New Straits Times
Isa: I’m fighting only Umno’s enemies
TAN Sri Isa Samad is no stranger to the people of Port Dickson. As a menteri besar for 22 years, the former Umno leader is a familiar face to the people. He speaks to VEENA RUSLI, SYED UMAR ARIFF and IFWAN TUN TUAH about the battle for the Port Dickson parliamentary seat.
Question: Why did you leave Umno?
Answer: I left the party because after the Port Dickson seat incumbent vacated his position, I thought that Umno or Barisan Nasional would want to contest in the constituency.
I see it as a good opportunity for BN. Win or lose, that is not important. But it can be a platform for us to convey our views and criticisms of the government, a platform to be an effective opposition.
But Umno leaders chose to boycott the event. I disagreed with them. It is not a good decision. So I decided to run.
Secondly, for the Telok Kemang Umno division, ever since my dad was leading the charge here, we had always wanted Umno to contest the seat, which is now renamed Port Dickson.
Back then, the Malay majority was more than 50 per cent. In 2004, with the opening of the Rembau parliamentary seat, it led to the decrease of the Malay majority in Port Dickson to 43 per cent.
Umno has always wanted to contest this seat and we have been discussing the possibility with MIC. When there is an opportunity and MIC is pulling out from the race, we (Umno) should go in. But that is not the case.
I was left with no choice. People are saying that I am a grassroots man, Umno had done so much for me, or that I had never run away from the party, but I don’t agree with the boycott. This is a good opportunity for us. It is not impossible for us to win.
Q: It is said that your venture into the polls surprised Pakatan Harapan candidate Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. A: For me, if he (Anwar) is surprised to see me running, then I would be surprised as well seeing him running for Port Dickson. He has Permatang Pauh and Pandan. Some even offered Nibong Tebal and Sungai Petani. Why did he choose Port Dickson?
Q: Is it a challenge to remind people that you are contesting under an independent logo? A: There are those who did not realise that I am an independent candidate, including some elders in my family. Yesterday, at the Linggi night market, one of my supporters asked me why did I leave Umno. I had to explain the situation to him.
It is not that difficult to make them aware that I am an independent candidate. Some of the older voters still know how to read. So they will look for my name (or logo) before voting.
I’m not contesting against Umno. I’m going against Umno’s traditional enemies — PKR and Pas. Umno has been against PKR for 20 years and 60 years with Pas.
Of course, if Umno is contesting, that would be a different story. So there is no reason for BN and Umno members not to support me because I’m not going against them.
If they want to take action against me or my son (for campaigning for me), I don’t care so much about that. What is important is that they understand that although I’m not contesting on behalf of Umno, I am going against Umno’s enemies.
Q: The people of Port Dickson will expect something from you if you win. A: I will render to them my services, just like how I did previously. I may be able to give better services. I have never forgotten to serve Port Dickson as my political base. I will be committed to the people here.
Development-wise, it will never end. Roads will have to be maintained or improved. For several sectors, such as tourism, the infrastructure is there. We just need to add few things to improve them. There is not much land (for building projects) too. Port Dickson is full of estate land, from Sepang to Linggi.
Whatever it is, we’ll leave it to the locals (if they want more development). If you want to have another five-star hotel, we have a lot of them here.
Q: What are your chief concerns about the by-election?
A: I will be worried if my supporters do not come out to vote. There are many friends, Umno and family members here. Some of them might think that the byelection’s outcome will not change anything, if I win or lose. So I told my machinery to make sure that our supporters come out and vote, especially our hardcore voters.
Our approach must be up-todate. The kids nowadays like to eat KFC, but we (the older generation) like to eat steamed bananas. If I told my son to eat the latter, he might give me a strange look. I can’t tell him to eat steamed bananas every day.
The people know my track record. I have served them here, although I am not the parliamentarian. I am a local who mingles with the grassroots. When I meet people at the market, they will say: “Oh, ini kita punya orang kampung.”
They asked me where I have been and I said I was in Jempol, but now I'll be in Port Dickson. They are happy about that.
I was never a member of parliament for Port Dickson. I had been contesting the Linggi state seat for 25 years. In 2009, I won the Bagan Pinang by-election. And later, I returned as Jempol MP. If I win, this will be my first time being the Port Dickson MP.