The "100 Years Remembering the Birth of
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra: The Father of Malaysia and Founder of Racial
Unity" seminar yesterday a big flop -Cabinet should review tomorrow and call
on all Ministries, state governments, religious groups and civil society to
mark the important date with a month of commemoration
by Lim Kit Siang
The "100 Years Remembering the Birth of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra: The Father
of Malaysia and Founder of Racial Unity" seminar organized by the National
Archives and the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry in Kuala Lumpur
yesterday as the centerpiece of the official commemoration for the birthday
centenary of Bapa Malaysia was a big flop.
After the opening speech by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah
Ahmad Badawi, only one quarter of the crowd was left after the tea-break for
the first session for the rest of the morning. After the sumptuous lunch,
there was less than one-fifth of the crowd left for the second session of
This raises the question as to whether the some 800 people who were present
at the opening of the seminar by Abdullah had gathered to honour the memory,
contribution and legacy of Bapa Malaysia or to honour the next Prime
Minister of Malaysia!
Instead of doing honour to Bapa Malaysia on his birthday centenary, the
seminar was another injustice and disservice to the memory, contribution and
legacy of Tunku Abdul Rahman.
I had on Saturday criticized the seminar as all its invited panelists on the
seminar programme were from one community, failing to reflect the diverse
races, religions and cultures which uniquely make up plural Malaysia.
DAP MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok Suh Sim who represented the DAP at the
seminar yesterday, has informed me that there was a departure from the
original seminar programme, as one non-Malay panellist, consultant
psychiatrist Tan Sri Dr. M. Mahadevan was added to the panel of speakers.
But this is even more offensive to the memory and legacy of Tunku as it
smacked more of "tokenism" instead of promoting the genuine currency of
inter-racial, inter-religious, inter-cultural and inter-civilisational
understanding and spirit which remains Tunku's greatest legacy to Malaysia.
Furthermore, in the first session on "Tunku Abdul Rahman: Bapa Kemerdekaan",
one of the panellists, Datuk Dr. Ramlah Adam of University of Malaya
questioned Tunku's credentials as Bapa Kemerdekaan. I respect Ramlah's
academic freedom of opinion, but the question that must be asked is whether
the objective of the government seminar yesterday was to laud or question
Tunku's entitlement to the appellation of "Bapa Kemerdekaan". This is
another injustice and disservice to the memory, contribution and legacy of
Tunku on his birthday centenary.
The Cabinet should review tomorrow why the highlight of the government's
birthday centenary celebrations for Tunku was such a big flop.
The Cabinet should also explain why it had forgotten the Tunku's 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 Tunku's 100th birthday. This was why
Pos Malaysia was not ready to launch the commemorative stamp in conjunction
with Tunku's birthday centenary on February 8, as it would only be ready on
The Cabinet should make up for these lapses in commemorating the birthday
centenrary of Bapa Malaysia by calling on all Ministries, state governments,
religious groups and civil society to mark the important date with a month
of commemorative activities.
It should in particular ensure that the opportunity should not be missed to
organize an international commemoration event for Tunku's birthday centenary
to coincide with the 13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Kuala Lumpur
from Feb. 20 - 25 to be attended by world leaders and representatives from
the 114 member nations of NAM and other guest-nations and international
organizations who will be in Malaysia for the NAM Summit to give global
recognition to Tunku's contributions in the international arena - most
notably his pioneering stand against apartheid at the Commonwealth Heads of
Government meeting in London in 1960 and which led to the boycott of South
African goods and expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961.
At the seminar yesterday, Tunku's fight for racial harmony was described as
his chief legacy. Abdullah said there is no better way for Malaysians to
show their appreciation of the contributions of Tunku by striving to achieve
his wish of seeing a united and developed Malaysia.
This is particularly relevant at a time when there are almost daily
statements about how the national education system has failed to foster
national unity - with top UMNO leaders competing with each other to blame
the existence of Chinese primary schools and the phenomenon of over 90 per
cent of Chinese pupils attending Chinese primary schools instead of national
primary schools as the chief cause of racial polarization and national
It is a major fallacy for anyone to imply that Chinese primary schools have
become nurseries of Chinese chauvinism, when they have always been
Malaysian-centred and Malaysian-oriented schools using the same national
syllabus as the national primary schools, and producing loyal and productive
Malaysians second to none ever since Merdeka in 1957.
In fact, before every general election, Chinese schools are praised by UMNO
leaders for their good school results, student discipline, the commitment of
the teachers and their national contributions - all of which seem to be
easily forgotten after each election.
Another fallacy is to regard the phenomenon of the overwhelming majority of
Chinese pupils enrolling in national-type Chinese primary schools as a
The phenomenon of some 90 per cent of Chinese pupils attending Chinese
primary schools did not develop only in the past few years or in the past
decade, but went back for three decades in the early seventies when there
was a sudden education policy change in the shutdown of all English-medium
In fact by 1977, when Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was then the Education
Minister, 87 per cent of the Chinese students were already attending the
Chinese primary schools, as 478,849 out of a total of 550,545 Chinese
primary pupils were in Chinese primary schools. These data are to be found
in the Mahathir Cabinet Education Review Committee Report which was made
public in November 1979, and there was a parliamentary debate on my motion
on the Mahathir report in June the next year.
The issues of racial harmony and national unity should be the focus of
Tunku's birthday centenary commemoration. The Cabinet tomorrow should make
the Tunku's birthday centenary commemoration particularly meaningful for
nation-building by adopting two decisions, firstly, to declare February 8
the birthday of Tunku as the National Racial Harmony Day for each year; and
secondly, establish a Tunku Commission on National Unity and Racial Harmony
to study and make recommendations within six months on the best ways to
strengthen national unity and racial harmony.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National