The Launch: May 22, 2007, Danga Bay, Johor Bahru
"I will do for the country what I will not do for myself and my family" - the late Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.
A little bit longer and the name Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman would remain in footnotes of history books.
We would find many young Malaysians unashamedly hesitate, falter, stutter, stammer before replying to a question on who Tun Dr Ismail was.
And they would most probably get it wrong.
Just consider this - a true story. Someone when asked the question, replied: "Oh, wasn't he the founder of Taman Tun Dr Ismail" ( a housing estate in KL, named after him).
That is why the book on Malaysia's second Deputy Prime Minister is so important. So awaited.
It has taken more than 30 years after his death (on Aug 2, 1973), for a book on him to be written.
Better late than never at all.
Malaysians must know this man. They must be made to remember him. This great man known for his integrity and principles who contributed immensely to the struggle for independence.
He was an integral part of Malaysia's nationhood.
More importantly, "The Reluctant Politician:Tun Dr Ismail and His Time" will set straight some record on events and policies in Malaysia's political history such as the New Economic Policy, communal politics and race-based political parties.
His eldest son, Tawfik was still a student at the University of New England, Armidale in New South Wales, Australia. when Dr Ismail died.
Tawfik was in possession of some of his father's documents and letters for a very long time before deciding to have them preserved and stored for safekeeping.
It was sheer coincidence that Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) director K Kesavapathy came to know of Tawfik's intention.
Kesavapathy knew of Dr Ismail as a great man, of what he stood for. He wasted no time in meeting Tawfik over lunch. Tawfik then handed him the letters.
"I went home after that and spent the whole night, until 5am reading the letters," he told guests at the launching on Thursday, March 22 at a Danga Palace/International Restaurants.
He was overwhelmed and without much ado, agreed to have ISEAS coordinator of Malaysia Study Programme, Ooi Kee Beng to author a biography of Tun Dr Ismail.
According to Ooi, Tawfik had wanted him to "do it".
"I was honoured", Ooi told us (four bloggers - Ahirudin Attan, Jeff Ooi, Zaharah Othman and I -together with Utusan Malaysia features/Op ed editor Zin Mahmud as well as Karim Raslan of Karim Raslan Associates) over breakfast at the Hyatt Regency just before the launch.
Penang-born Ooi has degrees in Public Administration and Chinese Language Studies as well as a doctorate in Sinology, all from Stockholm University, Sweden.
For him, putting the pieces together, interviewing personalities to get an insight of Dr Ismail, and then authoring the book had been an awesome journey.
Later, at the launch, Ooi said:
"I am convinced that this book is a recovered time capsule, and Tun Dr Ismail's thoughts, and the story of his life, will inspire Malaysians, and inspire Malaysia's future. Perhaps more importantly, there is the chance that Malaysians of all races can read about Tun Dr Ismail and identify themselves with him, and with how his life reflected the suffering as well as success of the country as a whole."
Ooi said the launch was fittingly held in his hometown of Johor Bahru, "attended by people who knew him well, and also by people who are most proud of him."
"It is also fitting that the launch is officiated by Tun Musa Hitam, the Malaysian politician most influenced by the late Tun.
"Both these men were deputy prime ministers of Malaysia, both are anak johor, and both have been named in different contexts as the best prime ministers Malaysia never had."
"Our Own Glocal and Towering Malay", Says Musa.
Musa, in his speech, confessed to having been Dr Ismail's follower and admirer since his childhood days in school.
He said in many ways Dr Ismail contributed greatly to shaping his political career.
"I never stopped being overawed by him. He was always encouraging me and goading me and inspiring me.
"Political performance to him was service-based and not personal based or personal-loyalty based."
Musa said what we are today was what Dr Ismail had prepared us to be.
"As a Malay leader, he was modern and progressive. He was not a Melayu lama even though he lived in that era. He certainly would not qualify as a Melayu baru, i.e. the new Malay since more rather than less of them are obssessed with materialism and when facing challenges tend more to turn to government in the Melayu lama way, yet as a back-up, easily turn to religion as a form of escapism.
"If at all, he could be fitted into the category of Melayu Glocal, as conceptualised by Dato Najib,our Deputy Prime Minister. Added to that, Tun Dr Ismail definitely qualified as the towering Malay, that our Prime Minister has been advocating".
Musa recommends people from both sides of the causeway to read the book, "to understand and appreciate an important part of our history and the sacrifices and the principles that the late Tun represents."
"To understand the famous Johore Malay insistence on principle, here is the best example.
"Let us honour him, and be proud of him.Let us use him as an example and an inspiration. And let us be proud of the country, our country Malaysia, that he and his colleagues gone by had built up leading to what it is today and what we are today".
I met Tawfik right after the launch/luncheon. I knew him from the time he joined the newly-set-up Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Berhad (TV3) as one of its first top executives, through the time he went on to join politics.
We had not met for a long time.
"Twenty years, maybe?", Tawfik asked.
I congratulated him.
"(The book) long time coming," I said.
Well, it's out, he smiled. I could sense a sigh of relief.
He told me that some 10,000 copies have already been sold, both sides of the causeway.
Really so glad for you, Tawfik.
And there will be a Malay and Chinese versions of the book.
(Also read Rocky's and Jeff's. )
Coming soon : A review.