NOVEMBER 29 — In his memoir launched recently in Hong Kong and Singapore and available on Malaysian bookshelves from December 1, Sugar King, Robert Kuok shared his encounters with six Malaysian prime ministers and how he built his business empire.
Kuok started off in Malaysia but later decided to venture out of the country.
Today, his business empire straddles several continents.
His success has not come by chance but through an exceptional vision and mindset that have carved himself a place in the highly competitive world.
The points he shared in the book about the conditions of Malaysia indeed deserve some serious consideration.
He mentioned that he had advised his classmate buddy, our third prime minister Tun Hussein Onn, to hire the most capable persons irrespective of race while analyzing the complications that could result from a lopsided patronage system.
These two pieces of advice remain very much relevant to this day.
For so many decades this country has been plagued by the racial stigma. Even though we are still able to preserve a certain degree of harmony, interracial relations have been tied down by unfair government policies and a melange of social issues.
Kuok sees the need to tear down barriers and treat each Malaysian equitably as the only way out to secure the nation's future.
This is one huge hurdle all multicultural developing countries must cross en route to greater prosperity. We can only effectively liberate the potentials of our people and galvanize our economic development towards a more progressive society if we care to break the racial barriers and employ only the most capable irrespective of race or religion.
On the contrary, racism will continue to suppress the flourishing of our talents culminating in a catastrophic brain drain.
Meanwhile, the patronage system overemphasizes ethnic differences and will entrench the gap between our diverse communities.
Back then the country was sunken in a quagmire of racism where skin color took precedence over a person's real worth. Even Hussien Onn admitted he could not sell Kuok's formula to the Malays.
After all these years, we have today tasted the bitter fruit of our folly of not harnessing our best brains and not putting ourselves ahead in the highly competitive global marketplace.
Malaysia is gifted with a wealth of natural resources, and our excellent geographical position should give us an added advantage to become a fully developed state. Unfortunately we have given the golden opportunities a miss for not making the best out of our talented citizens and for not being competitive enough in a tightly fought global race.
Kuok described in his memoir, "I had seen a picture developing all along of a train moving in the wrong direction. During Hussein's administration, he was only partially successful in stemming the tide. The train of the nation had been put on the wrong track. Hussein wasn't strong enough to lift up the train and set it down on the right track."
Our leaders today should have sufficient courage and strength to put the train back on the right track!
Hopefully his advice will not fall on deaf ears again this time.
*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.