ALOR STAR: “Planting paddy on the roof-top?”
That was the popular question among Kedahans when Tan Sri Sanusi Junid announced his idea to transform paddy farming in the state in the mid 1990s.
Since Kedah is the country’s “rice bowl”, and the state was dominated by paddy fields, Sanusi’s idea was not just seen as bizarre but “insane” by some quarters.
Despite being mocked by critics, the London graduate was not deterred in pushing the idea which was adopted from Japan.
The former Agriculture Minister seized the opportunity to pursue the idea when he was made the seventh Kedah Menteri Besar in 1996 and the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (MADA) chairman.
As a leader who was born and bred in Yan, which is dotted with paddy fields, Sanusi proved that he was serious in protecting the sector by slapping a ban to reclaim paddy field and turning them into residential or commercial areas.
Malaysian History Association Kedah chapter chairman Datuk Dr Wan Shamsudin Mohd Yusof said although some of his ideas were widely criticised, Sanusi was not bothered as he believed in his dream.
“He loved to read and that should explain his out-of-the-box approaches, including the roof-top paddy cultivation.
“The idea was subsequently accepted although it did not last for long.
“He had also helped many petty traders especially those selling local agricultural products such as the ‘drink coconut juice’ campaign,” he said.
Retired civil servant Mohamad Ismail said he remembered how he ended up settling down in Jitra.
“I was from Hutan Kampung here and I wanted to buy a plot of land and build a house here to be close to my family but there was no land in Alor Star which was not paddy field.
“So I had no other option but to look for a piece of land in Jitra and built my family home there,” said Mohamad, who is driving for an e-hailing company in Jitra and Alor Star area during his free time after retiring several years ago.
Sanusi is remembered for his unique ideas while serving as Agriculture Minister prior to his appointment as Menteri Besar, such as campaign to drink coconut juice and many others.
He returned to Kedah politics by winning the Jerlun seat in the 1982 general election prior to his appointment as the seventh menteri besar to replace Tan Sri Osman Aroff, following an instruction by the then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Sanusi’s appointment was met with fiery objection from 22 Kedah state assemblymen who subsequently formed an allegiance known as Group 22 to defend Osman’s position as the menteri besar.
There were talks that Dr Mahathir had insisted on replaing Osman, who was said to be out of the premier’s favour after being in the office for two terms.
The crisis ended when Osman eventually tendered his resignation to pave the way for Sanusi to assume the Menteri Besar position.
Sanusi had faced a tough time winning support in Kedah and this was said be the main reason for Barisan Nasional (BN) Kedah to record its worst performance in the general election history.
In the 1999 general election, BN lost its two-third majority in the state assembly after losing 12 out of 36 state seats besides losing eight of out 15 Parliamentary seats in Kedah.
Following the dismal BN performance, Sanusi lost support from Umno and BN in Kedah, which resulting in Sanusi announcing his wish not to be reapointged as the menteri besar for another term.
Despite this, Sanusi remained as Dr Mahathir’s loyal supporter and he had followed the former premier’s step to leave Umno following a fall out with the latter’s successor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Sanusi then joined Dr Mahathir when he formed the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in 2016.
Sanusi was the president of Malaysia Youth Club Organistion (MAYC) and also the founding member of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM).
He had joined Umno in Seremban in 1963 and was appointed as Umno Kedah information chief from 1978 to1985 before being made Umno secretary-general from 1984 and 1988.
Sanusi won the Umno vice-president race for the 1990-1993 term.
He served as the Land and Regional Development deputy minister (1978-1980), Deputy Home Minister (1980 to 1981), followed by the National and Rural Development Minister (1981-1986) and Agriculture Minister (1986-1994) before being appointed as Kedah Menteri Besar.
Sanusi, 74, passed away at his home in Pantai Dalam, Kuala Lumpur, today. – NST