Malaysia: A nation of strangersBy Asia Sentinel Oct 30, 2013 9:34AM UTC
Where have all the non-Malays gone?
This is the excerpted text of an address given by Malaysia’s former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah recently to a breakfast meeting at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center organized by Paddy Schubert Sdn Bhd
As you are aware, our nation became free from the fetters of colonial domination about five and a half decades ago. Sadly and strangely, after 55 years of independence, I think we are now farther apart than we have ever been before. On Aug. 31, 1957, our freedom from the shackles of a colonial past was greeted with euphoria by the different races who came together on the basis of a common vision for a shared future.
We then had a prime minister who believed that the purpose of independence was the pursuit of happiness for the different races in the country, and our success in that pursuit was to him the ultimate test of our success as a nation.
Tunku Abdul Rahman’s vision for the newly independent nation was based on the “greatest happiness principle,” a subject of intense political discourse in 18th and 19th Century Europe. Like the enlightened political philosophers in the western world, our father of independence believed that governments existed to provide for the happiness of the people, and nothing more.
Tunkuʼs policies were tied up with the golden rule that we must have respect for one another and treat others just as we wish others to treat us. This golden rule was an important principle in an interdependent, multi-ethnic society such as ours.
Tunkuʼs basic concept of happiness is best expressed in his favorite maxim, “live and let live.”
It is a maxim that calls for acceptance of people as they are, although they may have a different way of life. Tunku applied the maxim in the public domain.
If Tunku had boasted that he was the happiest prime minister in the world, it was only because the people were happy. In Tunkuʼs words at that time, “I pray and hope that this happy state of affairs will continue for all times.”
Unfortunately, however, Tunkuʼs dreams were dashed to dust by the events of May 13, 1969.
This once happiest prime minister expressed the pain he felt as Father of Merdeka (independence) as he relived those traumatic moments:
“I have often wondered why God made me live long enough to have witnessed my beloved Malays and Chinese citizens killing each other.”
Such was the man that Tunku was. He was the moving spirit of the nation. He has long gone, and today his premiership is a distant memory. Since the time he left, inter-ethnic relations have taken a turn for the worse on all fronts.
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