Tunku’s book on May 13

I’ve just finished reading Tunku Abdul Rahman’s “May 13: Before and After”, and found this one excerpt quite interesting:

It is a very unusual achievement in any democratic country for any one party to hold sway for so long. Unfortunately, many of our people can only enjoy victory; they do not know how to take defeat. A verse from the Koran says: [here he includes an Arabic verse]. It means “Man does not tire of praying for good. But if evil touches him he despairs and gives up hope”.

Such an attitude shows lack of moral strength and courage. With such people victory with a little setback is looked upon as a defeat, so they get thoroughly rattled and turn around and find fault with everybody, with the Party, even though it has won. The leaders, with me as the main target of attack, are to be got rid of, and the policy, even though it has served us so well, is to be cast overboard.

This comes from page 142 of the first edition of this book, printed in September 1969. It was under Chapter 16, “Inside UMNO – Struggle for Power”.

Most of what I just quoted, seemed to me to coincide with the events that followed the general elections of March last year. And it’s interesting for me to read that almost 40 years ago, it was already considered “a very unusual achievement” that the same party – The Alliance at that time – held power for 12 years. 40 years from then, the “very unusual achievement” continues, making it even more unusual, I’m sure.

It was a good read, this book. I’ve read a couple of books now, on the May 13 events, in an attempt to understand why our country is the way it is now. No better way to start understanding by learning our history. And it’s particularly interesting to read about the events from the viewpoint of the premier himself.

I leave you with another quote from the Tunku, one which I particularly like. He said this in response to the criticisms he received about the way he lived his life – of poker and horses:

A man’s private life is his own concern, provided he does not trespass on the rights of others.


7 Comments on “Tunku’s book on May 13”

  1. de minimis says:

    Hi Michelle

    An excellent post. Good insight. Will Durant, an eminent historian in his time, always reminded everyone that History is the most important starting point since it gives us a context for the subject matter of inquiry.
    Thanks. I’ll agree with Durant. History is fast becoming one of my pet subjects. 🙂

  2. JMD says:

    History is the best teacher indeed… Glad you got hold of the book Michelle.

    Another good read would be the NOC white paper itself. If you have not read it, do you want the softcopy? Its about 4mb. Just send me your email address if you like.

    Thanks for the offer JMD. I just sent you an email. 😉

  3. Uncle Lee says:

    Hi Michelle, I was a teen when Malaya got its Merdeka. Infact I took part at Malaya’s 1st school mass drill at the opening of Merdeka stadium, and next day Aggust 31st, I was at the stadium together with 40,000 others to join Tunku in crying out, “MERDEKA” 7 times.
    It was very soul stirring to see the British Union Jack slowly coming down for the last time and Malaya’s new flag rising upwards fluttering proudly.

    And hearing ‘Negaru Ku’ for the first time.
    Yes, to me Tunku was one heck of a PM….the father of Independence.
    Good for you to have read that book.
    Oy ya, happy new year and best regards, Lee.
    Happy New Year.

  4. Antares says:

    Just swung by on a jungle vine to yodel at you & offer you a yellow hibiscus. Hope our orbits intersect sometime! 🙂

    They will, sometime.

  5. peter says:

    Hi Michelle,

    Have been reading your blog via People’s Parliament.

    It has always been an insightful reading from where I am in downunder.

    If I may request a favour for a soft copy from you.

    Greatly appreciated.

    Peter, you want a soft copy for which book? I don’t have the Tunku’s book on soft copy, I’m afraid. But if you want the NOC report that JMD just sent me, I’d gladly share it with you.

    Alternatively, you could go to the May 13 website that bangmalaysia indicates below.


  6. bangmalaysia says:

    Glad you managed to get the book in NZ. Its difficult to get the book in English even in Malaysia.

    Anyways more May 13 books are listed in the blog ‘May 13 – Truth and Reconciliation” at

    The Auckland Uni Library is turning out to have a whole lot of old books. =)

    Thanks for the reminder about your website.

  7. dinobeano says:

    Michelle, a good commentary.

    Tunku Abdul Rahman was a special man, royal yet ordinary. He saw his job as serving the people, which UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders conveniently forget.

    I too like this:” A man’s private life is his own concern, provided he does not trespass on the rights of others.” (Tunku Abdul Rahman). Not possible in Malaysia at this time.

    I note that you have not commented on my blog for quite a while. Any reason for this? Have a great 2009.–Din Merican
    I’ve been generating the habit of reading without commenting these days. 🙂

    Thanks for coming by. You have a great 2009 too.

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