KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, once among the protagonists who lobbied against Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s appointment as prime minister, is now urging for undivided support for his leadership, and understanding in the difficulties he faces from his detractors within Umno.
In a blog posting on the coming Malaysia Day celebration, Zaid said Malaysians — especially the Chinese — should place their trust in Najib if they want the prime minister to be more effective in all aspects, including uniting a racially divided Malaysia.
He said if Najib were indeed an extremist, he would never have adopted 1 Malaysia but would have embraced Perkasa’s Malay-Muslim-centric ideals.
“On reflection, it’s always easier to criticise others when we are not in the hot seat ourselves,” Zaid wrote in the posting.
“He (Najib) is a reformer who needed to pace his efforts lest he became another victim of his own party,” he said, referring to Umno, the ruling party he quit from in 2008 after growing disillusioned with its direction.
Zaid reasoned that it was difficult for Najib to implement policies when there are “powerful forces” from within that are intent on slowing him down or derailing him off the course entirely.
“This is a man who must walk the tightrope at all times and you have to be in Umno to fully appreciate the difficulties he faces,” he pointed out.
Zaid cited some of Najib’s reformist measures as examples to prove the prime minister’s worth, such as the repeal of several preventive laws, 1 Malaysia, his economic plans and the newly-launched national Education Blueprint.
“I believe that beneath his skin he is a liberal and a democrat, despite his Umno theatrics that reject pluralism.
“He will not bring about racial discord nor will he condone racist politics. He will not issue ICs to foreigners to win elections.
“He is a moderate, which is rare for a Malay leader still holding power in Umno. His economic plans deserve support despite huge implementation problems that are sure to unfold in the coming years,” he said.
Zaid recently sang similar praises for Najib, saying that despite the persistent criticism against the latter’s purported lack of political willpower, he was still the country’s best man to unite a racially polarised Malaysia.
The prime minister had been severely criticised for his controversial statement blaming the Chinese community for the ruling coalition’s dismal electoral showing but according to Zaid, Najib has not shown any bias towards any particular race amid escalating tension between Malaysia’s two biggest ethnicity.
The former Umno man, who defected to opposition party PKR and left after a fallout with its leadership, also noted that Najib had displayed a balanced performance and moderate politics, citing as an example his “tempered” handling of ultra-Malay groups like Perkasa despite leading Umno, a party with a conservative Malay powerbase.
“PM is moderate in his conduct and remarks, and even his dealings with Perkasa are tempered. You must remember he is in Umno so he has to please other factions too,” Zaid said in a brief interview with The Malay Mail Online.
“The subject of racial polarisation is quite a serious subject, a challenge we have to take. I still think he is the best person to deal with this subject.
“Judging from how he handled issues in the past, his temperament, he is more suited,” he added.
Racial polarisation in Malaysia has worsened in recent years and analysts have linked this to the ruling coalition’s struggle to avert a stronger opposition by exploiting racial issues.
Tension heightened after Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN) failed to win a parliamentary supermajority and lost the popular votes in Election 2013 as Umno’s far right blamed the coalition’s record losses on the Chinese.
Najib had recently said he would embark on a national reconciliation programme but the idea has been met with much scepticism in light of the continued attacks on the Chinese community.