Let us once more salute the memory of Tunku Abdul Rahman Al Haj, Bapak Malaysia, the national leader who proved beyond a peradventure that a Nation divided against itself can never prosper and that all Malaysians must love each other regardless of race, colour or creed, if we are ever to achieve greatness as a Nation.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Next year I shall be 60 -- assuming, of course, I am still around. To some, that would be considered bad -- in the sense that 60 would mean I am closer to my grave than those who are, say, 30. But my Tok Guru always told me that good and bad always come together. There is no such thing as absolute good or absolute bad. Good and bad come in pairs. So, being 60 is not all bad. There is some good in being a ‘matured’ man (the politically correct way of saying ‘old’).
Take the bad of Umno, for example. Because of its ultra-racist stance, it has brought Malaysians together, which culminated in the 8 March 2008 political ‘Tsunami’. Without Umno, we would not have united on 8 March 2008 to do what we did. But then, I suppose, without Umno we would not have been divided in the first place and, therefore, would not have needed to ‘come together’ on 8 March 2008, as we would have been united anyway.
The Founding Fathers of Umno, such as Onn Jaafar, plus the Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman, never intended for Malaysians to be divided. Sure, there were things such as the so-called Social Contract, which is being blamed as that which divides us. But the Social Contract was not a policy conjured to divide Malaysians. It was a policy that was carefully created after much thought to enable non-Malayans to gain citizenship without displacing those who are already citizens.
For all intents and purposes, the Social Contract was aimed at enabling Malayans to live together in peace and harmony. The example of what happened in India, which resulted in the partition of that country into India-Pakistan and the one million deaths that necessitated this Partition, meant much thought needed to be put into what an independent Malaya should look like. And India was a country of one race, mind you, though of many religions. What more for a country like Malaya, which had many races?
If Malaya had been given independence without a ‘Contract’ in place, what would follow Merdeka would be something we would not even want to imagine.
Merdeka, however, was five generations ago. That was during the time of my grandfather. (Today, I am a grandfather myself, so that makes it five generations).
Just for the record, my grandfather was one of those who negotiated with the Malay Rulers to get them to reject the Malayan Union in favour of the Federation of Malaya. I, therefore, have more ‘authority’ to speak on this subject than many Umno people whose grandfathers or great-grandfathers were just ‘spectators’ during the 1940s and 1950s. After all, my grandfather was one of those who persuaded the Malay Rulers to defy the British and demand that the Malayan Union be replaced with the Federation of Malaya.
Yesterday, I wrote about the Federation Agreement of 1948, which eventually transformed into the Federal Constitution of Malaya, and then later into the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. Many who speak know nothing about the history and background of the Malayan Union of 1946, the Federation Agreement of 1948, or the Social Contract of 1957. Yet they comment with rhetoric and emotions not knowing what the issue is but speak as if they do.
And herein lies the problem.
Sure, these were agreements made by our forefathers five generations ago. Sure, how can what was agreed five generations ago be binding to those today who were never part of that agreement and never consented to it? Sure, no agreement is carved in stone and agreements can always be amended or rescinded. Sure, times change, situations change, and therefore agreements too should change in keeping with the times and changing situations.
But there is one thing we must never forget. Agreements are always bilateral. It takes two, or more, parties to enter into an agreement. Therefore, any change or amendments to that agreement must also be bilateral. You can’t unilaterally change or amend an agreement. This means, basically, that all parties to that agreement have to sit down and negotiate the amendments and come to a consensus on what these amendments should be. A unilateral amendment to any agreement is just not valid.
Okay, with that backdrop, read the following two pieces so that, when you start talking about ‘change’, you will at least understand the background to the current situation and will, therefore, be able to argue your case with substance.
Oh, and what, you may ask, was that part about me being almost 60 got to do with this piece? Well, being almost 60 means I have lived through Merdeka and, therefore, understand and appreciate the issue better. Many post-Merdeka (and even post-May 13) Malaysians talk without the benefit of living through that time and, worst or all, without even first researching what happened in the 1940s and 1950s.
PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Praise be to God, the Lord of the Universe and may the blessings and peace of God be upon His Messengers.
