Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zaid Ibrahim: Resignation rejected

Zaid Ibrahim: Resignation rejected
By SHAILA KOSHY

KUALA LUMPUR: Senator Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who submitted a letter resigning as Minister, did not want to be a liability to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Umno.

He expressed this concern Monday in his letter of resignation, saying his views were often at odds with the those of the administration.

Abdullah confirmed in Terengganu last night that he had received the letter, rejected it and told Zaid to take off work for two weeks.

In his letter, Zaid expressed his concerns with how some of his more important recommendations had been received in Cabinet and with certain government actions, the latest being the arrests under the Internal Security Act last Friday.

On Sunday, Zaid had called for a press conference in his home state of Kelantan and railed against the use of the ISA against civilians, adding he was willing to resign for his views.

The maverick lawyer and outspoken former Kota Baru MP had not been fielded as a Barisan Nasional candidate in the March general election.

When Abdullah appointed Zaid as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department responsible for judicial and legal reform on March 18 the public took it as a sign the Prime Minister was committed to rebuilding public confidence in a judiciary that has had its integrity seriously questioned following the 1988 judicial crisis.

It was just last Tuesday that the de facto law minister announced he might soon become a full-blown Law Minister with the requisite authority and responsibility to help him effect legal reform.

“In fact, my own position will be reviewed to Minister of Law to give me more authority but that will take time.”

Zaid has had a bumpy six months in achieving his goals, not from want of passion or trying though.

The following were some of his recommendations for reform and their status:

*APOLOGY and restitution for the judges sacked or suspended in the 1988 judicial crisis - no apology from Government but awarded ex-gratia payments to the judges involved;

*SETTING up a Judicial Appointments Commission - although it was announced by Abdullah at a public dinner in April the proposal has been delayed following objections from certain Cabinet members; and

*RESTORATION of Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution relating to civil and syariah jurisdiction to its original wording - rejected because of objections from some Cabinet members and the Attorney General’s Chambers although the Chief Justice said the judiciary was in favour of such an amendment.

After he was sworn in as Senator, Zaid had told reporters he believed Abdullah’s confidence in him “was based on his will to have a transparent judiciary that will not give the people any doubt.”

“The prime minister spoke to me and he told me there is a need for justice, a reform of judiciary and to make sure that the rule of law stays. I understood that and I promised him that I will do that.”

And in an interview in Sunday Star on April 20 Zaid had emphasised he would not become a “minister who has abandoned his principles.”

On whether he believed he could effect change from within the Cabinet when even the Prime Minister was struggling to change the “third world” mentality in the Government hampering his plans for greater transparency and accountability, Zaid had replied:

“I believe the Prime Minister wants to bring change and so I believe I will be successful. Change takes time. Minds take time to change. Things are not as bad as they were. We just need more commitment.”

Yea and nay

Zaid should be applauded for holding on to his principles and resigning following his criticisms against the recent use of the ISA, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said in KUALA LUMPUR.

“We welcome his resignation. He is the first minister who resigned not because of corruption or private scandals, but for holding on to the principles of Rukun Negara -- which is respecting the rule of law, human rights and upholding the Federal Constitution.

“We hope Barisan Nasional under Abdullah learns from this,” he said, FLORENCE A. SAMY reports.

Lim urged the public to stand by Zaid who “is willing to give up his position because of his principles.”

“We also call on other Ministers and Barisan leaders who criticised the ISA to emulate Zaid’s move and resign as a matter of principle,” he added.

The call for others to resign was echoed by independent MP Datuk Paduka Ibrahim Ali in KOTA BARU, who said that others who disagreed with the use of the ISA should follow Zaid’s footsteps.

The Government cannot function effectively if some members do not toe the line, Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim, the Pasir Mas MP and a former ISA detainee, also proposed that to prevent the ISA from becoming politicised, an impartial committee should be formed to determine if the Act should be invoked.

The committee can be co-chaired by the Inspector-General of Police and the Chief Justice, while its members should also include representatives from the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/9/15/nation/20080915142546&sec=nation

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