I did what I had to for my country, says airman sacked over indelible ink claim

Major Zaidi Ahmad, who disclosed the inefficacy of the indelible ink in the last elections, with his family after being found guilty in a military court, January 12, 2015. — Picture by Ida Lim
Major Zaidi Ahmad, who disclosed the inefficacy of the indelible ink in the last elections, with his family after being found guilty in a military court, January 12, 2015. — Picture by Ida Lim

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — Despite being discharged from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) for questioning the integrity of the indelible ink used in Election 2013, former airman Zaidi Ahmad says he has no regrets over his actions.

On Monday, a military court found Zaidi guilty of misconduct for publicly complaining about the inefficacy of the indelible ink used in the general election, bringing an abrupt end to his 26-year career as an air force pilot with the rank of Major.

He was also found guilty for publishing an article without the consent of the Defence Ministry, and revealing the contents of official documents on the indelible ink without authorisation from the Malaysian Armed Forces Council, and was subsequently discharged from duty.

To the authorities, Ahmad may be viewed as a disloyal soldier who was insubordinate, but to the general public, the father of four has been hailed as a true Malaysian hero.

“I did what I had to do for my country and I will continue doing it,” Zaidi told Malay Mail Online in an email interview.

“As a responsible citizen, I must always strive to help the nation and its people to fight for justice and truth, combat lies, misappropriation and corruption,” he said.

Recalling how he summoned up the courage to expose the indelible ink issue, Zaidi said several of his former military comrades had been arguing and complaining online anonymously, on how the ink did not really remain for as long as the Elections Commission (EC) claimed it would.

Since none of the complainants dared to step up and substantiate their claims with proof, Zaidi felt he had to do it himself.

“So, I washed my finger with mere dishwasher soap and hand sanitizer, which were available at my work place.

“I then continued to wash at home and the ink truly did fade and left no trace! My wife who had voted with me that day then tried it on herself and she, too, saw similar results.”

Zaidi said he initially thought what had happened was a genuine technical glitch.

But his patience wore thin after the government made no effort to investigate his complaints on the matter.

“An announcement by the Election Commission chairman that same night that the indelible ink usage was a success because there were no reports claiming otherwise seemed like a call to me to then report that the ink on mine and my wife’s fingers were not at all indelible and can be washed off,” he said.

Zaidi said as there were no specific directives or orders from his superiors on the issue, he and his wife made the first move — which he felt was the safest — by lodging a police report on the ink.

He said he had also urged his military colleagues via text messages that night to step forward and “do the right thing”.

Zaidi alleged that his superiors, after learning of his intention to lodge the report, had also tried to stop him.

“But I was clear that this is my right as a voter who felt cheated by the EC and had nothing to do with my position as a military man,” he explained, saying that he would rather be sacked for telling the truth than keeping silent about the indelible ink issue.

“So, it is better that I quit or be sacked and find another job rather than being included into filthy matters like this,” he said.

Zaidi said that he joined the airforce to seek a “halal” income to support his family.

“My mother was the only one left to fend for her eight children after my parents divorced. My father left for Kuala Lumpur to become a bus driver thereafter, where he met and married a local there and had his own family.

“She however was left taking wages working off peoples’ paddy fields and did many odd jobs around the village. I wanted to give this woman a good life in her old days. I was also fuelled to serve my country and contribute whatever expertise I have,” he said,

Zaidi said it was an honour to have been picked by the air force.

“I am proud to have been able to contribute to my country from a very dangerous and challenging field.”

Indelible ink was introduced in Election 2013 as one of the main safeguards against repeat voting, but the scandal surrounding its easy removal transformed it into a symbol of the widespread electoral fraud allegedly perpetrated to keep Barisan Nasional in power.

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