The best (acting) prime minister

Mariam Mokhtar
Sep 9, 2013

No one will dispute the filial piety and devotion shown by Tawfik, the eldest son of Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, who was once called “The man who saved Malaysia.” Dr Ismail died in office, in his capacity as acting prime minister, effectively the best prime minister we have had.

tun dr ismail abdul rahmanDr Ismail was remembered for his non-ethnic approach to issues and his concern about racial polarisation. He had a strong work ethic, was a strict but fair man who adhered strictly to rules. He despised incompetence and lateness. He was feared and respected. He refused to grant favours even to relatives and close friends. He was highly principled and enjoyed debating.

He avoided conflict of interest and the British High Commissioner said in despatches, “Ismail was a man of formidable reputation for integrity and talent in all communities.”

Tawfik has sullied his father’s memory by aligning himself with the present, undistinguished Umno Baru politicians by suggesting that the controversial film, Tanda Putera be made into a mini-series.

Tawfik noted that many facts in the book, The Reluctant Politician by Dr Ooi Kee Beng, were excluded from the film and reasoned that this was why people had called Tanda Putera a piece of propaganda. It would be more judicious to say that many people consider the film propaganda because fictional scenes were inserted, to influence thinking and undermine people’s understanding of what really happened.

tan siew sinIt was stated in the book, that Tan Siew Sin (left), who was the MCA president in 1969, pulled MCA out of the government, after being severely criticised by Umno members for his party’s poor performance in the election. The present MCA president, Chua Soi Lek, did something similar after GE13 this year.

Unaware of the MCA withdrawal, Dr Ismail later called Tan “irresponsible and childish” for letting down the Malays and Chinese who had voted for the MCA. In letters to his friend Robert Kuok and the chairperson of Guthrie, Eric Griffith-Jones, Ismail had tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Tan to revoke his decision because the action by the MCA had initiated the riot.

As the book explains, Ismail had warned Tan of further polarisation and that the MCA withdrawal would play into the hands of both Malay and Chinese extremists.

Interestingly, the book also claims that Mahathir Mohamad, who had lost his seat to a PMIP (the precursor of PAS) candidate, had advocated that the MCA be excluded from the government. Ismail had also warned of “extreme racialists in the ruling party who were making a desperate bid to topple the leadership”.

Perhaps it would be fair to say that there were no riots after GE13 in 2013 because the rakyat has wised up to Umno Baru’s tricks, which are designed to create ethnic clashes. Multiracial Malaysia has been tested by the cow-head incident, the Allah issue, butt dances and cooking of beef burgers outside Ambiga’s house, the pig’s heads in the suraus, the forced child conversions and the seditious Utusan Malaysia articles.

The rakyat act with restraint whilst the government does little to diffuse the tension. There has been no repeat of May 13 because the government cannot pull the wool over the rakyat’s eyes any more, unlike in 1969 when the riots were a distraction, to mask the internal power struggles within the old Umno party.

Tawfik said that the opposition parties, DAP, PAS and Gerakan had “plied on politics of polarisation” in 1969. Could he explain why Umno Baru is dividing the rakyat in 2013 and not learnt its lesson from history?

Why did Tawfik say there was no need to find out who was responsible for the riots?

Isn’t Tawfik interested in learning the truth? Surely, the people who were responsible should be punished, if they are still alive. At the very least, the people who suffered deserve an apology.

An RCI is about finding the truth

Strangely, Tawfik said that no one would be happy with the outcome of a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) if one were set up.

An RCI is not about placating people. It is about finding the truth.

Tawfik tried to justify the reasons for not having the RCI by asking who would lead the investigation? He wondered where to look for the evidence? As in any RCI, a panel of responsible and trusted people would be chosen, then terms of reference will be set.

may 13 generic may13 riot racial race communal 190507Has Tawfik heard of primary and secondary sources, which are used to evaluate a historical event? These could be in the form of letters, diaries, news report, foreign despatches, intelligence reports, internal memos, eyewitness accounts, hospital and mortuary records, doctors and nurses’ testimonies, reports from the police, Special Branch and the armed forces, autobiographies, film reels. These are important sources to interpret a past event.

Tawfik’s justification of the historical inaccuracy which the producer allowed, because of a shortage of time, is disgraceful. His father would have found the slipshod approach quite unacceptable.

Other facts from the book would have been damaging to this government and to former PM Mahathir Mohamad. Some of the more interesting ones are:-

Ismail advised Tunku not to hand over power to the military. He said, “Once you do that, you won’t get it back.”

Robert Kuok asked Ismail who had suffered most in the riots, and Ismail replied, “Of course, the Chinese.”

NONEIsmail had wanted Hanif Omar, the police chief assigned to the National Operations Council (NOC), formed after May 13, to arrest the then-Selangor menteri besar, Harun Idris, “for murder”. Hanif persuaded Ismail to investigate the claims first. In the end, Harun was not arrested.

Wahab Majid of Bernama wrote that Abdul Razak toyed with the idea of “benevolent dictatorship” but was discouraged by Ismail who pushed for a return to parliamentary democracy.

In 1969, the Singapore High Commissioner, Maurice Baker, said that Ismail was strict and decisive, that he would arrest anyone who caused trouble, irrespective of race.

General Ibrahim Ismail, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the NOC, also said that Dr Ismail’s direct manner and uncompromising stance helped restore law and order, whilst Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen, an under-secretary in the Defence Ministry, recalled Ismail declaring that he would arrest his own mother, if she had done something illegal.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah claimed that Ismail had wanted Mahathir expelled from Umno and stopped two attempts to readmit him to the party.

