KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's opposition parties said yesterday that they will put up another person to debate with the chief of 1MDB over controversies linked to the state investment firm, after the Speaker of Parliament blocked MP Tony Pua from participating in it.
But with Mr Pua stepping away from what was supposed to be a live debate with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief Arul Kanda Kandasamy, the government has withdrawn its offer to telecast the showdown live on Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), the national TV network.
The debate over the 1MDB showdown is being played at high decibels by both sides of the political divide as they try to win public opinion over to their side. Each side is blaming the other for making excuses from going ahead with the Pua-Arul confrontation.
Opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH) said that it will soon name a replacement for Mr Pua. Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia had on Tuesday said Mr Pua must resign from Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is probing the 1MDB scandal, if he wanted to have a public debate with Mr Arul. This was to avoid eroding PAC's impartiality by Mr Pua playing both prosecutor and investigator.
The opposition said that as it was important to have Mr Pua remaining in the PAC, whose members are a mix of ruling coalition MPs and those from the opposition, it will name another leader to debate with 1MDB's Mr Arul.
The troubled investment fund, with debts of some RM42 billion (S$13.7 billion), has been a lightning rod for the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Asked about RTM dropping its offer of a platform for the face-off, the opposition said it was not deterred.
"RTM is not the only channel that is able to broadcast the debate. There are other available avenues and we will explore them," PH chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters yesterday.
"We will announce the person and the team that will negotiate with whoever is interested in broadcasting the debate," he said.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said the live telecast of the much-anticipated debate had to be called off as the offer was specific to a Pua-Arul showdown. "If they (the opposition) want to continue the debate among themselves, they can do so. But it will not be telecast live," he said.
Meanwhile, former trade minister Rafidah Aziz, who is increasingly critical of the government in the 1MDB issue, said that Malaysians should focus on the main issues in the matter.
"What is required is not debates and mudslinging by any quarter. Action to get on with investigating and addressing the issues is what is urgently required," Tan Sri Rafidah said in a Facebook post yesterday.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK