Najib vs Anwar debate: the highlights | Free Malaysia Today – Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: The highly-anticipated debate between former prime minister Najib Razak and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Sapura Energy Bhd (SEB) saw the duo touch on familiar themes that have come to define their careers.
The debate, which started with the fate of SEB, also went into national issues including the economy, governance and the way forward for the country.
However, what was billed as a lively debate turned out to be a session for Najib and Anwar to dish out political rhetoric.

Here are the highlights of tonight’s debate:
On Sapura Energy
Najib spoke about why SEB needed to be saved from bankruptcy and his ideas to rescue the company, including getting national oil company Petronas to take a substantial stake in SEB.
He said SEB had RM7 billion worth of contracts and that once it delivered on these contracts, its share price would go up and Petronas could sell its shares for a profit.
“If not, ask the banks to give Sapura loans that the government can guarantee,” said Najib, adding this would not cost a sen to taxpayers.
Anwar, meanwhile, spoke on the need to get SEB’s house in order first and called for a forensic audit on the oil and gas services company. He also touched on SEB’s former CEO Shahril Shamsuddin’s remuneration.
“It’s not about bailout per se, but before we intervene in the management of a company, we must conduct a forensic audit.
“If Petronas takes over Sapura, that will involve billions. And who does Petronas belong to? Isn’t it the government and the rakyat? How is it that the rakyat will not spend a sen?”
Najib claimed that if Sapura, whose biggest shareholder is Permodalan Nasional Bhd, went bankrupt the people would suffer and thousands would lose their jobs.
Anwar said the issue was not about saving Sapura or otherwise. “Study the problem first. Conduct a forensic audit first,” he said.
Post-Covid-19 future
Najib spoke on the impact of megaprojects including the now-shelved KL-Singapore High Speed Rail, the Pan Borneo Highway, and the East Coast Rail Link among others, and how these would be catalysts for economic growth and job creation.
He cited his father and former prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein’s philosophy of enlarging the “economic cake” for the prosperity of all. “This however is premised on political stability.”
Anwar said while he was not against megaprojects, they were not suitable at a time when people were struggling. He also touched on the lack of political will where transparency and accountability were concerned. In addition, he raised the spectre of future scandals, citing the 5G rollout.
“When we have a cake, don’t eat it alone. Right now, when people look at the (economic) ‘cake’, the rich political elites are at the top. That’s why I say that it must start with the management of the government.”
A light moment
Anwar and Najib appeared to share a light moment when the former raised the issue of the Perwaja Steel scandal and Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s name – a common nemesis – cropped up.
Cost of living and inequality
Anwar drew a reaction from the crowd when he claimed that Pakatan Harapan was more successful in addressing the issue of livelihood, comparing the price of chicken in 2019 and its current price to drive home his point.
Najib responded that in Barisan Nasional’s last nine years in government, the Gini coefficient – which measures income inequality – shrunk, whereas it grew during PH’s 22 months in power.
Tame debate
Najib spoke of the PH government’s sale of assets and decision to abolish the goods and services tax (GST) which affected government revenue. He also spoke on the PH government’s political appointments for top government posts, citing the cases of former attorney-general Tommy Thomas and former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Latheefa Koya.
Anwar argued that handouts during BN’s time created a culture of dependency and that PH wanted to make the people more independent of the government. He also touched on policies during BN’s time which benefitted mainly the elites.
The BMF scandal
Najib asked Anwar about his views regarding the authorities’ decision to classify their investigation into the Bank Negara Malaysia forex scandal as “no further action” during the PH era.
“If Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob tells the attorney-general to reopen the investigation, I have no problem with it,” said Anwar.
The scandal refers to losses incurred in foreign exchange trading by BNM in the 1990s.
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