WHEREAS the time has now arrived when the people of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu will assume the status of a free independent and sovereign nation among nations of the World
AND WHEREAS by an agreement styled the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957, between Her Majesty the Queen and Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Malay States it was agreed that the Malay States of Johore, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Trengganu and Perak and the former Settlements of Malacca and Penang should as from the 31st. day of August, 1957, be formed into a new Federation of States by the name of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu
AND WHEREAS it was further agreed between the parties to the said agreement that the Settlements of Malacca and Penang aforesaid should as from the said date cease to form part of Her Majesty's dominions and that Her Majesty should cease to exercise any sovereignty over them
AND WHEREAS it was further agreed by the parties aforesaid that the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1948, and all other agreements subsisting between Her Majesty the Queen and Their Highnesses the Rulers or any one of them immediately before the said date should be revoked as from the date and that all powers and jurisdiction of Her Majesty or of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in or in respect of the Settlements aforesaid or the Malay States or the Federation as a whole should come to an end
AND WHEREAS effect has been given to the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957, by Her Majesty the Queen, Their Highnesses the Rulers, the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Legislatures of the Federation and of the Malay States
AND WHEREAS a constitution for the Government of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu has been established as the supreme law thereof
AND WHEREAS by the Federal Constitution aforesaid provision is made to safeguard the rights and prerogatives of Their Highnesses the Rulers and the fundamental rights and liberties of the people and to provide for the peaceful and orderly advancement of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu as a constitutional monarchy based on Parliamentary democracy
AND WHEREAS the Federal Constitution aforesaid having been approved by an Ordinance of the Federal Legislatures, by the Enactments of the Malay States and by resolutions of the Legislatures of Malacca and Penang has come into force on the 31st. day of August 1957, aforesaid
NOW, in the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful, I TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN PUTRA ibni AL-MARHUM SULTAN ABDUL HAMID HALIMSHAH, PRIME MINISTER OF THE PERSEKUTUAN TANAH MELAYU, with the concurrence and approval of Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Malay States do hereby proclaim and declare on behalf of the people of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu that as from the thirty first day of August, nineteen hundred and fifty seven, the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu comprising the States of Johore, Pahang, Negri Semblian, Selangor, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Trengganu, Perak, Malacca and Penang is and with God's blessing shall be for ever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra ibni Al-marhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halimshah
Kuala Lumpur, 31st Day of August 1957
Tunku Abdul Rahman Al Haj on the 48th Anniversary of Merdeka
By Dato’ Mahadev Shankar
The value of tradition lies not only in its own sake but also for the glue it provides in consolidating our integrity, both as individuals and as a nation. We can clearly see where we should be going only if we have a clear understanding of where we came from.
Our forty-eighth Merdeka anniversary is barely a month away and as good a starting point in this inquiry is to focus on the man who was the architect of our independence, our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Al Haj.
Much has already been written about all aspects of his political development. So this little vignette will focus on some incidents where our paths crossed from 1956 when I returned from England a young barrister of the Inner Temple eager to make his way in this world.
I first came face to face with the Tunku in the Banquet Room of the Lake Club in November of that year. Sir Charles Matthew, the Chief Justice, had given up his post to go on transfer in the Colonial Legal Service to head the Judiciary at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Tunku had arranged a personal farewell party for him. My father was then Sir Charles’ private secretary and had secured an invitation for me.
When the Tunku walked in, the imprimatur he impressed on all of us was that Malayans were no longer a subject nation but stood on an equal level with our erstwhile British Protectors. Merdeka - even though another nine months away - was already an inevitable reality.
Thus did all of us in the Hall also stand tall as we exchanged courtesies with all the other officers from the Residency, no longer racial superiors but equal partners in our national development.
After Sir Charles said his piece, Tunku’s riposte was short and sweet, "Let's drink a toast to Sir Charles - May he be happy wherever he goes.” And that was that.
Dataran Merdeka, as it is now known, was the focus of national and international attention on 31st August 1957, but by then the Tunku had already won the heart of every Malayan by his winning attributes. Tunku had the supreme ability to get the best out of every one not ever by instilling fear but by spontaneously inspiring love for him both personally and as the personification of the Nation. Tunku’s other endearing attributes were his love of sport, his impish sense of humour, his loyalty to his friends, and his genius in getting ordinary men and women involved in the act of nation building.
