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Zaid slams Najib’s administration

Updated 12 July 2009 at 11.05pm

KUALA LUMPUR, 10 July 2009: In a blistering speech last night, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim attacked Datuk Seri Najib Razak on almost every score of the prime minister’s100-day administration.

The former minister and former Umno member said Najib should have acted in his first three months of office “as if he has only 100 days before his reign comes to an end”.

Zaid Ibrahim
Zaid Ibrahim (file pic)

Among others, Zaid said Najib should have enacted far-reaching policies to give back the judiciary its independence, and to reform institutions like the police, Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Election Commission.

“He [should have shown] the people he was prepared to sacrifice his neck if that is required of him,” Zaid said in his speech titled Preservation of Democracy and the Rule of Law in Malaysia at the Oxbridge Malaysia Dialogue Dinner Series, hosted by the Oxford and Cambridge Society Malaysia. His speech was made available to The Nut Graph.

Najib was sworn in as the nation’s sixth prime minister on 3 April 2009. His 100th day in office is tomorrow.

All equal?

Zaid said Najib should have started his term by pushing through a Race Relations Act to punish racism and racist speeches and writings “from all quarters, even if it’s from leaders of his own party and from Utusan Malaysia“. Zaid was referring to the Umno-owned Bahasa Malaysia daily.

“The problems in our country are not race or religion-based, but BN has worked very hard to make them so.”

Zaid, who was sacked from Umno in December 2008 and joined Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) on 13 June 2009, also questioned the 1Malaysia slogan as to whether is really meant that all Malaysians were equal.

“The acceptance of equality of rights as citizens is central to the success of our Malaysian journey.

“When the PM announced his 1Malaysia slogan, I asked if that meant he would make a declaration that all Malaysians are equal. The answer was not forthcoming till today. All he said was rights must be understood in the context of responsibilities. Another fuzzy reply.”

What Najib should stop doing, Zaid said, was to “always refer to the deprivation the Malays suffered under the British. No amount of wallowing in the past can change history”. In the same vein, Malay Malaysians should stop telling other races to be “grateful”, Zaid said.

He said racist politics was the “single greatest impediment” to Malaysian unity, adding that while different from the kind of racism that involved skin colour, Malaysian racism was “driven more by ethnic distrust and ethnic rivalry for the economic cake”.

Zaid also went on the stump for Pakatan Rakyat (PR), saying it was the only viable alternative to the “self-indulgent and delusional sense of self importance” of Umno and Barisan Nasional rule.

Worse to come

Zaid said Najib’s push for Malay unity talks between Umno and PAS was merely a way to “strengthen himself” by causing internal difficulties between the PR parties.

At a time of economic downturn, Zaid said Najib had not done enough by removing the 30% bumiputra quota for companies and scrapping the Foreign Investment Committee rules. He noted that these were already being demanded of Malaysia by international and Asean trade agreements.

He said the decision was popular in the short-term but will “come back to haunt” Najib, as many Malay Malaysians were unhappy because Najib had not addressed the larger problem of income disparity.

On Perak, while Najib should “not have started it”, Zaid said that since it had already happened, the premier should “have the courage” to hold fresh elections.

“The whole cloak and dagger story of intrigue about the overthrow of the Pakatan Rakyat government gave rise to much suspicion about Najib’s style, well before he took office. He could have allayed the fears that he would not be one to resort to under-the-belt tactics in his leadership, by calling for fresh elections. Najib’s unwillingness to dissolve the Perak assembly has gotten the country deeper into a political quagmire.”

Zaid also believed that Najib would not bother to address people’s concerns about the impartiality of the police and judges, and of high-profile corruption cases which had been reported to the anti-corruption authorities.

He added that authoritarianism in government would continue unless repressive laws like the Internal Security Act, Official Secrets Act and the Sedition Act, were abolished. But this would be unlikely as “the elite need protection from their misdeeds”, he said.

Zaid also criticised the government for reversing the policy on teaching science and mathematics in English after six years and billions of ringgit. “One wonders if the farcical National Service programme, which is neither a national service nor an education programme, will be scrapped, too.”

Umno’s cave

Zaid also pulled out the stops in criticising his former party. He said Umno had been hiding in a cave for too long which had caused them to “abandon the idea of a shared and common nationhood”.

