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When Tunku met the roasted pork

  • Tunku's open-mindedness, while not being completely extinct in the 21st century, remains an extremely precious rarity we must cherish and appreciate.

By Ho Lee Peing

THESE FEW DAYS I have been reading over and again Professor Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi's article A Meaningless Merdeka, and each reading would bring out in me very deep feelings.

In addition to the Chinese translation, many around me have asked me for the original English version, as it is such an excellent piece that they find it compelling to forward to their friends.

I have to admit that I am promoting Tajuddin's article with an extremely conflicting mood. While I do hope that our non-Chinese readers will at least have some sincere introspection, not to say the slightest hint of shame, after reading his article, I was nevertheless fearful that the article might trigger a powerful backlash in the Malay community.

“The only hope for the idea of a Malaysia lies in the nations of Sabah and Sarawak... If I were younger by three decades, I would take my family outside this country and resettle in others or at least in neighboring Singapore and the nations of Sabah and Sarawak.”

Regurgitating these words in my mind, the picture of a Merdeka Day without the Jalur Gemilang fluttering as I walked past the bustling heart of Kuching, rudely came up upon me. When asked why they didn't celebrate, they simply said, “What has it got to do with me?” which sums up their frustration of being sidelined and their rights deprived throughout their 56 years of nationhood.

Merdeka is like an invisible dagger that stabs right through their hearts, and no one on the other side of South China Sea seems to bother or care.

As if that is not enough, a TV program unforgivably swapped the positions of Sabah and Sarawak on the map, and the same TV station unashamedly 'transplanted” Kota Bharu to Sabah on that very evening. The apology that came after the grave mistakes would not do anything to help appease the wrath of East Malaysians.

After reading Tajuddin's article, I was thinking whether it would still be relevant to celebrate the upcoming Malaysia Day if the gap between east and West is not closed, people on both sides remain largely ignorant of the other, and we continue to allow rogue politicians to further divide us by raising religious and racial issues.

I WAS SITTING at the lobby of the private mansion said to be at least 200 years old, listening to Datin Amar Kathryn Wee as she related the stories between the nation's founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman and her husband Datuk Amar Wee Hood Teck. What really touched my heart was not the many previously untold stories of the upper social class back in those years, but what many never heard about Tunku himself.

One day, Tunku was having a gathering with some good friends at a non-halal restaurant in Kuching. When a waiter holding a tray of roasted pork walking in their direction, someone on the table quickly signaled to the waiter to send the roasted pork to another table.

Seeing all this, Tunku did not feel offended but signaled the waiter to instead put the roasted pork on their table, and told the others, “You can enjoy your food, and I will have mine. What's big deal about that?”

There was a time Datin Amar Wee and her husband went to KL to see their old friend Tunku, and someone made the careless suggestion for the couple to convert to Islam, and before anyone could come up with anything to divert everyone's attention, Tunku told them there was no such need at all.

I found in Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs certain parts mentioning Tunku, including his appreciation for red wine, which I believe could have something to do with his long years living in Britain.

Tunku came to Kuching quite often. Besides official duties, one of the reasons could have been his affinity for horse-racing.

Tunku did not seem to bother much about his passion for red win and horse-racing, and would not shy away from showing his truest self in front of his friends after becoming the country's first prime minister.

Imagine if Tunku still lives in today's Malaysia, such trivialities could have sparked a tremendous controversy in our society.

Religious taboos were not on Tunku's mind, and he had on several occasions asked for the otak putih prepared by Datin Amar Wee.

Many may think people in the 1960s through 70s could have been ultra conservative, but let me tell you, Tunku's open-mindedness, while not being completely extinct in the 21st century, remains an extremely precious rarity we must all cherish and appreciate.

In a multicultural society like ours, diverse views and voices should by right be allowed to exist. Unfortunately, our diversity is being eroded, and differing voices overwhelmed.

(Ho Lee Peing is Sin Chew Daily Deputy Executive Editor, East Malaysia.)

 

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