Razak made the nation fairer - Abdullah Ahmad

24 Aug 1996

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His use of soccer as a simile is unsurprising because Razak was an allround sportsman at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), and played competitive hockey while a law student in London.

He surprised me for, in several ways, he was more radical, and definitely more sanguine than most of his officials and economic and political advisors. This shows his strong commitment and resolve to push the nation towards economic prosperity and then distribute it justly.

Razak has been dead for almost 22 years. He never lived to see the fruits of his work which are generally a success. It failed to achieve its target of 30 % bumiputra participation in commerce and industry, achieving only between 19 to 20%. Many doubt the figure. They say it is lower. Not everyone is happy, several are bitter, but most keep an open mind.

Mahathir has achieved more than Razak did and I do hope his successor would perform a greater feat if that were possible.

In any event, Razak arguably remains the most achievement-oriented Prime Minister until Mahathir. Razak was well supported by several critically loyal and liberal advisors, one or two of whom never reached their potential.

Liberal and moderate nationalists praised "those advisors around the Tun" whilst arch-conservatives, Umno recalcitrants, spoil sports and a few foreign agents blamed them. But many researchers and scholars and younger politicians all agreed that the advisors' expansive views and wide-ranging and far-reaching influence were mainly responsible for reshaping the Malaysian political landscape.

Razak used "political activism" when absolutely necessary to achieve his aims but, I can say, that he never knowingly did something which need not have been done!

He did what he did only when either national interest demanded it or his personal authority was challenged as was the case several times in Sabah and Selangor. Several of them lived to suffer the consequences of their political miscalculations.

The depth of Razak's legacy cannot and must not be measured by a series of articles or even by one or two books.

Razak was a senior politician for 26 years, 22 of which as a senior member of the Cabinet. Only Mahathir has been a Cabinet minister longer than Razak. Mahathir is in his 23rd year, setting an all-time record.

When I approached the internationally well-regarded scholar, Professor Wang Gung-Wu (then he was with the Australian National University {ANU} in Canberra), to write Razak's definitive biography in the early 1970's, he told me (he also put it down in a letter) that while it was a great honour to be chosen he could not accept it for various reasons.

I shall only touch on one. He said that whoever was finally chosen, and in order to do justice to Razak's infinitely immense contributions to Malaysian nation-building, particularly in education, rural development, the NEP, defence, regional cooperation, international relations and national solidarity, he would need at least five to seven years of fulltime research, and a year or two to write the book.