He said the reason for Umno’s, and by extension, the government’s authoritarianism, was the belief in “Ketuanan Melayu” and that Malay hegemony was needed to prevent Malay Malaysians from being marginalised.

He said change would only come when Umno abandoned racial politics and when Malay Malaysians understood that “patronage, authoritarianism and nationalist extremism” – “all of which are Umno’s leadership style” – did them more harm than good.

“Malay [Malaysians] themselves must break from the shackles of narrow nationalism so that they may realise self-actualisation and independence,” Zaid said.

He said if Umno continued to cling on to the “Ketuanan Melayu” mindset, the whole country would suffer from not being able to have comprehensive national policies, because the distrust between communities would prevent objectivity and place ethnic interests over national interests.

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34 Responses to “Zaid slams Najib’s administration”

  1. Andrew I says:

    A credible alternative to Anwar. Should something hit the fan again, PKR won’t be facing the same predicament it did in the 2004 GE.

  2. Mark Disney says:

    This is a rather strange report and doesn’t accord with what I remember being said – perhaps the wine had something to do with it. For the record, the Society did not invite the press and it was supposed to be held under Chatham House Rules i.e. an open and non-attributable exchange of ideas.

    1. To start with, the speech was titled: “Through the Looking Glass” and was a fairly standard (even moderate) talk on the current political situation from an opposition perspective.
    2. Even when invited to criticise Najib, Zaid chose not to attack the PM and kept his statements general.
    3. On the Maths and Science issue, he was fairly non-committal (PKR, in fact, supports the government’s decision).
    4. I don’t recall his attack on the National Service either, although this could have happened during one of my fag breaks!
    5. Zaid came across as a decent speaker and a decent man, although he is carrying plenty of his own baggage…

  3. steven says:

    Well said!

    Hit the nail head on the spot!

    For Malaysia the greatest stumbling blocks are RACISM and LAWS THAT BREED CORRUPTIONS!

  4. victor tan says:

    Zaid Ibrahim – prime minister in waiting 🙂 Go zaid! We support you!

  5. Dr. Edwin Bosi says:

    I come from a tiny ethnic group in Malaysia. As a Kadazan, I am attracted to Prof Ungku Aziz’s philosophy – in pursuit of excellence. Now, I am proud to be a professional in Malaysia. I am still pursuing excellence! My lecturers are good and they are Malay [Malaysian]. I am involved in endurance race with equine experts such as Dr Bashir, Dr Kamal and others. They are good and they are Malay [Malaysian].

    I am proud to have specialist Dr Fauziah in Penampang Polyclinic to monitor my health. She is good and she is a Malay [Malaysia]. I urge Malaysians to heed Ungku Aziz’s “in pursuit of excellence”. When we become knowledgeable, confident and void of inferiority complex, our attitude changes for the better. However, the nation’s system must evolve (be reformed) to meet the expectations of these very confident and knowledgeable citizens.

  6. LIM says:

    All this talk about unity is meaningless if the government cannot clearly tell the non-Malay [Malaysians] they have a place under the Malaysian sun. There should be less discrimination in the recruitment [of the] civil service. At the very least, the civil service should reflect the population ratio of Malaysia. Meritocracy should be seriously promoted to create a healthy atmosphere of satisfaction in all fields be it in the award of scholarships or tenders for projects.

  7. sapu says:

    Well said, Datuk. If only BN/Najib would sit up and take action instead of yelling slogans. But that’s like expecting him to commit harakiri which Najib will not. If he can become the 6th PM with so much baggage, he’s not going to give up that easily.

  8. abu sayab says:

    Very well written, you have my respect.

  9. sam says:

    I am 66 years old. My children, grandchildren and I were born here and have lived here for four generations. My grandfather migrated to this beautiful country in 1889 but till today, I am second class. I worked in the civil service for 34 years. Probably I will go to my grave still being second class. This is 1Malaysia […] How do you expect me to believe in all these slogans?

  10. peter leow cheen chai says:

    Dear author of this article, I am sad [that] what you have written [is] without senses. You have been unwise to make up [much of what you have published]. Indeed, I was quite disappointed with you as most of what you have reported is false.

    Perhaps you MUST consider apologising to Oxford/Cambridge members as you have wronged them, and betrayed the promises of keeping what was discussed private within the walls of the event. You simply made up and distorted so much [of what was said]. You should have been more responsible.

    May God’s grace and blessings be with you!

