IN examining Malaysia's efforts towards achieving professionalism in the conduct of the country's international relations and diplomacy, it would be remiss, on my part, if I failed to highlight the pivotal role of Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.
He was, without question, a key factor in creating a perceptive and responsive environment in the Malaysian administration that proved essential for injecting professionalism and training among public officials.
It was the Tun, as he was popularly referred to, who guided the young nation onto a new and dynamic path through an extensive programme of bureaucratic modernisation and human resource development.
|Razak's pivotal role in diplomacy
Tun Abdul Razak Hussein with press and radio representatives at the then Jesselton Airport VIP room,
prior to his departure to Kuala Lumpur, after an official visit to Sabah on July 22, 1967.
Going by his own experience, he was totally convinced of the importance of education and training. Since early in his administrative and his later political career, he possessed a burning passion to instil meritocracy and professionalism in the bureaucracy.
In addition, Razak had recognised the conduct of the country's international relations and diplomacy as among the principal functional responsibilities of the public service requiring specialised training.
The other areas of functional specialisation he identified were administrative management, economic administration, rural and agricultural development, district and land administration, social development, internal security and defence, and finally, urban development and local government.
As a result of Razak's vision and dynamic leadership, the country was granted a head start over most other newly independent developing countries in conducting international relations and diplomacy and in managing foreign affairs.
To understand and appreciate Razak's critical role in the evolution of government policy and the establishment of key institutions as well as the administrative arrangements for professional training in the public service, one has to at least take a peek into his background, educational exposure and creditable personal achievements.
By virtue of his birth as the son of Datuk Hussein, an Orang Kaya Shahbandar (Chieftain of the sultan or ruler), the Tun was a hereditary Datuk (honourific title given to a sultan's chieftain).
He was born in 1922, in the township of Pekan in the state of Pahang and spent his early childhood and schooling in a rural setting. As he proved an able student, he was enrolled in the elitist Malay College in Kuala Kangsar for his secondary education. In 1940, he was awarded a scholarship to study at Raffles College in Singapore. This was, however, disrupted by the Pacific War.
Soon after the war ended, Razak was admitted into Lincoln's Inn to read law. The youthful Razak was elected secretary of the Malay Society of Britain, of which organisation as providence would have it, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister of Malaya and later Malaysia, was the president.
Subsequently, Razak himself assumed the president's seat. It was here that he forged a strong camaraderie with fellow Malay students who like him were fired up by a nationalistic fervour.
The crop of young Malay professionals was well placed to take up leadership positions and roles in the colonial administration and in the future political arena, in particular under the banner of Umno -- the United Malay National Organisation in which he was to assume an active role.
Upon completing his law studies, Razak was called to the Bar in 1950. He returned home in 1951 to seek employment in the public service, where he rapidly rose up the career rung to become the State Secretary of his native state.
In just three years, he was appointed menteri besar (chief minister) because of his outstanding leadership qualities and diligence that were clearly evidenced in his excellent performance.
Razak was essentially a product of a conservative aristocratic upbringing. However, given his wide exposure to the modern world through his higher education overseas, he was able to think and respond in progressive innovative terms.
His rural background coupled with his work experience in public administration in the colonial government as an officer in the Malay Administrative Service and subsequently as a senior officer in the elitist Malayan Civil Service, made him keenly aware of the problems and issues of government and administration.
He was by nature meticulous in his ways and not given to flamboyance and was in this way impassioned to be a modern technocratic administrator and leader of Malaysia. Razak's penchant for administrative thoroughness helped the government to nurture and nourish a dependable and motivated public service.
The impact of his vision and dynamic leadership was felt in numerous areas of nation-building. Among the more visible fields were his role in rural and national economic development, development of education, bureaucratic modernisation and professionalism in public administration and international relations and diplomacy.
Malaysia's rapid progress since gaining independence in 1957, owes much to Razak's ceaseless zest for socio-economic development and efficiency in public administration management that he imbued into the public service, especially in the field of development administration and management.
His catalytic leadership role in instituting administrative modernisation to ensure speedy and efficient socio-economic development justifiably earned him the titles "Bapa Pembangunan Malaysia" (Father of Development) and "Bapa Modernasi Malaysia" (Father of Modernisation).