DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang denies he is pulling out of the debate because he is afraid. - NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang has pulled out from the much anticipated debate with former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Initially, Lim accepted the challenge put forth by Najib for the two to debate.

In a statement today, Lim however denied that he was pulling out because he was afraid. Instead, the Gelang Patah MP said this decision was made as he was worried of the possibility that the debate could be manipulated into a racial conflict.

"For the past 48 hours, I had been inundated with an avalanche of advice through email, WhatsApp and even by phone, including by Malaysians from overseas, 99 per cent of whom urged me not to debate with Najib at all," Lim said.

He alleged that the debate's topic "How Malaysia became a global kleptocracy and how we can become a leading nation of integrity” could be turned into a Malay versus Chinese conflict.

Lim added that the battle against corruption, abuses of power and criminal conduct like money-laundering was not a racial or religious issue but an issue of good values and good governance.

"I know my decision will be greeted with tempests of allegations that I am a coward. My 53 years of politics is an open book for Malaysians to judge whether I am a coward or not, and I am always prepared to subject myself to the judgement of Malaysians.

"However, there is one thing I will not compromise – the higher interests of the nation and Malaysians," he remarked.

To read Lim's full statement, click here.