Kita President Zaid Ibrahim has done it again! He has now decided in a rather dramatic about-turn to stay out of the forthcoming 13th General Election and back the opposition alliance, Pakatan Rakyat (PR), instead.
Yet, hardly weeks ago, Zaid couldn’t wait to turn up in Kota Kinabalu and declare that Sabah Kita, the local chapter, would field candidates in all 60 state seats and 26 parliamentary seats – including one in Labuan. He was brimming with supreme confidence on arrival at the airport. By a stroke of luck, reporters who had earlier gathered there for another function, covered his arrival too, no doubt “for old times’ sake”
Except in Sarawak, Zaid had also made some noises along similar lines – “we will contest many seats” - in Peninsular Malaysia. Sarawak watchers say, had he declared in Kuching that his recycled party would take on the Taib Mahmud regime in every seat in the state, the Ibans in particular would have "all died laughing".
East Malaysian rebuff
The poor reception in Sabah and Sarawak in recent days must have made Zaid come to grips with the political realities on the ground. His past popularity in the two states, during his Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) days, is now nowhere in evidence. He’s no longer feted like royalty in the two states and local reporters are avoiding him like the plague.
Zaid couldn’t get a crowd of even 20 people to attend his recent political ceramahs (lectures) in Kota Kinabalu and in the outskirts, and little wonder, given the 'newness' or his party and the baptism of fire in which it was formed after leaving PKR in a cloud of controversy.
So far, Kita has only been able to attract political has-beens. There was a time when 200 to 500 people would turn up to hear Zaid speak, wherever he went. These numbers must have gone to his head and persuaded him finally to quit PKR in a huff.
Zaid also had pretensions, at one time, to lead the 3rd Force in Malaysian politics. This was a no-brainer of an idea put in his head by some bloggers in Peninsular Malaysia and other bogus characters passing themselves off as cyber-journalists.
3rd Force and Waythamoorthy
Zaid saw the 3rd Force as ushering in a three-party system like in the United Kingdom. He flew to London in a great hurry and tried to get Hindraf Makkal Sakthi chairman, P Waythamoorthy, to support such a platform under his leadership. Waythamoorthy reportedly listened politely but didn’t commit himself. Waythamoorthy has been one disappointed man ever since Zaid quit PKR suddenly; dashing his earlier hopes that here was a man he could talk to in the party.
Not that it was national politics Waythamoorthy was keen on, but more so, he was in agreement with activists in Sabah and Sarawak that Malaysia needed a Malaysian Borneo-based a national coalition to compete with Pakatan Rakyat and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), both Peninsular Malaysia-based national coalition. The 3rd Force, Waythamoorthy agreed, would give meaning to the 1963 Malaysian Agreement and stand up for the autonomy promised therein to Sabah and Sarawak.
Any takers - would anyone dare?
Over in Malaysian Borneo as in Peninsular Malaysia, what has been particularly galling of late has been Zaid’s tendency to praise Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at every opportunity he gets. If he doesn’t get an opportunity, he creates one and comes out shamelessly in gushing praise of Najib’s latest gimmick or hype.
Since Najib didn’t take the bait as often as he expected, Zaid has decided to sulk in PR’s corner of the ring. It’s anybody’s guess whether there will be any takers, given that barely 3 months ago in September, Zaid had wanted to gon on a roadshow for Najib!
Meanwhile, in a statement posted on its website, this is Kita's reason for its sudden change of heart. "Whilst we disagree with some of the opposition’s policies, we believe that despite these shortcomings the opposition will not destroy racial harmony in Malaysia ... unity demands that smaller parties, such as ourselves, give way to larger political parties to ensure optimum results in the election,” it said.
The Daim factor
Zaid clearly needs to get together in politics and decide once and for all whether he’s in or out. If he’s in, he should stop vacillating and say what he means and mean what he says.
There are many doubts about him in the minds of the voters and ex-Pakatan colleagues. He has to clarify and clear up these doubts planted single-handedly by himself since the days of the old Umno.
For starters, Zaid cannot shake off the sneaking suspicion of late that he’s actually not his own man. This due largely to the fact that he was Umno's chief lawyer and from there had built the nation's biggest law firm. There has also been speculation that he’s a proxy for former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin.
Daim is the man who never became Prime Minister because his “kuda” (horse), Mahathir Mohamad, turned against him one day and soon after kicked him out from the Federal Cabinet.
One will never know for certain what actually brought Daim – the executor of Mahathir's hare-brained scheme to create Malay millionaires – to finally come to blows with the former PM. But Mahathir was the ultimate 'user'. He used issues with the same ruthless disregard as he did with people. And once done, he discarded them with impunity.
Party grapevine has it that Zaid had impressed Daim, when the latter was Treasurer of both Umno and Umno Baru. Zaid, the lawyer, it appears had a role to play somewhere in the accounting of the old Umno assets. Perhaps, this is why many in the party see a link between the two men.
Deliberately created chaos for Anwar
But whatever the merits or otherwise of the alleged Daim-Zaid association, it’s clear that this factor more than anything else drove the latter out from PKR although the excuse given was “the tainted party polls”.
No election is free from irregularities, even fraud, but the legitimacy of any election stems from the line in the sand: was any evidence of irregularity, or fraud, serious enough to affect the outcome of the result. If not, irregularity or fraud is not an issue. Zaid, as a lawyer, chose not to know and instead compromised PKR’s image by mindlessly alleging voting fraud at every opportunity and to the great delight of Umno.
If bygones are to be bygones, Zaid should for one apologise for imputing sinister motives to those were responsible for conducting the PKR polls late last year. it paved the way for Najib to go to town with his theories and allegations.
Eyeing slot in Pakatan?
Zaid should also state whether Kita plans to apply for membership in Pakatan and thereby establish his credentials and credibility. In a way, this will be a homecoming of sorts for him, whether he is accepted or given the boot.
Zaid should also clarify whether Daim is the grand puppet master behind his party. This factor, if true, will not go down well with Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto PKR chief and former deputy prime minister, who had also taken on Daim's job as Finance minister in the mid 90s.
The two men get along like oil and water, and Daim is believed to have been one of the masterminds behind the first round of bogus sodomy charges pressed against Anwar by the Umno-led federal government.
The bottomline is that Zaid’s and Kita’s support for Pakatan must be unconditional if it’s to be seen as sincere and worthy of consideration.
Everyone makes mistakes. To err is only human. But at this point in time, it’s more than a little difficult to accept that to forgive is divine.