  11. helen says:

    Well spoken.

  12. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Zaid’s speech was given to The Nut Graph. We weren’t invited to the talk and we didn’t attend. But Zaid’s office told us that the speech made available to us was what he would deliver at the dinner and that we were free to write a report about it.

    I’m in the process of getting in touch with Zaid’s office to clarify what actually happened.

    The Nut Graph

  13. abuzar rashid says:

    By your articulation in just this single article, you have already established yourself as a worthy leader of the rakyat. Syabas.

  14. D.Iaspora says:

    Men like Zaid come less than once in a lifetime. He has been brave enough to face the “ugly” truths. He cannot speak everything that he has written in his speech. His written speech was given to all concerned much earlier.

    So why the […] fuss that what he spoke was not in full and not in accordance with his written piece. Do Malaysians think that our elites write their own speeches? They just come glazy-eyed and ramble away what the “spin doctors” have [written for them].

    The people who rule the country today are the spin doctors and the […] manipulators. Politicians are too busy or dim witted to see the forest for the trees. Hence we have cases like [Khir] Toyo’s Bali House and [the] Penang land grab […] The Penang issue is being twisted and twisted for political mileage. [But] readers are not fools.

  15. tangkup says:

    Najib has to continue BN’s rule through authoritarianism in order to keep the status quo of BN privileges accorded to Umno political leaders.

    Najib will neither scrap Acts like the ISA nor undertake any reforms of PDRM or the judiciary nor make the MACC independent. He will not jeopardise his position because there will be internal objections from the BN partners. This he cannot afford.

  16. peter leow says:

    Dear editor and Deborah,

    Please do NOT just get the facts from Zaid’s office. To be fair, you should have consulted the organiser of the dinner, the chair[person] of Oxbridge and Cambridge to get the FULL and complete picture. Not just a one-sided view, that will help you to be respectable.

    “As the current President of the Oxbridge and Cambridge Society, Malaysia, I am pleased to inform you that our society is having a dinner lecture dialogue as follows:

    Guest of Honour : Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, a former Minister and the Chairman and Founding Partner of the Zaid Ibrahim & Co.
    Talk : Through The Looking Glass
    Date : 9 July 2009 (Thursday)
    Venue : Bankers Club, AMODA Building, Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur
    Time : 7.30pm
    Attire : Office Attire
    I hope that you could join us in the interesting lecture/dialogue. I invite you as my guest and will be pleased to have your confirmation.

    Thank you.

    Warmest Regards,
    Ir. Dr. Gue See Sew”

  17. Mark, Peter,

    Zaid’s speech that was delivered at the dinner talk is actually publicly available on his blog:

    Since it is published and publicly available, the Chatham House Rules are moot in this instance.

    Additionally, we did not get the contents of his speech nor its title wrong as you can tell from what is published on his blog.

    Obviously, The Nut Graph could not have reported on the Q&A session that transpired since we were not invited to attend. But for all intents and purposes, as far as I know, our report is accurate and we did not breach any ethical issues by reporting on Zaid’s speech.

    Thanks for raising your concerns with us, nonetheless.

    Jacqueline Ann Surin.
    The Nut Graph

  18. Zakaria Bidin says:

    If today Zaid were the prime minister, I don’t think that Najib would be commenting [in the same way] as Zaid has commented. He would probably just do his job or ignore his feelings rather than be branded as sour grapes. One thing for sure, Zaid has got what he wanted from Umno. […]

  19. alias says:

    “He said if Umno continued to cling on to the ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ mindset, the whole country would suffer from not being able to have comprehensive national policies, because the distrust between communities would prevent objectivity and place ethnic interests over national interests.”

    Oh, I’m so tired of this! This has been mentioned and mentioned so many times!

    It is the current government’s MO to lie, intimidate, backstab and sow distrust and RACIAL HATRED amongst the people so that they can continue their rule, with or without the Ketuanan Melayu slant.

    It’s only going to get worse under Najib, no matter how much praise and approval the MSM heap on his first 100 days.

    1Malaysia is an empty slogan, it’s nothing special. If you take all the (racial, and to some extent religious) politics out of the picture, you’ll see that we have been living the simple 1Malaysia way all this while.

