Point of View With TUN HANIF
Hubris and hope
Taken from The Star, 2 June, 2006
HUBRIS. Do you know what it is?” asked our late Cikgu Wilson as he took us through our MCKK Lower Sixth Form literature class in 1955.
And haven’t you heard of the ancient Greek saying, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad?” he continued.
Many of us that morning chorused that we had indeed come across that Greek saying, which gladdened the heart of our already exceptional teacher, lay preacher, poet, chamber music composer and alcoholic, all in one, later to become famous as a prolific writer, literary reviewer and raconteur under the pseudonym Anthony Burgess.
His earliest books, some of you may recall, were the Somerset Maughamish Time For A Tiger with MCKK and Kuala Kangsar’s denizens as its subjects, and the equally iconoclastic and irreverent The Malayan Trilogy.
But, to a man, we hadn’t heard of the word “hubris” and that further gladdened our teacher’s heart, as he was now definitely one up on us. He who had taught us that sometimes, for impact’s sake, we could do away with the verb in a sentence! He then went into the oft-discernible relationship between the word and the saying.
And as I looked over the past fortnight, how I wished that several of us would ponder over this word and this saying, as much as my classmates and I did 51 years ago. This is also a case for literature as a school subject, that it can mould our character and morals, our patriotism and rationality, provided the teacher knows what he is about.
I am sure some of you are riveted on the ongoing spat between the two proverbial “elephants” and you are dying not so much to hear my view but to see me get into the fray. Here I have to disappoint you.
It is not that the Malay in me is warning me that I am a mere pelanduk and should beware what can happen to one caught beneath two struggling elephants, but that it is reminding me of what my late father used to warn me about: “Jong karam, yu kenyang” meaning “When the boat sinks, the sharks are (the ones) sated.”
I therefore do not wish to contribute to rocking the boat.
For 35 years, I played my role as a police and security officer and risked my life and those of my colleagues and “men” to help maintain political stability – a precious commodity that, for investors, had distinguished us for so long in this region.
We must be careful, with emphasis on the word “care”, because that Malay adage my father warned me about is so pertinent to the present setting.
Can’t we hear the claps behind us urging us on? Have we turned around to see who are doing the clapping?
Many of us who understand the play but really care for the country are caught on the horns of dilemma: “Telan mati bapak, luah mati emak” literally meaning: “Swallowing (it) will kill dad, vomiting (it) out will kill mum.”
Do you realise that there are so many interesting dynamics going on in our country every day? Yes, it is so clear if we care to read avidly. MAS has a whistleblower programme in place that is winning the confidence and response of its employees. That is an additional nail in the coffin of corruption, fraud and malpractices.
Will other organisations and ministries follow suit?
The Director of ACA Pahang has admitted that people are unwilling to trust the ACA for want of a clear safeguard for whistleblowers. True but, from what I hear, that is only partly true; the perception of the ACA’s unreliability would seem to be the bigger factor. Could it be for that reason that the “close-one-eye” MP is not willing to lodge a report with the ACA on the alleged corruption of Customs officers, of which he claims to have proof? (The Star, June 29) Sad, very sad!
Now that the Works Minister has promised Parliament that he would go after the PISB personalities behind the Matrade fiasco if the AG, with whom he has been in consultation, points to him the way, the light on corruption and wrongdoing shines more brightly – not that I am pre-empting the findings of the investigation. Let us not cast any aspersion on anyone until it becomes justifiable.
Audi alteram partem – hear the other side – is a principle of natural justice.
How many of you are following the twists and turns of our resurgent parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) under the stewardship of Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad. Surely his stance has gladdened your hearts.
His resolute determination to ensure that the public gets their money’s worth of public expenditure makes us proud to have him at the helm. I am prouder still that he gives today’s Malay Collegians and MCOBA members an example of integrity and courage to emulate. In this time and age, he is indeed terbilang and gemilang.
It goes to show that it is not the mere existence of an institution that counts but what is made of it by brave and honest men.
• Previous articles of Tun Hanif’s Point of View are available at thestar.com.my/columnists
Still as good as the old days
Taken from The Star, 2 June, 2006
I WAS back at my alma mater, the Malay College Kuala Kangsar, on June 10 to form part of the line-up of members of its Board of Governors, staff and students, to greet the arrival of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Akihito, and Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Michiko, who were gracious enough to include the visit as part of their long-delayed visit-to-Perak programme.
