KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) - Umno vice-president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has agreed to participate in a television debate against two of the party's presidential hopefuls that will take place just before the party elections.
The debate between the contenders of Malaysia's largest and oldest political party is a first for the country's political scene.
It comes as the party seeks to rebound from its shock defeat in the May 9 general election, which saw the Malay nationalist party and its Barisan Nasional coalition being ousted by the Pakatan Harapan alliance.
The Umno Presidential Debate which will be telecast live over the Astro Awani news channel on June 29.
But Datuk Seri Zahid, who is currently carrying out the duties of party president following the resignation of incumbent Najib Razak, said he would only debate from his Bagan Datuk constituency in Perak as he had to be with his delegates that night for the election process the next day.
"If it is not meant to split Umno into two or three, then I am willing to be in a telecast from Bagan Datuk as I have never neglected my people," he said in an interview with astro awani on Friday (June 22).
Zahid, who is one of the three top candidates vying for the post of Umno president on June 30, had previously said he would not participate in the debate as he felt the party s internal problems should not be discussed in public.
The other two prominent candidates are Umno Youth head Khairy Jamaluddin and veteran leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Both are scheduled to appear in the programme for one hour beginning 9.30 pm on June 29.
Zahid also said he would not cast aside his two challengers if he obtained the mandate as president in the party election on June 30as both Khairy's and Tengku Razaleigh's views were important to revive the party.
"If I am given the mandate, I will not cast these two people aside, I will bring them along with me to revive the spirit of Umno, to build up strength in the new UMNO brand," he said.
Zahid said he was determined to eradicate money politics and the warlord culture which had become part of the party for 40 years.
Commenting on the strategy that Umno, now an opposition party, would use after its shocking defeat in the 14th General Election, Ahmad Zahid said the party must immediately change its government DNA to that of opposition in its moves and activities.
Admitting that this would be an uphill task, he said: The time for sadness, nostalgia has passed, Insya Allah, UMNO will be revived as a new political organisation with a changed political scenario .