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, well...it says something about the man."
It certainly does.