We did not intervene, says Zahid on debate

PUTRAJAYA — There was no political intervention in the revocation of the permit for the much-anticipated debate between Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the home minister, said the cancellation of the debate in Kuala Kangsar on March 25 and Shah Alam tomorrow was a decision made entirely by the police.

“It was an operational decision, so it was not referred to me as the home minister, let alone the prime minister (Datuk Seri Najib Razak),” he told reporters after visiting the International Modern Arabic School here yesterday.

He said acting Perak police chief Datuk Hasnan Hassan refused to allow the debate to be held in Kuala Kangsar, and Selangor police chief Datuk Abdul Samah Mat, who at first approved the permit, later reversed his decision.

Asked if he would review the reasons for the revocation of the permit, Ahmad Zahid said: “I would have to study the reasons first and if we feel the debate should carry on, then we will ask the police to give the permit.

“(They will) advise us because they may not have revealed to the public what is the real reason behind it, and I have to respect their recommendation and decision.”

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar refuted claims the decision to call off the debate was unconstitutional.

“To claim the police are abusing their powers and indirectly obstructing freedom of speech is preposterous as we have facilitated other debates prior to this,” Khalid said in a statement.

He said the police had discretionary powers to cancel a debate in the interest of the public.

Khalid said the decision to stop the debate was made after taking into consideration the possibility it could create public disorder.

He cited a case that said it was “settled jurisprudence in public law that the rights of one set of citizens cannot override the rights of others”.

“It is not a question of abuse of power but the duty of the police to exercise their discretionary powers, which was done in good faith and in the interest of the people,” he said.

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