Six questions with Datuk Zaid Ibrahim

Posted by admin
Sunday, 08 March 2009 09:03

Zaid: The mandate given by the people during the last election has not been well received by Barisan Nasional. There has been no magnamity and little respect for the wishes of the electorate.

The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has seen it all over the past 12 months. He was appointed to the Cabinet by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a few days after the polls, to give his reform agenda some legitimacy.

He resigned when it became obvious that Abdullah's reforms were about as popular with Umno as a trek through the minefields of Cambodia. He was sacked from Umno for cozying up with the Opposition. He campaigned with Pakatan Rakyat during the Kuala Terengganu by-election and has started a foundation to make Malaysians colour-blind.

He shares his thoughts with the Malaysian Insider on post-election Malaysia.

Question 1: As you look back on the past 12 months, what strikes you as the most significant development in Malaysia?

Zaid: The mandate given by the people during the last election has not been well received by Barisan Nasional. There has been no magnamity and little respect for the wishes of the electorate. That is why we have witnessed decisions to channel funding to only approved federal agencies, and the suspension of certain federal projects already approved in some states held by Pakatan Rakyat. And now we witness the crisis in Perak where the BN is bent on doing everything possible to take over the state. So for me the the most significant development is the depressing realisation that BN cannot accept the voice of a significant number of Malaysians.

Question 2: Do you believe that the euphoria after the March 8 results and the belief that a new dawn was upon Malaysia is still justified a year later?

Zaid: I would say yes. And let me add a word of caution. Change is not going to come overnight. So we cannot be euphoric one day and be pessimistic a month later. Of course, some days we will feel like nothing has changed and that the Opposition is not getting anywhere. But remember what we are facing in Malaysia today is a product of decades. Perak is a brilliant example of the kind of formidable obstacles that anyone committed to change will face.

But has Pakatan Rakyat wilted and walked away from the challenge in Perak? No. The reaction of the public over the removal of a democratically-elected government also gives me hope that 12 months on our commitment for a better Malaysia is still strong.

Question 3: What have you learnt about Umno/BN 12 months after it suffered major reverses?

Zaid: Quite honestly, I did not learn anything that I did not already know. Umno is quite confident of keeping the power they now have and so they don't really care about winning the hearts and minds of the people. Leaders have talked about reforms but it has been talk. It has been the same with Barisan Nasional. Not enough time and effort have been invested in re-inventing the coalition.

Question 4: Can Umno change and can it play the role of being protector of all races?

Zaid: These two questions can be answered by looking at the current line-up of Umno leaders and the second echelon, and by assessing their actions and statements. I am not optimistic that they can evolve from their narrow worldview to embrace a wider role of seeing themselves as protector of all Malaysians.

Question 5: Is Pakatan Rakyat ready to govern Malaysia?

Zaid: Yes. Some changes have to be made to the structure of Pakatan. Too much is dependent on Anwar. I would like to see decisions being made by a committee of leaders. But for all the problems they have encountered; their inexperience and the numerous obstacles placed in their path by the BN, they have done reasonably well.

The thing about Pakatan is that you can be sure that they will give their best shot. Malaysians must remember that this coalition is still in infancy, they are making mistakes but they are not afraid to admit it. Since we have been so patient with BN, we should give Pakatan some time to grow. By doing so, we are nurturing the two party system and laying an important foundation for a better Malaysia for future generations.

Question 6: What has surprised you most about Malaysians since March 8 2008?

Zaid: It warms my heart to see the resilience and solidarity of the people. The unity they have shown, cutting across racial lines race lines. Who says Malaysians are apathetic and don't care about politics, about their country?

We are witnessing the maturing and rebuilding of democracy in Malaysia. And this is because Malaysians care and love this country.

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