Tun Hussein Onn's Political Philosophy

Tun Hussein Onn's Political Philosophy

Book Excerpt

His Political Philosophy

“MY JOB AND YOUR JOB IS TO SERVE THE COUNTRY.” This motto appears on his office wall.And that, in brief, gives us a glimpse of the philosophy of Hussein, who has already been described as the IRON MAN of the Malaysian Cabinet.

During the days when he was the leader of the U.M.N.O Youth, Hussein was in his early twenties. He had the unique opportunity to study and appreciate the aims and aspirations of the Malays under the guidance of his father.

According to those who have known him from his youth, Hussein showed an aptitude for leadership when he served as an official in some of the organisation in Johore. A man of few words but big deeds, Hussein has a rare personal style. He is one who gets things done though not in a particularly exciting way. It is true that his aloofness and reticence often veil the real man. That prevents one from understanding him. But his reasoning hinges on what he has repeatedly stressed: “I am not important, but what I do is important.”

Big or small, Hussein treats all alike. Nobody gets special treatment. He does not care who you are and what you are. “I am not interested in the individuals, I am only interested in what you are doing for the government, and the country,” he once told a group of Government officials. When crime and corruption were unearthed among some important people, Hussein did not hesitate to take action. “The law is no respecter of persons. It must take its course,” he said.

Of the many memories and experiences in India during war-time, the one he relishes most is the training he had as an officer in the Indian Army. Let me quote his own words:

“What had been taught to me at the Dehra Dun Academy, India had made a lasting impression on me. It has been a constant guide and inspiration in my later life. It not only taught me military science but, what is more important, it had taught me the art and quality of leadership, loyalty to one’s country and responsibility for the welfare and well-being of those who have given their trust to you. I consider it is a great honour to have known some of India’s great sons. General Shrinagesh was my Company Commander at the Indian Military Academy; General Thimaya was my Second-in-Command at Agra, and General Raina and I were in the same Company and Battalion. If I remember with nostalgia my association with the Indian Army, I am proud of it.”

All the three Indian Generals mentioned above eventually became Commander-in-Chief of the Army in turn. If you want to know more about him, listen to what he told a journalist recently. “What after all is high office? It only means greater responsibilities. What are we for? People don’t give us power to satisfy our personal wants. They expect us to help. This trust we must discharge.” On another occasion, he remarked, “I would rather be politically unpopular than fail in my duty. What is one’s political future compared to one’s responsibility?”

Come what may, he has stuck to this principle in dealing with grave problems especially corruption, communalism and national unity. It is common knowledge today that he has removed some powerful leaders from their citadels of corruption and mal-administration. His actions and bold decisions may have alienated quite a number of people along the way. But friend and foe concede that he has done a good job. He has set a high standard of performance and morality for himself, his colleagues and others in Government. He has a strange kind of solidness and seriousness about him.

          “Strive for excellence” sums up his message to all civil servants. To Hussein goes the credit for the biggest political shake-up and corruption clean-up in Malaysian history. Now and then, he, as the Prime Minister, has taken a few knocks but his reputation as the leader of the nation remains unscathed.    

- J. Victor Morais. Hussein Onn: A Tryst with Destiny. 1981 


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