Lately I have sometimes to myself and I was leisurely going through some videos on U-Tube when I stumbled into a video on Memali. It was commemorating the infamous incident between the Government and the disgruntled group of people in Kedah, a state in Northern Malaysia. The government played down the importance of this incident because it was counter productive to the nation politically. This incident took place some 10 years ago or so and many blamed it on Musa Hitam who was then the Minister for Home Affairs. But what I am going to write in this entry is not about Musa Hitam and Memali per se but a little about Musa Hitam and I like in "The King and I" of some sort; no, not really. He was my "Guru" in public affairs.
Some of us may recall that at one time he was ousted from UMNO because he "misbehaved". His loyalty towards the Party was questioned and for reasons best known to himself, he went into "exile" so to say. He went to do his Masters degree in the UK and when he came back he was employed by University of Malaya as a senior lecturer. This was in 1971 when I was in my final year sitting for my Bachelor degree in Economics with a minor in Public Administration. He was assigned by the Faculty management to be a Supervisor for my mini-thesis as a requirement for graduation. I remember feeling rejected at first because I was originally assigned under a different Professor. But what choice do I have. I Told myself that this must be a blessing in disguise because Musa Hitam has "a colorful personality". This was indeed a blessing in disguise because he was an interesting person as a politician and as an academician and I learned many "tricks of the trade" on how to be "successful" in life. My mini-thesis was a study on a By-Election in Malacca at that time.
But later he was brought back into the realm of power by the new Leadership in the Party and he was made (among other things) the Chairman of FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority). He left the University but he continued to be my supervisor together with 3 other candidates. Sometimes we went together to Felda Head Quarters in Jalan Gurney and sometimes I went alone. I enjoyed my time with him as my supervisor because he was making me learn many things I never knew before. He taught me, among other things, how to think outside the box although at that time we never use that terminology. In between the the academic discussion he would joke about many things concerning politics and about life in general. On looking back I think that was the time I "became initiated" into the public service. As a thinker, he was an Icon I wanted to emulate. I was very 'proud' to be under his guidance and learning to be a balanced person in thoughts and in actions.
Later he was made the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education and I happened to be serving in the same ministry in charge of the physical development of schools for the whole country. We became "partners" in school development and I used to follow his working tours of the nation. We worked well together to the "envy" of some of my bosses. He was cordial in giving instructions to me, a working culture alien to my bosses too. But I remembered one day he reprimanded me for speaking in English when I was required to answer questions during a Question and Answer session at meetings with his constituencies. He took me to the side and said: "When you are with me in the states, remember to speak in Malay all the time. Remember that. This is not New York." Oh boy...was I embarrassed."
We part ways few years later and I followed his political career only through the mass media. I remembered after 1981 I became a different person, believe in different things and act in different ways to the surprise of many of my working colleagues. I witnessed the death of my very dear sister in 1981 right after I came back from my Masters program from the US. I began reading seriously on Islam and engaged myself in various activities that could spur my commitment as a Muslim in this life. So fragile is life that I promised to myself to gear up all things I do within the Islamic Tauhidic paradigm.
So "Musa Hitam and I" became just a memory which needed to be put to a new perspective. For instance, when news broke out that his son and the whole family perished in the Kuala Lumpur Highland Towers Disaster (together with many others) I stood quietly by myself and pondered about the happy and sad tidings in life that people go through no matter what social status they are in..(Could this be a fallout of the tragic Memali incident that Musa Hitam was directly involved and could this be considered a retributions by Allah the all Mighty.) I do not know and nor should I be judgemental and simplistic in thoughts. That and with many other tragedies and "natural" disasters that occurred in our country and else where in the world made me think. I could not find all the answers and therefore I seek refuge in Allah, our Creator and Sustainer. What could all these mean to us. An Ustaz said : Read the Quran Chapter 17 Al Isra' (The Night Journey) Verse 66-69. We may find some of the answers. It says:
" Your Sustainer is He who causes ships to move onwards for you through the sea, so that you might go about in quest of some of his bounty: verily, a dispenser of grace is He unto you.
And whenever danger befalls you at sea all those (powers) that you wont to invoke forsake you, (and nothing remains for you) save Him: but as soon as He has brought you safe ashore , you turn aside (and forget Him) - for, indeed, bereft of all gratitude is man!
Can you, then, ever feel sure that He will not cause a tract of dry land to swallow you up, or let loose upon you a deadly storm wind, whereupon you would find none to be your protector?
Or can you, perchance, feel sure that He will not make you put back to sea once again, and then let loose upon you a raging tempest and cause you to drown in requital of your ingratitude - where upon you would find none to uphold you against Us?"
May Allah God all Mighty show us the way.