KUALA LUMPUR, 4 Dec 2008: The question on everyone’s mind now is which political party Datuk Zaid Ibrahim will join next.
But the former minister, who was sacked from Umno on 2 Dec, is keeping his options open, downplaying his political affinities for now, while not ruling out a return to politics in the future.
“There are many things I can do, not necessarily through politics. I want my independence to talk about things that are important for the country, and if it upsets some people, so be it,” said Zaid, 57, at a press conference today.
“I’m touched at the invitations from (DAP secretary-general Lim) Guan Eng and (Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim to join their parties. I say thank you and really appreciate their invitations. But I will not join any political party in the near future,” he said, adding that his break from politics had no timeframe.
Pakatan Rakyat leaders have been wooing Zaid upon news of his sacking. Anwar has said that he is comfortable with Zaid’s principles, while Lim said that DAP’s doors will always be open. Even PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat said Zaid was welcomed to join the Islamist party.
Asked which of the three opposition parties he found most appealing, Zaid said: “They all have their strengths. They’re all very nice people, they’ve asked me to join them but I will try my own way of helping the country for the moment.”
Zaid, the former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department until his resignation on 15 Sept, said he was not interested in any post that Pakatan Rakyat parties might offer him, even if he were to be fielded as candidate in the coming Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election.
He said he would focus on building him his youth-based non-governmental organisation, the myFuture Foundation.
“I want to work with young people to tell them the importance of democracy, of the rule of law, of having no racial prejudice. The foundation will help build the political future and maturity of the country.”
Zaid, who was with Umno for 23 years, said he considered himself relatively successful in the party, having won the Kota Baru parliamentary seat in 2004 which had been a PAS seat for 15 years. He was also Umno Kelantan deputy liaison chief.
Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said to watch for Zaid’s comeback by the next general election, scheduled for 2013 at the latest.
“For now, it doesn’t matter if he’s in any Pakatan Rakyat party or not to show that he embraces their ideology. It’s not about party association, it’s his practice of the ideology that’s more important. There’s no need to be partisan. Even Gerakan might try to woo him, since they share the same Bangsa Malaysia ideology,” Khoo said.
Zaid said if he was ever invited to re-join Umno, he would not do so unless the party changes. He said his expulsion showed all that was wrong with the party. “They cannot accept the idea of change. Why else are they so angry with me, what have I done?
“My attempt to articulate a new vision, a new approach has been misconstrued as rebellious, as straying from the party struggle.”
Zaid said Umno had become more ethnocentric, Barisan Nasional was no longer united, and continuing on this path would further harm race relations and the country’s stability.
“I doubt Umno can reform. But they will have a new leader in March, so I may be wrong,” he said, referring to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who will become party president.
He took a swipe at “double-standards” practiced by the party, which did not act against leaders who made racists remarks and who ridiculed and called for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s resignation.
Zaid had defended Abdullah against calls for the premier to step down, saying that other ministers, in particular International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who were unhappy with Abdullah should themselves resign from the cabinet.