KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 - Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has made an impassioned plea to the King to not appoint Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister, and instead appoint someone else from Umno "to bring us back from the brink."
The former de facto law minister urged the King to used his judgment to appoint as PM someone who is "beyond reproach in his dealings both official and private," in a scathing attack on his former Cabinet and party colleague.
"A prime minister must have the confidence of the majority of the rakyat…For this to be the case there cannot be anything in the mind of the greater public that, correctly or otherwise, associates him with matters of criminality, wrongful action, improper conduct or abuses of power," he said in a speech to the Rotary Club here today.
Zaid's remarks will certainly put pressure on Najib as he prepares to take power first as Umno president next week before taking over from Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi as prime minister the following week.
The former minister's comments also come a day after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also piled on the pressure on Najib by saying he did not shine as a deputy prime minister and acknowledging the baggage he carries into the job.
In his speech, Zaid also made reference to what has been described as the kind of baggage that no other Malaysian leader had on entering office.
He has been linked on the internet and by political rivals to the brutal murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu although he has firmly denied involvement and there is no evidence to tie him to the death.
Najib's popularity rating also stands at just 41 per cent, according to a recent poll by the independent Merdeka Centre.
Zaid said that while he did not intend any accusation, he felt that Najib was not beyond reproach in the collective mind of the rakyat.
"The rakyat has doubts, fuelled by the unanswered allegations against him. It is not a mere trifle in the minds of the rakyat that despite a direct challenge from a member of parliament recently, the deputy prime minister remained silent," he said.
Zaid also cited the RM400 million in commissions reportedly paid by the Defence Ministry while Najib was minister for the procurement of submarines, and pointed out that Abdul Razak Baginda, the DPM's friend was an agent in the deal.
The Altantuya murder was also cited by Zaid, who pointed out that there were many unanswered questions which the public deserved to be told about.
He also described the recent power grab in Perak as an unmitigated disaster.
"They (the public) now equate him with the high-handed tactics that were employed to seize power.
"With all of this and more, how are we not to feel anxious? How are we to sleep peacefully at night?"
Zaid said that while the King is required under the Constitution to appoint the person who commands the confidence of the majority of the members of parliament, it is a matter for His Majesty's judgment.
"There is no constitutional obligation on His Majesty to appoint the president of Umno as the prime minister.
"There are still well qualified members of parliament from Umno who can be appointed PM to bring us back from the brink."