PETALING JAYA: Zaid Ibrahim says he is disappointed with Johor Bahru MP Shahrir Abdul Samad over what he considers the decline in his credentials as a “political leader and reformer”.
Taking to his blog to promote his upcoming speech at a Pakatan Harapan event in JB this weekend, the former minister admitted that while he may not know much about the constituency, he was very familiar with its elected representative in the Dewan Rakyat.
“I think I will talk about my erstwhile cabinet colleague, Shahrir, who is well-known and well-liked in JB.
“I doubt if there is a more interesting local issue than Shahrir in JB.
“In fact, he is somewhat of an icon, and has been seen as an Umno leader with spunk ever since he took on the might of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Barisan Nasional in a 1988 by-election as an independent, and won,” Zaid said.
He was referring to when Shahrir, who was the incumbent in JB, resigned as MP in 1988 and forced a re-election, and won the seat again without the help of Umno Baru, which was newly-registered at the time.
“It’s true that he was then a protégé of Johor strongman Musa Hitam, and the tide in Johor against Mahathir in 1987/1988 — when Musa joined forces with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to oppose Mahathir in the party polls — was a tsunami that carried Shahrir to fame and popularity.”
Zaid then said his experience while in Umno also led him to believe that Shahrir was a politician with a difference and someone he had marked for greater things.
“When I was in Umno, he was part of the second line of leaders that I had hoped would emerge as reformers in a party that has since become anaemic and toxic.
“When I first became a divisional leader in Umno, I did not extend the customary invitations to any of the top guns to officiate the division’s first meeting. Instead, I invited Shahrir.”
Zaid, who joined DAP last year, added that he invited Shahrir because he considered him to be bright and purposeful in his politics, and “I believed that he would be an asset for change”.
“His tenure as chairman of the BN Backbenchers Club was also colourful because, at times, he was willing to defy party lines on matters that would have been detrimental to the parliamentary system of government.
“However, I now have serious reservations about him as a political leader.
“Since he and Prime Minister Najib Razak grew close, many have come to see Shahrir as different from the Malay reformer they once thought he was.
“I now have doubts if he can continue to be a good MP for JB, even though he remains a well-known figure,” Zaid said.
“If you want to know why, please come to JB this Friday and I will give my reasons.”
Early last year, Shahrir was reported to have said he would not be defending his JB parliamentary seat.
However, by October, he had indicated that he may change his mind and defend the seat in the wake of Pakatan Harapan being led by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.