Since Reformasi, more and more citizens have braved themselves to come forward and speak out against wrongdoing, but this is not apparent in the case of civil servants, who fear taking action which would affect their rice bowl.
Defiant, Major Zaidi Ahmad does not fit the same mould. Believing that he cannot stay silent about discrepancies related to the indelible ink used in the 13th General Elections (GE 13), he risks his freedom and career as a decorated soldier to fight all odds.
Major Zaidi Ahmad, 46, born in Kampung Permatang Tengah, Kota Kuala Muda, Kedah, is the fifth of eight siblings. His mother was a farmer and his late father was a bus driver.
His favourite subjects when in school were Math and English. But he was unable to complete his education in Institut Teknologi MARA due to financial difficulties.
He is married to a housewife, and blessed with four kids. His eldest is 20 years old and studies in Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (Unisza) in Terengganu. His second child is in form 5, while his third is in standard 3, and his youngest child is 3 years old.
From a family of soldiers
Zaidi joined the Armed Forces following in the footsteps of his father, who was also in the army. This was back in during the Emergency. He has two brothers who are also soldiers.
Zaidi himself is part of the air force, which he found attractive due to its challenging nature and the appealing salary.
“I liked the challenge and wanted to earn a good living to repay the sacrifices my mother had made raising us until we were successful. She raised us on her own by earning money from paddy farming,” he said.
Major Zaidi enrolled In the Royal Malaysian Airforce (TUDM) back in 1989 as a cadet and underwent training for a year before being promoted as a young lieutenant (Leftenan Muda) in 1990. After three years, he became a lieutenant, and four years later, a Captain and a Major six years after that, until now. He has recorded 1900 total flight hourse.
For Zaidi, his moment of success was when he served as a Malaysian envoy under the United Nations in Bosnia Herzegovina for eight months. He felt great pride in helping the war torn people in the country, whether Muslim or Christian. His work there continued until the country received independence and peace.
He believes strongly in the soldier’s code of ethics.
“ The army asks for its soldiers allegiance; and its first pledge is to Honour God and to fear Him”.
And that is his advice for all – so that you may be safe on earth and in heaven.
This is why the Major expressed feeling sad when he sees people who simply do not care about the country as long as their wages are in order.
He recalled his most bitter memories being the moment he was charged in the Makhamah Tentera only for telling the truth about the indelible ink which was used during the early stages of GE13.
“Why was I forced to court while the Election Council (EC) and the ink suppliers who cheated the rakyat remained unpunished?” he asked.
GE 13 was the second time the Major had gone out to vote. Before that, he was too busy with work, he said.
Explaining the differences between previous elections, he said, “During GE12, we had to write down our names and sign a form which will be put into the ballot box along with my vote. In GE 13, we did not have to do that anymore.”
Initially, I was pleased with the system; it seemed like Malaysia was becoming more transparent with the implementation of a permanent ink.
This was short-lived, when he found out that the ink used, was removable. His disappointment turned into rage, he said.
“The army, which is looked upon as a respectable entity in the eye of Malaysians are dragged into a scheme to cheat to the rakyat that the ink is permanent.”
He said that on voting day in TUDM Butterworth, he never thought that the ink could be removed easily,
“After voting, I logged on to the internet and found that my other friends from the army were complaining about the ease with which the ink could be removed from their fingers –but no one would dare speak up and reveal their identities. I tried washing the ink off my fingers with a hand wash and dish soap and found that it went off just in a couple of hours!”
“However, I didn’t make a police report that night.”
He said that he waited until after voting to see if the EC chair would reveal that the ink was indeed removable.
“That night (April 30 2013), the EC Chairman instead proudly announced that the initial voting was carried out smoothly without a single complaint that the ink used could be removed or washed off. He went on to say that the ink would last up to seven days!”
“I could not let this go – Malaysians were being blatantly lied to!”
He added that army men could not bring themselves to lodge a report out of fear for the authorities.
“I felt like I would have betrayed the rakyat if I let it go, because I’m being paid by the rakyat to do my job.”
He also expressed concerns about the repercussions on the real elections day to be held on May 5.
“I also felt like the ink supplier had cheated the EC by providing low quality ink .”
“As a Muslim, I am to be honest to the rakyat who place their faith with the army who are supposed to guard them from threats, whether foreign or domestic.”
“I knew that the armed forces would take action against me, even if to me, my actions were to honour my profession, especially what is known as the officers corp – or an elite group of soldiers who take pride in integrity, bravery, friendship (setiakawan), excellence and to put country and the profession before oneself, or even ones life.”
“Sadly, these remain as just sweet words because the elite soldiers now only value medals and ranks as opposed to professional principles.”
Following his report, he was instantly given a job scope that had nothing to do with aviation.
The people’s hero, the nation’s pride
Having to face losing everything that he had worked so long and so hard for as a soldier, the Major said that that he simple did not care and was willing to face to consequences for something he truly believed was the right thing to do.
“I don’t care about all of that because as a Muslim, I am confident that my livelihood (rezeki) would not be in the hands of men, but in Allah’s.”
“Let me suffer, as long as I can sleep peacefully knowing that I had fulfilled my duty to the nation and its people, and that I never let down the trust given to me as a warrior of the nation.”
His wife, and his Flait Sergeant Jamal, his subordinate, had both lodged reports along with him. Like Major Zaidi, Sergeant Jamal also faces repercussions from the military, albeit a lighter punishment as he said that it was done under orders from Major Zaidi.
This interview was published by Bersih in November last year, prior to the sentence meted out yesterday by the military court, where he was stripped of his position and duties for “not speaking to the army council before lodging the report”.
*This is a translation of the original article from www.bersih.org titled “Mengenali Mejar Zaidi, Wira Rakyat”