Saturday, May 26, 2007

"Bukan Kerana Pangkat - Tun Dr Ismail dan Masanya".

The Malay language version of Ooi Kee Beng's "The Reluctant Politician - Tun Dr Ismail and His Time" is already on sale. It was out last month.
In paperback and 296-paged, it is priced at RM40 on the rack.
I got mine at The Times in Bangsar Shopping Centre, at a discount.

"Bukan Kerana Pangkat - Tun Dr Ismail dan Masanya" , is the translated version by Singaporean Bashir Basalamah, and published by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore (ISEAS) in collaboration with the Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, Malaysia.

The translation, according to Tawfik Ismail (TDI's eldest son), was as close as possible to the original (The Reluctant Politician) although there were some parts that could not be literally translated, as is often the case with language translation.

If you have not read "The Reluctant Politician", you should start. Never mind your political predilection. The biography pieces together TDI's documents and letters which were long kept by Tawfik.
TDI was Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister under the Cabinet of Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia's second Prime Minister.

In the book are priceless narrations of closed-door events that had direct impact on our nation's political struggle towards Merdeka. You will come across familiar names of powerful players in those days.

I was also drawn to some very personal anecdotes about his life as a medical student in Australia -- the nature of which I had never found in similar writings of Malaysian leaders. I doubt even the living or surviving relatives of these leaders would want such intimate details to be disclosed.

So, it must have taken some, if not, a lot of courage for TDI's children to allow these details to be included.

"They are the truth. Why pretend they never happened", replied Tawfik when I asked him about it in March after the launching of the book in Danga Bay, Johor Bahru.

To me, there is no hypocrisy, no pretensions about how a Malay and a Muslim led a life as a student in a foreign land - some booze, merry-making and, well, some romantic entanglements, naturally.
I know many Malay political leaders would pretend that part of their life never happened.

There is something missing in the biography. Dr Mahathir was not interviewed. I had expected him to be, given that TDI was the one against re-admitting him into Umno after his attack on Tengku Abdul Rahman.
According to Ooi, TDM's office was not able to accomodate his requests to interview TDM due to TDM's busy schedule. By the time TDM was able to, it was already past the book's deadline.

A pity, really because I was made to understand that Dr Mahathir was an ardent admirer of TDI.

When I got the book, I wanted to ask many questions from people who knew him.
The closest person I could think of was my father, A Samad Ismail (Pak Samad).

I had never met the late TDI, He died in 1973 when I was in sixth form.
However, I did see him at "close range" in 1971 when he and his wife, Norashikin, were guests-of-honour at the wedding of my elder sister, Mariah (with Roslani Hashim), at our Section 16 residence in Petaling Jaya.
TDI was the Deputy Prime Minister then.

I thought he did look a little like my father -- must be the combination of his spectacles and moustache on the face.

I remember something Bapak said when he received news that TDI had died. He had said: "There goes the last few of my friends."
I believe he meant "political" friends.

Some people found TDI arrogant. Was he?
Pak Samad:"No. But he could be if he wanted to. "

Was he an ultra Malay as some had described him?
Pak Samad: "It does not mean that if you defend the Malays that you are an ultra. "

Was he a highly-principled man?
Pak Samad: "No....but... he was a man of principles. Incorruptible."

What did TDI think of Harry (Lee Kuan Yew)?
Pak Samad: "He didn't take Harry seriously. He (TDI) himself was in the position to retaliate against Harry. Harry knew what Tun was made of. Also, Tun was a man not easily taken in by flattery."

How well did you know TDI?
Pak Samad:" I was leading a very influential and powerful newspaper. He knew and was very well aware of my background. He was an Umno leader and an influential member of the government. He needed my feedback. I needed to know the goings-on. We'd call each other regularly. He'd ask my my views and opinion. He knew that I could be brutally frank."

About the man:
Pak Samad: "If someone like him could get along with someone like me, says something about the man."

It certainly does.


kak Ton said...


Just a suggestion. Maybe you should have interviewed Uncle Wahab Majid.

Uncle Wahab was the late Tun Dr Ismail's Press Secretary.

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Sis Ena
UNFORGETTABLE - that is what this posting is. My oh my - your papa is as sharp as ever.

BigDogDotCom said...

Ultra Malay or Ultra UMNO.....????

Hhmmmpppphhhh........very interesting. Sounds so bloody familiar!

No, no, its Shashimi time, today. Not, "Pour some sugar on me" time!


Rajahram said...

Nuraina, I have not read the book yet although I have been looking around for some time now. Very interesting what your dad had to say about TDI. I will certainly comment later about TDI. Cheers!

