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 could.

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 English language.

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Social emancipation and release in out-of-date taboo can only emerge after they have attained economic freedom or at least parity with the others.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 system.

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 state.

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.