KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, who died this morning at the age of 74, was no stranger in the country’s political arena and well-known for his incredible and sometimes, peculiar ideas, such as planting paddy on the roof.
Sanusi, a former agriculture minister from 1986 to 1995, has also served as the seventh Menteri Besar of Kedah from 1996 to 1999.
In a post in his blog, Sanusi said he came up with the idea of planting paddy on the roof while visiting his old friend in Taiwan, when he was National and Rural Development Minister then.
“When I visited him at home, at about 10pm I saw his wife came out with two small pails and a flashlight attached to her head and when asked, his wife told me she wanted to fertilise and water the rice plants outside. I was surprised to learn that his rice was planted on the roof of the house as a hobby.
“Following this exposure, when I moved to the Agriculture Ministry, I asked the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) to try out the idea by planting the rice on the roof.
“This effort was carried out by MARDI in Seberang Prai. When this news leaked to the media I was criticised everywhere as if I have lost my mind and running out of ideas,” said Sanusi.
MARDI director-general at that time, the late Tan Sri Mohd Yusof Hashim, has stated that this trial has been successful but because there were still plenty of idle lands in Malaysia so the plan was thought to be unsuitable for implementation yet and Sanusi agreed with Mohd Yusof’s opinion.
However, while holding the post of Kedah mentri besar, Sanusi had implemented a paddy planting on the roof programme at the Kompleks Jihad Membasmi Kemiskinan in Paya Pahlawan, Jitra.
Despite various criticisms, the programme was reported to be successful when six paddy lots on the roof of the complex yielded 50 kilogrammes of paddy.
Apart from planting paddy on the roof, Sanusi has also mooted several other odd and bizarre ideas especially during his term as mentri besar including campaigns on how to entice one’s wife, pull husband’s white hairs and the holding of animal beauty contests.
“People want to see odd things,” he said, referring to his plans to turn Kedah, the country’s rice bowl as a tourist destination in the country.
Born in Yan, Kedah, on July 10, 1943, Sanusi has excellent plan to develop Kedah during his administration era.
“The first thing I did when I became mentri besar was to illustrate the development goals of Kedah. I compared Alor Setar, the state administrative centre, to Washington DC; Sungai Petani as a business centre, similar to New York; Kulim with Kulim High Technology Park (Kulim Hi-Tech Park) to the Silicon Valley in California or Route 128 in Massachusetts; Langkawi as a tourist centre similar to Florida.
“The job of giving this title was quite easy. The hardest part was how to build Alor Setar and its surrounding area where the land was used for rice paddy cultivation, without touching those lands,” he said.
A bookworm, Sanusi was also fluent in various languages besides Malay and English, including German and French, and he was the one behind the creation of the Bukit Cerakah Agricultural Park in Shah Alam, when he was Agriculture Minister then.
The park was created to serve as a ‘school’ to provide guidance to the people, especially farmers, fishermen and breeders on the farming methods to help them get out of poverty.
The park has also become a popular tourist centre for both domestic and foreign tourists during its peak where it came second in term of popularity, after the federal capital of Kuala Lumpur.
Sanusi received his early education between 1954 and 1963 at the Sekolah Melayu Yan, Sekolah Ibrahim, Sungai Petani and the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK).
In 1969, he continued his studies at the Institute of Bankers London, the City of London College and the London Institute of Export, as well as obtaining a Certificate in Foreign Trade and Foreign Exchange from the University of London.
Sanusi began his career started at the Standard Chartered Bank, Seremban, as a trainee in 1963, before being appointed as manager, Business and Rural Development Division of Standard Chartered Bank in 1974.
He later became Bank Simpanan Nasional director and Syarikat Insan Diranto Bhd chairman in 1975 and two years later was appointed as chairman for both Tugu Insurance Sdn Bhd and Obanto Management Consultancy Sdn Bhd.
Sanusi’s involvement in politics started after he became a member of Seremban Umno in 1963 and elected as Seremban Umno Youth secretary a year later.
In 1966, he was appointed as Seremban Timur Umno Division treasurer and became the division’s information chief in 1967.
In 1974, when he was 31, Sanusi contested in the fifth General Election (GE) and won the Jerai parliamentary seat in Kedah.
Four years later he contested in the sixth GE in 1978 for the Jerlun-Langkawi parliamentary seat which he won and managed to defend the parliamentary seat for three more GEs in 1982, 1986 and 1990.
In 1990, he contested for Umno vice-president post in the party elections that year and won 750 votes for the third place.
From 1978 to 1995, Sanusi was appointed to various ministerial portfolios including as deputy land and regional development minister, deputy home minister, unity and rural development minister and agriculture minister.
In the ninth GE, Sanusi contested in the Kuah state seat and won, before he was appointed as the seventh Kedah mentri besar from June 1996 to November 1999.
In addition to being politically active, he was also entrusted with other responsibilities including being a member of the Institute of Technology MARA (now Universiti Teknologi MARA) board of governors in 1978 and council member of Kobena and member of the Universiti Malaya’s board of governors in 1982 and International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) president in 2000.
Sanusi also held the position of vice president of the Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) and president of the Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs (MAYC).
Sanusi was married to Puan Sri Nila Inangda Manyam Keumala and was blessed with seven children. — Bernama