Embattled Port Klang state assemblyman Datuk Zakaria Md Deros finally broke his silence yesterday but kept mum on whether he would relinquish his Klang municipal councillor's post.
With a week left till the Nov 8 deadline to hand in his resignation, Zakaria, 60, pleaded for a stop to the "attacks" in the media.
Looking frail, forlorn and breaking down several times during the 4pm press conference, he admitted he made a mistake when he designed a "house (referring to the mansion) which might have been unsuitable for the low-cost housing estate" in Kampung Idaman.
"However, it was never my intention to boast or show off by building a bigger house which has been called 'Istana Datuk Zakaria' by some," he read from a 12-page statement at his current double-storey low-cost house in Kampung Idaman here.
"My wife and I merely wanted a more comfortable dwelling for our 11 children, seven daughters- and-sons-in-law as well as 11 grandchildren."
He added that the family had also planned to create community-centred rooms in the new house, including having a tuition centre, a surau and an activity corner.
"If our sincere intention had been misinterpreted, we apologise for not having properly explained our little contribution," Zakaria, flanked by sons Zainuri and Zul Hisham, read from his prepared statement.
"I thank those, including the media, for giving me guidance on the need to follow rules and regulations."
Halfway through the press conference Zakaria's hands trembled. He became emotional and wept openly.
He explained how the family had been rooted in Kampung Idaman for more than 30 years since moving from the KTMB quarters in Port Klang. He had been a railway gatekeeper then.
"We feel really close to the people here and that is why, despite our new prosperity, we still choose to remain here because we want to continue serving people here," Zakaria said.
"Together with other leaders, we have helped to build a mosque to replace the dilapidated surau, construct a sekolah agama rakyat and primary school."
However, he added that he did not want his "mistake" to be capitalised on by the Opposition, adding that humans made mistakes.
On allegations that he had purposely flouted the law, Zakaria said it was untrue to claim he had never submitted any building plan or not tried to get approval to build his new house.
Between Dec 12, 2002, and April 6 this year, he said, his architect had submitted a layout plan and obtained conditional approval to build the bungalow.
However, the application had run into problems, including the non-processing of the building plan by MPK because the architect did not pay the plan fee.
Further trouble came in April this year when the architect quit.
Zakaria said he has since appointed a new architect and done all the amendments to the building plan as required by MPK.
"In the meantime, I have voluntarily stopped work on the new house until MPK approves the revised building plan. I have also asked all the professionals involved in building the house to advise me so that I do not run foul of the law," he said.
Zakaria stressed he had never intended to abuse his position as a councillor and elected representative to bend the rules to his favour.
He also thanked the Selangor Sultan for his advice. However, Zakaria did not reveal what the advice was nor did he say if he would act on the advice, especially the Sultan's call for him to voluntarily relinquish his position as councillor.
He stressed that he had been unable to meet the Sultan when first summoned on Oct 20 because of ill health. He also failed to meet the second summons on Oct 23 for the same reason. He finally met the Sultan on Oct 28.
Zakaria said he met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Oct 29 at 10.15am at TUDM Subang just before Abdullah left for China.
"The Prime Minister advised me to be patient and find a way to deal with the problems," he said.
"I hope the explanation in this press conference will stop the bad impressions and speculations about me and my family."
Zakaria then apologised for not taking questions, saying he feared such a session would cause legal problems and further paint him as a black sheep.
Earlier, as the reporters gathered in his living room, Zakaria called out to familiar faces and shook hands with pressmen.
"Come on, I will issue a statement, and kakak (his wife Zizah Ngah) has made some food. It is still Hari Raya, please eat," said Zakaria, who is known for his charitable work.
He even took the press on a tour of his simple wooden home which he shares with his 11 children, in-laws, grandchildren and his 80-year-old mother-in-law Jamilah Zakaria.