KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia's government has rejected an Islamic opposition party's challenge to hold an American-style public debate between their leaders ahead of March 8 general elections, news reports said Sunday.
Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party President Abdul Hadi Awang recently dared Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to hold a televised debate similar to those held by U.S. presidential candidates.
But the Sunday Star newspaper quoted Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz as saying there was no place for such debates in Malaysia.
"We don't follow the American system in our country. We (the country's leaders) should be debating with villagers or town folks concerning local issues affecting them," she said in the report.
An aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing protocol, confirmed the minister's comments but did not give further details.
PAS is the chief rival of Abdullah's National Front coalition for votes among ethnic Malay Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people. PAS controls the northeastern state of Kelantan, the only one of Malaysia's 13 states under opposition rule.
Malaysia has substantial minority populations of ethnic Chinese and Indians.
Sunday's New Straits Times newspaper quoted Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak as saying there was no need for the National Front coalition to entertain the PAS call for a public debate.
"That is the way of the opposition," he was quoted as saying. "We give everyone the freedom to campaign but it is the people who will decide the outcome." -- MORE HERE