Malaysia has forgotten Tunku, and Tunku would not recognise Malaysia

By Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

Tunku Abdul Rahman was the founder of Malaysia. That has been obscured by an intervening period in which his memory has been brushed out of our national consciousness.

He brought together a Malaysia that had come together “through our own free will and desire in the true spirit of brotherhood and love of freedom”, in a union arrived at “by mutual consent by debate and discussion…through friendly argument and compromise,” and “in the spirit of co-operation and concord.”

This was the basis for Malaysia he worked for and established, and that his life embodied. That basis has been replaced by something alien to it, his memory has been suppressed, and our history revised.

Part of the reason our collective memory of Tunku has faded, and that Tunku would not recognise today’s Malaysia, is that Tunku and his generation built institutions that empowered the people rather than cults of personality to concentrate power and wealth in themselves. They reached instinctively for democratic decision-making. The concepts and precepts of constitutional democracy were part of their natural vocabulary and instinctive reactions. They knew who the country belonged to, and that they lived to serve.

The day of Tunku’s funeral was not even declared a public holiday. It is no accident that the erasure of his memory has gone hand in hand with the erosion of our institutions. Tunku built up a system of good civil service in which ordinary citizens did not need to see so-and-so to get things done. This has been replaced by a domineering style of leadership in which what you get done depends on who you know. Of course the rich and powerful have better connections.

In place of the protection for ordinary citizens guaranteed by popular representation, rule of law and the checks and balances of independent institutions, we have the cult of the great leader.

In place of a system which designed to assure the rights of the ordinary citizen we have a system re-designed around the interests of corporate and political bosses.

Ordinary Malaysians are disenfranchised of their rights to health, education and security. They are then patronised by leaders whose idea of public service is to go around like Father Christmas doling out gifts of resources which are really the property of the people. This turns citizens into supplicants. Our properties are converted into gifts from the great leader. Our rights are converted into permissions. Our country has become his country.

There has been, over the years since his passing, a quite deliberate erasure of our memory of Tunku. This should come as no surprise. He saw the wrong turn we were taking and he opposed it. He and several other leaders were excluded from UMNO Baru. He led a movement called Semangat 46. His conception of our politics and system of government had no place for corrupt practices, arbitrary executive power and the manipulation of racial and religious identity for political gain.

Tunku Abdul Rahman did not help us achieve independence and then the merger, alone. He led and worked with an entire class of individuals schooled in the culture and practice of parliamentary democracy. In politics and the civil service they thrived in a time before the machine politics of patronage and lowbrow identity politics had sucked the life and talent out of the ruling party and left it filled with people who quite simply don’t have the ability to hold this country together anymore.

The average age of our first cabinet was under thirty. Tun Razak was 28. Tun Dr Ismail was barely 30 years old. Men of their calibre would not have made it up the ladder of the party that has succeeded theirs. They would have been too untainted, too young to do so.

The IDEAS project looks back, then, not just to an individual but to an era in Malaysia’s brief history. It will promote the values and principles on which we were formed.

Over the course of that history we have not trodden a continuous path to the present day. There have been two regimes, or political dispensations, in the life of this country, young as she is.

The first began in the fifties and ended in 1970. The dispensation that followed came to a mortal crisis in 1997 and limped on to 2008. Against the background of those changes, what has followed the elections of March 2008 is hard to describe as anything but the detritus of a once-functioning political system.

If any one of us was tempted to imagine that Malaysia had outgrown the sordid events of 1997, the government’s newspapers bring to our breakfast tables each day Sodomy 2, to remind us that after another decade of sloganeering, as Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin pointed out, we have come full circle to find ourselves back at the doorstep of our debased institutions and a Constitution that is increasingly inoperative.

The progress of the trial of the leader of the Opposition, the government’s apparent ignorance of the sovereign rights of the states and the way in which we have allowed religious issues to be manipulated, point to that conclusion. The constitutional crisis in Perak, in which a government has been installed by illegal means, the failure to implement two royal commissions of inquiry findings, point to that conclusion.

The barbarous political culture promoted by the establishment media brings us full circle, and drives home the point: our system of government is still in 1997. We are still in the after-wash of a wave of bad taste, authoritarianism and arbitrary power that destroyed our practice of parliamentary democracy, compromised our judiciary and police, and disenfranchised our people.

To modify Tunku’s words, we now have a democracy “existing in name, but grievously compromised in substance, reality and fact.”

Our penchant for slogans is a reflection of our dislocation from the living reality of constitutional and parliamentary democracy. We don’t need slogans. We need our Constitution back.

