MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Friday, August 19, 2022

Was Zaid’s unprovoked outburst justified? By R. Nadeswaran

*Was Zaid’s unprovoked outburst justified?*

R. Nadeswaran

_“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”_

Benjamin Franklin

*COMMENT* | Despite switching political parties and leaving the political scene occasionally for short periods, Zaid Ibrahim has never been out of the news.

In the aftermath of the judicial crisis in 1987, when chief justice Salleh Abas and five judges were sacked, Zaid founded the Muslim Lawyers’ Association and became its first president.

He was accused of setting it up at the behest of the then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed to counter the Malaysian Bar’s critical stand.

Years later in 2008, within days of his appointment as Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Zaid asked the government to openly apologise for its handling of the crisis.

“I believe that the prime minister (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) is big enough and man enough to say that we had done wrong to these people and we are sorry,” he was then quoted as saying.

Besides the apology, the government gave all of them ex-gratia payments and restored their pensions. But Zaid’s tenure did not last long. He quit the cabinet in September 2008 in protest against the use of the Internal Security Act to detain an MP, a blogger and a journalist.

Thereafter, he began writing for newspapers, including _The Sun_, on what was termed by the authorities as “liberal Islam”. Its then editor-in-chief Ho Kay Tat had to fend off more than a dozen warning letters from the Home Ministry for publishing Zaid’s views.

When Abdullah’s resignation was imminent in early 2009, Zaid urged the Yang di-Pertuan Agong not to appoint Najib Abdul Razak as his successor.

He pointed out that Najib, then defence minister, has been linked on the internet and by political rivals to the brutal murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Zaid also cited the RM400 million in commissions reportedly paid by the Defence Ministry for the procurement of submarines and pointed out that Abdul Razak Baginda, Najib’s friend, was an agent in the deal.

In 2016, Zaid filed a lawsuit against then PM Najib and three others to recover the US$731 million (RM2.6 billion) and RM42 million allegedly banked into the prime minister’s accounts.

He also sought an order to compel Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz to pay back all alleged sums he received, directly or indirectly, from 1MDB, and for him (Riza) to transfer to the sovereign wealth fund all purported properties he acquired.

*The U-turn*

But in an about-turn early this year, Zaid began to sing praises of Najib and took a different stand.

In a Facebook video posted in June, Zaid conceded that he was critical of Najib and his role in the 1MDB scandal in the past but now believes the latter did not mastermind the heist.

He said: “At the time, I was convinced he was directly involved. After hearing the cases in court, the SRC and 1MDB proceedings, I have changed my mind.

“Now, I am convinced Najib was lied to. Not only by Low Taek Jho but also by his officers. He was misled by his officers in 1MDB and lied to by Goldman Sachs and Aabar Investments in Abu Dhabi.”

Najib has now discharged Muhammed Shafee Abdullah and appointed Zaid’s firm. So much for the past.

On Tuesday, after Najib’s attempts to adduce fresh evidence and to seek an adjournment failed, Zaid went on a tirade against those who reproached him for taking up the case.

“I am saddened that I have been castigated because I have taken up this case at the last minute,” said Zaid.

“I would not have done so if (I thought) there was no basis; there is no respect for people like us, old folks at the Bar. That you can be so flippant about it, that you can be so cavalier about it.”

As a lawyer, Zaid knows that a postponement is not a right. There must be valid reasons for it and he accepted the brief fully knowing the dates of the appeal. Why then find fault with all and sundry?

He says there is no respect for old folks at the Bar.

Really? Offhand, I will be able to rattle at least a dozen names who practise at the Bar and continue to be held in high esteem by their clients and the public.

Who was flippant, Zaid? Are you saying that the whole world should come to your cause and you must always get your way?

*Zaid knows what he’s getting into*

Sorry. Most right-thinking Malaysians believe that you ventured into this case with your eyes wide open and knowing the consequence of not being ready to argue your case.

I am sure your client knew the risks involved in changing horses midstream. Or did he take a chance that he can prolong his freedom for a few more months?

On the other hand, I agree with you that justice is a long road. It has been almost four years since Najib was charged and two years since was found guilty by the High Court. The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence in December last year.

Najib has been on election campaigns, in recording studios, speaking at party gatherings and has even had police escorts and bodyguards who accompany him everywhere.

Compare this to the many who are languishing in prison awaiting trial. They remain there because they have no means of raising the money for bail or paying someone to argue their cases.

So, Najib has had more privileges despite being convicted while those yet to be convicted are pre-serving the sentence, even before being found guilty.

Finally, I am peeved by his claim – “But justice is a long road. Sometimes, you can get it here, you can get it elsewhere,”

Is that an extra-judicial threat or is there a higher judicial authority than the Federal Court?

American novelist William Gaddis famously said: “Justice? You get justice in the next world; in this world, you have the law.”
Prophetic words for those using God and holy books to erase their wrongdoings.
R NADESWARAN is a veteran journalist who writes on bread-and-butter issues. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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