Instead of the venerable Tun Ismail, the best man for the job of PM,Well Malaysia got a PM they deserved in Mahathir.
A tribute to Tun Dr Ismail, the man and the institution – Tariq Ismail
Today, August 2, marks the 41st year since our nation witnessed the passing of one of our national heroes, Tun Dr Ismail.
This was a man who personified strength, unity, tolerance, governance and rule of law.
A principled man with a strict code of ethics, who would “even jail his own mother if she broke the law”, Tun Dr Ismail had his own philosophy and vision in what he envisioned Malaysia to be.
Many stories and articles highlight Tun Dr Ismail the man. I, however, would like to look at Tun Dr Ismail the institution and what he means to us today.
It can be argued that early 21st century Malaysia resembles Malaysia circa the May 13, 1969, period, in which race-based politics was prevalent, resulting in an atmosphere of heightened tension among Malaysia’s different races.
This is especially comparable with post-13th general election in which Umno blamed the severe losses of Barisan Nasional to the Chinese tsunami.
In 1969, Malaysia was merely 12 years old and in the midst of a communist insurgency. In 2014, Malaysia does not suffer from any external threat in the form of communism nor is it suffering from any economic crisis that warrants any form of racial tension.
Furthermore, some quarters argue that there is a lack of central leadership within the government, but I think it is unfair to blame the current prime minister outright for our country’s calamities.
It was during the May 13, 1969, incident and its aftermath that defined, arguably, our country’s two greatest leaders’ – Tun Razak and Tun Dr Ismail – herculean effort to mend the fractured races together and lay the foundation for this country to achieve economic prosperity.
It can also be argued that without the exemplary leadership of Malaysia’s twin towers of power of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad would not have had the platform to launch his Vision 2020 and to drive Malaysia to become a First-World nation.
With the fires of May 13 still burning and the smoke not having subsided, Malaysia then could have easily succumbed to what many developing nations in the 1960s endured – to be governed by a military junta, which would have set this young nation back.
However, it was under the advice of the late General Tun Ibrahim, who persuaded Tun Dr Ismail from seeking to impose martial law, that led to the formation of the National Operations Council (NOC).
This was a time that certain quarters within Umno wanted to advocate Malay supremacy and it was also said that PAS had used their influence to incite the ultra conservative religious Malays that both the multi-racial parties of DAP and Gerakan had tried to incite the ultra-Chinese to go against the ruling party.
This exact scenario is seen today with all parties inciting their own hardcore supporters to challenge the will of the prime minister, be it an opposition party or NGOs purportedly allied to Umno.
Tun Dr Ismail, the man and institution would not have been successful if he did not have the respect and trust of Tun Razak and vice versa.
It was their cohesive relationship that allowed their rule to be unchallenged as it was evident that the Malay right-wing factions within Umno, such as Dr Mahathir and Tun Musa Hitam, were silenced by the leadership.
Had Tun Dr Ismail and Tun Razak not instilled confidence in the public via their unified principles and respective support systems – Razak, the rural Malays, and Ismail, having close-knit relationships with the Chinese – the ultras would have had their way and Malaysia, as we now know it, would have entered the list of banana republics.
If one were to ask those who remember Tun Dr Ismail, their answers would stem from “a man of fairness” to “the best prime minister Malaysia never had”.
So what shaped Tun Dr Ismail’s philosophy? Was it his upbringing and education? Or perhaps his close friendship with Robert and Philip Kuok?
Or was it that he believed Malaysia had a unique position in the world due to the multi-ethnic facet?
Perhaps it was all three and more. He truly believed that in order for this country to move forward, we must look beyond our skin colour and religion. For truly a great nation is a nation united.
The causes of May 13 have been debated over the decades, but no one can argue the consequences of the event has had an effect on the relations of today’s Malaysian society.
During much of the 1980s and 1990s, these issues were masked by Malaysians united in chasing riches and the clever politicking of Dr Mahathir.
Furthermore, May 13 was free from social media and immature and irresponsible netizens.
However, Tun Dr Ismail saw it fit to introduce legislation to halt rumour-mongering as it would have been detrimental to the implementation of the Rule of Law.
As the Home Minister, Tun Dr Ismail’s unrelenting, firm and uncompromising characteristic allowed him to establish stability.
While he was strict, he was not seen to be a dictator nor were there complaints about any abuse of power.
He was determined that his philosophy be instilled in the Ministry of Home Affairs and its various departments, such as the police force, as for the implementation for any rule of law, their adherents must be disciplined enough to know wrong from right.
Southeast Asia during the 1960s was a new frontier with communism trying to have a foothold in not only Malaysia, but Indonesia, Thailand, and of course Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
If there had not been strong leaders in the mould of Tun Dr Ismail and Tun Razak to unite the country in the face of adversity, Malaysia would have succumbed to external forces trying to control our infant nation.
Today, we see the presence of neo-colonialist powers and religious extremists via subversive elements undermining the harmony of Malaysia and the prime minister.
A prime minister’s strength does not rely only on his or her ability to circumnavigate Malaysia’s political muddy waters nor does it lie with his ideas, but in reality, it boils down to his supporting casts.
Therefore, the institution of government and their respective agencies are not to be blamed, rather it is the supporting casts of individuals who have been given the responsibility to run the respective agencies.
Freedom is something that many falsely interpret and often abused.
Isma, Perkasa and other various inflammatory groups defile our Federal Constitution every time they speak and it is this fear that has not only caused worry among the other races, but within the liberal and educated Malays as well.
These NGOs do not represent the government, but yet are allowed certain freedoms to openly voice their hatred.
Could it be the repressed fear of another May 13 and the loss of purported power from the Malay base that has caused a tiny ripple to transform into a tidal wave? Or is it the fear of losing its electoral support that has caused Umno to remain silent while still reeling from the wounds of GE13?
Since the Malaccan Empire under Sultan Mansur Shah, Malaysia has been a melting pot of differing cultures and the epitome of a multi-cultural nation. Even before such countries as the United States of America existed.
It is this ethos that Tun Dr Ismail and Tun Razak tried to hold on to in 1969.
Currently, Malaysia needs another Tun Dr Ismail-like figure to instill confidence in the other races. A person who will not only talk and reason with the people, but someone who will also walk and eat with them.
Allow Umno to take care of the Malays, but there must be a figure that must transcend racial politics to truly unite this beautiful and multi-cultural nation.
Tun Dr Ismail lives in every one of us, be it Malay, Chinese, Indian or indigenous people.
There must be strong principles within us. We should not allow our children to grow up with hate and a lack of knowledge, for the ignorant Malaysian will be the ultimate downfall and detriment to the nation that we love. – August 2, 2014.