This, then, is the context in which IDEAS has adopted its noble purpose. The efforts of idealistic young people, attuned to the principles of parliamentary democracy and to our real history, and equipped with a plan to effect that purpose, are exactly what we need at this time. We need this and other such efforts from the young. They should not let their repugnance at the ugliness of our political system turn them away from it. It is precisely because we have a broken political system that it is so ugly. It is precisely because our main political parties are bound to infantile ethnic politics that we are now stagnant and declining as a country. Instead, I hope they see the mindlessness and ugliness of our present politics as a call to service.

I urge young people to rise to the task of changing our political system. We have left it to “the deranged” for too long as Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin calls them. To expect change from the incumbents is to expect, in the Malay saying, the mice to repair the gourd…“Bagai tikus baiki labu-labu.”

It is time for us to understand, discuss, organise and act together.

Tunku was a true Malaysian. As we have forgotten him, we have also forgotten how to be Malaysians. We must learn again how to be free and equal citizens of a constitutional democracy. In our national life we must learn again how to be a Federation of sovereign states governed by the rule of law.

We have been robbed of our memory, and have had it replaced with slogans, but we have also been robbed of our country. Let us come together to recover both.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 6:30 pm

    His grand daughter remarked that Tunku would also be blogger if he was alive. No doubt about it but I argue that his traffic would not be that high given his gentleman style of writing.

    But what would be amazing would be Tunku Facebook and Twitter account which would have the highest fan member in the country.

    If Tunku was alive, PR would be in Putrajaya if he said so..

  2. #2 by ekans on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 7:14 pm

    The day of Tunku’s funeral was not even declared a public holiday.

    That was because when the late Tunku had passed away, Doc Maverick was still in office. I think most of us know of the turbulent history between Tunku and Doc Maverick. I think no right thinking Malaysian will ever forget Tunku and his role in the birth of our nation.

  3. #3 by Onlooker Politics on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 8:20 pm

    //He led and worked with an entire class of individuals schooled in the culture and practice of parliamentary democracy.// (Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah)

    That was probably the biggest mistake Tunku made for Tunku’s reign of Malaysia with over-dependency on the aristocratic group from the Royal blood and the social Elite group such as British-educated lawyers and medical practitioners had caused the dislocation and distancing between the upper class nobles and the lower class commoners. This had given a good opportunity to those radical political activists such as Dato Harun and Dr Mahathir for using the foul method of racist incitement in order to climb up quickly to the helm of political mainstream after the occurence of May 13 Incidence.

    When Tunku was asked at the later stage of his life by a foreign jounalist on why he did not know Dr Mahathir well during 1960s, the answer from Tunku was that in 1960s, the top government officers usually dinned at a different banquet function which would not be joined by the rank-and-file officers. Tunku probably realized that it was his biggest mistake to stay too far away from the clever, smart but rebellious Malay commoners who later took chance to overthrow him out of rage and vengeance.

  4. #4 by Comrade on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 10:00 pm

    “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

    It all boils down to human greed
    What Malaysians really need
    Is to remove the political weed
    Replacing it with politicians of good breed
    Together practicing only the good deeds
    To benefit all irrespective of race, color or creed

  5. #5 by Bunch of Suckers on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 11:20 pm

    ekans :
    The day of Tunku’s funeral was not even declared a public holiday.

    Well, please ask Bakuthir!! Nobody better and above Bakuthir in Bodonland! Hope, Bakuthir’s death without the Public Holiday, too!!!

  6. #6 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 12:08 am

    Ku Li, you have made yr point poignantly. The pointed references are obvious to even simple ‘disenfranchised’ commoners like me.

    What I would like to ask respectfully is, so now what? You were within the system and witnessed its systemic decline and rot. For the first time in perhaps the last two or three years, yur voice of dissent is beginning to reverberate across the hills and reaching the masses. Now, so what?

    You do have within yr hands that influence and appeal to the masses. Now, so what?

    You have asked young people to rise and answer the clarion call for change. There is a need for leadership, vision, imagination and some people who can blaze the trail. perhaps, if anyone can, besides our black-eyed Anwar, you can! Now, so what?

    The people are so pissed off with the Tun M-Pak Lah-Najib triumvirate that helmed the country and contributed to its rot from the 1970s till today. Now u can retire because, if u like, age is not on yr side and settle back to be a mere blogger and armchair politician or….if u can read the minds of the weeping millions….now, so what?

    So what Ku Li, so what?

  7. #7 by chengho on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 12:12 am

    why China so successful becoming superpower both economy and military ; strong and no nonsence leadership , google can move out from China , they don’t care they have baidu..

