The happiest PM in the world

Mariam Mokhtar
Oct 15, 2012

The Tunku once described himself as “the happiest prime minister” when he was interviewed in 1983, by Peter Hastings, the foreign editor of the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

Today, as we read about Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, and the tactics used against the rakyat, NGOs, civil liberty groups and the opposition, we see a man who resorts to foul play, even breaking the law if necessary, to prolong his political career and that of his party, Umno.

Perhaps, what the Tunku possessed and what his successors lack is a sense of humour. Behind the calm purpose of his jokes, Tunku was able to show his spirit of tolerance.

Tunku laughed when Hastings reminded him of the time an Islamic group had sought the Tunku’s support for adulterers to be stoned to death and he had replied: “There are not enough stones in Malaysia.”

In his biography, ‘Tunku: His Life and Times’, the Tunku is described as looking resplendent in his morning coat and top hat, when he posed with Think Big, the race horse which won the Melbourne Cup in 1975. Just before he went up to receive the winner’s trophy, Tunku swopped his top hat for a black songkok and as the cup was placed in his hands, said: “I thank God for our victory”, a phrase which he repeated later that night at the Victory Cup Ball.

Those who knew Tunku would remember that most of his dinners ended-up on the dance-floor. He revived the Ronggeng (a Malay dance) and foreign dignitaries were invited to dance with their Malay hostesses. With this method, he succeeded in diplomacy, both foreign and domestic, something which would be impossible to replicate in today’s intolerant Malaysia.

The current crop of Malay leaders would never dare emulate Tunku by pursuing their hobbies openly, or even attribute gambling successes to God. They’d rather lie, for the sake of political expediency.

Many Malays of today are two-faced. The pious façade they present to the public is only to advance themselves in politics or to gain commercial advantage. It is widely known that prominent Malays including high-ranking members of the civil service, including the judiciary and police, have private poker sessions. The only time they don’t hide from the public eye, is when they are abroad.

So, why is gaming in casinos and betting on horses prohibited, but corruption allowed? Why should politicians be allowed to play Russian roulette with taxpayer’s money but individual Malays prevented from gambling with their own money?

In the SMH interview, Tunku was asked his views on the Look East policy of the prime minister of the time, Mahathir Mohamad. Tunku said: “Look east? Why should I? I have always liked to look in all directions.”

‘I like people to be happy’

At a birthday party in Kuala Lumpur in 1987, Tunku abandoned his prepared text and towards the end of his speech repeated his scorn for Mahathir: “Whether we look East or West, we shall always be friends with England.”

Tunku told Hastings (SMH) about the influence of the Islamic traditionalists and drinking mores of the Malaysian politicians of the 80s: “It is changing. I used to provide scotch, brandy and champagne at my banquets. The people did not mind. They are tolerant, but Tun Razak, my successor, never liked it. He feared the political consequences. I like people to be happy.”

The Tunku comes across as a normal human being, one the rakyat feels comfortable with. He did not hide behind the veil of hypocrisy, unlike his successors.

Perhaps, the Tunku’s “what you see is what you get” attitude endeared him to the public, rather than the sham public face which many of his successors wear.

When Tunku was advised to stop drinking alcohol at one of the earlier Umno meetings, he said: “People must accept me as I am: my bad habits and my virtues. At the age of 48, I cannot change them.”

Like other prominent Malay families, Tunku sent his daughter to study as a boarder at the Light Street Convent in Penang. Today, church halls have to remove crucifixes and other emblems of Christianity when Umno leaders are present. Umno expects people of other faiths to respect Muslims and Islam, but thinks nothing of trampling on the rights of other faiths, or accusing them of taking over the country, simply to rile the Malays.

Mahathir exploited the vulnerability of the Malays and gave the Umno Malays legal protection, in the same way that wildlife organisations protect endangered plants and animals. Mahathir made it an offence for anyone to threaten the Umno Malays by changing the environmental, or other parameters, in which the Umno Malays would thrive.

Two weeks ago, Najib argued that successful Malaysian women risked making men “an endangered species”. He is wrong. What he meant was that Umno Malays are the world’s most protected species.

Didn’t Mahathir and Najib learn in school, that if you take an animal from the wild and domesticate it, the animal soon forgets to fend for itself?

Bred in captivity

Successive generations of Umno Malays have been bred in captivity and have become dependent on the food from their keeper. If released into their natural settings, Umno Malays will die. Like most caged animals, they have become lazy and obese. Their mental processes deteriorate because they lack the stimuli necessary for survival. Umno Malays could be weaned off their bad habits, but Umno will never allow that to happen.

