I have been wondering about Zaid’s remarks on the 1988 Judicial Crisis. Has he really turned over a new leaf compared to the immediate aftermath of the 1988 crisis, especially in the light of his statements that he has apologised?
This report from The Star:
Zaid: I never endorsed Lord President Salleh Abas’ dismissal
By SHAHANAAZ HABIB
KUALA LUMPUR: Minister-in-charge of law Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has denied ever supporting the sacking of Lord President Tun Salleh Abas in 1988.
“In fact, I say to you today that it was not right,” he said.
However, as the Muslim Lawyers Association president then, he had said that it was legal, according to the Constitution, for Tun Hamid Omar, Salleh’s number two, to chair the tribunal set up to try Salleh.
But while Hamid’s appointment was legal, it was morally wrong and a conflict of interest for Hamid to have accepted the tribunal chairman post as he had stood to gain from Salleh’s dismissal, said Zaid.
“Whether he used that position to benefit from it only God knows,” he said yesterday at a press conference.
In 1988, Salleh as Lord President wrote to the King on behalf of all judges expressing disappointment over the then prime minister (Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s accusations against the judiciary.
Salleh was then suspended and sacked by a tribunal chaired by Hamid who later became Lord President.
Zaid said yesterday that he had opposed the Bar Council’s boycott of Hamid as Lord President then but stressed it would be wrong for anyone to construe that as his endorsement of Salleh’s dismissal.
“I don’t recollect ever having said that the grounds of dismissal were fair or just.”
A friend of mine said Zaid’s comments reminds him of Bill Clinton’s response to whether he smoked marijuana when he was young: he said he took puffs of it but did not inhale!
Okay, he has apologised – but Zaid is being a bit disingenuous here. He should have known that Hamid would benefit from his position on the tribunal then. Any independent observer would say that Hamid had to know that if Salleh was sacked, he (Hamid) would take over as Lord President. It was as simple as that. And Mahathir – along with the challenge to his position within Umno – was instrumental in triggering the whole crisis, no doubt about that. Anyway, let’s wait and see what Zaid has in store for the judiciary.
A political analyst friend of mine wrote a response to my recent Asia Times piece, which I have adapted into an interview format:
Q: Should we rely on Zaid to reform the judiciary?
Analyst: People can change, and that’s good. But it does appear that too many have forgotten Zaid’s early incarnation as the Muslim lawyers association president. It was then a breakaway faction from the Bar Council, constituted on racial-religious lines. And I don’t think it an accident that Sulaiman Abdullah has welcomed his remarks most warmly, including the remark of his intending to stay around for a long time to see through the reforms — that’s a comment left by Sulaiman on the Bar’s website carrying the report on Zaid.
I think we should call for the tribunal proceedings to be released in full. That would be a start.
What do you think of the proposed regional economic corridors? Are they a more effective alternative to Mahathir’s model of development and all his mega projects?
The Corridors — they are the ultimate in patronage/corruption. We think Mahathir’s mega-projects were bad? They are nothing compared to these Corridors. Don’t know about SJER and NCER, but there wasn’t even a proper study done for Score (the Sarawak one); it just came out of the blue. ECER was done by Petronas in-house, by someone who really isn’t equipped to do the necessary background work.
And we are committing RM1.2 trillion to them! The strange thing about the Corridors is that I’ve been trying to find out who the consultants were — heck, they call in consultants for smaller things — and it seems no one knows. Also been rummaging around to get hold of the background technical reports; again, no luck. So maybe they just don’t exist.
What are the chances of Abdullah pushing through meaningful reforms to improve his – and Umno/BN’s – present dismal position?
Come on — if he didn’t, or couldn’t do it, when he was riding high with that huge mandate, there’s no way he can do it now. Look at Mahathir, who was a much more tough-minded character — after he was weakened by the Anwar affair, he was a lame duck, biding time. All the earlier moves towards dismantling NEP restrictions came to a screeching halt.
Is Abdullah more open to press freedom than Mahathir?
…what i heard was that (during Abdullah’s tenure) there were more instructions to the editorial rooms on coverage of stories than ever before. In Mahathir’s time, it wasn’t so much instructions, as that either people had been removed — serving as examples — or else there was just all this second-guessing and of course the closure (of more independent-minded newspapers) in 1987 to serve as instruction.
What do you think of Anwar forcing a by-election after his ban on politics expires in April?
I think we should say no to anyone stepping down to force a by-election. These things are costly affairs. Let him bide his time, spend it providing the leadership to pull together the state governments, setting the overall tone. Then next round he can go in, or if there’s a necessary by-election.
How was it those in the BN were unaware that they were heading for a major setback? Didn’t they know?
(I) just heard from someone (who chatted with someone close to the ruling elite just before polling day that)… (those close to the top felt that there) was no way they would lose the two-thirds (majority). They knew Kelantan was gone, but that was it.
… the content of that conversation bore out my earlier fears that this was a dry run for Umno going it alone. They thought they had the Malay vote — somehow they couldn’t read it — and (there was this view held by certain quarters) that in ten years time, the Chinese would only be (a much smaller minority) of the population.
… perhaps that shows up their incompetence — but it’s indicative that they were calculating that even without the Chinese vote, they could do it. Their calculation was that they would have 40 per cent of the Indian vote — and it appears they weren’t far off overall — and 40 per cent of the Chinese vote — on which they were optimistic. They figured the top MIC guys would go, but figured the MCA and Gerakan guys would pull through.
Problem of course is that global percentages are useless in elections, as each seat is fought on its own. So they probably got 60 per cent of the Indian vote in Johor and possibly in Malacca and Negri Sembilan, but in the seats in the rebel states, where Indian votes played a big role, they generally got less than 40 per cent.