Sdr Professor Syed Hussein Alatas (President from 1968-1971)

Professor Syed Hussein Alatas was born in Bogor, Indonesia on 17 September 1928. He was a Malaysian academician, sociologist, founder of social science organisations, and politican.



Syed Hussein was among the several professionals and intellectuals namely, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, Dr. V. David, Dr. Tan Chee Khoon, Dr J.B.A. Peter, Professor Wang Gungwu and Mr V. Veerapan who founded Gerakan in 1968. In the 1969 general elections, Gerakan campaigned on a platform of social justice and greater parity for all Malaysians in line with the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. Besides parliament and state seats elsewhere, the party managed to win two-thirds majority of the 24 seats in the Penang Legislative Assembly to form the state government, with Dr. Lim as the new Chief Minister.



Syed Hussein was appointed as a Senator. However, after the May 1969 riots, he and some leaders did not agree with Chong Eus move to work closely with the Alliance federal government for the development of Penang. They insisted on maintaining Gerakan as an opposition party in the federal parliament, especially after democracy was restored in April 1971. Out manouvered by Dr. Lim, they left the party to form a new party, except Syed Hussein. Disillusioned by the 1969 riots and the political strifes that followed, Syed Hussein moved back to Singapore to continue his academic career with the National University of Singapore. He only returned to Malaysia more than two decades later.



Syed Husseins political views were considered by many to be ahead of its time. He was a fervent proponent of meritocracy and this was solidified by the time he spent in Singapore where he believed meritocracy has contributed to the significant intellectual advancement of the city state. He was also a stellar voice of moderate Islam. While undertaking postgraduate studies at the University of Amsterdam, Syed Hussein founded and edited the Journal of Progressive Islam (1954 - 1955), fostering his links with intellectuals within the Muslim world, including Mohammad Natsir from Indonesia, Taha Husayn and Osman Amin, both from Egypt.



Syed Husseins academic career began at the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka publishing house, where he worked as the head of the research department from 1958 onwards. He began lecturing part-time in philosophy at the University of Malaya in 1960, and served as the Head of the Cultural Division at the universitys department of Malay Studies from 1963 to 1967. He then served as the Head of the Department of Malay Studies in the National University of Singapore from 1967 to 1988.



Syed Hussein was appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya in 1988, before becoming a professor at the Centre for General Studies in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1995. He was later transferred to the Department of Anthropology and Sociology in 1997, before becoming principal research fellow at the Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation of the same university in 1999. The Myth of the Lazy Native is amongst the many books authored by Syed Hussein.



Syed Hussein was conferred DSPN (Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri) with the title of Dato by the Penang State Government in 1999 in recognition of his academic achievement and political views. He died on 23 January 2007 at the age of 80 and was buried in the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery.


Sdr Professor Syed Hussein Alatas




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