Malaysians should remember the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku, Razak and Hussein as under them, there was no question whatsoever that Malaysia is a liberal, democratic, multi-racial, secular state with Islam as the religion of Federation
Banker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, the youngest son of our second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, has said that his father would be shocked 39 years after his death – 57 years after Merdeka and 51 years after Malaysia – that race and religion divide Malaysians even more today than during his time.
It is against this sombre backdrop of nation-building after five decades that we are gathered here to remember Tun Razak and his legacy to the country.
Last year, Malaysia was bedevilled by a host of disasters and misfortunes like
- the two air crashes of MH370 on March 8 and MH 17 of July 17 with a total toll of 537 crew members and passengers of different nationalities, together with a third air disaster in a year Air Asia QZ8501 which crashed into Java Sea with 162 victims on Dec. 28;
- the year-end worst floods catastrophe in living memory;
- the burgeoning multi-billion ringgit 1MDB scandal threatening to become the “mother of all financial scandals” in Malaysia;
- the disastrous Report of Royal Commission of Inquiry into the “mother of all problems in Sabah”, the 40-year-old nightmare of illegal immigrants in Sabah, but which turned out to be the latest of the four-decade-old merry-go-round leading to nowhere;
- the bleak and gloomy economic picture with the plunge in crude oil prices hitting a six-year low with Brent crude falling as low as US$45.19 and US crude as low as US$44.20 and the plunge in price of other commodities like palm oil and rubber;
- the unprecedented rise of bigotry and extremism putting to the ultimate test the Merdeka and Malaysia national compacts of 1957 and 1963 to be a model to the world of successful multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural harmony, tolerance and co-existence.
Nobody would have thought that the problems of race and religion would have reached such serious a pass in the midst of the myriad of disasters and misfortunes but undoubtedly one of the most significant events of the past year and one of the brightest spots last year was the Open Letter to the Prime Minister by 25 Eminent Malays and the snowballing of support by ordinary moderate Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, politics or region, to save Malaysia from bigot and extremists.
Never before has an Open Letter by the citizenry struck such a resounding chord in our multiracial, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation, as evidenced by the enthusiastic support from all groups of Malaysian society, not confined to Malays and Muslims, like ‘I am #26’ online petition; “KamiJuga25″ (We, too, are 25), both signed by thousands of supporters; 95 NGOs in Malaysia, 22 Muslim activists and a multitude of support demonstrated by diverse groups and strata of Malaysian society in the past month.
One thought struck me and it is pertinent to raise it as this forum, Would Tun Razak have kept the Eminent 25, who were former top civil servants whether from the educational, medical, judicial or diplomatic services, cooling their heels for over a month, waiting for an appointment to hear out their pleas that the Prime Minister exercise leadership to get moderate Malaysians to stand up to the extremists who are destroying the multi-ethnic and multi-religious fabric of the country?
I do not think so.
A Young Turk of Razak’s era, Tun Musa Hitam, said Razak’s legacy, together with the founding fathers of the nation like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Ismail, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tun Sambanthan – and Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee and I was present at the launching of his biography “Unsung Patriot” in Penang last week – as well as the founding fathers from Sabah and Sarawak, was for our country to be multi-racial and multi-religious one and the well-being of all Malaysians.
During the debate on the Second Malaysia Plan in Parliament on in July 1971, I declared that DAP support the overriding objective of the New Economic Policy (NEP) to achieve national unity and its two prongs to eradicate poverty and restructure society to eliminate the identification of race with economic function.
But as DAP and many others had warned, the NEP became a major source of national division because it was abused for the enrichment of Umno-putras in the name of the upliftment of bumiputras, with a 20-year policy extended into a 45-year policy.
Only last week, prominent local economist Tan Sri Kamal Salih advocated that the time has come to shelve the bumiputera agenda and focus the national effort on a national policy to uplift all Malaysians regardless of race.
Kamal Salih said Putrajaya must go for the national agenda and create a national policy that is more inclusive. And if it does that properly, and avoid the pitfalls of the past, it can achieve its economic goals without having this red flag of being a ‘Bumiputera agenda’.
As Kamal rightly pointed out, If you are trying to reduce inequality and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, the beneficiaries will be largely Bumiputeras anyway.
As Kamal rightly pointed out, inequality was more prominent within ethnic groups, rather than between them, and poverty could no longer be defined along racial lines.
Ethnicity is no longer the basis for inequality. It has now become define) by income and the disparity between the rich and the poor, the gap between the CEO and the ordinary worker.
Musa Hitam said in The Malaysian Insider today that Razak was fully committed to the cause of multiracialism although within UMNO there was still a very strong lack of political willingness to accept a multiracial Malaysia.
As a result, “Pluralism” and “liberalism”, which actually translate into multiracialism, have become “dirty words” currently and under intense attack by some Umno personalities as well as related groups.
This is why the Open Letter by the Eminent 25 with the floodtide of support by different sectors of the Malaysian population, regardless of race, religion or region, is very important and significant, for it is nothing less than a reclamation of the politics of multiracialism, moderation and inclusion which now faces the greatest threat and challenge from the politics of racism, intolerance, extremism and exclusion.
Under the first three Prime Ministers, from Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein, in fact for 47 years from 1957 until 2001,Malaysia’s foundation as a liberal, democratic, l multi-racial and secular nation with Islam as the religion of the Federation was never seriously questioned or challenged. This was also the basis for Sabah and Sarawak’s Agreement, embedded in the 20 Points and 18 Points respectively for Sabah and Sarawak in the the formation of Malaysia in 1963.
For this reason, it would be a good idea if Malaysians remember the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku, Razak and Hussein as under them, there was no question whatsoever that Malaysia is a liberal, democratic, multi-racial, secular state with Islam as the religion of Federation.
In fact, the Rukunegara, which was drafted by the National Consultative Council (NCC) under the chairmanship of Razak after the May 13 riots, referred in its preamble to a just, democratic, liberal and progressive society.
This is why I believe that Tun Razak would have given the Eminent 25 more than a sympathetic hearing with regard to their Open Letter, instead of letting them cool their heels for more than a month.
I believe Tun Razak would have fully endorsed the Najib’s initiative in launching the iniative of the Global Movement of Moderates to rally moderates of the world to marginalise the extremist everywhere, but he would be dismayed and exasperated by Najib’s total inertia to check the rise of extremists and bigots whose rhetoric and politics of hate and intolerance have plunged the country to the worst racial and religious polarisation in the nation’s history.
Nazir has offered the view that if alive today, Razak would say that it is time to set up another national consultative council, like he did in 1970, to discuss critical issues around preserving harmony and fostering unity amongst Malaysians.
This is the challenge of the times.
In my 2015 New Year Message, I had called for an emergency meeting of Parliament to, among other things (i) present a new budget 2015 and an National Economic Salvation Plan in the wake of fast-changing economic world; and (ii) a National Reconciliation Plan to save Malaysia and the world from bigots and extremists.
I think Tun Razak would have received these proposals more positively.