Federal Minister Isa Samad Out!

June 24, 2005

Dear Bakri:

Once touted by local political pundits and observers as the man to watch after his stunning victory in the last Party Elections, Tan Sri Isa Samad has fallen from grace following the guilty verdict by the UMNO Disciplinary Board yesterday. In the party’s election, he garnered the highest number of votes in the race for one of the posts of Vice President

He faced nine charges, all related to “money politics,” and was suspended for six years pending an appeal. Also suspended were his Political Secretary, M. Salim Sharif (for three years), Raub Division and Pahang ExCo member, Dato Shahiruddin Abdul Moin (also three years), and Pandan (KL) Division Deputy Chief Jamaluddin Ropa (two years), all on the same “money politics” charges.

In addition, Dato Shahrir Jalil, Lembah Pantai Division Chief and brother of Minister of Women Affairs Dato Shahrizat Jalil, was suspended for three years for contravening the party’s code of ethics during the same election. Our good friend, Dato Zaid Ibrahim, was also suspended for three years for his outburst against the Disciplinary Board. This may be a bit harsh on the face of it, I thought. He also received a warning over money politics, probably due to the lack of solid evidence to punish him.

It is tragic that Isa Samad, who entered politics by joining UMNO at the age of 23 in 1972, will see the end of his illustrious career with his supporters drifting away from him in droves seeking new patrons. Such is the nature of politics. A six-year suspension is like forever in politics. He has the right to appeal, but it would take a diehard optimist at this time to think that the UMNO Disciplinary Board, which comprises some of the well-known and respected Malay legal brains in our country, will reverse its guilty verdict. Would the UMNO President intervene in this matter, and grant Isa a reprieve? Not likely, in my view.

It is quite obvious to me that there is now an ongoing purge within UMNO to clean its image ahead of its July General Assembly. It is a fact that some UMNO top leaders and others down the line have been flouting the party rules in their quest for political power and the financial benefits associated with such power. Tun Mahathir unfortunately allowed this to get out of control.

The actions taken by the present UMNO leadership could not have come at a better time, given efforts by PAS to remake itself as a progressive and liberal party that would appeal to all Malaysians and with an agenda for clean, open and transparent Government. PAS is trying to steal Pak Lah’s agenda. UMNO’s latest move has stalled the pace of PAS resurgence momentarily.

How far down this cleansing exercise will go remains to be seen. At least one can say to the credit of Pak Lah that he has finally taken drastic action against elements within his party who engage in money politics. This house cleaning exercise will enable him, I hope, to be tough on corruption and abuses of power by those in positions of public trust. This is still rampant in our country. It will also strengthen his hand over the party, and enable him to put competent people who are not tainted by money politics in his team.

It would appear that a cabinet reshuffle is now imminent. My guess is that it will be after the July UMNO General Assembly and the MCA Party Elections in August, 2005. Let us hope Pak Lah will be able to put in place a cabinet that can truly support his agenda for the nation. This will be his second chance, having squandered the first. He must use it to leave his imprint of a clean and accountable government. He must have a team that we all can be truly proud of, and one which is ready to help him tackle the economic and social challenges facing our country today.

As you know, you and I have been very critical of his perceived inaction over the last twenty or so months. We may remain skeptical. At least Pak Lah has made a fresh beginning by first cleaning up UMNO and restoring its image as the foremost Malay national party. UMNO is the force behind the successful Barisan Nasional Government which has managed our country since Independence.

Regards,

Din Merican
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Dear Din:

Yes, I too read the news, but I am withholding the plaudits.

I am glad this Isa is out. Yes, Mahathir handpicked him as a promising star way back then. I did not share Mahathir’s enthusiasm then, and events have proved that my assessment is correct. Maybe Isa has been in power for too long and succumbed to the temptations of his office, like all the others. Or he thought that the loot was his due, this too is just like the others! His legacy in Negri Sembilan (NS) is nothing to shout about, or more correctly, simply nothing.

On a personal point, when Mahathir was considering Isa to be the chief minister of my state, there were two other top contenders. Both were my classmates at Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah. Both were excellent, smart, and more importantly, politically adroit with the kampong folks. They had their ears to the ground. Either of the two would have been a great MB. Instead, Mahathir opted for Isa. Mark that down as another negative for Mahathir, his poor talent-spotting ability. I elaborated on this deficiency of Mahathir in my first book.

I was so excited by the prospect of my classmate becoming MB that I wrote him that I would return to Malaysia to help him out. That was how much faith I had in his talent and ability.

Pak Lah’s move is politically inspired and crooked, not shrewd. Remember when Isa received the highest number of votes, the pundits were saying that it was a rebuke to Pak Lah by the delegates. Isa is not viewed as being in Pak Lah’s camp. This is just another sly trick to ease Isa and others like him out. If Isa were to protest too much, then Pak Lah would threaten to refer him to the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA).

Where did Isa get all that money to buy the votes? Money politics is corruption, plain and simple. He should be referred to the ACA. Watch it, if Isa were to play his cards right, he may be rewarded with an ambassadorship to Fiji!

This is just another sly way for Pak Lah to remove those not in his camp in preparation for the UMNO election. I am sure Najib is not too pleased with this development.

While the process stinks (it smacks of selective prosecution), I approve of the result. What I worry is that Pak Lah will be tempted to use this crooked process on others and the result may not be to our liking.

Pak Lah is a former civil servant, slow and methodical. He is a firm believer in the incremental approach. It will not work. Malaysia needs “shock therapy” to shake UMNO and the nation to its core. Anything less will be viewed as weakness. Mahathir succeeded because he made a quick moves in the beginning. Pak Lah will never regain his momentum.

In short, I do not share your enthusiasm with this recent development. Pak Lah will have to show more. It will be more difficult because he started late, but I wish him; so should the nation.

Sallam,

Bakri

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