Nazri miffed by axing of debate (Updated)

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

KUALA LUMPUR: Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz today criticised the decision by the police not to allow a planned debate between him and former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said he did not understand why the police dismissed his right to have the debate with his former boss.

"Since when did we become a police state? Since when could the rights of individuals be denied? I am very disappointed and disturbed (by the decision)," he said.

"This is not a police state. This is Malaysia, which practises democracy. Me and Tun (Mahathir) are not people who can incite and cause fights," he told reporters on the sidelines of Parliament.

The duo were slated for a debate on several issues, including 1Malaysia Development Berhad, this Saturday at Maktab Rendah Sains Mara Kuala Kangsar in Perak.

Acting Perak police chief DCP Datuk Hasnan Hassan today said police have rejected an application from Kumpulan Media Karangkraf for the debate.

He said they studied the application and felt it was not in the best interest of the people there, besides taking into consideration factors pertaining to safety, public order and protection of public rights and freedom.

"Kuala Kangsar district police chief ACP Ahmad Termizi Abd Haq rejected the permit application and verbally informed the organiser on Monday," Hasnan said.

"The organiser was late in submitting the application, and only did so on March 20 at 3pm," he said, adding that it fell short of the 10-day requirement under Section 9(1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA).

Nazri stressed that the debate did not have to comply with the PAA as it should not be considered an assembly, adding that he would still be showing up for the debate.

"I hope Tun will be there. I will be there on the 25th. I will come."

Hasnan also said the permit was denied because the venue chosen was a school, which was a prohibited premises under the First Schedule (Section 3) of the PAA.

"The Third Schedule of the Act also clearly states that any assembly or dialogue of this nature is not categorised as a permitted assembly," Hasnan added.

Meanwhile, Mahathir has given Nazri until noon tomorrow to arrange the debate between them.

Responding to the police reaction, Mahathir said he had suggested the debate be held in Padang Rengas, but it was Nazri who had chosen the school.

"I want the debate to go on, unlike the 'Nothing to Hide' forum, and I am prepared to debate on any issues raised by them, including the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance issue.

"I will give Nazri until (tomorrow) afternoon to arrange it. I am not going there merely to meet him but to debate. If he wants to meet me, he can arrange an appointment," he told a press conference in Putrajaya.

Late today, Nazri said he had proposed the debate be held on April 7 at publisher Sinar Harian's office in Shah Alam, which is owned by the organiser.

He said the organiser was contacting Mahathir on his suggestion and liaising with the police.