21 March 1999
I continue to wonder and am still in the search for the keys to unlock the riddle
of rural poverty.
How could a people who work from morning to sunset have not progressed as fast as
the urban people?
What is it that makes impossible for them to catch up with the wealthier and hardworking
Malaysian Chinese minority?
Tun Razak told me many a time that indigenous people could never level up with the
aggressive non-Malay Malaysians unless they took education seriously.
He said knowledge would make the bumiputera ambitious so ordered the reorganisation
and enlargement of the Mara Institute of Technology (ITM) and personally chose Arshad
Ayub, a dynamic and gung-ho civil servant to lead it.
ITM was picked up to be the centerpiece for this new undertaking to train bumiputeras
to go into commerce, industry, technology and the professions of tomorrow.
Razak was not afraid to invest in tomorrow. Arshad, Razak told me was a bright poor
boy from Johor who had made good and if he could not make bumiputras learn, no one
Arshad was a determined man, all his energies had gone into his career and making
his way up.
Arshad would be an excellent role-model for them, he assured me. He need not have
persuaded me because I had heard of Arshad.
I could only hope at that time the budak kampung could see that the only exit route
out of poverty and ignorance was through acquiring knowledge, preferably via the
Razak would not have been disappointed with the result nearly three decades after
he issued his diskat to Arshad.
But Razak also learned in his short life and time that expectations would not always
be reached. Others have placed their expectations on me and I on my three children.
When they did not measure up to expectations I did not lose my sleep. I still love
them and would always be around for them as long I live.
The bumiputras have come a long way since the NEP days but much remains to be done
and to be achieved
Social emancipation and release in out-of-date taboo can only emerge after they have
attained economic freedom or at least parity with the others.
There are unfortunately now still many limitations for them. Razak's devotion to
the nation has few parallels in our history.
His first portfolio was education and he introduced radical changes in the educational
Then, in succession, he became Defense Minister, rural development, home affairs
and sometimes a Foreign Minister besides simultaneously being Deputy Prime Minister.
Najib, like his dad, was Minister of Defense and now holds the education portfolio,
his father's first ministerial job. Like father, like son: though not yet a Deputy
Prime Minister, Najib, like his dad, was also Mentri Besar of Pahang.
He was even younger than Razak when he became the chief executive of the east coast
Najib lacks Razak's political shrewdness and palace infighting experience, even determination.
He has an image problem in the sense that, whether true or otherwise, it has damaged
him. Indeed it continues to afflict him.