If the zookeepers (Umno leaders) have no animals (Umno Malays) to take care of, then they are out of a job.

In today’s Malaysia, the fund for maintaining the Umno zoo is running low. The keepers have siphoned off most of the takings from the zoo. With food stocks running low, portions are small and feeding is erratic. The animals are distressed. They have been used to large meals, at any time of day, not just at feeding times.

These are dangerous times. The animals are waiting to pounce. One wrong move and the keeper becomes their next meal. Those of us watching from outside the cage would then be happiest. If Umno Malays refuse to be mentally liberated now, they run the risk of extinction.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 8:13 am

    Truth be told, it will take only one disaster for example the breakup of Euro and Malaysia will have to borrow to pump-prime its economy and end up in the same basket case as Greece.

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 9:29 am

    Anybody watched P Ramlee’s movies of yesteryears lately? Very soon many of his movies might be banned as they might be considered not suitable for current times, being bad influence, not religious etc etc.

  3. #3 by monsterball on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 9:43 am

    Tunku was proud to be Malaysian first….race second.
    He was a jovial concerned PM to all Malaysians.
    He studied the good points of the British high society behaviors and manners and copy them…for his personal pleasure…like horse racing…tennis.
    He is loved by all Malaysians..and millions will never forgive Mahathir’s low class tit for tat actions and cruel intentions against him.
    Tunku sacked Mahathir to have Malaysian unity…nothing personal.
    Mahathir replaced Umno with his Umno B was a personal revenge.
    If you compare Tunku to Mahathir….it is like comparing an Angel with a Devil.

  4. #4 by Winston on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 9:43 am

    Let’s say that the so-called “leaders” who came after Tengku were successively worse.
    And after being steeped in corruption, scams and scandals, what’s there to do except to do whatever scums do everything to prevent facing their comeuppance?
    Those are the things that Malaysians are facing now!!
    The evil becomes progressively worse!!!
    And for those who may not have noticed it, banners with the BN logo as well as posters for the party have been put up along some areas, especially those that are opposition dominated.
    Aren’t they trying to get a leg up in the coming elections?
    But such things are completely futile and will never change anybody’s mind when the electorate sees the “in-your-face” corruption, scams and scandals going on 24/7 in this country!!!

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 9:49 am

    ‘…Mahathir exploited the vulnerability of the Malays and gave the Umno Malays legal protection, in the same way that wildlife organisations protect endangered plants and animals….’

    ‘…Successive generations of Umno Malays have been bred in captivity and have become dependent on the food from their keeper…’

    He He He.

    Gee Mariam. I really like this article and the way it was written. Give us more. Many, many more. Encore. Encore. Encore.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 10:21 am

    Strange the Tunku in 1983 still described himself as “the happiest prime minister” after having been ushered out of his post by a contrived May 13 incident! It shows the man has no rancor or bitterness. He has seen through the duplicity and hypocrisy of man. Yet this “happy” leader dubbed Malaysian playboy in UK and who had no qualms relishing a drink or two or poker game with friends would by today standards be condemned as being hedonistic, with vice, not pious or by conduct not exemplary as leader. Something’s wrong with today’s people. They cannot accept with grace humans’ weakness, which of course they’re not free from but hypocritical, with one real veiled face and several false public ones. Today the strongest of faith is in the Money God, and key to success in this respect is to be appended to power connections by duplicity and hypocrisy. All it takes is one leader who evinces how with such Machiavellian traits he could usurp power, climb to apex, maintain power and enjoy its benefits, and the rest take cue and follow.

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 10:27 am

    The visible success of such a Machiavellian leader and those underlings who align with and ingratiate power, compounded by religiosity encouraged by the state for political control all play a part to change the values system of many in society from honesty to hypocrisy. People begin to think honesty/integrity is poor cousin to hypocrisy/duplicity when it comes to pursuing financial success. Not that hypocrisy by itself is bad – as humans all have tendency to be hypocrites- but hypocrisy developed to a level harmful to and marginalizing others, diminishing their livelihood, derogating their civic and often fundamental human rights, now that is over the limit and is bad. The benchmark for society’s leadership is lowered – the most hypocritical and duplicitous with more largesse to dispense get to ascend leadership position. Leaders like the Tunku, Tun Hussein Onn or even Pak Lah evincing down to earth humility and live and let live attitude would be ushered out those more hypocritical and duplicitous and largess to dispense. Whilst decline in standards of leaders affect negatively the people, the people too are not absolved. For there can be no hypocritical and duplicitous leader without equally hypocritical and duplicitous followers voting them and singing their praise and lobbying for their support. It’s a 2 way mutually interacting process in vicious cycle in which we’re now caught!

