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Zaid stint as a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department was for six months. Read his ups and downs as compiled by NST reporter. He claimed to have suffered accusations of not standing up for Malays and Muslims and other criticisms in Parliament. He constantly met brick wall from Cabinet members and UMNO to his many suggestions for judicial reforms. He had implied that UMNO is a racist party.

* Ups and downs of Zaid's tenure as de facto law minister

* Zaid blames Cabinet, Umno members for opposing judiciary reforms

The Star
by Sim Leoi Leoi and Shaila Koshy

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.

Ups and downs of Zaid's tenure as de facto law minister

New Straits Times

March 17: Zaid, sworn in as senator and named as minister in the prime minister's department, promised that "a lot of things" could be expected from him because "the people want to see change". He promised that the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers and the supremacy of the law, especially in terms of the constitution, would be upheld.

March 22: Zaid announced his immediate priority as de facto law minister was to propose to the government that it apologise to former Supreme Court Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and the judges who were sacked during the 1988 judicial crisis. Zaid said the prime minister told him to do what was right for the country. "Friends cautioned me to go slow and steady. I've never gone slow, but I'll be steady".

March 26: Zaid recommended that archaic laws that could potentially cause a conflict between the government and Malay rulers be replaced. When asked whether Umno could "challenge" the decision of the Terengganu Regency Advisory Council to appoint Datuk Ahmad Said as Terengganu menteri besar, he said some of the state constitutions, dating back to the 1910s, were obsolete and needed to be replaced.

May 24: Zaid lashed out at Jerlun MP Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and Pasir Salak MP Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman for belittling the prime minister and accusing him (Zaid) of being a yes-man. "If they do not support (the prime minister and government policies), they should not be BN MPs".

June 1: Zaid urged the media to get its act together to seek reforms and improve press freedom. He suggested that journalists propose solutions to replace existing media laws, such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act, Official Secrets Act, Internal Security Act, Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

June 6: Ex gratia payments were given to judges who were sacked in the 1988 judicial crisis. Zaid personally met the judges or their families to give them the payment.

June 20: Zaid announced that he was seeking to restore the original wording of Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution.

He said he suggested this to the cabinet but was unsure when it would happen.

Sept 9: Zaid condemned the police for filing reports against magistrates. He said the reports, lodged by police officers who were sore that their requests for extension of remands were rejected, were "extraordinary events".

Sept 12: Zaid called on Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to resign from the cabinet if he had no confidence in the prime minister. "If he refuses to quit, he should be sacked. You cannot have a minister who is not happy with the leadership.

"This does not apply to Muhyiddin alone but anyone, including me. If I am not happy, then I should resign or the prime minister sacks me. That is how it works."

Sept 14: Zaid condemned the detention of three people, including a journalist, under the Internal Security Act. He said the government was acting against its own wish to prove to the people that it wanted change. Zaid said he was ready to resign.

"I joined the government because I believed there would be transformation. The government must change, but reform cannot take place if it continues with old thinking and philosophies.

"My views are obviously against the majority in the cabinet. I have been in trouble before and I don't want to make life difficult for Pak Lah.

"If he feels that I am a problem to the party and the government, and he wants me to leave, I am prepared to do so.

"I don't want to be disloyal and I am thankful to him for giving me a chance to serve in the government. I want to give my best to Pak Lah and this is the best advice I could give him."

Sept 15: Zaid tendered his resignation as the minister in the prime minister's department. The prime minister asked him to take two weeks' leave and reconsider.

Sept 16: Zaid stood firm and announced his resignation.

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