Malaysia: The Making of a Nation

By Cheah Boon Kheng | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE

1976—81
National Unity and Islamic
Fundamentalism under Hussein Onn

We have a society in which people of various racial origins have been brought up to be tolerant, understanding; we are a nation of people with conscience. The Indians can be very magnanimous, so can the Malays, the Chinese. The great diversity is a blessing, not a handicap. I don't say that it is a handicap. It is a challenge and a blessing because no one race can dominate the others. I would hate to see the day when any one race dominates the others.

Prime Minister Hussein Onn in an interview
reported in the Far Eastern Economic Review,
26 January 1979, p. 19

TUN HUSSEIN Onn's administration was the briefest of Malaysia's four Prime Ministers. It was the most conservative, the most resistant to change. The conservatism was most apparent in the shape of his Cabinet itself: basically it was not more than an enlarged version of that bequeathed to him by Tun Razak. 1 He continued the national integration policies of Tun Razak and succeeded in maintaining political stability and racial harmony, thus earning the title Bapa Perpaduan (Father of Solidarity) from the Malay media. Although he is remembered for some tough and authoritarian policies, he was also known as timid, over-cautious, “slow-moving”, and a “one-problem” man. A lawyer by training, he was said to be a stickler for legalism. At the end of his tenure, as his heart problem wore him down, his

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