Tunku and Pak Samad are quintessential Malaysians who must be the models for Malaysians to emulate if we want Malaysia to succeed as a truly developed nation by 2020

This is a “double honour” gathering, to remember a statesman Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia and to celebrate a national laureate, Pak Samad, not just because they share the same birthday on February 8, but because they are quintessential Malaysians, the embodiment of what a Malaysian should be, transcending race, religion and region, representing what is best for decent and civilized human beings, espousing the causes of truth, freedom, justice and dignity for all.

Tunku and Pak Samad should be models for all Malaysians to emulate if we want Malaysia to succeed as a truly developed nation by 2020, as envisaged by Vision 2020.

A quintessential Malaysian is a rare commodity in Malaysia today, although we are in the fifth decade of nationhood – 57 years after Merdeka in 1957 and 51 years after the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

I am reminded of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities (my Form Four textbook – and it is another sign of worsening times in Malaysia that our students today do not have such textbooks anymore) and how the novel started, which seemed also to describe the national situation in Malaysia today, viz:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

In her speech, Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan called on the nation to return to the basics and other speakers, Maria Chin Abdullah, PAS MP for Parit Buntar Dr. Mujahid Yusuf Rawa and our special guest of honour Pak Samad had spoken of the woes confronting the nation.

In the fifth decade of our nationhood, Malaysia has lost her way.

Can we get back our bearings, to be an united, harmonious and purposeful nation with a successful political, economic and educational system leveraging on the best of the diverse races, religions, cultures and languages finding confluence in Malaysia?

The answer must depend on whether we can nurture more quintessential Malaysians, who though remain as Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, or Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs or Taoists, are united by an overarching aspiration and common bond as quintessential Malaysians!

It is most unfortunate that there are no quintessential Malaysians among the 35 Ministers or the Najib Cabinet would not have shamed and dishonoured itself in its craven handling of the Ismail Sabri episode, where a Minister’s rabid racist call to Malay consumers to boycott Chinese businesses was sanctioned and defended as a call to all traders to reduce prices when the problem of price increases has nothing to do with race whatsoever.

The Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein did the nation no service when he said this morning that Ismail’s rabid racism is “nothing compared to the atrocities committed by ISIS militants”.

This shocking statement is in fact the best proof that the Ministers in the Najib Cabinet have lost their moral compass to distinguish right from wrong and their inability and incapacity to take a stand on the Big Questions of Right and Wrong in the country.l

Does Hishammuddin want to see beheadings, human beings burnt alive and other ISIS atrocities committed in Malaysia?

Hishammuddin’s outrageous statement is completely unacceptable as the 35 Ministers seem content for Malaysia to be in the race of who is worst among nations (like “not as bad as ISIS atrocities”) instead of in a race of who is best!

Just before I was called up by the moderator Sdr. Edry to speak, I read of another forum this morning where Ismail was chastised by the panellists, including former University Malaya vice chancellor Tan Sri Ghauth Jasmon, senior research fellow of Department of International and Strategic Studies, University of Malay Professor Datuk Mohammad Abu Bakar, lawyer and columnist Roger Tan and Chairman of Board of Trustees of 1Malaysia Foundation Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, who told Ismail to “think first before opening his mouth”.

Chandra suggested that the Prime Minister take his ministers for a retreat to advise them on what to say, but the problem is that the Prime Minister himself has lost the capability to distinguish right from wrong.

In Tunku’s time, Ismail would have been castigated for such rabid racism and even be sacked from the Tunku’s Cabinet.

What would Tunku have done if he is Prime Minister with regard to some of the controversies of the day?

The Tunku suspended local government elections on 1st March 1965 with the promise of restoring them when peace was restored. Such a suspension has lasted 50 years. However, I believe Tunku would have kept his word and restored local government elections if he had continued as Prime Minister.

I do not think Tunku, who had established the Athi Nahapaan Royal Commission of Inquiry into the workings of the local authorities, would have any hesitation in setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the recent “worst floods catastrophe in living memory” to learn the reasons and mistakes for the botched-up floods disaster management in all three phases of response, relief and reconstruction , as the flood damages could have been minimised and not the final toll of 25 lives, a million flood victims with a quarter of a million in the various flood relief centres and billions of ringgit of property losses, both public and private.

Tunku would no doubt be horrified by the rampant corruption today, and the subversion of the national institutions like the police, the judiciary and the civil service, which have lost their independence, impartiality and even professionalism evident in the early years of our nationhood.

One of Tunku’s most steadfast and uncompromising positions is his commitment to the bedrock principles of nation-building spelt out in the Federal Constitution – Malaysia as a democratic, multi-racial and secular nation with Islam as the religion of the Federation and freedom of religion for other faiths practised by Malaysians.

Pak Samad, who has morphed from a National Laureate to become a People’s Laureate, is not only famous for his writings, but his commitment for democracy and justice, with his assuming the role of co-chairman of the Bersih movement when he was nearing eighty years old.

His age did not dim his youthful energies for the cause of freedom and justice.

Malaysia needs more quintessenial Malaysians like Tunku and Pak Samad to save our country.

Just now, Ambiga made a stirring call on all political parties, both government and opposition, and the civil society, to rise to the national challenge to put aside their differences and come together to address the plight of the people, particularly the issues of the economy and livelihood of the people, good governance and the worsening race relations in the country.

On behalf of the DAP, I want to give instant public endorsement to Ambiga’s call.

Ambiga’s call for national unity and national reconciliation provides leaders of political parties and the civil society the opportunity and challenge to become quintessential Malaysians like Tunku and Pak Samad – to put the interests of the nation above all other considerations.

Ambiga’s initiative will resonate among ordinary Malaysians. Will it resonate with the leaders of the Barisan Nasional component parties, and will UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan and the Barisan Nasional parties in Sabah and Sarawak endorse Ambiga’s call?

We will wait and see.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah