Zaid Ibrahim has been hopping from one political party to another for the last 13 years. On Friday (Sept 16), he finally hopped back to UMNO, the same corrupt party he once had condemned till the kingdom comes. In fact, he quietly submitted his membership application at the UMNO headquarter at World Trade Centre on Aug 27 – just four days after Najib was sent to jail.
When the then-Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reshuffled his Cabinet after the 2008 General Election, he appointed Zaid as a Senator and a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of legal affairs and judicial reform. Plagued with scandals, especially the “Lingam Video Clip” brokering judicial appointments and promotions of judges, Badawi wanted to instill public confidence.
The new de-facto Law Minister tried to champion the restoration of judicial independence – even opposed Malay supremacy and the abuse of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA). Within days of his appointment, Zaid said the government had to openly apologise to former Lord President of the Supreme Court, Salleh Abas, for his wrongly sacking during the 1988 Judicial Crisis.
After criticising the arrests of opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) MP Teresa Kok, blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, and journalist Tan Hoon Cheng under the ISA (which allows detention without trial), Zaid resigned from the Cabinet on Sept 15, 2008. UMNO eventually sacked him on Dec 2, 2008 for attending opposition DAP victory dinner and PKR annual assembly.
Mr Zaid then joined the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in June 2009, only to quit a year later. Under PKR ticket, he lost the Hulu Selangor by-election in April 2010. He then contested for Deputy President in the 2010 PKR party elections. However, he withdrew his candidacy in protest over allegations of fraud and electoral misconduct. He subsequently resigned, citing his loss of confidence in the party.
After quitting PKR on Nov 15, 2010, Zaid formed Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (KITA) – a rebranding of the Malaysian Human’s Justice Front (AKIM) – in Dec 2010, but resigned as its president in 2012 amid internal squabbles. He later joined DAP in Feb 2017, claiming that “he will be able to reach out to Malay voters”. In Jan 2020, he was appointed Kelantan DAP chief, only to quit the party three months later (April 20, 2020).
There’s little doubt that he was one of the biggest frogs, if not the most active frog. But Zaid does not like being called a frog. Instead, he bragged that he was the only minister who quit on principle in the history of the country. He’s a lone ranger, unable to work in a team, and would throw tantrums before quitting – and hoped to be persuaded to stay as if he was the last principled politician alive.
Amusingly, despite in the business for decades, Zaid still hasn’t learned the rope of politics. When the going gets tough, he would choose the easiest way out – run away. He fantasizes a perfect and ideal party that would change to suit him, not to adapt himself to suit the party. He is definitely not a survivor. He wanted to become the one-eyed man in the land of the blind.
Still, his boastful claim that he was the only principled politician might still hold water – until he suddenly agreed to represent former Prime Minister Najib Razak in his final SRC International appeal and rejoined UMNO. His firm, Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners, was appointed by Najib on July 26 to represent him, but lost the appeal on August 23, leading to Najib’s immediate imprisonment.
It was not about why Zaid took the case and lost it, but rather how the top lawyer lost it that made him a laughing stock in the legal community. From the beginning, the purpose of appointing Zaid’s firm was part of Najib’s delay tactics to stay out of prison. Every Tom, Dick and his hamster knew it didn’t make sense for Najib to replace his hotshot lawyer Shafee Abdullah with Zaid at the eleventh hour.
When the defence’s request for “three to four months” to prepare their case was decisively and boldly rejected by a 5-member bench led by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun, Najib discharged Zaid’s firm from representing him in a tactical move to create a vacuum so that the ex-premier could whine, cry and bitch that he was without a lawyer to represent him.
Lecturing Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners, who in turn appointed Hisyam Teh Poh Teik as lead counsel, Tengku Maimun deliberately invoked Rule 6(a) of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978 which stipulated that an advocate and solicitor must not accept a brief he is reasonably certain of not being able to appear and represent the client on the required day.
Najib’s brilliant plan to drop his self-proclaimed hotshot lead counsel Shafee and appoints a new team of lawyers from Zaid’s firm to delay the final appeal, only to sack Zaid’s firm when the delay request failed – and saw the re-emergence (and disappearance thereafter) of Shafee in the court room – was enough to prove that Najib was as guilty as hell.
But the biggest surprise was the refusal of Najib’s top legal eagles – Shafee, Zaid or Hisyam – to even try defending their client by raising reasonable doubts in the Federal Court. Shafee had previously expressed confidence when they submitted 94 grounds in the Petition of Appeal on why the former prime minister should be freed of the charges of misappropriating RM42 million in SRC International.
