Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Selat Klang DAP Anniversary Dinner at Port Klang on Wednesday, 5.9.1984 at 9 p.m.
Lim Kit Siang offers to be go-between to finalise details of the UMNO-PAS debate so that it could be held and not scuttled by inconclusive preliminaries
On August 25, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, challenged PAS to a series of debates to be telecast live on all topics, including the assimilation of Islam in the nation’s administration.
I had the next day chall nged the Prime Minister ad other Barisan National leaders to a series of public debates with the DAP, also to be telecast leve, on questions of fundamental importance to Malaysia like:
• Racial Polarisation;
• The New Economic Policy and whether it should be extended after 1990;
• Islamisation in Malaysia;
• National Education Policy;
• National Culture Policy;
• Human rights and democracy in Malaysia; and
• Corruption, abuse of power and breach of trust.
Malaysians had hoped from Dr. Mahathir’s open challenge that a new era of political debate will begin with the government leaders more prepared to appear before the public to justify their policies in the unedited cut and thrust of public debate.
Unfortunately, since then, in the last 11 days, there is no sign that the Prime Minister and UMNO leaders are really ready for a public telecast debate with PAS or the DAP.
Everyday, all sorts of leaders from the UMNO and PAS have all sorts of things to say about the UMNO=PAS debate, all sorts of suggested topics and conditions, but we are as far away from the debate as on August 25 when Dr. Mahathir threw down the gauntlet. It would appear that somebody is trying to do a ‘Harris Salleh’, i.e. backing out from a challenge.
At the rate things are going, everybody will be talking about the debate except to hold the debate for the next one year.
As Dr. Mahathir is famous for wanting to get things done efficiently, the holding of the UMNO-PAS debates must be most dismaying for him as it could not be handled more inefficiently.
Both sides should stop boating around the bush and get to the point of deciding on the topics and the speakers concerned. Both sides should agree to the appointment of a go-between to liaise with both parties to finalise the details and terms of the debates – go that the debates could be held and not scuttled by long-drawn-out but inconclusive preliminaries and skirmishes. If both parties are not prepared to have a series of public debates over TV, then say so openly, so that the people would not waste their time on the subject anymore.
I am prepared to act as a go-between for UMNO and PAS to finalise the details and terms of the UMNO=PAS public debates, as I think that all public debates would be a healthy democratic development to enable the people to judge the respective policies and principles of contending political parties.