Oct 11, 2008

Zaid : No reforms as long as Tun Mahathir is around

Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim says Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s impending rise to become Umno president and Prime Minister marks the return of “Mahathirism”. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he said, will become Malaysia’s “de facto PM”, standing behind Najib.

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will not be able to institute any crucial reform as Prime Minister as long as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is around, claimed former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

“The 2004 election manifesto is history,” said Zaid who had been appointed minister specifically to work on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s promise to reform in stitutions of government, improve accountability and transparency, and strengthen the Rule of Law and independence of the Judiciary.

“Najib is smart and articulate but to change the course of Umno, he has to be brave and why would he take such a risk.

“Second, even if he wanted to, he would not be able to do it with Dr Mahathir around,” he said.

Asked whether that was because he thought Dr Mahathir was powerful or had a strong influence on Najib, Zaid - who resigned from the Cabinet recently after journalist Tan Hoon Cheng, Member of Parliament Teresa Kok and news portal editor Raja Petra Kamarudin were arrested under the Internal Security Act - said:

“He (Dr Mahathir) has a large group of friends, otherwise the Prime Minister (Abdullah) would not have been ‘thrown out’ just like he wanted.”

“Mahathirism was all control, control, control. He has a strong influence on the top Umno leaders who had to choose between doing his bidding or facing his wrath.

“So many in Umno are bound to the old, making it difficult to abandon old values and principles.

“Especially when if you allow for more democracy, you lose some control.

“I don’t see it (major reforms) happening but I hope that Najib will prove me wrong, for himself and for the country’s sake.”

On his recent comment that Najib has never talked of reforms, when asked why a deputy prime minister would need to do so when the agenda is set by the Prime Minister, he replied: “Yes, but after the Prime Minister talks, shouldn’t the deputy strengthen it with his own comments?"


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