PETALING JAYA: It may have been 25 years since Tunku Abdul Rahman died, but his legacy is remembered even by youngsters who were born after 1990.
Take Wilson Beh, for instance. The 25-year-old wasn’t born during Tunku’s era, but read books and Internet articles about the leader.
“I got to know that our founding father was truly a moderate Malaysian and envisaged a Malaysia for all races,” said the investment banking analyst.
Beh attended the commemoration of Tunku’s 112th birthday celebration at the national memorial that bears his name on Saturday.
He said it was inspiring to hear from the Tunku’s youngest granddaughter Sharifah Menyalara Hussin who gave the audience glimpses of Tunku’s private life.
Beh believed that if Tunku was alive today, he would certainly be surprised by Malaysia’s economic standing.
“In 1962, Malaysia was three times richer than South Korea and not far behind Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong in terms of GDP growth. Today, they are all richer.
“Tunku would probably say, despite making some headway in economic development, Malaysia has yet to fully live up to its potential,” he said.
Also present at the commemoration was Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) manager Fareeza Ibrahim, 26.
“When you think of Tunku, you would think about unity and equality because those are things he believed in,” she said.
She, too, was touched by Sharifah’s presentation, saying Tunku was a “true Malaysian” and that his leadership was defined by his people.
“Everyone in our age group can relate to his ideals.
“We want something more because we know Malaysia has so much potential,” Fareeza said.
“Fortunately, there are voices who dared to point out whatever is that is wrong.”
Business analyst Rex Alvin Francis, 24, of Sabah understood what the “father of independence” did for Malaysia.
“Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya merged to form Malaysia. We did not join Malaysia and prior to Malaya’s independence, Tunku was working hard to convince the Malays to accept the Chinese and to grant citizenship to all.
“He convinced the people that the rights of everyone will be respected and asked people to accept their differences,” he added.
Another Sabahan, Valentine Joibi, 21, agreed with Rex, saying that despite the religious issues in the peninsula, Sabah was different – “It’s a united community,” said the medical student.
“The issues in the peninsula may cause a build-up of tension.
“But I believe Sabahans are very united.”