JULY 10 — Even though you do not know me, I still want to wish you a very happy birthday.
Back in the early 90s when I was still at school, the whole school would sing “Wawasan 2020” every week during our Monday assembly. I was inspired by Wawasan 2020 that I decided to be an engineer so that I can contribute to the vision, even though I didn’t have a clue what does an engineer do. At that time, neither did I know any engineer who can tell me what a career of one would be like.
My secondary school project, a “thesis”, was based on one of the challenge you outlined in “Wawasan 2020”. Aptly titled “Rumah Seri Kenangan – Ke arah masyarakat penyayang?”, the team work explored the case of the elderly Malaysians who end up in the old folk homes. To complete the project, my friend and I spent our weekend for “field work” at an old folk home just outside Taiping.
My ambition came a step closer when I was offered to pursue engineering right after SPM. Thanks to your policy, many of my contemporaries and I were able to experience quality education in the UK we would otherwise could not have afforded.
I have always been impressed with your leadership especially on the international stage. You were the voice for the developing world and the oppressed. Back home, your performance was mixed. There was a split in Umno at the end of 80s. By 1990, Kelantan fell to PAS. But back then, everything was rosy at the surface, especially when the economy was doing well. There was not a credible opposition at the federal level. Social media has yet to exist.
Four and a half years later, armed with a degree from one of the UK’s top engineering school, I returned to serve Malaysia. I landed a pretty decent job despite the Asian Financial Crisis. In less than a year however, Malaysia was in a deep political turmoil. Just like many fellow Malaysians, I despised the states’ treatment of your then deputy Anwar Ibrahim. That was arguably a point of downfall for the Asian Tiger, economically and politically.
Despite your sterling performance in developing the economy prior 1997, the same could not be said post-1997, even though you are credited for the capital control that supposedly saved Malaysia from the crisis. However, Malaysia’s lack of reforms to move up the value chain following the crisis can partly be attributed to you. In one way or another, that leads to where Malaysia is today – a middle-income trap nation two decades after the Asian Financial Crisis. Today, Wawasan 2020 is just but a distant dream. It is ironic that the vision becomes a casualty from its own mastermind.
On you 95thbirthday, I wish you well and good health. Despite the downsides and criticisms over your rule (first and second stint as the Prime Minister), you have done so much for the country, and your contributions would be recognised. I believe it is never too late to do more good and right the wrong, and trust that you would do what is necessary (in the years that you have left) to leave a lasting legacy that would be remembered by all Malaysians for many years to come.
Happy birthday Tun!
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.