WHEN Tan Sri Sanusi Junid (pic) spoke, all would be quiet and in awe. It was not because he was a great orator but he had the ability to tell stories and entertain his listeners with a variety of interesting tales.
He was known as someone with eccentric ideas. When he was the agriculture minister, he came up with the idea of planting padi on flat rooftops. He also mastered several languages such as Mandarin and German.
Among the many foreign languages he mastered, Sanusi preferred German when delivering his speeches and lectures. It could be because of the odd way the language sounded.
But when this writer asked Sanusi why he liked to quote German words when speaking to a Malay audience, Sanusi smiled and said German was easy to master as the spelling system and pronunciations were similar to Malay.
He was fluent in German. In a dialogue council I attended, Sanusi quoted Adolf Hitler in German and then translated this into Malay.
All who heard him were stunned.
Not long after that, I went to his residence in Pantai Dalam despite not being close to him (Sanusi was known not to be close to any reporter while he was a minister and Umno secretary-general).
To me, a house is a house. But upon entering the hall, it turned out that his house was more of a library. The whole bungalow – from the ground floor to the stairs to the top level – was filled with thousands of books.
“There are two more houses filled with my collection of books,” Sanusi told me.
In one corner, there was a collection of recording tapes or cassettes of speeches by world famous leaders, including a complete collection of Hitler’s speech. I wonder now what will happen to the collection.
Maybe it is good if this could be turned into a public library to enable the people to have access to the valuable materials. However, its fate depends on his next of kin.
Throughout my career as a reporter, I knew Sanusi as a sly political operator. He possessed a tall and mighty character as well as ego.
He said it was because he was of Aceh origin and the Aceh people were warriors.
“The Aceh people were never conquered. They are fighters,” said Sanusi.
His Aceh roots were so deep that his life partner Puan Sri Nila Inangda was also of Aceh origin.
Due to his ego, Sanusi could only work and kowtow to one general – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, his boss throughout more than 50 years of his political service.
This was proven to be true when Dr Mahathir left Umno and Sanusi did the same.
He passed away – not as an Umno member but as a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia member, a party led by Dr Mahathir.
He also saw himself to be wiser and more intelligent than others.
This is possibly a bane on his political career and the reason why he could not cooperate or see eye to eye with many people, including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim – an orator and poster boy of Umno when Dr Mahathir brought him into the party.
At that time, Sanusi was Umno’s secretary-general.
The clash of characters between Sanusi and Anwar could be seen in the horizon, long before Anwar joined Umno.
Both of them were former students of the Kuala Kangsar Malay College. After that, both of them were active in the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), with Anwar as Abim president and Sanusi, the vice-president.
Sanusi joined Umno the rank and file way, climbing the political career ladder from the bottom via the branch, division and the Supreme Council until he was made the party’s secretary-general.
His highest position in the party was as the vice-president.
Meanwhile, Anwar was parachuted to the top, bypassing rank and file. He was brought in by Dr Mahathir and straight away, contested for the Umno Youth chief post, became the vice-president and after that, the deputy president.
Anwar, as a political animal, was more successful in his political career, as compared to Sanusi because the former knew how to charm the people while Sanusi was always serious and at times, sarcastic and did not mince his words.
Sanusi went through a tougher political challenge.
He only defended his post as Umno vice-president for a term and his biggest political challenge was when Dr Mahathir’s decision to appoint him as the Kedah MB was met with objections from the state’s grassroots leaders.
The indication that Sanusi was going to be made the MB was when he was fielded as a candidate to contest the state seat of Kuah, Langkawi, in the 1995 general election.
However, after the elections, then incumbent Kedah mentri besar Tan Sri Osman Aroff refused to give up his post and this created a big problem for Dr Mahathir.
Osman told several senior reporters in Alor Setar then that he was deeply hurt with the decision to replace him with Sanusi because during the elections, Dr Mahathir had not given any indication that he was going to be retired and had instead let him contest the Jitra state seat.
“Dr Mahathir should have told me that I was no longer needed as the mentri besar and if I knew, I wouldn’t have contested in the general election,” Osman was quoted as saying to a senior reporter in Alor Setar.
From time to time, Osman kept sending representatives and Umno division leaders to Kuala Lumpur to meet Dr Mahathir and convince him that appointing Sanusi as the MB would be a big mistake as he was not popular in Kedah and did not have a good relationship with Kedah Umno leaders.
The crisis went on for a few months until Sanusi was finally appointed as the MB in June 1996 after Osman accepted the fact that he needed to sign the letter of resignation “forced” on him.
Sanusi became the seventh Kedah MB at 53 years old. It was a pity he only lasted as MB for not more than a term.
After the 1999 general election, he was replaced by Datuk Seri Syed Razak Syed Zain, a local leader unknown outside Kedah, unlike Sanusi.
Since then, Sanusi was no longer politically active.