PETALING JAYA, Feb 7 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today expressed hope that Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s membership with DAP would last longer than his stint with other Opposition parties.
Speaking at Zaid’s announcement that he is joining the predominantly Chinese outfit, the former prime minister said the culture of party hopping must be eradicated and replaced with loyalty, a crucial quality needed for any political party to succeed.
“I hope he will stay in DAP a little bit longer,” Dr Mahathir said jokingly at a packed press conference held at Zaid’s residence here.
“The problem is in this country, we have a race of frogs. These frogs, they like to hop here, hop there.
“When I try to catch one, they’ve already hopped somewhere else. I think we need to eradicate this culture,” he added.
Zaid first joined Umno, then PKR, and then formed his own party called Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita), but later stepped down as Kita president in 2012.
On the other hand, Dr Mahathir left Umno last year to form Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) after a fallout with the Malay nationalist party’s president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, whom he accused of corruption.
Today, the former prime minister said the notion of Umno leaders leaving the party to join DAP, a party he admitted to have previously purported to be anti-Malay, was no longer “weird” or taboo.
“Zaid, like me, was also in Umno but today he has joined DAP. But because today there are so many weird things that is happening to the country, so it isn’t weird that I am here today,” he said and gave as example the problem of corruption in the country.
Dr Mahathir then said he was wrong to have accused the DAP of Chinese chauvinism, saying the party is actually multiracial with many of its leaders coming from other ethnicities.
“I know I once accused them of being a Chinese chauvinist party. But actually, to think of it, the one that was doing most of the talking at the time was Karpal Singh, who is not a Chinese,” he said, causing the audience to laugh.
Karpal was the party’s former chairman and one of its most experienced Parliamentarians. He was killed in a road accident on March 29, 2014.
“But now I know that DAP is actually a multiracial party. It has leaders from other races too,” Dr Mahathir added.
DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang who was also present at the event said he was confident that Zaid will play a crucial role in the party.
The Gelang Patah MP also acknowledged that there were allegations that Zaid was a “prima donna”, and that he had departed from ally PKR in acrimony.
But Lim expressed confidence that the former federal minister would avoid the same misstep.
“I believe he can be a team player. We all learn and I am sure he will,” he said.
Zaid was the de facto law minister during the administration of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2008, but resigned from the post the same year in protest against a spate of arrests under the Internal Security Act 1960 (now repealed), causing him to be suspended from Umno.
The year after, Zaid joined PKR, and then contested the Hulu Selangor by-election in 2010. He lost to Barisan Nasional’s Datuk P. Kamalanathan, now deputy education minister.
He quit PKR later that year after pulling out of a race for the party’s deputy president post and formed Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita).
Zaid stepped down as Kita president in 2012 amid internal squabbles.
In February 2014, he offered to contest the Kajang by-election as an independent before withdrawing his candidacy less than a month later.