Saturday, October 11, 2014

Play ball or save credibility, ex-law minister Zaid tells Nancy

Published: 11 October 2014

De facto Law Minister Nancy Shukri was given the task of making unpopular statements on behalf of the government, and she did so in order to remain a minister, former cabinet member Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who resigned from government on principle, said in his latest blog post.
Nancy, a minister in the Prime Minister's Department, was not entirely to blame for her statement explaining why Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali was not charged for threatening to burn Malay Bibles, but she was also "playing ball", said Zaid, a former de facto law minister in the Barisan Nasional government.
"She wants to remain a minister and she is prepared to play ball, and to do what is asked of her.
"Compromising her credibility as a lawyer is not too high a price to pay. To each his own," Zaid said in his blog.
Zaid was in the cabinet under Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration but quit in September 2008 over disagreements with the administration on the use of the now-repealed Internal Security Act.
Drawing from his experience, Zaid said it was likely that the police and Attorney-General (A-G) had used Nancy to issue the statement as they were unwilling to face public ire over the case.
"Her explanation for why the government would not act against Ibrahim Ali for his call to the burn Bibles was probably not her own idea.
"Knowing a little bit about how our Cabinet works, I suspect Nancy did not prepare the statement, but was told to use it since she is the person in charge of matters of law in the Prime Minister’s Department," said Zaid.
He said police must have been aware the public expected Ibrahim to be charged with sedition or under other provisions of the Penal Code.
"The police, realising the potential public outcry over the decision not to prosecute (Ibrahim), passed the buck to the A-G. After all, under our system of government, the final decision rests with the A-G.
"But the AG is also a smart cookie. He is not a cabinet member, nor does he occupy a seat in Parliament. He doesn’t need to explain the decisions he makes. He is not accountable to anyone, other than the prime minister."
Zaid said "the smart cookies" in the government then did what they have always done: ask the de facto law minister to take the rap.
He said he had faced a similar situation when he held the same position in 2008.
"They tried the same tactic with me on the ISA arrests, the Lingam tape case and other issues in 2008, and expected me to defend the decisions made and issue their statements.
"But I stood by what I believed in; naturally, I was not able to stand for long in the post!" said Zahid, who had resigned from the Cabinet that year and was later sacked from Umno.
But, Zaid said, Nancy would never "say no" as long as she was a minister, and that she believed it was her duty to make statements that her colleagues in the ruling government told her to.
On Tuesday, Nancy had said in a written parliamentary reply that police decided not to act against Ibrahim over his call last year to burn copies of the Bible containing the word “Allah” because he was merely defending Islam.
Nancy said police concluded that his words were only directed at specific individuals, and were not a threat to the larger society.
She said this in a written parliamentary reply to Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng, who had asked if Ibrahim would be charged over remarks made in 2013 and if not, why.
The use of Islam as the reason not to prosecute Ibrahim has angered Christians, civil society and other Muslims.
Global Movement of Moderates CEO Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said the government could not use Islam as an excuse not to charge Ibrahim, as his threat was not in line with the religion.
“Based on the verses of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet, it is clear that the Minister’s argumentation does not reflect the true teachings of Islam and cannot be used to justify such statement from Datuk Ibrahim," said the former deputy higher education minister in a statement on Thursday. – October 11, 2014.

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