Razak remembered as another Thomas Jefferson- Abdullah Ahmad

4 May 1997

In the aftermath of the May incident, Tun Abdul Razak and his successors, particularly current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, were determined to impose a "New Order". The racial riots, which were unfortunate and should never be allowed to happen again, were partly caused by Perikatan's laissez-faire and indifferent attitude towards the grievances of the majority race. The situation was made worse by a group of callous people who openly challenged the legitimacy of the bumiputra as sons of the soil. Perikatan or the Alliance Party was the forerunner of the Barisan Nasional.

However, in the end, the realists among us accepted bumiputra sovereignty, government interventions and the measures adopted to stop the revival of ethnic conflicts. The rights of non-bumiputra were upheld and entrenched. Everybody seemed happy. In any event, the formula of power sharing has worked very well and the nation is thriving. Malaysians are at peace with themselves. They are a proud people, a people who would no longer turn their cheeks at every insult thrown their way.

What Razak wanted to accomplish was known to his close advisers and colleagues but he never lived long enough to see it. Mahathir, whom Razak described to me as "non-comformist, courageous, a thinking Malay and action-oriented" has accomplished most of what he wanted to do himself but could not because he died young. Mahathir has done even better by creatively crafting and moulding Malaysia as the main magnet for foreign investment and the leader of high-technology in the Asean region.

Razak, I know, would have respected Mahathir for his success in transforming the Malaysian society and accelerating the nation to be Asean's multi-media hub. He would have been very proud that his eldest son, Datuk Seri Najib, 44, Umno's senior vice-president and Minister of Education is a Mahathir loyalist and a strong helping hand.

A fortnight ago (April 18-20), I attended the Ohio University's Sixth Tun Razak Conference in Athens, organised by the Ohio University's Southeast Asia Studies Centre and the unflappable Tun Razak Chair Professor, Mohammed bin Yusoff. The conference is held once every two years. This year's conference attracted 42 papers from scholars throughout the world. It was a happy conference about the dynamic economies of the region and seemed well organised.

It brought back special memories to me, and, I am sure, to everyone who knew the late Tun, such as Professor Felix V. Gagliano (Vice Provost for International Programmes at Ohio University) and his wife, Pauline, Professor Charles Ping (President Emeritus), his wife, Clare, and Professor and Mrs. Norman Parmer who knew Razak in the sixties when the then Mr. Parmer was country director of the Peace Corps in Malaysia.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Najib. Ohio University president Robert Glindden awarded Najib the Ohio University's International Leadership Awards his " ... distinguished contributions to Pahang, to the Malaysian nation and the world as a stalwart champion of defence, development, interracial harmony, international education, democratic values, higher education and Islam."