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Wednesday September 17, 2008

Zaid blames Cabinet, Umno members for opposing judiciary reforms

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Zaid Ibrahim will not change his mind about quitting as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, saying he has failed to reform the legal system.

He said he constantly met “a brick wall” from Cabinet members and Umno to many of his suggestions for reform.

The former de facto Law Minister, who remains a Senator, added he did not want problems arising from his proposals to plague Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at a time when the latter was grappling with party conflicts and other challenges.

Zaid thanked Abdullah for suggesting he go on leave but said: “I am not tired. I’m just disappointed.”

He said he prayed Abdullah would remain Umno president and Prime Minister and accomplish what he had set out to do.

“I apologise to all Malaysians because of my weaknesses, I have failed,” he said in a 40-minute press conference at his office here yesterday.

“It has not been a mistake to take up the offer,” he stressed.

Asked why he was giving up when he had bluntly told journalists just in May that they should go on fighting for media freedom despite the obstacles over the past 20 years, Zaid said: “Maybe I’m not as courageous as you are. I agree change does take time but I was looking for some positive development to give me assurance.”

He maintained Abdullah had been supportive “within his own constraints.”

Asked whether Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim - if he formed a new Government - would be able to bring reform to the judiciary, Zaid replied: “He hasn’t formed the Government. It doesn’t matter whether the Prime Minister is Abdullah, Datuk Seri Najib (Tun Razak), Tengku Razaleigh (Ham-zah), (Tan Sri) Muyhiddin (Yassin) or Anwar. I don’t care; I just want to see transformation.”

Describing himself as a “man of deep responsibility”, Zaid lamented that in the six months he had been Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, he had suffered accusations of not standing up for Malays and Muslims and other criticisms in Parliament.

Naming Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman as one of his critics, Zaid rebutted :

“You can still be a champion for your race and think of the country.”

He said he tried but had failed to convince those in power to effect changes related to equality as prescribed in the Federal Constitution, so the Government could move forward.

Zaid had tendered his resignation to Abdullah on Monday.

In his letter, he had listed his frustrations in trying to achieve the reforms he had been tasked with doing; the final being the recent arrest of three people under the Internal Security Act.

Asked whether the public should give up on Abdullah’s promise for judicial reform since he - the person specifically tasked with achieving it - had resigned, he replied: “I don’t think everything should be pegged to me. I am not a hero. Someone else might be more acceptable.”

Asked whether he would leave Umno for opposition party PKR, Zaid admitted he had not been “treated well” by Umno - he was even suspended once on charges of money politics.

He said he had not decided on joining “PKR or anybody else,” adding he had not been courted.

Asked whether he had advice for the Government, Zaid said it must start trusting its own people.

“If not, you will always worry which policy benefits which group. You can have a race-based party but you don’t have to be racist bigots,” he said on his last day in office.

Related story:
Zaid’s resignation accepted

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