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Facing graft charges and passport in hand, Zahid set to 'embarrass' Malaysia abroad, says veteran diplomat

Former Malaysian ambassador Dennis Ignatius also hits out at DAP, saying people will not be fooled by its defence of political appointments.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim with his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Putrajaya, Feb 27. Photo: Bernama
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim with his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Putrajaya, Feb 27. Photo: Bernama

A veteran Malaysian diplomat has warned that the decision to return Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's international passport will undermine Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's efforts to project his administration as graft-free.

Dennis Ignatius, who last served as the Malaysian ambassador to Canada, said the deputy prime minister appeared to be pursuing his own agenda instead of working for the success of Anwar's four-month-old government.

Given the multiple corruption charges against Zahid in court, he said the Umno president would be an embarrassment if he travelled to represent the Anwar administration abroad.

"What message will it convey to the world when the deputy prime minister of a government that is supposedly committed to good governance and fighting corruption is himself facing multiple charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of power?" said Ignatius, writing in his blog.

Last week, Zahid, who is facing 47 counts of corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering involving a charitable foundation, succeeded in his bid for the permanent return of his passport after the Court of Appeal allowed his request for the purpose of carrying out his official duties abroad. 

In the aftermath of the general election last year which resulted in a hung parliament, Zahid played a vital role in pushing through the support of Barisan Nasional MPs for Anwar, despite strong resistance from senior leaders who referred to Umno's stand against cooperation with Anwar and Pakatan Harapan component DAP.

Ignatius said Anwar would soon find himself in trouble as Zahid had proven to be behind efforts to destabilise state governments in order to tighten his grip in Umno.

He cited the role played by Zahid when "his henchman" in Sabah tried to overthrow the state government, as well as the recent replacement of the Melaka chief minister with his own man.

"What does it say about Zahid’s priorities when he continues to undermine the political stability that his boss the prime minister is working so hard to consolidate?" asked Ignatius.

He also criticised DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke for justifying a series of political appointments to government bodies, which saw Zahid's allies placed at important agencies such as Mara and Felcra.

"Loke and others might jump through hoops to justify Zahid’s appalling appointments but the people are not so easily fooled. All they see are conniving and unprincipled politicians who can’t be trusted to honour their promises and live up to their own ideals," he added.

He said Anwar needed to rein in Zahid, but warned of problems.

"Of course, Anwar needs Zahid and Umno to maintain a stable majority in parliament. To keep Zahid onside, the prime minister might feel he has to allow Zahid a free hand and give him some free passes, too, including the suspicious decision by the RoS to help Zahid avoid an internal leadership challenge and the surprising move by the AGC not to object to Zahid’s request for the return of his passport," wrote Ignatius, referring to Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail's decision to veto the Registrar of Societies' instruction to Umno to hold polls for its top two positions.