Despite their highly-anticipated debate in Kuala Kangsar having been postponed, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz still managed to meet, even if it was just over cendol in the Perak town yesterday.
At a programme organised by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia later at night, Mahathir recounted Nazri’s eagerness to debate him.
“But I see that his party doesn’t support him, his government doesn’t support him, no one is supporting him so he cannot debate me.
“But it’s okay, we will have the debate in Shah Alam on April 7.”
Nevertheless, Mahathir said he was puzzled over the “silent” encounter the two had yesterday.
“He was determined to meet me but when we met at the cendol place, he didn’t say anything. What’s the point of meeting but not saying anything,” said Mahathir, to laughter from the audience.
At this point, Mahathir’s microphone stopped working.
After a minute or so, with organisers from Bersatu scrambling to fix the problem, Mahathir quipped, “This microphone is like Nazri, it has lost its voice.”
Explaining his reason for coming to Padang Rengas, Mahathir said he wanted to observe a constituency which is being led by a federal minister.
“But it doesn’t look like one: houses are ripped here and there.
“Maybe the (government’s) focus is on other areas, (but) if you can’t take care of your own area, how are you supposed to take care of the country?” Mahathir said, addressing Nazri.
‘Poor quality of leaders’
Towards the end of his speech, Mahathir again cited their encounter, adding he had thought Nazri may have wanted to tell him that he was quitting his cabinet post.
“But he was silent. Sitting beside me, if he had whispered, I would have heard it. But he didn’t say anything.
“He just sat and faced the front, he didn’t look at my face at all.
“At most he said ‘that’s Perak River’ – but I already know that, he didn’t have to tell me that,” said Mahathir, to more laughter from the audience.
This, he lamented, is the “quality of leaders today”, citing other Umno leaders such as Ahmad Maslan and Shahrir Samad.
Nazri yesterday turned up at the Sultan Azlan Shah Mara Junior Science College (MRSM), the planned venue for the debate showdown between he and Mahathir.
Police however denied permission for the debate to take place at the venue.
The minister then caught up with the Bersatu entourage at Dataran Sayong Lembah later in the afternoon.
The debate, which has been rescheduled to next month, will see the two debate on issues such as the 1MDB, forex and Bumiputera Malaysia Finance (BMF) scandals.
‘No go as predicted’
Meanwhile, Bersatu chairperson Muhyiddin Yassin, who was also present at last night’s event, said that he had looked forward to the debate, but was told by others that the debate would not take place.
“It turns out their prediction was true.
“I don’t think the police here are scared. The people are law-abiding citizens, they won’t fight just because Nazri wants to debate Mahathir.”
Nevertheless, the situation is such due to the culture of fear, which had led the officials to think things thoroughly, claimed Muhyiddin.
“If it has anything to do with the prime minister, they won’t carry it out in fear that action will be taken against them,” he said. – FMT