  8. #8 by tenaciousB on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 1:30 am

    If only the ISA was used on the dictators back in the 80’s itself, this country wouldn’t end up this racist. sad

  9. #9 by frankyapp on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 1:51 am

    If only Sabah and Sarawak didn’t join Malaysia in the 60’s,today Sabahan and Sarawakian won’t be facing so much racist’s problem.

  10. #10 by Black Arrow on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 6:06 am

    Enough of talk, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Now go and join Pakatan Rakyat with immediate effect.

  11. #11 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 6:55 am

    ///So what Ku Li, so what?/// -#6 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL . This a most pertinent question. Whats the use of talking if you Ku Li are not acting – and leading- at this critical time ? There’s a time honored saying: “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!”

    Any hope of Pakatan Rakyat taking the country out from the valley of racial/religious bigotry by its “New Politics” is fast receding – if PR unravels/implodes (faster than UMNO/BN)due to a resurgence of the kind of politics of the likes of Zulkifli Nordin and his ilk taking advantage of the vacumn of leadership on Anwar Ibrahim’s part.

    I refer in particular to TheMalaysianInsider report of Feb 8 (Quote) — “Kulim-Bandar Baharu Member of Parliament Zulkifli Nordin of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) predicts there will be mass resignations from PKR in the next two or three weeks. He said this could be due to members losing faith in PKR’s leadership for ignoring their complaints about the DAP, a component member of the PKR-DAP-PAS alliance (Pakatan Rakyat). “Such complaints have been around for a long time…since Pakatan Rakyat was formed.” “Internal channels have been used but no action has been forthcoming,” he said in the “Soal Jawab” talkshow aired by TV3 tonight. He said DAP was not needed in the opposition coalition and that the party was a “thorn in the flesh” to the alliance. Asked about the risks of expelling DAP from Pakatan Rakyat as the coalition would lose power in some states, Zulkifli said such risks must be taken as what was important was the nation and the people.
    Besides this, Zulkifli also said PAS and PKR should enter into talks with Umno on Islamic issues without holding any prejudices.
    “Whoever champions Islam is our friend, no matter PKR, PAS or Umno,” he said.

    Lim Sue Goan of The MalaysianInsider observes/questions, “Anwar has been over believing in his personal charisma. He is laisser-faire and always sweep problems under the carpet. Such a poor leadership style has eventually caused him, PKR and Pakatan Rakyat a price to pay. Before facing the second sodomy allegation, Anwar had enough of time to do something to the party’s discipline and organisation. He has no talent in leading. He allowed one after another political rebel to succeed and he said that actions would be taken on them, but nothing have been done so far. There must be a reason for Anwar to not taking actions on trouble makers in the party. And now, he has to be in court everyday, how would he still have time to curb discipline problems? He can only leave it.”

    Good guys like Zaid is on 6 months leave dissatisfied with Anwar’s support of Azmin whilst Zulkifli who makes statements in BN’s media (TV 3) PKR’s Tan Tee Beng, Datuk Zahrain Mohd Hashim, Wee Choo Keong who attack Lim Guan Eng remain without being disciplined…At the rate PKR is imploding and Nik Aziz’s sending signal of willingness to talk to UMNO over Islam, whither (quo vadis) Pakatan Rakyat?

  12. #12 by chengho on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 7:51 am

    the beginning of the end for PKR , not to mention PRM still legally exist .

  13. #13 by legum on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 9:24 am

    Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. I’m sure you know it in your heart of hearts that if you lead Pakatan, you can turn the tide. Why hang on to the carcass of UMNO. UMNO has served its purpose on earth. Let it die as all things living must. Know that if you pass over this chance to stand at the right side of our naion’s history, Malaysia might be lost forever. Surely, you know how desperate the hour is for all of us Malaysians. Forgive me, but why be treated as dead in UMNO when you can fulfill your destiny as the Prince who saved his countrymen in their hour of need. Turn the tide KuLi, turn the page.

  14. #14 by PSM on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 10:40 am

    Yes, TDM ensured that our Dear Bapak Malaysia died a sad & dejected man!
    So now we come to the main question & that is Ku Li…what are you still doing in UMNO?! They don’t want you but they dare not get rid of you.
    You have also said that TDM & UMNO destroyed democracy in Msia.
    You have said many things over the last few months about UMNO. Why are you still a member of this Racist & Corrupted Party?
    It’s time you joined the “PR”.
    Lead the Opposition in the next GE & you will be the next PM of Malaysia!

