I can’t say I know Isa Samad personally!
The only face-to-face encounters I’ve had with him was when my father died on 22 July 1996. He was the first to arrive at the Seremban General Hospital and read the Surah Yasin with my three siblings and me on the bare hospital floor. He was at the pengkebumian at the Makham Tuan Haji Said where he gave an eulogy in memory of Dr Mohd Said, his predecessor as ADUN Linggi and the first elected Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan. I sent a note on behalf of the family thanking him for his kindness.
Isa actually called my father Pak Ngah as apparently he is a waris Linggi but grew up in the neighbouring constituency of Telok Kemang, Port Dickson. If he is from Linggi, then like my father he must be of Bugis ancestry – or at least part Bugis as I am. The current Menteri Besar Mohamad Hasan is also a Bugis from the neighbouring area of Rantau. Three of the post- Merdeka Menteri Besar Negeri Sembilan are Bugis and two Minangkabau (Mansor Othman from Kuala Pilah and Rais Yatim from Jelebu).
I grew up plying up and down the Seremban, Linggi, Rantau and Telok Kemang roads accompanying my father on frequent trips to Linggi to visit my grandmother. I would always drag along Saroja the gardener’s daughter and my Brahmin friend Manjoola. Together we climbed the rambutan trees and plucked langsat, rambai, buah bidara and manggis with a long galah. Then while I tucked in on Tok Majidah’s Bugis pencuk daging salai, Saroja and Manjoola would savour the upih– wrapped smoked lempuk durian or cempedak rolled in coconut freshly grated on the kukur by my cousin Nab.
They were the three childhood friends I spent long hours with doing the things that girls did in those days – flying kites, spinning tops and marbles – which were not much different from what the boys did! On the way to or from Seremban, depending on the time of day, we would stop in Rantau to be treated to the most delicious doughnuts at a Chinese kedai kopi. In the car boot were udang galah from Kuala Linggi or Pengkalan Kempas to be turned by my mother into creamy pencuk udang or swelteringly hot masak lemak cili padi. These are the wonderful memories of much-loved children and grandchildren of beloved parents and grandparents!
Now back to Isa! I bear him no personal grudges not knowing the man nor his private life, hopes and dreams. All I know is what I read in the papers and what I pick up from local talk, one of which is that when he was MB he was not liked by the Yang di-Pertuan Besar and the royal family for standing up to them. I remember a royal birthday celebration where he felt unwelcome and stood sheepishly in the background while the elite of Kuala Lumpur partied in Istana Seri Menanti. I felt sorry for him then as my father had had a similar experience!
Politically one can say that he is outstanding having become the MB at an early age and served the state for 23 years. He was a Federal Minister for a short period before being found guilty of breaching UMNO party ethics – the newly branded euphemism for abuse of power and corruption. He was duly suspended for three years while his colleagues have got away with more serious offences and even crimes.
Isa may be a popular candidate who will deliver Bagan Pinang with a stumping majority to start UMNO’s return to splendour! But I very much doubt the support from the urban electorate grown much wiser with the knowledge of and exposure to the blatant wrongdoings of the UMNO hierarchy! Meanwhile UMNO’s rural grassroots base will continue to be hoodwinked by and embroiled in the corrupt activities of their branch and division committees!
With the widely debated and wildly controversial reinstatement of Isa Samad in the Negeri Sembilan UMNO hiearchy, UMNO’s name is tarnished forever for not being consistent in pursuing its promise of reform and affirmative action on the party constitution but most of all on its members and the mechanisms by which they operate. UMNO will go down in history as the party that pledged to eradicate corruption but did not have the political will and know- how to handle the malaise of the corrupt Malays.
It will be remembered as the party which vowed to uphold the constitutionally- defined interests of the Bumiputera Malays and their language, the Malay Rulers and Islam, and ended up as the abuser of Malay sentiments and corruptor of the Malay psyche!