Malaysian train on wrong track, says tycoon Kuok in memoir

November 27, 2017

Malaysian train on wrong track, says tycoon Kuok in his memoir

Image result for Tunku  and Tan Siew Sin

TYCOON Robert Kuok has released his autobiography in Hong Kong and Singapore today, detailing his thoughts on Malaysia and his relationship with its Prime Ministers.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP), which Kuok once owned, released excerpts of his memoir today.

IN the 376-page “Robert Kuok, A Memoir”, the 54th richest man in the world, according to Bloomberg, said he had known all of Malaysia’s six Prime Ministers and shared how he saw Malaysia’s trajectory as far back as 1969.

Tunku – chief trustee of a nation

Kuok, who is also ranked Malaysia’s richest man, said first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was a well-educated law graduate with “tremendous rhythm”.

Image result for Tunku  and Tan Siew SinTunku was brilliant, and very shrewd. And he had that touch of Thai shrewdness, an ability to smell and spot whether a man was to be trusted or not. –Robert Kuok


“If you talk of brains, Tunku was brilliant, and very shrewd. His mother was Thai, and he had that touch of Thai shrewdness, an ability to smell and spot whether a man was to be trusted or not.

“Tunku was less mindful about administrative affairs. But he had a good number two in Tun (Abdul) Razak (Hussein), who was extremely industrious, and Tunku left most of the paperwork to Razak.”

The 94-year-old said Tunku had many friends but he would not adopt cronies.

“His friends sometimes helped him, or they sent him a case of champagne or slabs of specially imported steak. He loved to grill steaks on his lawn and open champagne, wine or spirits. Tunku would also do favours for his friends, but he never adopted cronies.

“When Tan Siew Sin was Finance Minister, Tunku sent him a letter about a Penang businessman who was one of Tunku’s poker-playing buddies. It seems the man had run into tax trouble and was being investigated by the tax department, and he had turned to Tunku for help.

Image result for Tunku  and Tan Siew Sin


“In his letter, Tunku wrote, ‘You know so-and-so is my friend. I am not asking any favours of you, Siew Sin, but I am sure you can see your way to forgiving him,’ or something to that effect.”

But Kuok said Siew Sin was upset and marched into Dr. Ismail (Abdul Rahman)’s office to complain.

Image result for Tun Dr. Ismail

“Ismail took the letter, crumpled it into a ball and threw it into the waste-paper basket. He then said, ‘Siew Sin, Tunku has done his duty by his friend. Now, by ignoring Tunku, you will continue to do your duty properly’,” Kuok said.

“That was as far as Tunku would go to help a friend. Cronyism is different. Cronies are lapdogs who polish a leader’s ego. In return, the leader hands out national favours to them.

“A nation’s assets, projects and businesses should never be for anyone to hand out, neither for a king nor a prime minister. A true leader is the chief trustee of a nation. If there is a lack of an established system to guide him, his fiduciary sense should set him on the proper course.”

Kuok said a leader who practised cronyism justified his actions by doing everything necessary to achieve his ends.

A different man after 1969

Kuok said Tunku was a different man after the May 13 race riots. Tunku felt he had helped the country gain independence and had ruled as wisely as he could, yet, the Malays turned on him for purportedly selling out to the Chinese, said Kuok.

“In fairness to Tunku, he had done nothing of the sort. He was a very fair man who loved the nation and its people. But he knew that, if you favour one group, you only spoil them. When the British ruled Malaya, they extended certain advantages to the Malays.

“When the Malays took power following independence on August 31, 1957, more incentives were given to them. But there was certainly no showering of favours.”

Kuok said everything changed after 1969 due to extremist Malays attributing their poverty to plundering Chinese and Indians.

“The more thoughtful leaders were shunted aside and the extremists hijacked power. They chanted the same slogans as the hotheads – the Malays are underprivileged; the Malays are bullied – while themselves seeking to become super-rich.

“When these Malays became rich, not many of them did anything for the poor Malays; the Chinese and Indians who became rich created jobs, many of them filled by Malays.”

Pro-Malay Malaysia

Kuok said prior to 1969 the government would open tenders and if a company worked hard, it would succeed “eight or nine times out of 10”.

“But things were changing, veering more and more towards cronyism and favouritism.”

Kuok said Malay leaders were quite reasonable in running the country and gave Malays an advantage at times.

“Then, when they see that they have overdone it, they try to redress the problem. Their hearts are in the right place, but they just cannot see their way out of their problems. Since May 13, 1969, the Malay leadership has had one simple philosophy: the Malays need handicapping. Now, what amount of handicapping?”

Closing the gap but opening new wounds

Kuok said Malaysia’s zeal to narrow the wealth gap between the races caused even more racism.

“As a Chinese who was born and grew up in Malaysia, and went to school with the Malays, I was saddened to see the Malays being misled in this way. I felt that, in their haste to bridge the economic gap between the Chinese and the Malays, harmful shortcuts were being taken. One of the side effects of their zeal to bridge the economic gap was that racism became increasingly ugly.

“I saw very clearly that the path being pursued by the new leaders after 1969 was dangerous. But hardly anyone was willing to listen to me.”

Hussein Onn and the three sons

Image result for Tun Hussein Onn


Kuok said his father and Hussein Onn’s father, Onn Jaafar had known each other since the 1930s. Kuok and Hussein were even classmates at one time.

And he told the third Prime Minister to use the best Malaysians for the job regardless of race, colour and creed before he took over.

“You’re going to be the leader of a nation, and you have three sons, Hussein. The firstborn is Malay, the second-born is Chinese, the third-born is Indian. What we have been witnessing is that the firstborn is more favoured than the second or third. Hussein, if you do that in a family, your eldest son will grow up very spoiled.

“As soon as he attains manhood, he will be in the nightclubs every night. The second and third sons, feeling the discrimination, will grow up hard as nails.

“Please, Hussein, use the best brains, the people with their hearts in the right place, Malaysians of total integrity and strong ability, hard-working and persevering people. Use them regardless of race, colour or creed.

“The other way, Hussein, the way your people are going – excessive handicapping of Bumiputeras, showering love on your first son – your firstborn is going to grow up with an attitude of entitlement.”

Kuok said Hussein was quiet for a while and after that he said: “No, Robert. I cannot do it. The Malays are now in a state of mind such that they will not accept it.”

He clearly spelt out to me that, it was going to be Malay rule, said Kuok.

“I felt disappointed, but there was nothing more that I could do. Hussein was an honest man of very high integrity. Before going to see him, I had weighed his strength of character, his shrewdness and skill. We had been in the same class, sharing the same teachers.

“I knew Hussein was going to be the Malaysian Prime Minister whom I was closest to in my lifetime. I think Hussein understood my message, but he knew that the process had gone too far.

“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.” – November 25, 2017.

‘Robert Kuok, A Memoir’ will be available in Hong Kong exclusively at Bookazine and in Singapore at all major bookshops from November 25. It will be released in Malaysia on December 1 and in Indonesia on January 1.

7 thoughts on “Malaysian train on wrong track, says tycoon Kuok in memoir

  1. What’s the difference between an autobiography and a memoir? My take is that the former is chosen when telling one’s life story and the latter when one needs to justify one’s life.

    It should be an interesting read, whether you agree, disagree, feel disgust, feel a sense of reflected glory or have a good cynical laugh.

    The man, I surmise, doesn’t really care. He has reached a stage of his life where there is nothing more to achieve, and more importantly nothing much more to fear. And perhaps because of this he sees fit to give his axe a last forceful grind and let the World comes to an end for all he cares.

    Does this also means everything he says is therefore the truth and nothing but the truth?

    It has been said that more lies are told at funerals than at other occasions, and cynics might extend this to memoirs?

    Years ago I read an autobiography of a retired 19th Century British lawyer entitled “Without Prejudice” I hope the Tycoon started or end his with the same disclaimer.

  2. Hope that my memory serves right….was’nt he one of of the top cronies of Doctor Mahathir , and top of the list too ? But perhaps yes, since he was ace in the sugar industry at that time…..but Dr Mahathir had a soft spot for this Tycoon , b’cuz he was churning big, big money for Malaysia …..what is the present status ?

    • ‘..what is the present status ?’

      Superduper Rich – Richest in Malusia. Owns the largest yacht in the world (eat your heart out, despicable JhLo). In Hong Kong most of the time. Roast goose noodles still the best! Children and family run his Empire nowadays. So he writes memoirs, not autobiographies..

      Anything you touch, eat or breathe will have something to do with him. Even the Mosamo bread you had during breakfast, or any Unilever product. You don’t ‘see’ him, you only hear his whispers.. A real gentleman, who will open doors for ladies. He’s honest, cultured but to be feared, as he can be ruthless if angered.

      He is a banana who believed in Shangri-La and not finding it here, built up Shangrila hotel and resort chain. UMNOb stole MISC from him which subsequently went bust, while he had no choice but to go into logistics and ended up owning Malaysian Bulk Carriers and Transmile logistics, which are the largest and most stable in this region.

      They wanted to Felda him so he bought land in Sumatra, Irian Jaya, PNG etc and ended up with Wilmar with HQ in Lil Dot – now the largest oil-palm operator in the world.

      He doesn’t give a finger to minions in Jibros admin – and Pink Diamonds are but a pesky adornment which shows the depth of depravity.

      But he had his share of disappointments, heartaches and pain like all of us. He dared the fates, and won.
      Robert Kuok was an inspiration of our generation. Yes CLF,he got screwed by UMNO government. When he had control over sugar the Government controlled its retail price. The control went to Syed Mokhtar, a Mahathir crony and it was removed. Leave it to the Malays and they will screw up everything.

      To me, the billionaire made the right move by selling his most of his interests in Malaysia and put his money in Singapore and Hongkong. He never looked back.–Din Merican

    • pre-science posting by Dato Din. Socrates – Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.

  3. Since I have a weak mind and therefore like to discuss people only, I wonder if the Tycoon will touch on his and or his son’s relationship, (as he already has talked about his shipping ventures), with Teresa Teng, the late singer.

  4. “Excessive handicaping” is the words here..while in the lil red dot gave the malays thier national song and language and free school fee that time..thats the only things they got..and they have to strive on thier own merit..look at the malays in sg now…

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