What form the National Flag should take and what tune and words should go to make up the National Anthem were both the subjects of a national competition. Well do I remember Mrs Kathleen Foenander making various efforts to make Terang Bulan more upbeat, and my father spent many long hours comparing the flags of other nations, which appeared on the inner cover of Pears Encyclopaedia before submitting a design of his own. Almost equalling the unifying force of the Merdeka celebrations on the Padang were the Asian Football Championships held at the Merdeka Stadium.
When Ghani, Dutton, and two others carried our national flag in triumph around the stadium the roar of 80,000 people around the Stadium was a resounding declaration to the world that Malaya had arrived to take her place alongside all other independent countries as a sovereign member of the United Nations.
An Old Victorian, the late M. N. Cumarasami, one of the Tunku’s confidantes, told me that Tunku would like me to join the Foreign Service, but I replied that I wanted to practice law a for a few years first. I was told by M. N. that the loss of seniority would not make the postponement a viable proposition. Old Victorian Dr. Lakmir Singh Sodhy was the other one who conveyed Tunku’s desire that all first generation Malayans of Indian origin should mark the occasion by perpetuating all their children with the same surname instead of calling themselves A.B. a/l (or a/p as the case may be) C.D. This I readily acceded to and Shankar has been the family surname ever since.
The years from 1957 to 1969 were happy ones indeed for the Nation and its peoples. Indeed, Tunku boldly told a BBC commentator that he was the world’s happiest Prime Minister. We were entertained with a regular stream of anecdotes by those close to him. Some of the more humorous ones came from Tan Sri Taib Andak, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie and Mr Ferguson. Even those who had met Tunku casually on the streets or in the shops had only kind words to say about him - as, for example, the man on the Muar Bridge who was there first and was not allowed by the Tunku to reverse in order to allow the Tunku to pass first. His compassion for the weaker members of the community came out best when Old Victorian Tan Sri Tan Chee Khoon demanded in Parliament that our then High Commissioner in Australia be stripped of his title and his post for going missing for two weeks in the bosom of some sultry Australian siren.
The Tunku challenged -“Let any one amongst us who is without sin, stand up and cast the first stone.” Tan Chee Khoon was the only one who stood and remained standing while looking Tunku straight between the eyes. After a pregnant silence Tunku who at first seemed at a loss for words said, “David Tan Chee Khoon - I really pity you.”
In the uproarious laughter, which followed an embarrassing situation, was averted.
Even the flamboyant Sukarno in the talks to defuse Confrontation was deflated by Tunku with just the smell of cheese!
But the storm clouds were gathering and there were those who thought that the Tunku had distanced himself too far from the interests espoused by the Ultras. Nor was he helped in this by the extremism amongst the other communities. May 1969 was a dreadful time for us. In his speech to the nation which came on TV on the night of the 13th, after calling for help from volunteers to stem the tide of lawlessness which had befallen the nation well do I still remember his last words, “Marilah kita hidup atau mati sekarang!”
It was his darkest hour. It was left to Tun Dr. Ismail to come to the fore that night with a stirring call for unity and courage to overcome the odds. A few days later he came with Tan Sri Manickavasagam to the hospital bedside of the little Indian girl from Sentul. She had both her arms chopped off at the elbows by someone who had got caught up with the madness that had swept the city. What can we do for this poor girl, Manicka asked Tunku. By then the reigns of power had passed on and Tunku replied, “All we can do now is to cry,” he said his heart breaking with sadness. And the Tunku shed his tears, as did Manicka and all of us who witnessed this sorry spectacle.
We had rallied to his call in the service of the nation. I was assigned to Tan Sri Khir Johari, and the late Tan Sri Manickavasagam and, after the initial spurt to find food and shelter for the huge numbers of people who had been driven from their homes, setting up the National Relief Fund under the Chairmanship of the late Tan Sri Justice H.T. Ong, the National Goodwill Council was also set up under the Chairmanship of Tunku. But it all seemed in vain. We were unable to lift his spirits and he seemed to dwell in the depths of the darkest despair. He kept saying, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; Cry and you cry alone.”
