Saturday, December 10, 2011


Dear Readers,

Assalaamu'alaikum Warahmatullaahi Wabarakaatuh 

Below is an article written about 14 years ago of a dream unfulfilled. If we do not progress it is not because we are short of ideas, however ridiculous they might seem.

It is reproduced for future government leaders to consider and think about. Or, they can just forget about it.

Fahmi M. Nasir
Researcher at Toeti Juairiah Library

TRANSFORMING KEDAH (Malaysian Industry, May 1997)


Sanusi has initiated massive infrastructure and socio-economic programmes to transform the rice-bowl state and its population.

It has been a busy 10 months for Datuk Seri Sanusi Junid since his appointment as Menteri Besar of Kedah on June 16 last year. As part of the massive RM30 billion Kedah Coastal Reclamation project – mooted by Sanusi – gets underway, noteworthy is the number of people-oriented programmes which he has initiated.

Sanusi is a firm believer that Kedah’s development thrust must start from the people – mentally, physically and spiritually – and educating the workforce before talking about economic progress.

In an interview recently, Sanusi discusses the building of these aspects of the people of Kedah through his – MENJARO (mental, jasad dan roh) – programme.

With the education and MENJARO programmes, which Sanusi hopes will result in a population which is mentally, physically and spiritually strong, the next step is the development of the political and socio-economic aspects or “POLEMAS” (politik, ekonomi dan masyarakat).

The straight-forward, no-nonsense Menteri Besar wants to see total and integrated development programmes of the people and Kedah. He does not believe that economic progress can result unless the people’s needs are looked into first.

He explains: “Ours is a people-oriented economic programme. We don’t talk about more fish but happier fishermen. We don’t talk about more rice but better-off farmers. We don’t talk about fatter cattle but about the breeders’ welfare. We believe a happy farmer is a more productive farmer.”

Part of his jigsaw of development is education, points out Sanusi. Students are encouraged to use houses of worship and community halls to revise their studies.

Sanusi stresses that education and socio-economic programmes are vital as Kedah shifts its emphasis to manufacturing and infrastructure to boost the economy. The manufacturing sector’s share of the state’s Gross Domestic Product has increased from 8.35% of GDP in 1980 to 28.56% in 1993.

“To talk of Kedah as a rice bowl is an illusion,” he explains. Only 14% of Kedah’s land is with padi, 36% with rubber plantations, palm oil, orchards and villages. About 50% of Kedah is mountains and valleys, Sanusi points out.

“I won’t be talking about land reclamation without talking about education and mosque programmes” , he says, adding that he can’t talk about the proposed deep-sea port under the massive reclamation project without talking about computers and the Pusat Bacaan Rakyat (PUBARA) or people’s reading centres.

However, he admits that “our problem is to make people understand” his mission to transform Kedah into a developed state and one way is through education. As a Menteri Besar, Sanusi is a man in a hurry who wants to bring changes to Kedah which is one of the states still lagging behind economically. He is a driven man and only the few Menteri’s Besar who are still at the office at 2 am working. As an official puts it, Sanusi prefers to work at night when there’s no one to disturb him.

One of the projects under the education programme is the Langkawi University of Tomorrow with the first intake expected in mid – 1998. The courses will range from aerospace engineering, oceanography, robotics, tourism and medicine, part of that medical faculty is an international research institute studying the modern and traditional herbal medicines of the Malays, Chinese and Indians.

Meanwhile, the PUBARA centres are being set up all over the state. Under a novel approach to jolt the people’s minds, the former Agriculture Minister plans to have padi cultivation on the flat rooftop of these centres which will also have reading, meeting and computer rooms on the ground floor.

Another 45,000 children are revising their lessons at 95 out of the 256 mosques in the state. “We are turning mosques from not only being a place to pray on Fridays and to pray during the prayer time and a place to bring your dead body at the funeral.”

He wants to see mosques become centres of activity. Thus, sports activities, sewing and cooking lessons are organised at the mosques which have facilities such as libraries, computer terminals, reading rooms and meeting rooms for youth club members. Meanwhile, students of other races also being encouraged to use their churches, temples, community halls and schools for revising their studies.

Another area which he is concerned is the family unit. “We want to reduce divorces, we want to have an extended family system. We want to make sons and daughters love their parents as much as their parents love their grandparents,” he says, adding a strong family unit will eradicate juvenile delinquency and drugs.

Sanusi also wants to see women take a more important role in the village development and security and also mosque committees. “Men bully women too much”, he quips, alluding their representation on these committees will give the women the bigger voice.

Each of the 256 mosque committees and the 14,000 village committees will have two women representatives. Why two? He explains that if there is only one woman, she will be lonely, while two “will be just nice”.

The mosque committees meet on the first Saturday of every month, using the same agenda throughout the state. (The format is also similar to that used at state executive council meetings).

The mosque programme, Sanusi believes can reduce the “lepak” problem in Kedah where 85% of the population are Muslims. He is also ready to counter any criticisms from the opposition party if they dare query that mosques are not used effectively.

“We are very transparent. We have nothing to hide. Everything is documented,” he explains, referring to the meetings of the state exco and village committees which use an exhaustive nine-item agenda.

