What Zaid should do

TK Tan, The Micah Mandate

I have watched Zaid with interest since his efforts to restore judicial integrity as a minister in Abdullah’s cabinet. I like it when a man tries to do what he thinks is right and when he finally resigned from the cabinet after realizing that he was not going to get anywhere with the reforms he wants to introduce, I thought that he certainly has a role to play in the struggle to put Malaysia back on the right track.

When he joined PKR I was ambivalent. One thing that I felt about Zaid is that he seems to be a political neophyte. Like many idealists the compromises that are necessarily a part of the political process, the idea of winning small battles in order to gain position for the larger war, the patience to deal with the diverse interests and agenda of numerous people and channel them to a common and worthy cause, are not appreciated and are often held in disdain.

I liked that he was tasked to draft PR’s policy platform, an intellectual exercise that he can contribute to. I thought he could play a quiet role to interact with the different partners in the coalition and forge an intellectual basis for cooperation and future policies, especially with respect to very thorny issues. As a muslim, a lawyer and an intellectual, he seems very well placed to do this and if he is able to make substantial grounds in this area, he would have made a very important contribution.

Standing as a candidate in Hulu Selangor was a bad mistake. Zaid’s appeal is to educated, thoughtful people who will appreciate his positions. Hulu Selangor would largely be about bread and butter issues. The people there would have responded better to someone from the area, someone more familiar with the challenges faced by people in this social strata. Someone they can identify with and trust would understand their needs.

Standing for PKR deputy presidency tells me that his eye is on the wrong ball. Hulu Selangor could be just a test of his electability but throwing his name into the hat for the deputy presidency tells me that position is important to him. But worse than that is that he is vying for position without having paid his dues working for the party. It tells me of a mindset of a person who believes that he deserves something just for being who he is. After all, he has just joined the party for less than 18 months.

Quiting the race, resigning from all party positions and complaining that the party leadership condones electoral fraud and election malpractices is consistent with my view of him as a political neophyte who approaches issues with an “all or nothing” attitude.

Perhaps I am wrong and Zaid is all about playing the hero, wanting position and recognition. Or perhaps he has been influenced by others who have their own agenda and want him to be their poster child. My view is that we do not have many people who have publicly made hard decisions on principle, who have articulated ideas and principles that put the greater good of the country ahead of a narrow personal agenda. Those who influence the outcome of this episode should think hard about how to help this man contribute to our struggle to reform Malaysia, for the sake of the country.