    Neither of us taunted the other with labels like “PENDATANG” nor demanded the quota of sorts. We didn’t need the current government’s politicians to remind us that we have to accept and respect each other’s differences on speeches telecast on TV on the eve of Merdeka Day, CNY, Hari Raya, Deepavali or X’mas.

    We definitely do not need those silly songs rallying us to “fight the enemy”, “unite for one bangsa”, to “bersatu padu”, etc ad nauseum.

    It’s the current government’s divide and rule policy that has given rise to all our troubles — ruffle our multi-cultural, multi-racial feathers and then step in like a “people’s champion” to “calm” the ensuing storm.

    The trouble is, there are some people who (still) don’t realise that this is what they’re doing and continue to be intimidated, lied to, fooled and pushed around by [them], and worse still, [some people] continue to cast votes in their favour!

    Dah cukup dah. There’s a prophecy, and I believe in it.

  20. getintouch says:

    “I’m in the process of getting in touch with Zaid’s office to clarify what actually happened.” ..

    Wow… very frightening… these people at The Nut Graph did [not] even vet their reporting… Good propaganda….. Kudos to free press… just report whatever you think that is going to make [the] headline… does not matter if the truth is fabricated…

    Editor’s note:

    I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand: how has the truth been fabricated in our reporting of Zaid’s speech? As I’ve already pointed out, our report is an accurate reflection of Zaid’s speech that he prepared for the dinner talk.

    And on your earlier point. Zaid is a public personality and politician as is Najib. Zaid’s speech was about Najib’s 100 days in office. It should not be surprising at all that any media picks up Zaid’s comments about Najib at a time when politicians and political observers are commenting on the prime minister’s 100 days in office. How does that constitute “propaganda” or an undermining of the free press?


  21. Andrew I says:

    The impression given by the above article was that it was covered by a journalist present. Please call a spade a spade.

    A simple summary with a reproduction of the speech he was supposed to have delivered would have, for all intents and purposes, sufficed.

    The damage done affects not only your own credibility, but also that of the person who was supposed to have delivered it.

    I am greatly saddened by such a turn of events, as I had hoped that The Nut Graph would have been able to reach much greater heights.

    Editor’s note:

    Thanks for raising that, Andrew. Sure, it would have been much clearer if we had stated in the report that the speech was made available to us. That would have prevented the misperception that our journalist was present at the talk. I’ll be sure to update the story as per your suggestion.

    However, it is not unusual for the media to use speeches which are made available to us to consider processing as a news story. For a variety of reasons, such as using limited newsroom resources as efficiently as possible, we do process such speeches for our news reports. Ideally, the reporter should check against delivery, but in this particular case, I was told that the speech was delivered as per what was given to us and had no reason to disbelief Zaid’s office.

    At any rate, our report was not inaccurate. People who did attend the talk may have remembered different aspects of what transpired, or understood it differently, but no news report gives the reader the full picture anyway. At best, any news report only captures a snapshot of what happened as accurately and fairly as it can.

    In any case, I think The Nut Graph has been accountable in explaining how the story came about and in addressing some of the legitimate concerns that have been raised about how we went about getting this story. We’re not perfect. We didn’t promise to be. But we did promise to be accountable to our readers, and I believe we have to the best of our abilities.


  22. getintouch says:

    “I was told that the speech was delivered as per what was given to us and had no reason to disbelief Zaid’s office”

    You mean, Zaid himself told you that? Or a third person who was not there to hear Zaid’s speech…. Kudos again to press freedom… This is good propaganda….

    Editor’s note:

    The reporting was not inaccurate. Neither was it fabricated. If it turned out to be inaccurate, we would have immediately taken measures to be accountable for an inaccurate report. But as it turned out, even though we were not there to listen to Zaid’s speech, we did accurately report on what he presented.

    Perhaps you’d like to spell out what your standards for good journalism and a free press are instead of repeating your criticisms under different pseudonyms?


  23. propaganda says:

    Presents facts selectively, to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented… Kudos to The Nut Graph.. for their slick propaganda….. Good news to free press….. We need more propaganda to confuse people… so that in the end… Press freedom will become another form of terrorism.

  24. Ritchie says:

    Mark Disney, I think you are barking up the wrong durian tree. Zaid has restated these comments and views a number of times, and I do not beleive that Deborah Loh has misinterpreted or read into the report that was handed to The Nut Graph. […]

    Zaid has been one good politician that has come out from the ranks of the Barisan orchard. And like all good trees, he has passed the test of infectious Barisan contagion. By that I mean the racist ketuanan [rhetoric] and the religous chauvinism that drives his former party. I wish him well and may he never apologise to any quarter for walking the talk.

