Can Zaid’s prosecution spark a movement?


The former law minister is more popular than he seems, and charging him may be a big blunder.

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

Zaid Ibrahim was and is many things. He’s a former de-facto law minister who resigned out of commitment to principles, a former troubleshooter for the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat, a founder of a party he no longer has anything to do with, and he’s one of the most successful lawyers in the country. He’s learned, outspoken and urbane.

Some time ago, Zaid decided to take it upon himself to be Malaysia’s voice of reason. The voice of moderate Malaysia, so often buried beneath the avalanche of sound constantly erupting from both the government and the opposition, is found in the simple common sense Zaid offers amid the din of our various controversies and scandals.

Zaid has now been charged with the heinous crime of “intending to upset others” under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act. It appears that this “intention” is seen in his call for Prime Minister Najib Razak to be removed from office. The charge carries the maximum fine of RM50,000 or a jail sentence of less than a year or both.

No matter how you put it, he is essentially being charged for daring to criticise the Prime Minister, which should technically not be a crime in a democracy. After all, the Prime Minister is ultimately a public servant, an employee of the public, and the employer is entitled to express his dissatisfaction with the performance of the employee. It cannot be that we can only speak through votes. That is simply unreasonable. It is not how things should work in a democracy.

Zaid may have been a less-than-spectacular politician, but as a spokesperson for the silent majority, he has been a boon. There are many who would support him or at least give him due consideration should he decide to once more take on the mantle of a political leader. His opinion is valued, if not shared, amongst Malaysians tired of politicking.

He is like Malaysia’s favourite uncle, jovial and approachable, but sharp as a knife and capable of great feats of cognitive flexibility.