NONETo gain an objective portrayal, Tanda Putera should have shown Ismail’s preference for Dom Perignon because his taste buds were destroyed by medication; he hated the term “bumiputera” and had stipulated a time limit on the NEP; Ismail had said that the special position of the Malays was a handicap to them and according to Tengku Razaleigh, the Chinese did not have confidence in Razak, but they trusted Ismail.

The book revealed that after May 13, Ismail was deputy PM and involved in an important piece of legislation, the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No 22. Under this ruling, the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) had the authority to freeze or forfeit “ill-gotten” assets of public officials and politicians.

Ismail said that as the country was ruled by the NOC, there was no functioning parliament, and corrupt practices were not exposed. He pushed this new ordinance through because Malaysian politicians refused to resign even after being caught perpetrating unconstitutional acts.

Ismail knew that with the new ordinance, corrupt individuals would be treated as criminals. The act resulted in the removal of the Perak and Trengganu chief ministers, for corruption.

One hopes that the film did say that Ismail once told his Danish counterpart, that “we want to create a United Malaysia of Malays, Chinese Indians etc, just as the United States is a fusion of many different elements.”

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 - 12:45 am

    ‘ … Ismail said that as the country was ruled by the NOC, there was no functioning parliament, and corrupt practices were not exposed…. Malaysian politicians refused to resign even after being caught perpetrating unconstitutional acts. …’.

    It uncanny. Talk about deja vu. Aren’t we in a similar position now after almost half a century ? Have we made any progress ?

    To many people now, Tanda Putera is an ‘accurate’ depiction of our history. There are already calls for it to be shown everywhere, schools, villages etc, to inform the people what ‘actually’ happened in May 1969 and thereafter led by the two gentlemen, one of whom is reportedly a racist but this fact is well hidden away, some say.

    As we celebrate our 50th year, where is the ‘Ooomph’ ?

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 - 1:14 am

    ‘ … Tawfik has sullied his father’s memory …’ .

    Same can be said of the many sons today who have sullied their fathers’ and families’ names. No need to name names, we have plenty of them in the Cabinet and in the government.

    What happened to their genes ?

    And some woman want some Bosnian genes summore.

  3. #3 by Noble House on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 - 3:21 am

    The three great statesmen of UMNO’s past when our country stood tall amid the storms that still very much remains in the hearts and minds of Malaysians who knew them and the country past historical context:

    1. The Tunku
    2. Tun Dr Ismail
    3. Tun Hussien Onn.

    In Tawfik, we see a similarity in Hisham and like most in UMNO B today, they are infected with the Kerala disease. Just like the Vietnam Rose, it’s equally contagious!

  4. #4 by drngsc on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 - 11:46 am

    After 56 years, It looks like in Malaysia, the ordinary rakyat is not the problem. It is the corrupt, and weak government, fanned by self serving, racist and religious bigots who are the problem. People who will make up stories to spew lies.
    Oh Lord, what have we done to deserve these people.

  5. #5 by shakarul on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 - 3:39 pm

    I have kept this fact to myself for more than 40 years plus pertaining to the main reason behind the hapenning of May 13. I think it’s not only me but more people who were residing in the vicinity near Chow Kit known about the fact.

    Yes, it was the Chinese who have infuriated the Malays to spark off May 13 as claimed by many UMNO politicians. But it was only a group of Chinese less than 100 members were involved in the provocation against the Malays. They were members of triad gang named ‘龙虎堂Dragon & Tiger gang’ headed by their leader nicked-named ‘Hong Hong’. Their dominating boundary was at Capitol & Federal cinema just behind Jalan Chow Kit and their operating domain was inclusive of Rex cinema at Jalan Sultan.

    Immediately after the general election before May 13, for unknown reasons Hong Hong lead a group of gangsters probably a mix of several triad gangs to embarking on a free for all street-to-street demonstration. They were beating drums and shouting derogative slogans against Malays on lorries while roaming around KL town especially in Malay area like Kampong Baru.

    The Malays were furious and if I am a Malay I will feel the same too. But the question is why the police did not take action to stop the rampant street demonstration who was carried out by merely less than 100 culprits. This is a big question mark hanging in my mind for years since childhood.

    To all my fellow Malays countrymen especially those who were born before 1960, please understand this fact. It was not the Chinese who were provoking the Malays during the time of May 13. It was the Chinese samseng who did it. The ordinary Chinese are peace loving race and will not resort to such act.

    To end this story, I wish to highlight that Hong Hong and a few other triad gangs’ taiko were ‘buang pulau’ under the restricted residence ordinance immediately after May 13. Obviously the police known what was happening during May 13.

  6. #6 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 - 10:22 pm

    So that mysterious, unnamed character that keeps propping everywhere and quietly observing the scenes in the film could be the samseng Taikor Hong Hong and not some commie like some retired senior policeman and some politicians said. Maybe knows something about it but blames politicians instead.

    But really, triad members don’t go about publicly and openly in large numbers on lorries and noisily provoking people of another race. What do they hope to gain from this move? They got some kind of death wish or what ? It’s not good for their business I think. Then again I might be wrong. How come the police don’t know about it and blame the commies and the DAP ? The SB intelligence no good ?

  7. #7 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 - 10:28 pm

    ‘ … The best (acting) prime minister. … ‘.

    In the current context, Najib is trying his very, very best to act like a prime minister but not succeeding one bit.

  8. #8 by tak tahan on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 - 12:11 am

    Why keep this in your generous heart for 40 years if it’s only for the few samseng chineses who caused this raucous incident.Try harder next time with more grey matter !!!!

  9. #9 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 - 2:11 pm

    D bodoh son truly insulted his own father, might as well piss on his grave

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