Reality sinks in for Isa


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 26 Jun 2005

ANALYSIS BY JOCELINE TAN

PETALING JAYA: Tan Sri Mohamed Isa Abdul Samad had regained some of his composure by the time the maghrib call for prayer pierced through the twilight air. 

He was back in his Port Dickson house after what must have been one of the darkest days of his life. 

His political career had virtually come crashing down around him. 

Just hours earlier, he had been informed that the Umno disciplinary board had found him guilty of money politics and campaigning during the Umno elections last year. 

His wife, Puan Sri Hazizah Tumin, had broken down on hearing the news. She is fighting an uphill battle against cancer and has been so ill that she weighs barely 40kg.  

In fact, it is he who has been seen consoling her since getting the bad news. 

The disciplinary board decision effectively stripped him of two key posts, that of Umno vice-president and Teluk Kemang division chief.  

As the top-placed vice-president, he was technically No. 3 in the party, after the president and deputy president, whereas the division chief post is where he gets his grassroots mandate. 

“I had to see him. He has lost everything,” said one of his supporters who had rushed to his house that night. 

Isa had been seriously shaken when his aide called him from Kuala Lumpur about the letter stating that he had been suspended for six years with immediate effect. 

The letter had been delivered to his Federal Territories Ministry office a couple of hours after Friday prayers. 

His press secretary Zamri Zainol Abidin had opened the letter and his hands shook when the implications of the contents sunk in. He immediately telephoned his boss. 

Isa was probably too shocked to say much. After all, he had appeared before the board only the day before. 

He merely instructed Zamri to cancel all his programmes. 

As news of the letter spread, his supporters began to gather at his house. He shook hands with most of them but did not say much. There were no speeches nor did he speak to the press. 

“Just write what you like about me. I don’t mind,” he said, as though the energy had been sucked out of him. 

Isa has come a long way since blazing into Negri Sembilan politics as its youngest Mentri Besar at just 33. 

He is now 56 and when he was moved to a federal post in the last general elections many wrote him off as an old horse put to pasture. But he surprised them by winning the vice-president post with the highest votes. 

The victory has been short-lived for the vice-president of nine months and the fall from grace a nightmare. 

He still has his Federal Territories Minister post but he has made no secret that he is ready to resign if he loses his appeal. When that happens, he would then, as his supporter said, have lost everything. 

The decision on Isa is controversial on a number of counts.  

For a start, he is the highest-ranking Umno leader who has been punished so severely for money politics. 

Then, there is the speed with which his case was heard and decided upon. Those who think well of the disciplinary board praised it for not further delaying the case. 

The severity of the punishment was also a surprise. Some thought that six years was too harsh, others thought it befitted the offence and offender. 

But the burning question of the day seems to be: Is Isa going to be the only big fish caught in the frying pan? 

There was no shortage of accounts regarding the campaign methods of others who had vied for supreme council and vice-president posts. It is perhaps this that most irks those who have been watching the Isa dilemma.  

Isa received a string of calls from friends and colleagues in Umno that evening. Some of them even offered to speak up on his behalf at the Umno supreme council on Thursday. 

But emotions aside, Isa’s punishment is seen as one of the strongest moves by the party against election malpractices.  

“This decision may give credibility to Umno’s campaign against money politics,” said Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Hamid Pwanteh. 

Others pointed out that such a bold and controversial decision was possible only because Umno had never been stronger, more mature and more stable than now. 

“It is a tough decision but it shows that the Umno president means business,” said Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin.  

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