Tuesday, April 13, 2010

ZAID IBRAHIM : In Good Faith

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim , who is a member of the PKR Central Leadership Council, was announced by Opposition Leader and PKR advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim  as the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidate for the by-election for the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat on Apr 25.

Zaid's background :
 Zaid from Kelantan started his law studies at the   Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM) and obtained his  LL.B (Hons.)  from the University of London. He'd work as a Barrister-at-Law at  Inner Temple, London . In 1987 he founded Zaid Ibrahim & Co., which as of 2008 is the largest law firm in Malaysia with over 140 lawyers.
In 2000, he joined UMNO, becoming Kota Bharu UMNO division chief a year later. He was  Kelantan Umno deputy liaison chief for two years later. Zaid contested and won the Parliamentary seat of Kota Bharu in the 2004 general election. However, UMNO dropped him as a candidate in the 2008 general election.

After the 2008 elections, Badawi  appointed Zaid as a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department to oversee legal affairs and judicial reform.
His appointment as Minister in the PM Department in charge of reforming the judiciary, which has been riddled with scandals, especially following the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Video Clip.

Following his appointment as a Minister, Zaid resigned from all his posts in Zaid Ibrahim & Co., and relinquished his shares in the company.

Zaid stated that the government had to openly apologise for its handling of the 1988 Judicial Crisis, which saw the sacking of the then Lord President of the Supreme Court, Tun Salleh Abas, from his seat. Zaid called it one of his three main goals: "In the eyes of the world, the judicial crisis has weakened our judiciary system." However, he rejected the idea of reviewing the decision: "I am not suggesting that we re-open the case. I am saying that it’s clear to everyone, to the world, that serious transgressions had been committed by the previous administration. And I believe that the prime minister is big enough and man enough to say that we had done wrong to these people and we are sorry."

On Sept 15 2008,  after criticizing the arrests of DAP's  MP Teresa Kok, blogger Raja Petra , and journalist Tan Hoon Cheng—under the Internal Security Act,  Zaid resigned from the Cabinet on September 15, 2008.

Zaid Ibrahim urged the Yang di-Pertuan Agong not to appoint Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as Prime Minister of Malaysia, and instead appoint someone else from UMNO. He pointed out Najib has been linked on the internet and by political rivals to the murder of Altantuya . Zaid also cited the RM400 million in commissions reportedly paid by the Defence Ministry while Najib was minister for the procurement of submarines, and pointed out that Abdul Razak Baginda, Najib's friend, was an agent in the deal.

I got to "know"  Zaid better  through his book "IN GOOD FAITH" which I purchased in late 2007. Before that,  I only has a fleeting impression of him as one of those UMNO guys. I bought the book after reading the back cover and the few reviews done by Tun Dzaiddin former Chief Justice, Tan Sri Navaratnam, Datuk Khoo Kay Khim, Datuk Marina Mahathir and the introduction by Tun Musa Hitam , ex DPM.


The book over 350 pages and 9 chapters is a collection of writings and responses by Zaid Ibrahim when he was a lawyer and MP in the time before 2008. The 9 chapters covers Pluralism and Democracy, Judiciary, Legislature, Executive, Media, Culture, Faith and Religion, Human Rights and Regional and Global issues. 

Extract from the back cover : " Besides previously published articles, inside are new essays and interviews released for the first time, such as the ‘Department of Bumiputra Affairs’. The author combines an intellectual’s interest in concept, a lawyer’s grasp of detail and an abiding support for the lay-person’s point of view. He argues that while Malaysia celebrates 50 years of Independence, more is needed before Malaysians can truly think independently – namely, more transparency and freedom of expression. A passionate patriot, he also argues for a pluralistic Malaysia more in line with the country’s Constitution. In doing so, he articulates what many Malaysians believe but dare not say."

Zaid is one of the open-minded  modern Malays whose thinking and writings is not based on ethnic-centered bigotry or religious extremism. His writing shows impartiality and sensitive topics on judiciary, human rights, racial issues are frankly discourse. His writings and speeches reflect many thoughts of the "silently majority" who dare not voiced out for fear of persecution.
All proceeds from the sale of his book goes to the Yayasan Orang Kurang Upaya Kelantan ( Kelantan Foundation for Disabled People )

Some excerpts from Bakri Musa review of his book : checkup the link to read the whole review

Zaid argues his points rationally, convincingly, and most of all, very clearly.  If I have not stated it, few would know from reading this book that Zaid is a lawyer.  It is pleasantly free of legal jargons and that most irritating habit of lawyers, of lacing their commentaries with ancient and barely comprehensible Latin phrases. 

As a lawyer he was passionate and  committed to justice, freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.  He leaves no doubt about that in this book and elsewhere.  “If we continue to put ourselves in reverse gear by departing from democratic principles,” he said, “we will continue to fall behind other countries.”  He added, “Democratic and civil values are not new novel concepts, alien to Malaysians!  In fact, strong subscription to these values propelled us to where we are today.”

Thus Zaid asserts that we should go beyond mere tolerating to embracing and celebrating our differences (“Pluralism and Democracy in Malaysia”).  This is the only way for a plural society like Malaysia to survive and indeed thrive.  I would go further; if we do not treat our diversity as an asset, it will by default become a liability.  And what a horrendous liability!  Malaysia had a foretaste of it in May 1969, and there are many ready tragic examples in the world today:  Iraq, Darfur, and the Balkans.

As a lawyer, Zaid is not at all shy on commenting on the sad state of our judiciary and the generally sorry performances of our judges.   He is critical of non-Syariah judges who shy away from cases remotely involving Islam or Muslims.  Nor is Zaid complimentary towards Syariah judges.  He clearly stated this singular point, purposefully made confusing by many, that while Islam is under state jurisdiction (except in the Federal territories), the Supreme Court decisions are binding upon all other courts, including the Syariah’s.

Zaid advocates bringing back local elections (“Bring Back Municipal Elections”) believing that to be the essence of democracy, of government closest to the people. 

I wish him best of luck in the coming by-elections. Given the chance I do believe he will be another stronger and vocal voice in Parliament.

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