All quiet on the Seri Perdana front
In the midst of the polemics over Tanda Putera, I was quite intrigued that my Facebook status attracted more than its usual number of "likes" among my Malaysian friends for an innocuous quotation.
My posting was nothing more than a short and simple "If you have hope, you have everything."
It does make you wonder, doesn't it, whether Malaysians so despair for better times even during this time of year sandwiched between National Day and Malaysia Day when pride in our nation should be the order of the day?
Is there hope yet in the news that although Tanda Putera was financed by the government to demonise the DAP in particular, and the Chinese in general, for the May 13 riots, the "shock and awe" fiction fizzled at the box office?
There were, apparently, few takers among Malays even for free tickets bulk purchased by pro-Umno NGOs. (No prizes for guessing where the money came from.)
In contrast, KL Zombie, a self-financed local production, raked in six times as much in box office takings over the same period. Horror of horrors, Tanda Putera was zombied.
This year is the 50th since Martin Luther King, Jr. made his historic "I Have a Dream" speech calling for an end to racism in the United States.
It is also the 50th anniversary of Malaysia Day when Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore were united in a federation with full of promises for a better future, irrespective of colour or creed, for Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans and every other race in between.
Half a century after 1963, the U.S. has cut across the racial divide to elect a minority black into the highest office in the land whereas in third millennium Malaysia, the people can't even agree on who can call their God "Allah".
Tunku Abdul Rahman is often recalled with fond memories during Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations as the "Father of Independence", but how many Malaysians remember our third Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn as the "Father of Unity"?
Is it because Tun Hussein brought one of Tanda Putera's "heroes" to justice, and it does not serve Umno's interests to exalt the father of national integration?
His prime ministership (1976-1981) was doomed the moment he decided to haul then Selangor Menteri Besar and Umno Youth leader Datuk Harun Idris to court for corruption.
Back then, I was a feature writer in Bernama and, like my contemporaries, was aware that the successor to Tun Abdul Razak had a no nonsense approach to racial unity.
He told me in a personal interview on the eve of his ascension to the deputy prime ministership on the demise of Tun Dr Ismail that he would not tolerate anyone who tried to create racial unrest.
His motto, the Tun proudly said, was the credo of the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun on the foothills of the Himalayas where he earned his officer's commission before he later qualified as a lawyer at Lincoln's Inn, London.
I had to ask him to repeat it twice while I scribbled it down :
The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.
Such is our "Father of Unity."
He served a short five-and-a-half years as prime minister before he was eased out by his deputy, the then Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Even then, what else was new?
If Tun Hussein were prime minister today, he would give short shrift to the likes of Datuk Ibrahim Ali, Datuk Zulkifli Nordin, Datuk Hasan Ali, Ridhuan Tee and their ilk.
He is not your type of national leader to dither, or flip flop, or maintain an inelegant silence while others rage, rant and spew racist hatred and religious bigotry.
For the proud ex-army captain, right is right, and wrong is wrong. There would be no such discretion as selective prosecution.
Alas, we can only hope, and while we're at it, dream. And, why not?
It is, after all, the Jubilee of Martin Luther King, Jr's dream as well as of the formation of Malaysia.
In the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is stated to occur every fiftieth year in which, among other blessings, the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.
At this point in Malaysia's development, when fiction is being passed off as history, when law and order seems to be collapsing, when leaders in government resort to flagrant cheating at the polls and racist fanatics are given a very long leash, how we long for a prime minister like Tun Hussein.
Alas, all is quiet on the Seri Perdana front.
Tan Jooi Long resigned as an editor in Bernama to head the Asia Pacific operations of a U.S.-based newswire. He is a prolific tweeter.