Zaid Ibrahim and the perils of speaking one’s mind - - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Malaysiakini : The only real radicalism in our time
will come as it always has - from people who insist on thinking for
themselves and who reject party-mindedness.” - Christopher Hitchens, ‘Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left’
COMMENT | I have no idea how this
saga with former minister Zaid Ibrahim and his persecutors will end.
When the last principled politician spoke truth to power, he made two
statements that sum up the mess we are in now:
1. "I hope the royalty will not delve in politics. If it does, then it must be prepared to be criticised for whatever they say."
2. "The question of being anti-royalty does not arise. The Tengku
Mahkota of Kelantan saw it fit to descend into the political arena by
making a statement early this month that the non-Malays should not ask
for equal rights."
These are two powerful statements of principles from the late Karpal Singh.
The irony is, of course, Zaid said more or less the same thing when he responded to the Selangor sultan (photo).
For his defence of the former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he
invited the usual charges of being anti-Malay and anti-royalty. He also
discovered that he had no “friends” in the opposition who were willing
to stand with him in his time of need.
When Tony Pua claimsthat
Selangor DAP has “no position” on this issue, it is complete horse
manure. A member of your political party makes a provocative statement
and DAP has no stand on this issue, and going so far as to declare that
his statement does not reflect on the party in any way because he is not
an office bearer. Does this make any sense?
Either you disagree with the statements Zaid made and make it clear
that DAP does not condone engagement with the royalty this way – which
would be strange - or, you delicately phrase a response which does not
make you sound like an arrogant political operative who just wants to
save the party's skin. It does not matter if Bersatu Youth wants Zaid to
apologise, which is at least a position taken but rather that Zaid is
from your party and has defended DAP numerous times against the assaults
of the establishment and their proxies.
Partisans claim that getting involved in this dispute is just falling
into an Umno trap, but the reality is that, Umno will always use
provocations to paint the DAP as anti-Malay. Pua’s statement is more
damaging than anything Umno can do because it makes those Malays who
stick their neck out realise that they will not receive any support for
their efforts. They will only be used as window dressing when it suits
the purposes of oppositional political elites and thrown to the hounds
when they make statements that most feel are right but are politically
In addition, what does “would have to deal with whatever
repercussions that come” mean? Zaid is being vilified by the outsourced
thugs of Umno. He has been threatened by establishment figures and
harassed by the same people who claim that DAP is anti-Malay and wish to
destroy Malay institutions, and the best DAP can come up with is to cut
Speaking truth to power
Imagine if Zaid had said the same thing when DAP political operatives
incurred the wrath of establishment figures for making provocative – in
the Malaysian context – statements. Imagine if he played the game like
Amanah, Bersatu and PAS instead of clearly articulating his stand on
issues such as race and religion, which many Malays actually subscribe
to but are afraid to voice out. Come on, anytime there were religious
and racial provocations, Zaid was the first in the fight defending the
secular and constitutional rights of all Malaysians.
When I interviewedZaid (photo),
he said – “I always believe it's better to state the right positions
clearly and unambiguously on core delicate issues even if it means we
have to ‘lose’ some support in the beginning. Politics is not just
winning; but about doing the right thing. Long-term goals are equally
The problem here is that people think that by cutting Zaid loose, it
absolves them from this fiasco. But the real problem is that every
Malaysian who wants to save Malaysia is part of this problem. We were
part of this problem when Karpal spoke truth to power and we are a part
of it now. Yes, the establishment is going to vilify you. They are doing it
already. But now every Malay who understands that he or she needs to
speak truth to power will understand that if they belong to DAP, they
are on their own. This is far more damaging than anything the
establishment can do.
And for establishment types, the narrative will be that Zaid got what
he deserved by joining the “Chinese” dominated DAP, who only used him
to run down the Malay community. Right now, they are shovelling great
huge dollops of schadenfreude down their mouths. I know, because some of
them call me gloatingly about Zaid’s latest “blunder”.
If I were DAP, I would have just issued a statement along these lines making three important points:
1. DAP prays for the safety of Zaid and his family. 2. DAP does not believe that Zaid is anti-royalty or a traitor to the Malay race. 3. DAP respects the royal institutions of this country.
This would have been the honourable thing to do. I have no idea what Zaid will do now. Seeking protection from the man
who advocates kenduri kendara gangsters seems tragic but understandable
under the circumstances. In this climate, Malay opposition
personalities get it worse and Zaid has done enough for the opposition.
An Umno friend told me, even though there may be no evidence that Umno
is still strong, but Umno can still take down the opposition.
The coming days will see changes in the narrative. Zaid will either
become a symbol of saving Malaysia or an object of derision. Either way,
he is still not going to have any friends in the political elite.