KUALA LUMPUR: Verbal jousting between Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Lim Kit Siang tends to attract observers who are almost exclusively engrossed with the daily political hustings.
But the public contest of reiterative words and arguments in social media or speeches could only last for so long before gauntlets are hurled each other, with a live debate now on the cards.
Some may disagree with the move, citing among others concerns over political and possible racial divisions. Several quarters have also asked who would stand to gain most from the debate?
Drawing from their respective experiences after the change of government last year, it is worth examining the inferable objectives by each side of the divide.
It has been a challenging period for Najib with regards to his career and reputation. His exit from the corridors of power while democratic, was steeped in disgrace.
Allegations of corruption in relation to 1Malaysia Development Bhd remain a spectre which saw him hit with 42 court charges. A bid to clear his name prior to the trial saw him storm off an interview with Mary Ann Jolley on Al-Jazeera.
Analyst Dr Syed Agil Syed Alsagoff said the debate could be an opportunity for Najib to reach out to a wider support base and cast the spotlight away from all of the alleged transgressions.
“It may even be a bid for him to ‘fix’ the answers he gave during the Al-Jazeera interview . But, he must be mindful of the questions posed during the debate because his answers may backfire and affect his trial.
“Be warned that it might prolong contention between their supporters. The debate will not stop at that one event because they will continue to be at loggerheads.”
Lim has been voicing concerns over Najib’s campaign, which largely appealed to the youths or those who mostly consume news from social media feeds.
The DAP adviser is relentless in reminding the people about Najib’s alleged wrongdoings, and the debate can serve as a platform to reinvigorate sentiments prior to the 14th general election.
Analyst Dr Faridzwan Abdul Ghafar said Pakatan Harapan (PH) had fallen into “Najib’s trap” when it gave too much focus on attacking the former premier. He believed the debate could be Najib’s attempt to further distract the government from addressing issues on the ground.
“Najib has managed to make some PH leaders dance to his tune. This is evident as PH relies heavily on Najib-based issues that had in turn and ironically, cost them the progressive political narrative.
“PH should ignore Najib in order to make the former PM irrelevant in the people’s eyes.”
For now, Faridzwan believes that Lim might perceive the debate as the best approach to grab the bull by the horns.
“It is also a platform for him to show his mettle before a former prime minister. Perhaps Lim even wants to pull another Al-Jazeera against Najib. Lim believes he is doing the right thing. But he needs to be careful.”
At press time, the debate has yet to be confirmed.