  25. justitia says:

    Someone must ask Zaid why he withdrew his suits against Kelantan and Terengganu on the constitutionality of hudud laws. Zaid is a political animal – no more and no less than Najib, Anwar, Mahatir, Pak Lah and all the rest of them.

  26. Andrew I says:

    Thank you for your lengthy explanation, Jacqueline.

    I agree, no one is perfect. For example, I got my preps mixed up. It should have been: to all intents and purposes. A small error to some, but quite telling to an educated person.

    Even a small wound attracts the largest of flies, but as you quite rightly pointed out, any constructive criticism would be welcomed.

  27. Observer says:

    While Najib is talking about 1Malaysia, other Umno ministers, particularly Minister of Culture Rais, are going around the country preaching Ketuanan Melayu. Now, can we trust Umno?

  28. k c low says:

    Well said. Cheers.

  29. getintouch says:

    “Perhaps you’d like to spell out what your standards for good journalism and a free press are instead of repeating your criticisms under different pseudonyms?”.

    I did…but I’ve always been “censored”…. there’s always two sides of a story… but you people only interested in one side…The long history of Chinese civilisation always has Yin and Yang with them…. almost in every aspect of their culture… if one of them [is] redundant, thus need not be part of their culture…… do you think […] Chinese civilisation can last this long???.. So, I repeat this again for the [millionth] time.. please give fair, balanced and two-sided views .. this is [the] hallmark of good journalism….

  30. @getintouch

    If any part of your earlier comments were removed, it would have been indicated with […] to demonstrate that the editor edited out some parts. As it is, none of your comments were “censored” as you so claimed.

    The reason for that is because when it comes to criticisms of The Nut Graph, unless foul language is used, we generally publish a comment in full to demonstrate that we are neither afraid of being held accountable nor of being criticised where we fail to live up to the journalistic standards we espouse.

    The Nut Graph

  31. getintouch says:

    If any part of your earlier comments were removed, it would have been indicated with […] to demonstrate that the editor edited out some parts. As it is, none of your comments were “censored” as you so claimed.

    Used to put my real name last time when I commented, but I realize some people in TNG cannot take constructive criticism. [Sentence removed because it insinuates an individual’s identity without providing proof or other verification.] I did emphasize on the need to be fair, and provided two-sided stories of his reporting. But all of my responses to his remarks were censored, even though there is no foul language used. This let me to believe and conclude that TNG is almost always one-sided biased press reporting propaganda machinery.

    Editor’s note: We only ever edit comments as per our guidelines and policies, which are available for all potential contributors to read through on our website.

    Shanon Shah
    Columns and Comments Editor

  32. Mark Disney says:

    Hi Jacqueline,

    Thanks for your response and keep up the excellent coverage. I don’t think this is a big deal from the Oxbridge Society’s pov, it’s just that the NG report and what he said live didn’t quite match. We thought that someone must have been there to report on the event but accept that the speech came from his website – perfectly legitimate. It was quite a gentle slamming!

    Hi Ritchie, not sure which durian tree I was supposed to be barking up but don’t think I criticised Datuk Zaid. He came over as an intelligent honest broker who talks a lot of common sense (for a politician). I’m still not convinced though that he’s the answer to your prayers – his critics would say that he’s a multi-millionaire beneficiary of the NEP, a flip-flopping former Umno Minister expelled from Umno for alleged money politics (quite a feat) …

  33. Arion Yeow says:

    As a former journalist, I can relate to the difficulty of verifying reports. Sometimes, mistakes are made and we must own up to it.

    In this case, however, The Nut Graph did not make a mistake but investigated inconsistencies between the article and a comment. This created the impression that it did make a mistake and internet trolls jumped on it.

    I explore other news websites when I have the time but regularly visit The Nut Graph because I trust the reporters and editors there to do their best to provide balanced reporting, even when I don’t agree with their opinions on an issue. Keep up the good work.

  34. Man says:

    It’s really very scary when I woke up one morning only to discover that the very institutions established to protect the people have been eroded and are still being eroded with no solutions at sight. I hope I don’t see the day when our beloved country becomes a lawless state like that of our African counterparts.

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