With the MENJARO and PUBARA programmes firmly in place, Sanusi elaborates the next stage is three-pronged approach of politics, economy and society or POLEMAS (politik, ekonomi dan masyarakat).

The thrust of the political aspect under the POLEMAS, he says, is about unity. He adds: “We don’t discriminate people by race or religion or by party. We treat everybody the same. During election, we fight, and after that forget it.”

The family unit and eradication of social ills are given emphasis under second approach. The third focuses on growth and equitable distribution and improving the livelihood of farmers, fishermen and the poor.

His concern for the population is also evident in the prompt action he demands from the civil servants in dealing with social, economic and community issues.

Since his appointment last June, he has received 6,300 letters and he states matter-of-factly all these letters have been recorded and attended to. Each letter is given a reference number since the letter will be circulated at all levels of his administration to ensure action is taken.

Now reports in various languages about Kedah, either “good, bad or ugly” will not escape Sanusi’s attention. “The topics are on development, education, religion, social, sports and politics. These weekly reports will go to every state assembly and they (assemblymen) have to respond to these reports.”

“If he doesn’t do enough, I will bring it up to him. Then he is not doing his job,” points out Sanusi. Perhaps of interest is that he encourages the people to take pictures of neglected areas such as canals, rivers and projects to be brought up to the assemblyman’s attention. Photographs are also taken after the areas are cleaned up as proof that action has been taken.

While the thrust is focused on the development, he also believes that Kedah should be made a more fun place. “So we are having the water world approved,” he says, referring to the RM30 million project in the Kubang Pasu district which have received Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s nod. Work will start next week and will be ready in nine months.

The district may also see the development of an 82-acre lake into tourist paradise with floating restaurants once the four-feet deep lake is cleared of the aquatic plants. “However, we are soft-pedaling it,” he points out.

Also in the pipeline are a food paradise and restaurants. However, he does not provide a figure for the costs of the projects except to say they will be private-sector funded.

He stresses that in Kedah, the government is taking the lead by generating ideas for the private sector to undertake. “The government in Kedah is faster than the private sector,” he points out.  

Elaborating on the development in Kedah, he gives an assurance the forests and hills, which comprise 50% of the state, will be preserved. While around the lakes, there will be tourism activities and five-star hotels. Waterfalls will be used as reading places and the forests for weekend picnics.

The rubber estates, which account for 36% of Kedah’s land area, will slowly make way for industrial zones. The other 14% of the state which is used for padi cultivation will be maintained and the villagers encouraged to take up farming-related activities – rearing ducks and goats and mushroom growing.

He sees tremendous potential in animal breeding, a spin-off from the recently opened massive slaughter-house which can store the carcasses of 1,000 heads of cattle and if fully utilised, can store up to twice or thrice the number.

The slaughter-house becomes the catalyst for the growth of the goat and cattle industry, points out Sanusi. Previously, the villagers would keep scrap rubber which could be sold for cash. Now, if they need cash, they can sell the animals to the slaughter-house.

Sanusi’s experience as the Agriculture Minister has enabled him to have a clear picture of developing the agriculture and livestock industry, especially in a mainly agricultural state, says officials.

Under the programme for the 5,000 hard-core poor, the authorities are encouraging them to rear livestock. The state government and the better-off population will buy these animals and distribute the meat to the needy during Hari Raya Haji under the “korban” programme.

The State Government machinery is also prompt in resolving the housing woes of the squatters and the hard-core poor by cutting through the red tape. Bureaucracy requires state government to provide the land and the federal government, the money. But at times, a Catch-22 situation arises where the federal government says it cannot provide the funds if the state has not made land available for the housing projects. Or vice-versa.

To tackle the problem, the state government will make sure land is available, even though there is money or not forthcoming from the federal government as yet.

The Menteri Besar is on a mission to transform Kedah and perhaps of interest is how he draws an analogy of Alor Setar, its towns and industrial parks and lakes with Washington D.C., New York, Silicon Valley, Florida, the Rhur valley, the Great Lake etc for inspiration.

We look at Alor Setar as our Washington D.C. so that is the administrative capital. It doesn’t mean that it is Washington DC but it is the capital. The role of Alor Setar is like Washington DC, Sungei Petani is more like New York, the Kulim hi-tech park as the Silicon Valley, Langkawi like Florida.

“Our three lakes now – Ahning, Pedu and Muda – will be added with another lake – Beris. Construction will start next year. The fifth lake will come later. This is our version of the Great Lakes of the US and Canada.”

“We will also have a branch of the Al-Azhar University in Yan, that is our Cairo. Kuala Kedah – a fishermen’s village which is facing the sea – will be the San Francisco Fishermen’s Wharf.”

The 1,000 km of canals in the Mada (Muda Agricultural Development Authority) scheme should be used like the canals in Venice. With the heavy industries in Gurun like the Modenas and Perwaja plants, the Rhur valley.

Sanusi sums up: “So this being the future of Kedah, we are preparing our man-power now. We are upgrading our level of consciousness on the importance of education.”

N. B.: This is a dream unfulfilled - Sanusi Junid

Perhatian: Semua ide dan hasrat ini tidak dapat dilaksanakan kerana kesuntukan masa dan kekurangan peruntukan wang lantaran ekonomi negara meleset.

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