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Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, the man chosen by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leadership to contest in the upcoming Hulu Selangor by-election, is a political animal who cuts an interesting figure. Speaking from the smoking room of his plush home in Tropicana Golf & Country Resort, light-years removed from the Felda settlements and Indian estates he hopes to one day speak for, the former lawyer seems an unlikely choice for a constituency described by many as “cowboy country.”

But speak for the people he will. In fact, that is the only thing he will talk about. His idealism, tempered by our cynical national politics, is circumspect yet present. The sheen has since worn off PR. It is now seen as a fractious cluster of parties, bound by not much else than a common enemy, that has been rocked by defections, infighting and allegations of misgoverning and excessive politicking. His rhetoric seems pre-”tsunami” Malaysia.

But that is not to say Zaid does not have his heart in the right place. One outward sign on his self-professed love for the people is his tireless charity work — particularly for Foundation for the Disabled in Kelantan, a charity he set up — for which he gained a spot on Forbes Asia’s list of generous and interesting philanthropists.

He is also a strong supporter of an independent judiciary, despite the fact that his attempts to bring closure to the 1988 constitutional crisis were inconclusive. In fact, it was the arrest of three individuals in 2008 under the ISA which caused him to resign from his Cabinet post in protest, leading to his sacking from Umno and paving the way for him to join PKR.

Zaid has come full circle and is now one step closer to returning to the upper echelons of power, sent by Anwar Ibrahim to defend the Hulu Selangor seat and hopefully maintain the number of opposition seats in Parliament. Perhaps, like many of his would-be constituents who venture into cowboy country to make their fortunes, this is where Zaid will forge a new future for himself and the rakyat he feels so strongly about.


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