Malaysia Votes 2018

BN-PH debate showdown postponed

MUAR • A much-anticipated debate "showdown" between a ruling coalition lawmaker and an opposition hopeful has been postponed to today after police shut down the proposed event.

The debate between Barisan Nasional's (BN) three-term incumbent MP for Muar, Datuk Seri Razali Ibrahim, and his challenger from the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH), Mr Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, was to have been held at a hotel in Muar last night.

They were to spar on the topic "Barisan or PH for Putrajaya".

However, Johor police chief Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd said police had deemed the proposed debate "unsuitable" as they had not received an application for a permit to hold the event, The Star reported yesterday.

The decision was ridiculed by Mr Saddiq, the 25-year-old youth chief of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

He noted that whenever the opportunity for a debate between top leaders arose, an "obstacle" about "security problems and public security" would come up.

"What security problem? We're facing each other only with words and intelligent arguments," he said in a video posted on his Facebook page yesterday. He insisted that the debate would go on, with or without his opponent.

Later yesterday, Mr Razali suggested moving the debate to the Muar District Officer's home between 5pm and 7pm today - with live streaming.

"I propose that candidates have a harmonious debate or discussion," he told reporters at the Umno office in Muar.

Mr Saddiq, who showed up for the would-be debate at the Muar Traders Hotel at 8.30pm yesterday, welcomed the idea, "as long as the media is allowed to cover it so that it will be fair".

Mr Saddiq is a former varsity debate champion who won the Asian British Parliamentary Debating Championship's Asia Best Speaker award three times.

He has more than 365,000 followers on Twitter, and half that number each on Facebook and Instagram, making him a much more recognisable face on social media than Mr Razali.

But locals in Muar are only just getting to know the first-time candidate, who has only two days left to canvass support from the almost 51,000-strong electorate ahead of Wednesday's General Election.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2018, with the headline 'BN-PH debate showdown postponed'. Print Edition | Subscribe