KUALA LUMPUR: Musa Hitam, who is a product of “the Malaysian dream”, has stood like a rock, and paid the price for it when he resigned as deputy prime minister for what he believed in.
Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah said Musa, 82, who was “a hair’s breadth away from becoming the fifth prime minister of Malaysia”, had walked away from the post.
“Tun Musa has stood by his principles and he has done so with dignity.
“He relinquished his position as deputy prime minister because he fundamentally disagreed with policy directions his principles would not allow him to accept,” the Sultan said when launching Musa’s book titled “Frankly Speaking” here today.
Sultan Nazrin Shah said as a son of a meter reader and the only one of the 10 siblings that made it to university, Musa was the man in waiting, and had he waited long enough, standing by while the principles he cherished were cast aside, Musa would have eventually occupied the top political post in the country.
“Instead, he stood for what he believed in and resigned,” the Sultan said on Musa resigning from the deputy prime minister’s post on March 16, 1986 after holding it since July 18, 1981. Musa was only 52 years old at that time.
Sultan Nazrin Shah said: “The true test is when one has to take a stand and speak up for one’s principles.”
He also said that Musa stood out among the handful who had left an ineradicable mark on the country he loved with a passion.
“By putting his experiences in print, Tun Musa walks us through a history many of us have forgotten and perhaps are unaware of.
“He observes that despite our physical progress as a nation, the challenges – from the time of pre-independence – remain the same, if not more dire,” the Sultan said.
He said Musa was a student leader in the late 1940s and 1950s, with Malaya fighting for independence and facing the terrifying prospect of a threatening communist insurgency.
He was appointed as assistant district officer in Kluang, Johor, after graduating from University of Malaya in 1959, and in the 1970s he joined Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein’s Cabinet.
“These early experiences would serve him well… he had to address and quell widespread dissatisfaction and protests from smallholders and workers in the rubber industry crippled by collapsing prices, and also to calm rising student agitation at Universiti Sains Malaysia, where the students were demonstrating over the threat to the livelihoods of the people in Baling,” said the Sultan.
He said Musa’s approach to problem solving stood him in good stead when he spoke to the hostile crowds because he understood their problems.
“His honesty calmed the demonstrators, and his subsequent adherence to his promises, established his reputation as a man who would keep his word.
“His handling of this disquiet – better known as the Baling demonstrations –probably established his credentials in the eyes of the country’s leaders and paved the way for higher office.”
The Sultan said Musa’s experience in dealing with extremists and chauvinists on all sides of the political spectrum, his anguish over the May 13 riots and his observation that “for Malaysia, the danger continues to lurk”, were views that all leaders and aspiring politicians must take seriously.
“Indeed, ‘Frankly Speaking’ is a riveting book and there are many pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from Tun Musa’s experiences,” he added.