A man who carries a snake can end up being bitten by it

So Zaid Ibrahim is at the centre of a row because he apparently admitted liking a drink at one time.

Zaid always struck me as one of the most open minded members of the government and I was sad when he left because the Barisan Nasional needs reformers.

However two things strike me about this affair.  Firstly the BN never had anything to say about Zaid’s drinking when he sat on its benches.  Don’t tell me they didn’t know.  You don’t maintain a 20,000 strong force of secret policemen (let us call a Special Branch spade a spade – it’s a secret police force) and not have all the dirt on your allies as well as your enemies.

Secondly there is the old saying that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.  During my time in Malaysia I had numerous people, some of them senior figures with links to or even within BN, tell me that both Najib Razak and Hishammudin Hussein liked a drink.  More specifically the man who is now PM is said to appreciate a good whisky (and a good whisky is a thing worth appreciating).  As for his cousin the Home Minister, aside from his alleged boozing as a student, he’s said to enjoy a nice glass of wine (again a thing of joy).

It seems to be widely agreed that both men, especially when they are travelling abroad, are well rounded, clubbable and urbane types who enjoy a Western lifestyle.

Now one must point out that the allegations leveled against both men are no more than that.  I have never seen either man drinking nor do I have any reason to believe that the rumours are any more than that, however nor do I have any strong reason not to believe them.

It’s a risky route to take for the senior UMNO leadership.  They are not the ulama of PAS.  They don’t lead modest humble lives like Tok Guru and many of his colleagues.  They have no saintly credentials.  They don’t properly answer allegations of corruption.  Many are dogged by allegations of infidelity.  If they want to play the ‘more Islamic than thou’ card PAS holds a better hand and will whip them each and every time.

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