Syed Husin Ali’s finest hour


Free Malaysia Today

From Terence Netto

Syed Husin Ali, steady tribune of socialist causes in a lifetime of service to them, has died at the age of 87.

A death in the ninth decade of life cannot be described as untimely. Yet that is what ought to be said of a Malaysian politician of notable fidelity to his ideals.

It would have been helpful to the current debate about the merits of Anwar Ibrahim’s premiership had Syed Husin, before leaving this vale, given his opinion on Anwar’s stewardship.

After all, he had long been a strong supporter of granting the long-questing Anwar a shot at the premiership.

Anwar has been premier for 19 months now, enough time for Syed Husin to form an opinion on his leadership.

Interacting with him, between late last year and early this one, on the substance of a memorial to the birth centenary of journalism great A Samad Ismail (April 21), it wasn’t easy to ferret from Syed Husin his take on Anwar’s stewardship.

A certain reserve was discernible in him, as if the subject was a painful matter for him.

Still, it was not wildly speculative to deduce that Syed Husin was disappointed, as someone who entertained high hopes for an Anwar premiership must have been.

In a long life of involvement in socialist struggles – during which he had seen several endeavours begin in gladness only to end in grief – Syed Husin would not have been terribly upset with Anwar’s failure to come good on his promises.

This would have owed to a realisation that the natural state of a sentient socialist adult is a qualified unhappiness.

More than that it would have stemmed from a conviction that in a political life the redeeming things are not those of being proven right but the satisfactions that come out of the struggle.

Certainly, Syed Husin would in the last months of his life have had the answer to why when he suggested to Anwar that PKR formulate an ideology for its existence, the party supremo was unavailing.

Anwar has no ideology save what is useful for the acquisition of power, followed upon its attainment by expedient amnesia about it.

The prime minister wasted no time in calling Syed Husin his “guru” but he has learnt little from him it appears.

Now we know that cliches trip off Anwar’s tongue with the ease fabrications reel off Donald Trump’s, but for Syed Husin, such ease is acquired only with a willingness to sell others short for personal survival.

He disdained to do that when under ISA detention he was asked to implicate a host of political figures in schemes his jailers concocted for the furthering of their ambitions.

The reward for Syed Husin had he done so was an earlier release from detention. He was too decent a man to lie for the gain of his liberty.

The satisfactions in Syed Husin’s life alluded to earlier in this piece would have emanated from just this choice of decisions.

Collectively, they constituted his finest hour. - FMT

Terence Netto is a senior journalist and an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

Syed Husin Ali’s finest hour