At the 38th anniversary of the passing one of the founding fathers of this nation and the Second Prime Minister Tun Hj. Abdul Razak Husssein, his two most prominent sons remembered their father.
Remembering my father, Tun Razak
BY NAZIR RAZAK
JANUARY 14, 2014
Thirty-eight years ago today, on January 14, 1976, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein passed away in London from complications wreaked by leukaemia.
Malaysia lost its prime minister. I lost my father. Malaysia was 19. I was nine.
The days immediately after were shrouded in personal sorrow and national mourning.
My four brothers and I sought to comfort our mother, while the public and heartfelt outpouring of grief throughout the country served as a resounding reminder that we were not alone in our time of tragedy.
I must confess that given my age and my father’s hectic schedule, I sometimes lament the fact that he gave so much to the country, leaving too little for his family.
However, I have never wavered from being enormously proud of his selfless dedication to our young nation.
iTogether, on his last Hari Raya. – Pic courtesy of Datuk Seri Mohd Nazir Razak, January 14, 2014.
I did not get the time to know him. But imprinted in me are the values he imparted, the integrity that he insisted upon, above all. Yes, above all, including his family.
I recall the time when my brothers and I approached him one evening and asked that a swimming pool be built at Seri Taman, the prime minister’s residence where we lived.
The lawyer that he was, he insisted that we make our case with logical and rational arguments. We did so, and thought we had presented the argument pretty well, until we noticed his face had started to darken, and the eyes flashed with annoyance.
My father made it abundantly clear that while Seri Taman may be our home, the house belonged to the government and, hence, to the people.
Anything spent on it would have to come from public funds, and there was no way he was going to allow the state coffers to be depleted on something as frivolous as a swimming pool.
“What will the people think?” he thundered.
In my years of growing up, I actively sought to hear from people who knew my father well, including those who had worked with him in government, politics, the Merdeka movement and so on as well as his personal friends.
It was my only way of getting to know him. What stood out for me was that in almost every conversation I had about him, the qualities they always referenced were his values.
As the custodian of the nation’s coffers, his frugality was legendary.
“You had to account for every cent, or he would be on your back,” one former minister told me.
Well, I knew that already. Not just from the swimming pool episode, but many anecdotes.
My elder brothers often talk about one of the rare opportunities they had to accompany him on an official trip to Switzerland.
He made sure he paid their expenses himself, he was so careful with the cost of the trip to the government that he moved his whole entourage to a cheaper hotel than originally booked, and they dined over and over again at the cheapest restaurant in the vicinity of the hotel.
And then there was his final trip to Europe in October 1975 for medical treatment. He must have known that it could well be his last trip, yet he did not allow my mother to accompany him to save his own money; probably concerned about her financial situation after his passing.
She only managed to join him weeks later on the insistence of the cabinet and with a specially approved government budget for her travel.
His integrity was another trait that came up often in conversations. He was guided by what now seems a somewhat quaint and old-fashioned concept of public service; that a public servant is first and foremost a servant of the people whose trust must never be betrayed.
The other point that kept being repeated was his stamina.
Many were later astonished to learn he had been suffering from leukaemia, given that when in office, he was constantly on the move, attending to official duties, immersing himself in the minutiae of policy and, of course, his famous surprise visits to constituencies around the country that allowed him to hear directly from the people about what was happening on the ground.
Of course, few people forget to recount Tun Razak’s dedication to rural development. He was “People First”, long before the sound bite.
But above all, what they unanimously emphasised was Tun Razak’s commitment to national unity – towards building a nation where every single one of its citizens could find a place under the Malaysian sun.
That vision was encapsulated in the two initiatives that my father spearheaded in the wake of the May 13, 1969 tragedy – the formulation of the Rukunegara in 1970 and the New Economic Policy in 1971.
The Rukunegara reconciled indigenous cultural traditions and heritage with the demands of a modern, secular state.
The NEP’s goal, as outlined in the policy announcement, was the promotion of national unity to be undertaken via a massive experiment in socio-economic engineering through the twin thrusts of eradication of poverty irrespective of race and economic restructuring to eliminate identification of economic function with ethnicity.
The debate on the NEP rages on today. I myself have publicly remarked that something has gone awry in its implementation.
The fixation on quotas and the seemingly easy route to unimaginable wealth for a select few have created an intra-ethnic divide in class and status, while fuelling inter-ethnic tensions. Both these developments serve to undermine, if not completely negate, the overarching goal of Tun Razak’s NEP, strengthening national unity.
What went wrong? Some have argued that the fault was affirmative action itself. For me, it was because its implementation was skewed by the focus on the tactical approach rather than the commitment to the strategic goal.
The NEP has certainly helped eradicate poverty and reduced economic imbalances by spawning a Malay middle class.
However, in terms of the larger vision, the best that can be said about the NEP is that it initially helped blunt the edges of racial conflict in the aftermath of May 13.
Thanks in part to the NEP, Malaysia did not follow Sri Lanka, which became embroiled in decades of strife between the immigrant Tamils and the indigenous Sinhalese.
That is no small achievement. But the NEP promise of strengthening national unity has not been realised.
In fact, there are signs that inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic tensions are once again approaching worrying levels.
What can be done? There is a Malay proverb: “Sesat di Hujung Jalan, Balik ke-Pangkal Jalan.” Loosely translated, it means “When one has lost one’s way, one should return to the beginning.”
And “the beginning” here, in my view, is the values, commitment, vision and inclusiveness demonstrated and embodied by Tun Razak.
I have mentioned earlier the remarks about his integrity, commitment to the concept of public service and his vision of a progressive, prosperous and united Malaysia. But let me close here by emphasising two other highlights of his legacy.
One, he was a true democrat. Two years after running the country as head of the National Operations Council, he disbanded the committee and restored democratic rule.
He held virtually dictatorial power as the NOC chief, but his worldview and values rested on a foundation of democratic rule, not dictatorship. His decision-making style exemplified this as well: he brought in all who needed to be involved and engaged in a consultative discussion before any major decision was adopted.
He never excluded those with contrarian views, he encouraged multiplicity of opinions in order to have the best chance of making a right final decision.
Two, while he was committed to helping improve the material quality of life for the majority Bumiputeras to avert another “May 13”, he viewed this as a national prerogative rather than a racial one. That, to me, explains his determination to involve Malaysia’s best and brightest in this quest, regardless of their racial or ethnic origin.
Just check out those who served him and his administration back then. They were and are, Malaysians all, united in their determination to rebuild this nation from the ashes of May 13.
That was Tun Razak’s legacy to Malaysia. We can best honour it by returning to “Pangkal Jalan”. – January 14, 2014.
* Datuk Seri Mohd Nazir Razak is the son of the second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak, and a brother of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. He is managing director and chief executive of the CIMB group.
Prime Minister dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak vowed to continue the Bumiputera agenda, like his father:
14 January 2014| last updated at 10:31PM
PM: Tun Razak’s legacy must continueBy HANA NAZ HARUN | firstname.lastname@example.org
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KUALA LUMPUR: The late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein has left a legacy that must be continued, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Najib said his father, the second prime minister of Malaysia, who died on Jan 14, 1976, in London, due to leukemia at the age of 53, had drawn up policies that had improved the livelihood of the Malays and the Bumiputeras.
“It is our commitment to fight for the unity of the Malays. With the fighting spirit of Tun (Razak), we will continue this struggle until his aims and aspirations are achieved,” Najib said after joining a congregation in the reading of Yaasin and tahlil for the late Razak at the Ar-Rahah Mosque in Kampung Kerinchi.
Najib and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, arrived at the mosque at 7.10pm.
The mosque was completed in 2012, a gift from Najib’s brother, CIMB Group chief executive Datuk Seri Nazir to their mother, Tun Rahah Mohamad Noah.
Among those present at the tahlil were Rahah, Nazir, Malacca Yang di-Pertua Tun Mohd Khalil Yaakob, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, Felda chairman Tan Sri Isa Samad and former Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister, Datuk Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin.Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak attends tahlil prayers for his father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein at the Ar-Rahah Mosque in Kampung Kerinchi. Present also are Malacca Yang di-Pertua Tun Mohd Khalil Yaakob (2nd from left) and Felda chairman Tan Sri Isa Samad (2nd from right)
They may present themselves with the values and upholding the legacy of their father, who as a leader demonstrated unequivocally was an extraordinary selfless man. However, it reality they are actually not.
First of all, Tun Razak really cared and gave a lot of thought to develop downtrodden Malaysians especially the Malays. Even in the infancy of this nation, then the Deputy Prime Minister paid so much attention on national and rural development.
He was instrumental in the formation of Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), a Federal Government agency incorporated to acquire and exercise land reformation programs for the purpose to develop land schemes. It took the form of communal estates which enabled a of landless farmers to work on and eventually own part of it.
Prime Minister Najib and Nazir took the businesses developed from FELDA and listed it.
The listing of FELDA Global Ventures (FGV) Holdings Bhd. did provide some direct benefits to the 112,635 FELDA settlers nationwide. However, it was CIMB which benefitted immensely in various fees from the IPO as the banker and lead arranging institution for the listing exercise.
Then Prime Minister Najib endorsed Non Malay executives to be brought in and strategically placed within FGV and eventually be promoted as the Group CEO. Recently, three key positions at Executive Vice President level are being filled by Non Malay professionals.
CIMB was originally incorporated as Bank Bumiputera Bhd., as result of the first Bumiputra Economic Congress in 1965. The congregation of Malay minds in Kuala Lumpur was held to discuss and formulate plans for the Bumiputra Economic Agenda masterplan, organised and sponsored Ministry of Rural Development where Tun Razak then the Minister.
Then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Razak brought in his personal friends and confidante to lead the bank created to help Malay business community and indirectly the Malay Agenda.
Today after various series of transformation, CIMB is no longer a “Bumiputera Bank”. Almost all key positions (with the exeception of Nazir’s post, the Group CEO) are filled by Non Malay professionals. Nazir is unlike his father, who would provide opportunities for Malay professionals to bloom, the most meteoric-risen banker gave emphasis on making money the prominence.
The elder brother too, brought changes into Petronas when he came into power. Despite that Petronas did very well where top and key positions were held by Malay professionals, Prime Minister Najib believed that the ‘necessary transformation’ of Malaysia’s only corporation listed under the super exclusive New Seven Sisters club should include Non Malay professionals.
As such, 50% of the Executive Vice President and 40% of the BoD posts were restructured and Non Malays were brought in.
It was Tun Razak’s vision and leadership which brought the nation to come together and the New Economic Policy (NEP) formulated, planned and rolled out. The affirmative action policy which is designed to alleviate the socio-economic stature of downtrodden Malaysians, targetted to most to the various Bumiputra communities who dwell in the rural and under developed areas.
On the contrary, Nazir Razak ‘bastardised’ NEP. He did receive a leg up as he started as a broker in the investment banking instead of being a banker doing traditional banking work. That enabled the opportunity to demonstrate his mettle. Nazir tweaked CIMB from a high street bank into a fee-based commercial bank.
Sime Darby, Guthrie and Golden Plantations (formerly known as Harrison Crossfield) are some of the British PLCs in Malaysia that were nationalised via series of ‘dawn raids’, as an extension to the NEP to allow assets and wealth in the form of plantations businesses that made this country great owned by Malaysians, especially the Malays. In 2007, Nazir came up with the bold blue print to merge the three corporations as one.
Hence CIMB formed Synergy Drive Sdn. Bhd., to execute the corporate exercise which saw RM47 billion of assets were transferred and restructured under one group. That earned Nazir and his stream of bankers a cool RM300 million in consulting fees. Nazir lead the process of ‘revolutionising’ Malaysian banking scene to be centered on fee-based activities and commercial papers hawking instead of traditional banking, as a catalyst for productivity and growth.
