The 100th birthday centennial celebrations planned by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism an injustice and disservice to the memory, contribution and legacy of of Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman

Penang State  DAP Chinese New Year Open House
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Saturday): Today is the 100th birthday of Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, who led the nation to independence. 

History and the world at large acknowledge his contributions as a statesman, a nation builder and as a singularly unique historical figure. He personified decency, a deeply-held belief in the rule of law and respect for tradition.

This is an occasion for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs to come together to pay  tribute to a man who laid the foundations for a modern, democratic, secular Malaysia welded out of a diverse mix of ethnicities, faiths  and cultures.

But the Cabinet and government  seemed to have forgotten the Tunkuís birthday centennial until I made a call about a month  ago, urging the government to spearhead a nation-wide month-long commemoration of the 100th birthday of Bapa Malaysia on February 8.

There was no public response to the DAP proposal, but it resulted in hasty last-minute preparations for a month-long programme to  commemorate the Tunkuís 100th birthday.

The Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir was appointed chairman of the organizing committee and the National Archives assigned the task of organizing a seminar entitled ď100 Years Remembering the Birth of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra:  The Father of Malaysia and Founder of Racial UnityĒ,  which will be held at Legend Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

DAP has received an invitation to send five representatives to the seminar which we accept, but I am very disappointed by the programme which does no justice to the memory, contribution and legacy of Tunku. 

According to the programme accompanying the invitation, the seminar on Monday will be divided into two sessions.  The first session, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be on the theme Tunku Abdul Rahman: Bapa Kemerdekaan, which will be chaired by Prof. Datoí Mohd. Fauzi Basri  with three panelists, viz: Prof. Dr. Abdullah Zakaria of University of Malaya, Prof. Nik Annuar bin Nik Mahmud of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Datuk Dr. Ramlah Adam of University of Malaya. 

The second session, Tunku Abdul Rahman: Pengasas Perpaduan Kaum, from 2 p.m. to 4.15 p.m., will be chaired by Datoí Omar Mohd. Hashim with three panelists, Tan Sri Datuk Abdullah Ahmad, Haji Said Zahari and Tun Abdul Rahman Yaakub.

I do not know how there could be a meaningful  seminar in honour of the  memory, contribution and legacy of Tunku as Bapa Malaysia when the panelists of the keynote seminar on the occasion of his birthday centenary is not representative of all the different races, religions and cultures which uniquely make up plural Malaysia. 

Today, Malaysians of various faiths will offer prayers and conduct memorial services in honour of Tunku in conjunction with his 100th birthday.  However, these will be held separately instead of together. DAP  had  suggested a historic and unprecedented  National Inter-Religious Prayer Meeting and a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-civilisational  Dialogue to launch off the Tunkuís birthday centenary celebrations Ė which would have been a major break-through for Malaysia befitting   the special  occasion of the birth centenary of Tunku.

One of Tunkuís greatest legacies to the nation is the founding 1957 Merdeka Constitution principle that Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic state, as this is the only nation-building principle which can see the plural Malaysian nation through all vicissitudes and crisis by cementing the ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious  diversity into one united nationality.

Twenty years ago, on his 80th birthday on 8th February 1983, Tunku was honoured with a grand dinner hosted by the Barisan Nasional, attended by all the top Barisan Nasional leaders including the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad where the Tunku made a most memorable speech giving the important message to the Barisan Nasional leaders not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State - which was the front-page headline in all the language newspapers the next day.

It is clear that if not for DAPís reminder, the government would have overlooked the Tunkuís centennial birthday celebrations, and this is why Pos Malaysia is not ready to  launch the commemorative stamp today  in conjunction with Tunkuís birthday centenary, as it would only be ready on March 3.

It is not too late  for the Cabinet to organize a more high-level, imaginative and inspirational Month to Commemorate the 100th birthday of Tunku, involving all political parties (ruling and opposition), all ethnic communities,  all religious groups, professions, civic organizations and NGOs, and all universities and schools, to  cherish the memory, contribution and legacy of Tunku.

There is even time to organize an international commemoration event for  Tunkuís birthday centenary to coincide  with the 13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Kuala Lumpur from Feb. 20 Ė 25, to be attended by world leaders and representatives from the 114 member nations of NAM and guest-nations and international organizations attending the NAM Summit to give global recognition to Tunkuís contributions in the international arena Ė most notably his pioneering stand against apartheid in 1961 forcing South Africaís departure from the Commonwealth.

Let all political parties, ethnic communities, religious groups, professional bodies, NGOs and all strata of the Malaysian society, regardless of gender or age come together as one Malaysian people to honour the memory of Tunku on his centenary.                 


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman