"I know my decision will be greeted with tempests of allegations that I am a coward... and I am always ready to accept judgment from the people," Lim Kit Siang said on Thursday, 23 May
The DAP supremo's statement comes after he backed out of a proposed debate with Najib Razak, saying he fears that the debate could be manipulated into a racial conflict.
According to Kit Siang, while the fight against corruption, abuse of power and crimes like money laundering is not a racial or religious issue, and in fact a matter of good values and good governance, he cannot ignore the possibility that the debate between Najib and him "can be manipulated into a Malay vs Chinese conflict".
That's why, he added, he has "decided not to pursue the debate with Najib".
In his statement, the DAP supremo called the former prime minister the "most malignant political force in the history of Malaysia"
Lim Kit Siang described Najib as "a global kleptocrat, fraud leg, and the greatest threat to a united, progressive, prosperous Malaysian vision".
He said when Najib challenged him to debate in an interview with Free Malaysia Today on Tuesday, the first thing that came to his mind was "should someone argue with a kleptocrat who has a deceitful illness or indeed a deceiver's foot."
And while he had initially agreed to the debate with Najib, the DAP supremo said that he was advised by many Malaysians against it.
"For the past 48 hours, I was inundated with an avalanche of advice through email, WhatsApp and even by phone, including by Malaysians from overseas, 99% of whom urged me not to debate with Najib at all," he said in the statement.
Kit Siang said that while he will be called a coward for backing out of the debate, he added that his "53 years in politics is an open book for Malaysians to judge whether I am a coward or not"
I am always prepared to subject myself to the judgment of Malaysians. However, there is one thing I will not compromises - the higher interests of the nation and Malaysians.
Following Lim Kit Siang's statement announcing his withdrawal from the debate, Najib issued a statement saying that he received details that Pakatan Harapan was scared Lim could be defeated
"They worried that Kit Siang would lose the debate.
"There are fears that I would use facts that would be difficult for Kit Siang to counter, and that many of PH’s propaganda would prove to be lies and slander," Najib said.