Prime Minister Najib’s wish for Khazanah Nasional Bhd. as the investment arm of the Federal Government to focus and develop on ROI and adding value in expanding market capitalisation, instead of physical productivity and traditional growth as catalyst for the economy.
Prime Minister Najib’s ‘Transformation’ plans and policies as his bet to be the driving force to build the momentum and expand the economic growth, which is centred with the capital and financial markets as the porpulsion for the engine of growth. On the extreme end, Tun Razak focused on economic activities across the board and emphasised more on industrialsation as the driving force.
The recent Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Program announced by Prime Minister Najib on 14 September 2013 is superficially beneficial for the Bumiputra, especially the Malays which is more than 75% of the Bumiputera populous. Strategically, it most likely would not bring about the desired results and meet the objectives as per laid out.
Khazanah where Prime Minister Najib sits as the Chairman of the BoD has never been seen as having a ‘Bumiputra Agenda’. He had to tweak on the current chartered path of Temasek-wannabe in his announcement of BEEP in UiTM to require KPI on BCIC growth for all GLC CEOs.
Tun Razak formed Malaysia Airlines system in October 1972 which played the primary role for communication and logistics as the national carrier. 39 years later, his two sons almost killed and buried the national pride.
The more recent development about Prime Minister Najib’s leadership is the cost of running the government under his stewardship. He has been seen as extravagant and opulence. Especially on expenditures for his own convenience, comfort and luxury.
Like in Nazir’s own story, this is something that Tun Razak would not stomach.
The intresting bit about Nazir’s own penned piece, is about Tun Razak left for London with Dr Pherson on his last treatment for the terminal leukemia. Tun Rahah Mohamed Noah did not accompany him because he wanted to save cost and not make it a burden to the Malaysian Government.
That is so unlike Prime Minister Najib, where his wife Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor several times travelled using the Malaysian Government facilities and expenditure such as the ACJ319 VVIP jet. The most recent was the Women International Entrepreneur Forum in Qatar. That trip is believed to cost the Malaysian Government more than RM1 million.
Tun Razak was once the Foreign Minister and Defence Minister at the same time. He demonstrated being a strategic leader with his diplomacy style and wit during the 1960s in a region turmoiled in superpowers wrestling for control and domination.
When he assumed the premiership in 1970, he brought Malaysia away from being an ally of the West in the region into a neutrality. He mooted the idea of South East Asia being a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) where the Kuala Lumpur Declaration was made in 1971. In the same stroke fortified ASEAN where he was one of the founding fathers, to remain a bloc of economic and cultural co-operation between neighbours.
On the other hand, he gave a lot of emphasis for the nation’s sovereignity and realm without compromising on defense and security.
The Armed Forces saw significant growth in man power, assets and capability under Tun Razak’s watch. So did the Police. Example was the formation of VAT 69 Police Commando unit modeled after the British SAS, where combatting the communist terrorists in the deep jungle and border have started to be a precision interjection operation.
It is common knowledge that Prime Minister Najib has been trying to be chummies to Western leaders such as US President Barack H. Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Many observers see this as him trying too hard for Malaysia to be really close to the United States. Upon assuming the sixth premiership, he even despatched a confidante to Washington D.C. as the Malaysian envoy with ministerial status.
As part of his ‘political transformation plan’, to the shock of the nation Prime Minister Najib unprecedentedly announced for the abolishment of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and Emergency Ordinance (EO) on 15 September 2011. Later, this proven to very counter productive both from the national and internal security stand point as well as politically.
Politically, Tun Razak gained respect and admiration of the Chinese at the juncture where they heart of the nation almost burned down due to racism, radicalism and extremism. Prime Minister Najib in his effort to woo the Chinese with his over-bearing ‘generousity’ received the exact opposite. Majority of the Chinese gave him the ‘Chinese Tsunami’ instead.
In many ways maybe these two Tun Razak’s boys would want to believe that they have inherited their father’s personal legacy, which brought tremendous transformation in so little time and space. In reality, they are closer of being contradiction to their famous and legend as their father.
*Updated Wednesday 15 January 2014 1000hrs