DEWAN Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia has failed to show up for a public debate in Kuching on the Malaysia Agreement (MA63) with State Reform Party (Star) Sarawak president Lina Soo.
Pandikar, in a faxed letter to Soo yesterday, said he could not turn up for the debate as his challenge to debate anyone was “specifically directed at Sabah leaders”.
He had challenged Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg over their disagreement on MA63.
“I’m so very disappointed,” Soo told reporters and those who had turned up for the debate at the Grand Continental Hotel today.
“I feel like I have been left at the altar (on my wedding day).
“My bridegroom did not come. That’s how I truly felt .”
Soo had, on two occasions – November 29 and December 4 – sent letters to Pandikar to state she accepted his “just name your place, name your time and Pandikar Amin will be there” challenge to debate MA63 issues.
His other condition is that the debate should be outside Parliament.
Pandikar issued the challenge after he was roundly criticised in Sabah and Sarawak for his MA63 views he espoused in a public forum in Kota Kinabalu early last month.
He had said he did not agree that Sabah’s rights were not fully executed under the agreement and accused those who claimed so were merely making “empty political rhetoric” to incite anger and hatred among the Sabah people.
He also disputed claims at the forum that the federal government was not bringing progress to the people in the two Borneo states.
His critics in Sabah accused him of “trying to sow a dangerous irresponsible seed of doubt (on MA63)”.
At the launch of his new book, Berpisah Tiada (Inseparable), Pandikar responded to his critics by challenging them to a debate.
“I am willing to answer you outside of Parliament. Just name your place and name your time and Pandikar Amin will be there,” he said.
While Soo took up the challenge, the Sarawak chief minister dismissed it as being “stupid”, a summary dismissal that riled the Dewan Rakyat speaker.
Soo, in a post on her Facebook account on Wednesday, had stated there was no change to the schedule of the debate.
“This is fixed based upon Pandikar Amin’s open offer of ‘any place, any time’ and the details of the schedule was communicated to him in a letter by Poslaju on 4/12/17 (December 4, 2017) which, to date, Pandikar has maintained his silence on.
“This is a one-on-one interpretative debate. The subject matter is MA63.
“The argument is for and against Pandikar’s assertion that Sarawak and Sabah are equal in status to every state of Malaya; and that the rights of Sabah have never been eroded.”
Soo said there would be no winner or loser if the debate proceeded but the audience could judge the arguments for themselves.
In the run-up to today, the political activist said she had to battle rumour-mongers who had spread word that the debate had been called off, that the government had cancelled it to claims she was selling seats to listen to the debate.
“Will Pandikar Amin show up to prove the worth and substance of what he said and stand by what he wrote?
“Hero or zero… be there this Saturday!”
Soo had also earlier said Pandikar “was talking rubbish” for his view on MA63.
“He hasn’t studied the agreement.
“Pandikar just doesn’t know or understand what he is talking about.
“To state that Sabah and Sarawak are of equal status like the Malay states in the Federation of Malaya clearly shows his ignorance of the true status of Sabah and Sarawak as sovereign component nations within the whole federation,” Soo said.
She said Pandikar seemed “to be looking through rose-tinted glasses and oblivious to the realities on the ground where the failure of the federal government to comply with MA63 has left both Sabah and Sarawak with highest level of poverty and illiteracy”.
Today however, she turned the failed debate into a talk on MA63.