Mahathir's debate with minister postponed

Police stopped the event slated for Saturday in Mr Nazri Aziz's constituency, citing safety concerns.
Police stopped the event slated for Saturday in Mr Nazri Aziz's constituency, citing safety concerns.

IPOH • A public debate between two fiery Malaysian political figures, former premier Mahathir Mohamad and Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz, has been postponed by about two weeks, after the police stopped the event that was planned for this Saturday.

Malaysian police yesterday rejected an application to hold the debate in a school hall in Datuk Seri Nazri's rural constituency of Padang Rengas in northern Perak state, citing safety and public order concerns.

The debate is now scheduled to take place in Shah Alam, capital of Selangor state, on April 7, Mr Nazri was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times yesterday.

It will be held at the headquarters of media group Karangkraf Media Group, publisher of Malay language daily Sinar Harian and lifestyle magazines.

A no-holds-barred political debate between two well-known figures in Malaysia is a rarity.

The event has been getting a lot of attention in the media and political blogs, with thousands of people expected to turn up.

The debate came about after Tun Dr Mahathir, 91, and members of his opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia announced that they would be visiting Padang Rengas, a Malay-majority ward, to meet voters.

The intense excitement for the meeting led Information Minister Salleh Said Keruak to say last Sunday that national broadcaster Radio Television Malaysia will not be airing the debate.

Police said earlier yesterday that they had received eight public complaints from residents in Padang Rengas, which led them to block the debate there.

Police also said the organiser had failed to apply for the permit at least 10 days before the event.

"We have taken into consideration factors pertaining to safety, public order and protection of public rights and freedom," acting Perak police chief Hasnan Hassan said, according to The Star newspaper.

Mr Nazri, 62, first became a Cabinet minister during the Mahathir era and he was also a minister during Tun Abdullah Badawi's premiership. He is now a staunch loyalist of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Told about police rejecting the permit, Mr Nazri said: "I don't understand why the police are blocking my right as an individual. I'm a minister, Dr Mahathir is former prime minister; since when have we become a police state?"

Mr Nazri said the event will be safe to attend as he has told members of ruling Umno to stay away, as opposition members are expected to turn up in droves.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Mahathir's debate with minister postponed'. Print Edition | Subscribe