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The quality that I like most about the great Tunku, was his cheerfulness, friendliness and hospitality. He smiled and laughed a lot and possessed singularly natural politeness.

He was a fascinating man who loved loving, life, sports, hobbies and living. When he was not enjoying himself which was rare, he worked hard to build Malaysia as he conceived it.

The general feeling amongst the Malays was that he had mismanaged his attitude during his last two years in office.

They had wanted him to be one thing or another, not an apologist.

If only the Tunku had come forthrightly and publicly, what devotion I should have felt towards him! Though belatedly, he understood and appreciated that a prime minister needed a loyal opposition from the party's young turks as much as admiration and praise.

And belatedly too, I adored him because he said something about me which I did not know. The Tunku had said that I was a fiercely loyal person and that I had been a great influence on Tun Razak.

Whatever one might feel about the Tunku, he is indisputably great - although I don't believe that he had the ideological commitment of Nehru, the oratorical power of Churchil even Sukarno nor the originality of Ghandi.

He was quintessentially the Tunku - a real Malay Prince, a charismatic and an approachable leader He occupies such a large place in the heart and soul of so many diverse peoples of Malaysia.

For as long as most of us can remember, the Tunku was a great leader, a genuinely nice man.

Now that he has passed to the next world, he has become much more loved than ever. Each year as we celebrate our freedom, the Tunku glows larger in our memory.

Whatever his human failings or indulgent ways, the Tunku is a genius of Malaysian politics who deserves to be studied, known and appreciated.

His transformation from a playboy prince to a serious fighter for independence, from a Malay patriot to a Malaysian statesman, should serve as an inspiration to every Malaysian.

It started in early July but it was around this time last year the Asian currency begun to engulf Thailand.

However, now it has overwhelmed Indonesia, making it almost bankrupt, struck us and is shaking the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma.

The economic hiatus has dented Asean's political standing and eroded its once powerful influence.

The region's political clout has suffered as has Singapore's and Brunei's economies though may be less than others.

The Tunku was a co founder of Asean together with, amongst others, Suharto and Thanat Khoman of Thailand.

We are celebrating our 41st birthday tomorrow amidst the Asian economic crisis which thus far appears to have no end in sight after more than a year.

This is a particularly hot and humid summer. To the ungrateful, this is a time of bitter emotion and condemnation of every one else except himself.

We are fortunate that what has happened in Indonesia has escaped us, and for that alone we should be grateful.

Like many good Malaysians I feel confident of our survival. Dr Mahathir and his cabinet are doing all they can to stave off further deterioration.

We all must do our bit by not doing anything harmful unto ourselves be it economically or politically.

We survived the Emergency, Indonesian Confrontation, 1969 racial riots, the last recession and never-ending foreign media distortions andpredictions of doom.

The present sentiment should strike a chord for any one who went through these periods.

Let us remind ourselves of the good times. Yes, the economy was robust, there was a huge reduction in poverty, the living standards climbed sharply, our high-tech sector is a marvel and envy of our neighbours, etc. We achieved years of heady growth and prosperity.

There has been peace and political stability in the unstifling and diverse society that we live in.

Undoubtedly there was also bad news - the haze, the water shortage which came and went, and the perpetually horrendous KL traffic.

We have had two or three recessions in our 41 years history and we coped.

There are many jobs if we are not too choosy. The foreign workers are not taking our jobs. They are fulfill jobs that Malaysian do not want.

True, our economy has swung from rapid growth contraction, the KLSE has lost much of its value and the speculators have retreated.

But there has been no social unrest precisely because we are able to cope.

The most important thing (for me) is that there is animosity between the various races nor bloodshed unlike elsewhere in the region. Because all Malaysia are affected by the economic downturn.

Will we prosper or suffer? What is next for us? I believe in balance, it looks good if we all support the government efforts. We make what we are and I have no doubt we will be able to withstand the crisis. We are not at the nadir our history

The foreigners and even some Malaysians are arguing that we have been less than transparent and are in a state of denial, not admitting our flaws and asking where we are heading.

Dr Mahathir, I am sure will speed up action to help the country recover. We will overcome our problems as we always had before.

We will and must adjust even correct long-standing defects in the management of our economy and finance.

At age, 41, a nation or person will naturally have problems; but most of them will go away in good time. The health of our nation a the spirit of all Malaysia will revive soon enough.

(Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad is our Special Envoy to the United Nations.)

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