But bounce back Tunku eventually did. His column in The Star - Sudut Pandangan: Points of View - did much to voice the concerns of a silent majority. The Tunku chided and cajoled when the occasion required and always was there to prick the consciences of all concerned to hasten the process of a return to full democracy.
Alas, after Operation Lalang and the restoration of its Printing Licence to The Star, the Tunku’s voice was no longer to be heard there as well.
My last sight of him was at the Istana for the Agong’s birthday celebrations. He had to be wheeled in to the front row in a wheel chair - his head unbowed. After the ceremonial addresses had been read and the Royal Birthday honours had been bestowed, the proceedings were adjourned for us to mingle with each other and take refreshment on the lawns. I was there informed that someone went up to the Tunku and asked him what was the secret of his longevity. He replied he had two good doctors who gave him a reason to live - one was his personal physician, and the other was Doctor Mahathir.
I did not see the Tunku again. When I got news of his demise I made haste to the Royal Mausoleum to pay my last respects to Bapak Malaysia. But by the time I got there I was told his body had been taken to Kedah for burial with full honours.
Did the Tunku make a difference to Malaysia? After all, that is the test of the value of a life.
Mr. Robert MacNamara, then President of the World Bank, said in his opening address at the first Tun Abdul Razak Memorial lecture that he was envious of the Malaysians in the audience who had walked with the Founding Fathers of this nation, whereas he had to get to know them though the history books.
The memory of Bapak Malaysia doubly sanctifies us because we have a living memory of this great man - great not only in his hour of triumph when he thrice roared out that Malaya was a free nation at midnight on the 31st August 1957 but also great in his hours of darkness when he took his sorrows in his stride and came back to do what little he could to keep the humanity and the sanity of the nation intact.
One final luxury we may permit ourselves at the midnight hour on the 31st August 2005 is to ponder what Malaysia might have been if he had been with us today at the full height of his powers. With his implacable hatred of racialism in any guise, his healthy disrespect of academic experts with their esoteric theories about how we should re-structure our society mindless of the harm it would cause to people least equipped to resist such condign measures (and, in retrospect, little to boast about except the creation of a money-driven group of people who have grown rich beyond the dreams of avarice), his fundamental love of humanity and his common sense, it is very arguable that ours would have been a better world. And how would he have achieved this. Simply by searching for consensus, playing with all his cards on the table instead of feats of legerdemain dependent on lies, damned lies and statistics, and always keeping in the forefront of his mind the big picture, when putting sectional distortions right.
The Tunku was not corrupted by politics and he died a comparatively poor man. We shall remember him as the man who kept the faith, and who fought the good fight until the very last. We shall remember him as the leader who gave us hope even after he was forced out into the political wilderness, as the humanitarian who was boundless in his charity even for those who did not agree with his views. We shall remember him also for the love he inspired in us for each other regardless of racial origins, community or creed, for his sportsmanship in taking wins and losses equally in his stride. But most of all we shall remember him as the leader who brought us Independence from our Colonial Masters not by the force of arms but the power of persuasion that only from the unity of our communities comes the strength that ensures our survival as a Nation.
So as this Merdeka Day approaches and especially at midnight on the 31st of August 2005, let us once more salute the memory of Tunku Abdul Rahman Al Haj, Bapak Malaysia, the national leader who proved beyond a peradventure that a Nation divided against itself can never prosper and that all Malaysians must love each other regardless of race, colour or creed, if we are ever to achieve greatness as a Nation. Nor should we forget that once when we disregarded his example the nation descended into an abyss of internecine conflicts. We cannot afford to make that mistake a second time.
Dato’ Mahadev Shankar is a barrister of the Inner Temple London and was enrolled as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court Malaya in 1956. Thereafter he practised law in Shearn Delamore and Company, Kuala Lumpur, till 1983 when he was appointed Judge of the High Court of West Malaysia. He served in Johor, the Federal Capital, and in Selangor till 1994 when he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.