Keanorlinsya said...

Kenapa melau punya edition a lot cheaper? Bought the english one nearly twice the price.

elviza said...

Ah Kak Ena,

Your extremely well written review makes mine pale in comparison. *Sigh Sigh Sigh*

As usual, when you write anything about Bapak, I will be in awe.

This is one of my favourite Sista!

mutalib saifuddin said...

dear mdm aina,

ever since his death in 1973, there was no biography about TDI, until this year. After so long.

Even his boss (Tun Razak) already had his biography published (2 if i'm not mistaken), one is Tun Razak: Jejak Bertapak Seorang Patriot, written by Zam, and another one, Tun Razak: A Political Biography, written by Paridah Abd Samad (if i'm not mistaken), Both were published in somewhere 90's.

Even Tunku has it, his Pictorial Bio by the late Mubin Sheppard. Not to forget Dr.M. (but i don't know who wrote it)

Does Tun Hussein Onn has his own biography?

just thinking that the content would be great.(for TDI's Reluctant Politician)..


a great melayu! ultra ataupun tidak TDI seorang melayu yang gagah berani. beliau menjadi kebanggaan bangsa yang gemilang dan cemerlang tanpa perlu slogan sedemikian. seorang melayu glokal. a towering malay. among the politicians, Tun Dr Ismail was one of the last ones.
dr mahathir is only living towering, glokal malay yang terbilang, gemilang dan cemerlang. adakah beliau disanjung tinggi oleh AAB dan pengikut2 beliau yang dicucuk hidung mereka?
tepuk dada, tanya selera.

Kee Beng said...

Hi Nuraina,

So glad you got the Malay version of the book. Next time we meet, I hope we can discuss how the translation sounds to your ears. Is the language used by Bashir Basalamah, a Singaporean Malay, very different from Malaysian Malay anno 2007? And if so, does the difference make it interesting or not?

I was also happy to read your father's reminiscence about TDI...

The Reluctant Politician is not meant to be the final word on TDI. I hope more and more will be said about him in the near future, and that, as in the review by Johan Saravanamuttu of the book in the present number of Aliran, we will continue discussing TDI's legacy, and in the process bring life back into it, and make it relevant again.

Warm Regards,
Kee Beng

Anonymous said...

Just a thought. Maybe you could find out why Tun Ismail was against Mahathir being admitted into UMNO after his scathing attack on the Tunku from your father. I have a feeling that your father would know something about it since he was in the thick of things at the time. What do you think? It will be an interesting read if we were to know what the reasons were.

A Voice (from the Brick) said...


If you decide to interview Pakcik Wahab, not do it around Maghrib. I had the pleasant pleasure of seeing him up after maghrib ... lamanya dia zikir.

Hmmm ... bila pulak kita ni buta macam tu?

Anonymous said...

I just started reading the book. The part I can't forget is the confusion on the burial ground for TDI. Simple instruction for TDI to be buried at Makam Pahlawan was not followed by Tun Sardon.

I enjoy reading the book.

Hi&Lo said...

Agree with Pak Samad on "It does not mean that if you defend the Malays that you are an ultra. "

Tun Ismail had the foresight to see what's best for the Malay race by the policy of give and take.

Pak Samad does not see TDI with rose-tinted glasses when you asked him if TDI was a highly principled man.

Pak Samad: "No....but... he was a man of principles. Incorruptible."

It's almost impossible for any human to be without flaws. But to stand up for principles is already exceptionally rare, esp when stakes are high.

Ayah said...

When i heard about the book, i kept searching for it at all bookstores until i finally got my hands on it. A very valuable book in terms of history and lessons for future leaders... And, your review with your dad's comments was really excellent. And Thank also to ooi Kee Beng for writing the book and Tawfik for keeping the document intact...

Ibu said...

Kak Ena,

I got hold of the english version - tak sempat nak start dah kena hijacked by hubby. So tunggu turn la ni.

Very interesting comment by Bapak, which will linger in my mind while waiting for my turn to read the book.

Thanks Kak Ena.

p/s dah la our reading speed ni selow like senail. hehehe... bila nak habih nih?

IggySingh said...

haven't read the book yet :) must get my hands on it. every write up seems to say only good things...

my Dad was interviewed to fill in some of the details as he had worked with TDI once upon a time too.

Shah Reza said...

If i'm not mistaken. The offered price for the book was at RM30-RM35 at Universiti Malaya last few weeks ago.

The English version aka The Reluctant Politician was priced higher than the Malay version. I wonder why.