Isa Samad resigned from Umno-Baru on 28 September, so that he could contest in the Port Dickson by-election. His reasons? He said, “Because Umno is not contesting, so I’m offering myself to contest. According to party rules, I should be sacked.
“I’ve been an Umno member for a long time, and that is why I resigned from being a member. So they don’t have to sack me. Instead, I sack myself…and because I am a PD boy. ”
Isa said that his track record of serving the people of Port Dickson is good. He said, “I’ve been serving here for 40 years. The majority of Port Dickson people know who I am, they know my service and they can judge themselves.”
Port Dickson has 72,212 registered voters, with Malays making up 42.7% of the electorate, Chinese 33.1% and 22% Indians.
The by-election was triggered when the elected MP Danyal Balagopal Abdullah resigned so that PKR president-elect Anwar Ibrahim could become an MP.
Umno-Baru clarified that it was boycotting the by-election because it was engineered to fulfil the political needs of an individual.
Isa Samad’s nomination in Port Dickson sends out the wrong signals
The Port Dickson (PD) by-election was flawed from its inception. The rakyat acknowledges the contributions of PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim for starting the Reformasi Movement, but to engineer a by-election so he can become an MP, has left a bitter taste in the mouth. The resignation of the incumbent MP, rear admiral Danyal Balagopal Abdullah and the nomination of the scandal ridden former FELDA chairman, and former Mentri Besar, Isa Samad, have added to our unease.
At a time when Malaysia is desperate for politicians with integrity, Isa’s candidacy is wrong.
On 24 June, 2005, Isa was suspended for six years (later reduced to three years), for money politics in the 2004 Umno-Baru elections.
His selection for the Bagan Pinang state by-election, in 2009, was criticised by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who feared that Umno-Baru’s image would be tainted, and the rakyat would think that the party was reluctant to deal with corruption. He said, “Tan Sri Isa has already been found guilty. If Umno-Baru fields him, it means that Umno-Baru is not serious about such cases. Even if he can win there, (we) have to consider what the whole of Malaysia thinks of Umno-Baru.”
Corporate figures against his chairmanship in FELDA
In 2011, when the disgraced erstwhile Prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak, appointed Isa as the chairman of FELDA, a concerned Lim Lip Eng, the MP for Segambut, asked if his appointment had caused the jitters in the stock market. He said that Isa would damage FELDA’s reputation.
Najib dismissed Lim’s concerns, and in a written reply justified Isa’s appointment. He listed Isa’s track record and expertise in administration, management, leadership, and his strong rapport with the FELDA settlers.
Prominent Malaysians, in the corporate world, also criticised Isa’s chairmanship. The Maybank Investment chief executive officer, Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, added that having an ex-politician as the chairman “would send the wrong signals”.
The National Economic Advisory Council member, Zainal Aznam Mohd Yusof, who helped prepare Malaysia’s Second, Fourth and Fifth Malaysia Plans, said that Isa’s known corruption and subsequent appointment as chairman was a “sad day for FELDA.”
He urged the government to adopt real reforms and impose a blanket ban on the appointment of politicians, from any political party, to head FELDA and other GLCs. He said, “…Power corrupts, so the basic assumption is that (politicians) are stigmatised as corrupt”.
The former Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister, Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, said that Isa’s appointment would go against the objectives of the founding fathers of Malaysia. He said, “…Corruption is everywhere…you have to bribe people to get things done. Cronyism is everywhere.”
FELDA’s loss of hundreds of millions of ringgits
Today, investigations have shown that Isa was instrumental in FELDA’s loss of hundreds of millions of ringgits (see * below). He was arrested by the MACC, in July 2017. Has the investigation stalled? Why has he not been charged?
Perhaps, the last word on the destruction of FELDA and the inadvisability of fielding Isa Samad in the PD by-election should rest with Datin Kalsom bt Tan Sri Taib Andak, the daughter of the first Malaysian chairman of FELDA.
Taib was hand-picked by Malaysia’s second prime minister, Razak Abdul Hussein, to helm FELDA, when the British incumbent left. As a young girl, Kalsom often accompanied her father to meet the settlers and watch their progress, their assimilation into their new roles, and their eventual success as farmers and land-owners.
What would Razak and the first FELDA chairman have said?
Kalsom said, “What do you think Razak and Taib would say about the scandals rocking FELDA if they were alive today? Once internationally hailed as a successful example of rural poverty eradication in a third world country, FELDA has gained a reputation for shady land deals, bad business decisions, and leadership tussles.
“Last year will be remembered as FELDA’s year – for all the wrong reasons. There was not one scandal, but several scandals – the public was treated to a buffet of revelations of fraud, abuse of power and impropriety, in FELDA. We were informed of alleged wrongdoings in FELDA which lost millions of ringgit, because of mismanagement, bad business decisions, corruption, and power abuse.”
“FELDA strayed from its core origins and diversified into activities which are far removed from its core agricultural origins. They ventured into businesses, with which they were not familiar.”
Kalsom added, “I feel very sad for the FELDA settlers. FELDA lost millions of ringgits, and this money should have been ploughed back to the settlers and their families.
“An organisation, that Malaysians were once proud of, has been reduced to one that is plagued by scandals? Kesian orang-orang FELDA.”
Kalsom is right to be furious. Although not convicted of any crime yet, Isa Samad is an unsuitable parliamentary candidate.
*List of scandals:
1. Invested RM1 billion in America and Canada, and lost RM 27.6 million in 2012.
2. Bought Borneo Hotel in Sabah for RM 86.4 million, in June 2013, at a questionable price. ((source; borneotoday.net)
3. Bought shares in Pontian United Plantation Berhad for RM 1.2 billion, in July 2013, above the market price (source: thesundaily.my)
4. Bought Grand Plaza Service Apartments, in London, for RM495 million, in Oct 2013, while the market price was RM408 million, as reported by Savills & Knight. (source: the edgemarkets.com)
5. In November 2015 the Auditor General’s Report exposed the loss of RM 47.6 million by FELDA in a sturgeon breeding project. FELDA had invested RM146.25 million in the sturgeon breeding project, in Pahang.
6. FELDA Wellness invested in a bio-pharmaceuticals company, in Australia. The company made a net loss of RM81.04 million, for year ending December 2015.
7. The transfer of FELDA land ownership, in Jalan Semarak. We have been informed that the case has been resolved, but only after a huge outcry from the public.