In search of Malaysian scholarship

21st December 1997

In the Big Bagel there is also a holocaust monument. The former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, now a practising attorney and a columnist, who caused the establishment of the Jewish Heritage Museum, had several weeks ago suggested that a comparable museum be started depicting the experiences of black Americans with exhibits beginning in Africa, through slavery and its horrors and finally portraying the rise (and the unfinished agenda of the black people) as exhorted by Marcus Garvey - "Up you mighty black race, you can accomplish what you will."

If I may add, it should also include the civil rights crusade, the history of Buffalo soldiers, the dehumanization of the blacks, their achievements and nonachievements.

Slavery, in ancient forms as well as in modern fashion, still exists in many parts of the undeveloped, developing and first worlds. Koch said Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby (perhaps also Michael Jordon and Tiger Woods), who all have achieved fame and great wealth, if they wanted to, could provide most of the money needed to establish the Black Museum. Koch stressed: "If they (Oprah and Cosby) undertook the mission (Black Museum) they would be remembered forever not simply as great entertainers, but also great Americans."

I entirely agree with Koch. This brings me nearer to home. I believe Singapore is in the process of establishing a museum or something like that to portray Asian civilizations. What a worthy project - to house under one roof the ancient civilizations of Asia - Chinese, Indian, Malay-Indonesian and the Indo-Chinese.

Perhaps, Brunei should take the initiative which would lead to the creation of a Malay and Islamic civilizations museum on the same scale and grandeur of the Jewish and Asian civilizations museums.

Soon after I was released from detention in July 1981, my wife and I called on the Prime Minister, to thank him for my freedom. Then I called on Datuk Musa Hitam, who was then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, and visited a few other friends. One Friday before I left for Cambri1ge University to begin my post-graduate study, I sat - crossed-legged after prayer at the Tun Razak's Mausoleum in the grounds of Masjid Negara. I also paid my respects to Tun Dr Ismail who is buried next to Razak. Tun Ismail was also a good friend and political benefactor. It was sad but I did not weep.

Before coming to New York, 16 months ago, I took an English friend and professor from St John's College, Cambridge to Tun Razak's Memorial at Seri Taman and then to his tomb. It was a heart-wrenching experience, it constantly reminds me of what might have been.

I told my friend that buried there were two Malaysian leaders whose epitaph could have aptly been: "Here lies the conscience of Malaysia."

Dato'Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of SUN )