  8. #8 by PRmaju on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 10:37 am

    Ms. Mokhtar, Brilliant and very accurate analogy!!

    Mamakthir , pride himself as doctor who knew how to diagnose problem and administer cure . What is more true is mamakthir is a devious , despicable , evil man with a extremely evil mind, he exploit , manipulate Malay , give them opium and steroid, fool them into complacnecy and false superiority and impart on umno Malay a culture of corruption and laziness. By now, everyone should know MAmakthir was no champion of Malay, but a humongous deceitful false leader who have planted an intractable problem for the future generation of Malay . MAmakthir , having the total power to manipulate the simple minded MAlay, abuse and exploit to the fullest to his personal advantage . Probably no where else or in history has 1 man been so successful and fooling and misleading an entire race and causing such horrendous harm to the race !

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 11:00 am

    The so called Mamakthir was the first to challenge the Tunku by an open letter of criticism in 1969 and galvanising support against him even before then. He’s behind (one way or another) the rise and fall of Malaysian leaders even since 1969 till even today (continuing). That’s his grip and influence over the Malay psyche. He’s also architect of 22 years of aggressive Islamisation besides NEP – and of course Privatisation turned piratisation.

  10. #10 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 11:05 am

    No wonder he always by way of facial expression have that cynical sneer of supercilious condescension. Others are not as smart.

  11. #11 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 11:24 am

    Mamakthir sees himself as the perfect one whom all should emulate, worship and adore. Has he ever admitted even once that he was wrong on something? It is always somebody else’s fault not his and he does have excuses every time something goes awry. Never his fault. He expects to be given free, easy and unobstructed passage into heaven where he will sit above the gods.

  12. #12 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 12:49 pm

    There was a Tunku. When comes such another?

    There was a Mahathir. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  13. #13 by cintanegara on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 5:24 pm

    Why some people can be so busybody about other people? Why can’t they discuss more useful subjects ……for instance…… low fertility rate among certain community…gambling addict…Ah Long…alcoholism…or helping male natives from Sabah and Sarawak (below 35 years) working in another country …normally, he will take articles written by so called Malay…discredit his/her own race… why didn’t he write such article himself?

    In addition…why hasn’t LKS had an official blog in BM…so that he could interact with the you think the vast majority support him?? Finally, whoever you are comparing the leaders to…we LOVE TUN DR MAHATHIR…he is our hero…Long live Tun Mahathir…

  14. #14 by monsterball on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 5:57 pm

    Cintanegara hates busybody….and so do we on natural personal matters.
    But when it comes to talk about corrupted ministers…Cintanegara is busy with his rambutan tree and hates busybody Malaysians exposing crooks.
    Where has logic gone to…hiding under the rambutan tree?
    Cintanegara is educated under his rambutan tree…that cannot understand anything about corruptions….a very sad case of one caught by the devil wholesale.

  15. #15 by monsterball on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 6:20 pm

    Tunku is far from being a perfect PM….but taking the situation and circumstances of a country he just got Independence from the British ….there are actions and deeds Tunku did that will not please everyone….including me.
    However…he did love all Malaysians sincerely.
    I cannot forgive Tunku breaking his promise to Chin Peng…..but he still depend on the British help…and it was the British who advised Tunku to break his promise to Chin Peng….and up to now…the Umno B continue to throw dirt at the real freedom fighter….a hero made to look like a traitor.

  16. #16 by cskok8 on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 8:19 pm

    Whatever critics say about Tunku, nobody has ever accused him of corruption.

  17. #17 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 18 October 2012 - 10:07 pm


    Looks like you are sucking up to the Tun.

    Hope you get what you are trying to suck, babe.

  18. #18 by megaman on Friday, 19 October 2012 - 2:08 am

    An honest rascal is better than a lying gentleman …

    Not implying that Tunku is a rascal but he’s definitely not a liar but a true gentleman.

  19. #19 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Friday, 19 October 2012 - 10:20 am

    It is not just between the Tunku and subsequent politicians that we see the loss of easy-going, camaraderie and racial harmony. This has been destroyed during the reign of Mamakthir who created the divide among the races.

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