The ‘problem’ with Zaid Ibrahim

I refer to the article by Zaid Ibrahim which was published by FMT.

Zaid is a good friend of mine. But I am not always in agreement with him in his thinking and way of doing things.

We have come a long way together and were in Kota Bharu Umno. He was the division’s head and I was the treasurer. I think I know him well enough to speak with a degree of confidence about him.

I read with dismay about him wanting to give up writing, all because of the flak and stick he has been receiving over his commentary about Daim and the tycoons purportedly controlling the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Firstly, I would say that the adverse reactions and responses to him came about on account of his own doing. I think I know as much as him, if not more, about the politics and proceedings in PH and I don’t think what he said was based on fact and truth.
To be honest, big business interests are pushing for their respective business agendas but by and large the government has been guided by the larger national interest in their decision making.

Perhaps Zaid would want to refer to a huge financial settlement in Selangor to a concessionaire to the tune of over RM2 billion, a huge jump from the RM50 million that was suggested earlier.

Although the government justified the sum as being based on audit reports and valuation, the people still find it difficult to reconcile the huge gap. The onus is on the government to explain in simple terms. Otherwise, it will be seen as another rip-off and smack of the nepotism or cronyism of the past.

The peer-to-peer affordable house funding scheme, as announced in the recent budget, is another case in point. Not so much about the novel idea but the manner it was rolled out by a business conglomerate so soon after the budget. Kadir Jasin too has raised the question.

Apart from these cases, the new government has generally been pursuing policies and making decisions which are for the good of the people or which are people-centric in nature. There is little evidence to show that they are being swayed by the interests of big business or succumbing to the wishes of business tycoons — notwithstanding the fact that Daim Zainuddin has been acting as a key economic adviser to the prime minister.

The problem with Zaid, as always, is his idealism and the manner he chooses to do things. He is not only an idealist in his dreams but also a perfectionist in his political ways.

So he finds it difficult to reconcile with the hard realities on the ground. He wants things done his way and on his terms. But politics and the art of governance are about the art of the possible. Often necessitating compromises and accommodation at times.

There are times when fulfilment of an agenda needs to be staggered or done in phases to enable the people to be more receptive to change. He is unable to accept compromises.

Then there is the thing about team work, which Zaid finds it difficult to come to terms with. While DAP, of which Zaid was once a member, and PH as a coalition are generally tolerant of dissent and contrarian views, there is still the need to respect the political leadership for the sake of discipline and order to be in place.

Again, Zaid finds himself often at discord with the party leadership.

When Zaid joined the Cabinet as a minister under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, we congratulated but cautioned him to be mindful of the other warlords in the Cabinet and thus the need to find consensus and work towards collective decisions.

When he found the situation too tough to handle after about a year in the Cabinet, he decided to leave Umno for PKR. Again, we cautioned him to be mindful as the culture of PKR too may prove unsuitable for him.

When he fell out with PKR and later on joined DAP, we thought that was the best for him, given the fact that DAP has been consistent in their its struggle and stand over many political issues that are besetting the nation, including the scourge of corruption.

Again, it was not meant to be. He has his own reasons for it. But we know it does not make sense to continue blaming others for his inability to work out things with others.

Which is a pity really. Zaid is a man gifted with high intellect, plenty of guts, courage and conviction. He started to fight the establishment including the government of Najib Razak long before others were prepared to take up the cudgels. He was prepared to challenge PAS and its hudud pretensions when many other Muslims opted to navigate the safe passage by remaining silent.

He has been in and out of court in many cases involving public interest. He has been writing regularly to the mainstream and alternative media on issues of public governance gaining along the way a sizeable following among the intelligentsia.

Zaid is also a generous benefactor to the cause of the poor and underprivileged. I know many in Kota Bharu and Kelantan who have benefitted immensely from his and his wife’s generosity and acts of charity.

In short, Zaid has contributed significantly to the public and nation.

So with that in mind, I am calling Zaid to take the criticisms against him well in his stride and move on with life.

Irrespective of what some people think of him as a “maverick” or “eccentric”, there are people out there who still appreciate him.

He must not withdraw into seclusion but must continue to write and act as the conscience of the people. This country belongs to the people. Let the oligarchs or business tycoons work hand-in-hand with the people.

Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior lawyer and former treasurer of the Kota Bharu Umno.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.