3 June 1998

Sino-Malay contacts began in the fifth century.

However, many Chinese came to Malaya, first to work and only later on to settle, especially at the beginning of this century mainly in Selangor and Perak besides Singapore, Penang and Malacca. The immigration continued in the great exodus till the late thirties when it slowed down following Malay opposition and the Sino-Japanese War.

It was no exaggeration that the ups and downs of the economy of British Malaya were reflected in the number of Chinese and Indian immigration and emigration.

The British colonial administration had a "love and hate" relationship with the Chinese immigrants, especially when Chinese secret societies became a real mental race, and worse when they became actively associated with the Koumintang Party while rivals groups supported the Malayan Communist Party (MCP).

Then as now, the Malaysian Chinese are the engine of growth of the Malaysian economy. They are clever, hardworking, imaginative and enterprising. Their entrepreneurship is world class and their networking is superb, unsurpassed by any other race with the exception of, perhaps the Jews.

The capacity of the Malaysian Chinese to create wealth is remarkable and deserves great admiration. Bumiputras want to emulate in order to catch up with them (highly unlikely) or, at least, not to be left too far behind.

The MCA, its President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, and his friends have plenty to be proud of. MCA is next only to UMNO in importance and protocol.

The MCA, under Ling's stewardship, has played an active and positive role in government, education, the economy (it goes without saying), private education in particular and other areas of national activity.

The MCA had a good bash which it richly deserves on its 49th birthday. I can imagine what the scale and grandeur of celebrations would be when it celebrates its golden jubilee next year.

Ling was once a keen rugby player, but I believe he no longer enjoys wrong tackling his opponents.

He is so successful and although relatively young, I am sure he has some idea of who he wants to groom to succeed him. It is not a pressing decision to make but a preoccupied MCA with political infighting and a succession struggle is an enfeebled partner.

I can, I think, rely on Ling's enduring political nimbleness!

Something will be profoundly amiss and I will not tolerate it, so I shall say something about the high level of Indian contribution to the nation, It was and is big by any standards, and I hope growing in strength. The Malaysian Indian and other Malaysians of Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Thai origins and the Eurasians are important constituents of the nation.

The Malaysian Indian mainly Tamil and Sikhs are comparable with the Malaysian Chinese when it comes to acquiring good education and the professions.

The dominant position in the legal, medical and engineering professions. In organized labour and high representation in the government services as teachers and civil servants and a great credit for their clear sightedness and intelligence They are admirable focused.

Like the Malaysian Chinese, they are also not a homogenous community in the sense that their ancestors came from various parts of India and as a result they speak a variety of ethnic languages besides Bahasa and English.

The Malaysian Chinese culturally rich as a result speak many dialects over and above Mandrin. Bahasa Malaysia, English and Money!

At the beginning of my political reporting in 1957, normally tagging along senior reporters - until I was on my own in 1958, one of my earliest ministrial encounters with non-UMNO ministers was Colonel Henry Hau Shik Lee (later Tun), the count ry's first finance minister. I had some difficulty understanding him because of the marked Cambridge accent compounded by a nonexistent knowledge of economics, finances and statistics.

It was his son, Datuk Alex Lee, among others who wrote in glowing terms about me before my arrival in Cambridge in 1962, six months after my release from detention under ISA. I followed the food steps of the colonel, Alex (three generations of Lees have attended St. John's College) and Professor Ahmad Ibrahim to become a Johnian.

My professor, Sir Harry Hinsley sadly passed away aged 79, on Feb. 16. There were glowing tributes about him in Times and New York Times for he was well known on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a fellow of the British Academy and a "real-character" in Cambridge. He was a long time Master of St. John's College and con currently vice-chancellor of the university.

Tun V.T.Sambanthan, the first Malaysian Indian cabinet minister, was always helpful to a young reporter like me. I remember him with fondness. We were good friends, particularly after I became Razak's political secretary.