As it so happened, the MCKK of recent years has been encouraging its students to be at least trilingual and has provided facilities and resources for its students to learn a third language after Malay and English. So, it has groups of students at various stages of learning one of the following languages: Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, German and French.
It was such a pleasant serendipity for me to see the young students performing a vigorous Japanese dance – a fishermen’s or rural dance as far as I could make out – for their Imperial Majesties and then answering Their Majesties’ curious questions with both studied deference and quiet confidence. I am sure Their Majesties were pleasantly amused and I was bursting with justifiable pride.
The Malay College may have been established 101 years ago for the education and grooming of the children of Malay royalty and aristocrats but even when I was head prefect there from 1954 to 1956, there were just a handful of royalty among 592 students.
The vast majority were the children of smallholders, farmers, petty traders, penghulu, teachers, government servants, railway employees, soldiers and policemen who were bright enough to be selected.
Today, it is almost the same except that they are really among the crème-de-la-crème of male Malay students and many more than before are from middle-class families, reflecting the improvement in the lot of the Malay society in general since Merdeka.
Sadly, though, the physical infrastructure and resources of MCKK have not really kept up with changing times. Over the years its Old Boys had endeavoured to give it tennis courts, a swimming pool, a proper fencing around Big School, a network of fibre-optics and some computers that are now obsolete.
This month, they gave their alma mater a resource centre equipped with 20 new computers and a printer. But MCKK needs a bit more than these for its now over 700 students to commensurate with the quality of Malay students studying there and the Government’s desire to create global citizens who are outstanding and distinguished.
The library, for instance, is too small and is still caught in the ancient mode of my days with just a little bit more new titles.
Why are Malay Collegians and Old Boys of the Malay College not racial fanatics? In the “old days” it was because of our exposure to British and multi-racial teaching faculty. Today, when the teaching staff is almost totally Malay, how do Malay Collegians escape the embrace of racial fanaticism?
Part of the answer lies in the strong bonding with its Old Boys who largely eschew any kind of fanaticism.
Another reason is that MCKK has been playing home-and-away rugby games against its equally famous Thai counterpart, the royal Vajiravudh College, since the late 1950s.
As a result of these games, there is strong bonding among the boys and Old Boys of both schools.
In recent years, there has been a student exchange programme whereby groups of students exchange visits and are put up at each school for a week and with the students’ families in both countries for a further week. It is an amazing programme that has opened the vista of students of an all-Malay institution to a non-Malay world!
Last year, MCKK started an almost similar exchange programme with Singapore’s premier Raffle’s Institution. MCKK made the visit first; its students stayed in the RI Hostel for several days and played a series of two rugby matches on the first and third day. MCKK lost the first game badly. They didn’t sulk; they were not negative.
They recognised RI’s superior technical skills, coaches and facilities and, like true Collegians bent on bonding with their new Singapore friends, they sought to learn from the RI coaches and profited from it by cutting down the margin of their second loss quite drastically.
They also had two debating sessions that were kept friendly and were not adjudged.
From June13-16, 70 Singapore Raffles Institution students accompanied by seven teachers made a return visit to MCKK.
Under-15 rugby was again played and this time around, RI could only pip MCKK by the slender margin of 9-8, showing how much the MCKK players had benefited from the tips and pointers given by RI coaches last year.
But MCKK won, surprisingly for a Malay institution, both their under-15 and under-16 basketball encounters. Credit must go to MCKK’s basketball coach – my former PDRM colleague, SAC 1 (Rtd) Liew Yong Choon and, of course, to the players.
Man does not live on bread alone; he needs a sense of self-respect and pride born of high achievements and a belonging to or association with something superior. MCKK faculty and students certainly benefit from their exposure to Thailand’s Vajiravudh College and Singapore’s Raffle’s Institution, not least because it exposes them to the excellent standards and elitism of two non-Malay academic institutions north and south of the Malay Peninsular.
The bugbear is that it creates a yearning, a hope, for similar superior hard and soft facilities currently not available to the best Malaysian public schools. Our best students are not inferior in quality; their institutions, however, can do with better facilities and resources.
How can this be best achieved must be pondered by all concerned. As Old Collegians we refuse to play the blaming game. We must be positive, seek help and also offer to help. That must always be the way of MCOBA. Fiat Sapientia Virtus! (Let Manliness Come Through Wisdom!)