Meaning Zaid was either ignorant that his firm had been played, or he was in collusion with Najib to deceive the judicial system with shameful delays just to save the crooked’s neck. As an experienced senior lawyer, it was both disgusting and comical that Zaid was clueless about Rule 6(a) of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978, as well as his inability to raise a single reasonable doubt.
Interestingly, as early as 2009, Zaid was cocksure of Najib’s corruption that the former Law Minister called on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) to make the right choice – by not appointing Najib Razak as the next prime minister. Zaid argued how then-defence minister Najib received RM400 million in “commission” for the procurement of Scorpene submarines.
Heck, for decades, Zaid trumpeted the involvement of Najib in the gruesome murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shariibuu, who was kidnapped before exterminated using military grade C4-explosive by Najib bodyguards. Private investigator and witness Balasubramaniam’s Statutory Declaration did mention about Najib having anal intercourse with Altantuya.
In 2016, at the peak of 1MDB scandal, Zaid mocked Najib, who said he was innocent and had nothing to do with the looting of 1MDB funds. Zaid said – “Someone who is innocent will not sack top government officers, dissolve the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), appoint a new PAC chief who talks about ‘cari makan’, block the auditor-general’s report and change auditors four times.”
Zaid also said – “Someone who is innocent will not limit police investigations to only certain aspect, sack the deputy prime minister, sack the attorney-general and others. When the prime minister said it’s a donation from Saudi Arabia, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission would reply: ‘Yes, it’s true’. This is not an investigation, but a cover-up. Covering up here and there. Sacking here and there.”
However, Zaid made a magnificent U-turn in June 2022. Suddenly, he said Najib was innocent. The lawyer said that he believed the former premier cum finance minister had been scammed by not only Jho Low (Najib’s partner-in-crime), but was also conned by Najib’s own top officials and top executives of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
It was no longer professional, but personal when Zaid, along with Shafee, accompanied Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor and their children to a pre-arranged UMNO special “crying” session at World Trade Centre on Aug 27 (the same day Zaid submitted his membership application to rejoin UMNO). It was a day to shed crocodile tears, and a chest-thumping session to bash the judicial independence.
It was also a day after UMNO demanded the government of Ismail Sabri to interfere – sack Attorney-General Idrus Harun and Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, as well as seek a royal pardon for Najib Razak, and immediately calls for the 15th General Election. Mr Zaid, the man with so-called principle, suddenly does not believe in judicial independence.
As Najib’s biggest cheerleader, Zaid’s bootlicking drama saw how he was like a cat on hot bricks the moment he heard Najib was sent to the hospital over dubious claims that the crook did not get his usual dose of medicine. He also falsely claimed that it was the prerogative of the Agong (King) in granting a royal pardon to the former prime minister.
That’s not entirely true. Even though the King has the power to pardon, the monarch can only act after having consulted or been recommended by the Pardons Board. Yes, effective 1994, after the Constitution was amended during Mahathir administration to clip the power of the royal house, it was no longer the King’s personal discretion to decide on the grant or refusal of a pardon.
Instead, it’s the Prime Minister’s Department that prepares a report for the Pardons Board. And the board shall consider any written opinion from the Attorney General. And both the PM and A.G. are not Najib-friendly. Meaning, King Sultan Abdullah cannot pardon any subject, including Najib, without the “consent” of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri, who saw Najib as his political threat.
This is precisely the reason why UMNO president Zahid Hamidi wanted PM Ismail Sabri to sack A.G. Idrus Harun. And this is also the reason why Zaid Ibrahim was willing to become Najib stooge, and has applied to rejoin UMNO. Betting that UMNO will win the next national election, Zaid is offering himself as the candidate to become new UMNO-friendly attorney general.
It was absolutely hilarious when Zaid said he decided to return to UMNO because he wished to help the party reform from within. Exactly what type of grass that he has been smoking? If he could not even reform under the relatively clean Badawi administration, what makes him think he could do it under an extremely corrupt and hostile UMNO government that fiercely rejects reforms?
The appointments of Harun brothers – A.G. Idrus Harun and House Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun – by former PM Muhyiddin Yassin have inspired Zaid to try his luck for the attorney general, especially after UMNO’s huge victories in the Melaka and Johor state elections. It also helps that Shafee, who similarly desires the post, but is facing money laundering charges, will not compete with Zaid.