Monday, September 15, 2008

Zaid insists on quitting Cabinet

Zaid insists on quitting Cabinet

By Shannon Teoh

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 16 - Datuk Zaid Ibrahim insisted today his decision to quit the Cabinet is final.

The de facto law minister stuck to his guns less than an hour after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi told reporters that Zaid had been asked to take two weeks off to reconsider.

"I am not tired, I'm just disappointed," Zaid told reporters, adding that the recent ISA arrests were a major factor in his decision.

However, he said he was not disappointed with Abdullah, as "within the constraints he was very supportive."

"He is facing all sorts of political pressure, so I don't want to be a burden to him," the maverick politician said, and agreed that Abdullah's ability to govern was being impaired by political constraints.

Appointed a senator in order to be made a minister after the March 8 polls which he was not nominated to contest, Zaid said the desired changes and transformation to the law and judiciary could only be carried out with the support of the Cabinet, the Umno supreme council and the Barisan Nasional.

He admitted that he received a lot of opposition within the ruling coalition which had caused him to think of quitting several times before.

He also slammed those who criticised him for not being a true champion of the Malays and Islam, citing Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman specifically, and rebutted by saying "that Malays and Malaysians will only benefit from the proposals I have put forward. It did not cross my mind to hurt my own. You can still be a champion for your race and think of the country."

"I'm facing a brick wall," Zaid lamented, over his attempts to convince other leaders that all races should have the same rights as per the Constitution.

One of the challenges he cited was the recent use of the ISA: "You cannot detain people just because you want to investigate. I did not expect that the government would find a journalist or an MP a threat to security."

But he apologised that he had failed to "convince those in authority and power to effect changes on how the government should move forward."

He was non-committal on his political future. When asked if he would consider joining PKR, he merely said that "I don't know PKR well. It's too early to say. I have an open mind and have not made any decision to join anybody."

He said that he had not been courted by the opposition. "The last time I was courted was 30 years ago."

Zaid, who used to head the largest law firm in the country that bears his name, said he plans to start a foundation to foster better racial ties in this country, adding it was unlikely that he would return to his practice as he would still be part of the Dewan Negara.

The former Kota Baru MP said it was difficult to see judicial reforms continue at this point but that after the Umno polls are held in December, a mandated leadership and a Cabinet reshuffle may allow greater room for the changes to take place.

Abdullah had said earlier today that the government was not dependent on one person alone in light of Zaid's resignation yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council commended Zaid's principled stand to resign over the recent ISA arrests.

"It is entirely appropriate that he distance and disassociate himself from these acts. In short, it is the right thing to do," Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said in a statement today.

"Our only regret is that the process of judicial and legal reform which the minister was putting in place will now face a serious setback... We regret that it may now be stalled indefinitely," she added. Malaysian Insider

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