GRASSROOTS Umno leaders in Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s old constituency of Kubang Pasu in Kedah still hold the former prime minister in high esteem, but believe the party must come first.
Umno members in the rural seat told The Malaysian Insight of their fond regard for Dr Mahathir, who was their MP for 30 years, despite a concerted Barisan Nasional campaign to get the people to hate the man.
“No matter what happens, no matter the situation, we still respect Tun Mahathir as a friend and former leader.
“But now, we have different struggles. He is now over there (in the opposition),” said Kubang Pasu Umno Youth committee member Saiful Nizam Mahmud.
“If I ran into him, I would have no problem shaking his hand and chatting, even though our struggles are now different.
“However, we are still loyal to our party. If you were to cut my body, I will bleed Umno blood – that’s how committed I am to Umno’s struggle.”
Another Kubang Pasu Umno delegate, Che Royah Abdullah, 66, said Dr Mahathir’s influence, although waning, was still visible.
“A lot of people in Kubang Pasu still love Dr Mahathir; it’s a shame that he left the party. I am very sad because if he was still in Umno, a lot of people would love him. He brought a lot of development to Kubang Pasu,” said the Kampung Gelung resident.
She credited Dr Mahathir for building a polytechnic institute and establishing Universiti Utara Malaysia in Kubang Pasu.
“Of course a lot of people love him. A lot of people also love Mukhriz, his son. Mukhriz is generous… he even takes care of the pondok schools. He always visits the pondok schools… he’s very good. Even a lot of PAS people like him,” she said in a thick Kedah accent.
She also attributes BN’s victory in Kedah in the 13th general election to Mukhriz
“But whatever happens, I will still side with my party. I am still loyal and support my party. And I don’t believe all the allegations Dr Mahathir made about Najib, because he always does things like this.”
Hafizul Zahari Othman, 36, of the Taman Mahsuri Umno branch, said “heroes come and go” when asked about his thoughts on Dr Mahathir joining the opposition.
“For 22 years, he and (wife) Tun Siti Hasmah made many contributions. We still cherish those memories and we still respect him, but the party comes first. We will defend the party, no matter what.
“But he still has influence. Even a 15-year-old kid knows him.”
But Hafizul downplayed any effect Dr Mahathir might have on Umno’s electoral chances in Kubang Pasu, saying that voters had matured and were not to be taken in by the former prime minister’s political games.
“The party always comes first. The priority is always Umno and the Malays.”
Saad Abdullah, the 65-year-old head of the Kampung Lembah Arang Umno branch, said he could not hide his disappointment when Dr Mahathir left the party.
“What he had said in the past now applies to him. He used to say Malays easily forget. In the end, it is he who easily forgets. We are disappointed because we are pure Umno members, we support the government.”
Like everyone else, Abdullah said he cherished Dr Mahathir’s contributions in developing Kubang Pasu into an industrial area, establishing institutions of higher learning and building highways.
Kubang Pasu Puteri Umno vice chief Nor Azura Mohamad, 34, is confident Umno will win the seat even with Dr Mahathir campaigning against them.
She said the thumping majority Umno garnered in the previous election was proof of this.
“Bersatu is not that strong in Kubang Pasu. Insyallah, we will not be affected. Johari Baharom got a 10,000-vote majority in the last election and the constituency has 5,000 more voters now.
“We can win if we retain our support. But we are unsure who these new 5,000 voters will support. But based on our research, so far, we are confident of winning.”
Dr Mahathir was Kubang Pasu Umno division chief from 1974 to 2004.
Under his watch, the district became an education hub with the establishment of UUM, Kedah Matriculation College, Darulaman Teachers’ Training College, Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Polytechnic, and Bandar Darulaman Community College.
He won the Kubang Pasu parliamentary seat uncontested in the 1974 general election, and held on to it until 2004, when he stepped aside forJohari.
Earlier, at the Kubang Pasu Umno Youth meeting, Umno Youth vice head Khairul Azwan Harun said any fight against Dr Mahathir must start from Kubang Pasu.