The Umno secretary-general said it was pointless for Datuk Seri Najib Razak to go toe-to-toe with Anwar and said he could instead set up an exchange between the latter and Saiful, who has accused the PKR de facto leader of sodomising him.
“A debate between the prime minister and Anwar will only become a political battleground and not a discussion on what should be discussed because the opposition can provide no objective or credible reason to have a debate,” Umno Online quoted him as saying.
“Even if we have a debate, it shouldn’t be the between the prime minister and Anwar. Datuk Seri Najib is the country’s leader and has no time to spare on such demands as he is a responsible leader who focuses his full attention on the well-being and comfort of the people.”
Tengku Adnan (picture) added that there was no need for a debate concerning the Malay community like the recent exchange on Chinese issues between MCA and DAP as Umno has always safeguarded Malay rights and interests.
Yesterday, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution called on Najib to take rival Anwar in a public debate after Tengku Adnan indicated that the ruling coalition was ready for such a challenge.
“I hope we can get this rolling. I’m ready to discuss with him... to begin efforts to see if these two leaders can take part in a debate,” the Machang MP said.
Tengku Adnan, who is also Barisan Nasional (BN) secretary-general, had said the day before that the ruling coalition was open to participating in debates like Saturday’s clash between MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
The highly anticipated Mandarin debate between the two rivals drew a full house of some 800 and was screened on Astro, with Malay translation.
Umno president Najib has so far refused to take on opposition leader Anwar in a debate.
Anwar has repeatedly thrown down the gauntlet to the prime minister to debate on national policies and the country’s direction.
His calls for an open debate have so far been answered only once in July 2008 by then-information minister, Datuk Ahmad Shabeery Cheek, an event broadcast live on national television.
Independent pollsters Merdeka Center revealed last month that focus group discussions indicated most Malay professionals would like to see Najib and Anwar go head-to-head on policy issues.
“There appears to be a change in what the people want. They want a new culture of debate rather than smear campaigns,” the centre’s director, Ibrahim Suffian, had said.