  15. #15 by frankyapp on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 12:05 pm

    Yeap Ku Li,show rebel guy like Zulkifli Noordin that you too can take several Umno’s MPs,together with thousands to join PKR/PR. Take action,talk less if you genuinely do not wish Umno/Bn to further erode democracy in Malaysia.

  16. #16 by Onlooker Politics on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 1:05 pm

    Ku Li,
    With the 9.2.2010 Federal Court Ruling on the case of Nizar vs. Zambry, the Federal Court had set a precedent law by permitting the constitutional monarch to sack the head of the Executive Branch of the Government, so long as a competitive replacement can provide strong evidence that the incumbent head of Executive Branch had already lost the majority confidence of the legislature.

    This precedent law can further be extrapolated to imply that the incumbent Prime Minister can also be sacked by the Yang Dipertuan Agong, so long as a competitor is able to show strong evidence to the Yang Dipertuan Agong that the competitor is able to command the majority confidence of the Parliament in order to replace the incumbent Prime Minister.

    What are you waiting for now, Ku Li? You should quickly start a campaign in order to mobilise the signatures of the MPs who are willing to give you full support in your coup attempt to overthrow Najib. I believe most MPs of Pakatan Rakyat will give you full support in this coup attempt of yours. You just need to gather several more votes from among the MPs of Barisan Nasional or Independent then you will be able to bag home the powerful post of Prime Minister of Malaysia.

    I trust that majority Malaysian people will prefer you to Najib as the choice of the Prime Minister. May you have the best luck in this coup attempt, Ku Li!

  17. #17 by Comrade on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 1:09 pm

    Why is Ku Li still in the UMNO camp?
    Join PR and be a man of a different stamp
    Lead the others in lighting PR’s democratic lamp
    Let it shine forth and be the people’s champ

  18. #18 by ctc537 on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 1:39 pm

    Tunku did what he thought was right for this country, that’s why so many people still remember him twenty years after he passed away, on 6-12-1990 to be exact.
    Tengku Razaleigh is the only politician who can command the support of all Malaysians should he decide to quit UMNO and lead PR to a sensational win in the 13GE. It doesn’t mean that there are no other leaders capable of leading us to a bright future.
    We can seize upon him as our modern-day Tunku Abdul Rahman, and hope that under his guidance, we can become a truly developed country in a decade or two.
    My assessment is that while the PR parties may have lost direction temporarily, there is also a prevailing perception that Malaysia under the continued rule of BN will not have a bright future. Most people in Penang think that Gerakan is already history, MCA is also in a morimund stage suffering from a chronic illness. The only alternative left is clinging to DAP and PKR, for good or for bad.
    Just pray everyday that Anwar Ibrahim will not be found guilty of Sodomy II, uncles Karpal and LKS continue enjoying good health so that they can guide the PR until at least 2020 and PAS continue to have increasing Malay support through preaching its moderate Islamic approach in solving problems of a multi racial-multi religious society.
    Last but not least, hope that our CM LGE will learn fast on his job and speed up development in Pg so that it becomes South East Asia’s New Boom Town by the year 2020.
    Gong Xi Fa Cai to all.

  19. #19 by legum on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 1:48 pm

    9 February 2010. It feels like that moment, in slow motion, when all the Jedis were being slaughtered under the Emperor’s Code 66. Or when the Sentinels swarmed Zion in Revolutions, and with the Federal Court acting like the Giant Driller. But what happened in the end?

  20. #20 by DCLXVI on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 2:16 pm

    chengho :why China so successful becoming superpower both economy and military ; strong and no nonsence leadership , google can move out from China , they don’t care they have baidu..

    Still giving ideas to Umno that Malaysia should be a one-party state like the People’s Republic of China?

  21. #21 by DCLXVI on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 2:20 pm

    chengho :the beginning of the end for PKR , not to mention PRM still legally exist .

    Well, it isn’t over until it’s really over…

  22. #22 by HARAPAN MALAYSIA on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 11:15 pm

    Anak Malaysia shall always REMEMBER The Great Tunku..but Will Forget & Forgive The Popular Father Christmas sooner or later…!

    May God Bless 1Malaysia…!

  23. #23 by badak on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 11:43 pm

    Lets face it we can shout,scream, bang our heads on the wall or even jump from the tallest building. The way BN control the mainstream media, the police,MACC, the judiciary and the sultans do you think the opposition can win PU13.. no way my friend.

  24. #24 by cheng on on Wednesday, 10 February 2010 - 10:30 pm

    Ku Li can say all he wants, but as long as he is in BN, his words, sincerity, intentions etc are ????

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