Kuala Lumpur- Malaysians must re-look into history to help them appreciate what the nation has gone through and how the Malaysian society has evolved since independence almost half a century ago.
Tun Musa Hitam states that; "We not only have come a long way in terms of nation building. We have come a long way in terms of establishing a resilient plural society.
"With all its weaknesses, with all its faults, with all its problems, it is still a nation for everybody to be proud of," said Musa.
The writer met with the former deputy prime minister and UMNO`s past deputy president recently to seek his views on how far Malaysia has come since independence almost 50 years ago.
Musa said that in less than half a century, Malaysia has seen tremendous progress in the physical, social, political and economic realms beyond what was envisioned by the nation`s forefathers.
However, he believes the various races are still a long way from being united in the manner that was thought possible when independence was achieved.
Racial Divide And The Reality
"Let`s be frank about that. For that matter, no country in the world had or can provide an ideal example of what a united nation or country is." He reminded that Malaysia is far better off because even in this modern age, dismantling of unity based on race and religion is happening in so many developed nations.
"I want to tell you that a Malay will remain a Malay, a Chinese will still be a Chinese and an Indian will still be an Indian. Let`s enjoy Malaysia as it is. Let`s not worry about the perceived disintegration in race relations.
"We got a good thing going for us, so stop sulking and interpreting everything. Instead work to improve on it and stop this perceived decay in racial relations. If the situation remains like what we are seeing today, I would say in 50 years time Malaysia would be a `wow` country," said Musa.
Racial Turmoil Avoided
Negative perception on race relations is nothing new. Musa recalled the premonition of the Sri Lankan (then Ceylon) Prime Minister that Malaya would suffer from a racial turmoil within 10 years of her independence.
"It was in 1958 during a student gathering in Ceylon that I met Prime Minister Solomon West Diaz Bandaranaike (he laughed praising his ability to recall such a long name). He took me in his car and introduced me to his ministers.
"The prime minister told me that Malaya would face racial turmoil within 10 years after her independence but I begged to differ.
"This is where my nationalism was born. I was so upset and argued with him. He told me that I had better believe what he said as Malaya was also multi-racial.
"When I became the political secretary to Tun Sardon Jubir and then the executive secretary of UMNO, I travelled all over the country and related what the Sri Lankan prime minister told me. This did not go well with Tunku and he condemned me and referred me as a greenhorn," recalled Musa.
It is most fortunate that Malaysia only witnessed the May 13, 1969, tragedy and ever since it has managed race relations very well. Another development that Musa observed since Merdeka is that there is more political awareness among the non-Malays today than in the early days.
"This is very significant because when I started those days, politics was just a Malay thing. The Chinese as far as they were concerned (that is my impression), were only interested in making money through business. The Indians too were going about doing their own thing. Political consciousness was purely a Malay agenda, unlike now, where everyone is comfortable with being a Malaysian," opined Musa.
Musa`s Own Experience
Going back to the days preceding Merdeka, the Segamat born Musa fondly reminisced the pre-Merdeka days. Musa recalled that he was "a young school boy conscious of what was going on."
"I was literally in the midst of the action, the rise of Malay politics. I lived not far away from Datuk Onn Jaafar`s house but he was the upper class while we were just commoners.
"I was awed by the on-goings but had no political inclination at all but probably it is the environment that made me feel so conscious. That was more than 50 years ago, little did I expect that we would come such a long way; a very, very long way," recalled Musa, gesturing with both hands to elaborate on the passage of time.
Student Politican To Roving Diplomat
The former Johor Baharu English College (Now Kolej Sultan Abu Bakar) student`s political career did not come by chance. Musa admitted that he had always wanted to be in politics even when still in school. When he was studying philosophy and history at University Malaya, he became interested in international affairs.
Due to this, after graduating from University Malaya, he took up a position with an International Student`s Secretariat based in Leiden, Holland for two years before returning home in the early 60s to serve as the Assistant District Officer (ADO) in Kluang.
As he made up his mind to venture into politics he left his government post and joined a Singapore-based company, Jardine Waugh, where he was selling cameras, essence of chicken , tractors, air-conditioning units, soaps and detergents.
During a visit to Sabah, he met Sardon Jubir who took him in as his political secretary. According to Musa, "Sardon was the one who really gave me a break and taught me about grassroots politics."
Musa is sad that the grassroots politics practised by today`s politicians has changed.
"In the old days, there was more of this human or personal touch. One of the reasons was there was no other means. You have to go down to the people. But unfortunately no thanks to modern technology with the telephone, television, radio, what more internet, the form of communication has changed.
"This is the thing that I regret very much. If I sound like an old man, I am an old man. With modern technology there is less of that personal touch," he lamented.
He was in active politics for more than 30 years. He resigned from the deputy prime minister`s post in 1986 and sometime later left politics for good.
Even after he quit politics, Musa is still very much in the limelight. He was appointed by the government to lead the Malaysian delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights (1993-1998) and also as the Chairman, 51st (1995) and 52nd (2000) Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. In 2000 Musa was appointed as the Special Envoy of Prime Minister to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
Now at 73, Musa still exudes charm. He keeps himself occupied, shuttling between his offices including one located at the 48th floor of Menara Citibank, Jalan Ampang and another at Kompleks Antarabangsa, Jalan Sultan Ismail.
He is currently among others, the chairman for the Lion Industries Corporation Berhad, the Malaysia-China Business Council and the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF).
Source: www.bernama.com.my (19 Juli 2007)