UMNO members in Isa Samad’s stronghold of Teluk Kemang in Negri Sembilan, a frontline state in the 14th general election, are still smarting at his five-day remand and the manner he was paraded public in the orange lock-up suit.
They did not like it one bit that Isa, the Umno Teluk Kemang divsion chief and a party veteran, was treated like a common criminal.
Their anger now is against the MACC and an Umno faction they suspect had a hand in getting Isa humiliated.
But for now, the grassroots leaders are not going to react. They are waiting for Isa to recover from his ordeal and return to Teluk Kemang and tell the members what exactly happened and where they should go from here.
During the 13th General Election in 2013, Barisan Nasional won 22 state seats while the opposition has 14 in Negri Sembilan.
‘He is helpful’
Teluk Kemang Umno member Halim Shah Abdul Rashid believes Isa’s arrest will not be an issue in the next election.
“People will still vote for Barisan Nasional as long as Isa is still around.
“He is here for the people. Always helpful, always around. Outsiders may not understand this,” said Halim.
His thoughts were shared by two Chinese men who The Malaysian Insight caught up with sipping coffee at a roadside stall in Lukut.
Speaking in halting Bahasa Malaysia, odd-job worker Soo Kho Kee, 68, said people in Lukut were very fond of Isa as he not only helped the Malays, but also the Chinese.
Soo recalled how Isa had helped him and the other 42 villagers of Kampung Batu 7 in Jalan Seremban to obtain grants for the land they had occupied for years.
“I remember what he did for me. He is a good man. He walks his talk unlike certain leaders,” said Soo.
“I thank him for that. Not only good with Malays but also Chinese,” he said.
Soo’s friend, Hoo Tob Ming, 65, pointed out that Isa had also contributed towards the construction of a Buddhist temple in the area.
Isa, who is the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) acting chairman was remanded for five days last week to assist MACC in their probe into the purchase of hotels in London and Kuching by Felda Investment Corp (FIC). He was Felda chairman when the purchases were made.
Isa’s troubles in Felda had become the stuff of gossip in Umno as early as 2014. Complaints were mostly about how Felda were poorly managed.
In Teluk Kemang, however, grassroot leader, Kamarudin Mohamad, 66, said it was very upsetting to see his well-respected leader being treated like he a criminal.
“I was there when they took him in and I was also there when they took him to court for remand. I was upset, it is the same feeling if something like this were to happen to your wife, husband or close family member. I was really angry,” said Kamarudin.
He added that Isa had yet to be charged and was only investigated, yet people seemed to have passed judgment on him.
Like a true loyalist, Kamarudin said Isa was a true leader and he would support what Isa decided to do next.
“Isa is a very popular Umno leader in Negri Sembilan. They wanted him out. This is Umno politics at its worst,” he said.
“There are powers within Umno to want to oust him. Why? I don’t know.”
He said Isa commands a lot of influence and respect among the grassroot members in Negri Sembilan. And this, he said, could have made some people very uncomfortable.
“Knowing Isa, he will tell his followers to stay calm and whatever happens, let him be the only one to face the brunt. He does not want his people to be affected by it,” said Kamarudin, adding that it was because of that the Umno division members were not overreacting.
Isa started his political career when he was in his 20s and had served in Jempol, Linggi and Bagan Pinang as state assemblyman and member of parliament.
He was appointed Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar in 1982 and held the position for 22 years.
Another Umno member, Zainuddin Yaokob, 54, said Isa should not have been disgraced and humiliated by MACC.
The Umno Kampung Paya Baru branch treasurer said he was against any form of graft but that Isa should have been accorded some respect and courtesy by the MACC.
“For Teluk Kemang Umno members, we want MACC to investigate thoroughly what happened. We welcome it so that the people will know he (Isa) is not guilty,” he said.
There are 13,000 Umno members in the Teluk Kemang division, and most, according to Zainuddin and Kamarudin, are 100% behind Isa.
To them he is one true leader that treated the people in the area fairly.