov 5). A team will also be formed to facilitate negotiations regarding the format and details of the debate, Pakatan said.