Thayaparan: On Dr. Haron Din’s Politics


September 18, 2016

Image result for Dr Haron Din

The Late Dato’ Dr. Haron Din is no longer with us. He passed away in San Francisco where he was being treated for a heart condition at Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto. His last wish was that he should be put to rest in the place of his death (We are free to choose where we wish to be buried and there is nothing confusing about this, Cmdr Thayaparan).

I am saddened by his loss because the passing of friends and associates of my generation reminds me of my own mortality. So I dedicate Al-Fatihah to this man of Faith and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences (Dr. Kamsiah and I) to his bereaved family. Both Dr. Haron and his brother Dato Abu Hassan Din Al-Hafiz are known to me since they are from Perlis and I met them in person  over the years. I enjoyed their tv lectures in the’80s.

My memory of Dr. Haron is at the time of his passing is that of a good Muslim and an Islamic intellectual, not as a politician from PAS. Out of respect for Dr. Haron, I will not comment on Thayaparan’s take on the man’s politics.–Din Merican

Thayaparan: On Dr. Haron Din’s Politics

by Cmdr S. Thayaparan

COMMENT:  Writing of the dead American Christian extremist Reverend Jerry Falwell, Christopher Hitchens who died of cancer some years back, said, “The evil that he did will live after him. This is not just because of the wickedness that he actually preached, but because of the hole that he made in the ‘wall of separation’ that ought to divide religion from politics.”

As that particular type of Muslim Malaysian, Haron Din did not believe in that “wall of separation” between mosque and state. Indeed, he believed that the enemies of Islam – always Islam, never his political adversaries – were those who believed in “the wall”, liberalism, freedom of religion and speech, in “Western” human rights, those things that the spiritual leader told his flock were anathema to Islam.

Image result for Haron Din and Hadi Awang

His weltanschauung was a wall of separation between those who believed in his version of Islam and those who were the enemies of Islam, in other words those who believed in anything else, including different interpretations of Islam.

The apogee of his crusade against the so-called “enemies” of Islam was when he accused former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and de facto leader of the opposition of working with the enemies of Islam, implying the DAP and well, anyone who disagreed with him.

This did not go down well with me and I wrote, “What happens if an IS (Islamic State) sympathiser reads Haron Din’s hate speech and carries out an attack on the DAP or somebody who supports the DAP or a Muslim who supports the DAP or just that unlucky Malaysian who is caught in the cross hairs? What is the difference between Haron Din’s view of Islam and the view of those IS members waiting to murder for their cause?

“I am talking about perspectives here, not methodology. I have no idea if the spiritual adviser supports the methodology of IS. I know that he shares the same views. I know that what he wants to achieve is exactly what they want to achieve but for now, someone like him is comfortable using hate speech in service of a democratic agenda.”

This was what was so frustrating for many others and me. Haron Din was willing to use democracy to legitimately gain power and subvert those very principles once in power. Of course, the fault is in our hands. We legitimised Haron Din and his political party in the hopes that common sense would prevail over religious impulse.

Three years ago, in a piece titled, ‘Mat Taib, Haron Din and PAS’ hudud games’, I wrote: “I have always argued that PAS is the sole ideological coherent party in the alternative alliance and with the exception of PSM (which is on unsteady ground when it comes to a strict reading of its ideological bedrock) will probably be the last party standing together with UMNO, when the non-Malays lose the racial demographic war.”

Image result for Haron Din and Hadi Awang

In those days, opposition supporters were furious that Haron Din was on the campaign trail telling the faithful that the only way to implement hudud was gaining federal power. He rallied his supporters; those supporters who were now mainstream thanks to the ‘PAS for all’ kool aid, which spillage on the Internet ruined many a commentary.

Evicting spirits

Some people, as I wrote, “dismiss people like Haron Din as UMNO sub rosa provocateurs (sic) but the reality is that this is a very real dialectic within PAS.” Many opposition supporters believe that the dialectic was over when Amanah was formed and of course even more so now that Haron Din has passed, but this is not the case. There will always be the dialectic simmering between the spiritualists of PAS and the middle ground technocrats, which ultimately will determine the fate of the party and unfortunately the country.

However, the mundane world of Malaysian politics, the ‘muggle world’ so to speak, was just part of the complex realities that Haron Din operated within. While your average online partisan would mock the spiritual leader for betraying whatever cause the opposition claimed they were part of, there were thousands of Muslim Malaysians who viewed the man not as a politician but rather as a spiritual warrior on the frontlines of defending their souls.

As Haron Din told AFP 11 years ago, “They have problems, not only physical problems but also spiritual problems, including black magic.” While Haron Din was the bete noire of opposition supporters, it was these people – his real followers – who fervently believed in the austere Islam he promised them was their salvation and Malaysia’s.

While disowning the title of “bomoh” – “The term bomoh in the Malay community is different to the Islamic healer. The bomoh uses inhuman words, perhaps words of the wild spirit. This is prohibited in Islam” – he honestly believed in the dominion he had over the supernatural world. (It is my experience that Islamists in the Wahhabi mode disown their culture in favour of whatever is peddled by the House of Saud.)

From the AFP article: “Haron, an intense, compact man in a blue tunic and white Islamic cap, finds no conflict between his deeply held religious convictions and his dealings with the world of ‘wild spirits’, which he says are addressed in the Quran.”

The world of wild spirits sound much like Malaysian politics, only much more exciting. Evicting spirits seemed to be Haron’s main mission. He was extremely conscious of the fact that we were sharing this world with other beings – “This world does not belong to human beings only, this world belongs to the creatures, animals, plants, trees and the spirits. When we want to build our houses or projects we don’t care about them, we just go ahead and clear areas. When that happens, there is a reaction on humans.”

In his life, Haron Din evicted, and sometimes relocated, wild spirits who were attempting to plague the Muslim Malaysian community and at the same time, he was defending Islam from the numerous enemies that attempted to subvert its true purpose, a purpose that Haron Din was custodian of.

If anything, his politics and his spirituality were not mutually exclusive and he never claimed they were. Maybe having spent so much time safeguarding the spirituality of his flock, he truly believed that aligning PAS with UMNO would hasten the eviction of “wild spirits” from Malaysia.

I have no idea why he would want to be buried in San Francisco, the epicentre of everything he despised but ultimately it is not important what people like me and other opposition supporters say about him. The Haron Din we think we know is the least interesting thing about the man. There are many who will mourn his passing for reasons that we will never understand but as he once said, “Most of the spirits in Malaysia know me.”

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/356034#ixzz4KcJyjVIz

The Passing of my friend ‘Iron Gate’ Dato’Yusoff Abu Bakar, DSDK


September 9, 2016

I mourn the passing of my friend ‘Iron Gate’ Dato’ Yusoff Abu Bakar, DSDK

by Bernama

The former national goalkeeper, who was also former Alor Setar Prison Director, excelled in the 1958 Merdeka Cup.

Dato’ Yusoff Abu Bakar, a former national goalkeeper in the 1950s, nicknamed the “Iron Gate”, died at 6.15 p.m today at the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital (HSB) here in Alor Setar due to old age. He was 81.

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Yusoff Bakar as he was when we were growing up together in Alor Setar in the 1950s–Din Merican

His son Yuzaily, 49, said his father had been ill since last year from kidney disease and a lung infection.

“He died with my mother and my siblings by his side. I am saddened by his demise. His death is not only a loss to me but also Malaysian football. He liked to chat and was very generous. However, in the week prior to his death, he was very quiet,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

Yuzaily said his father was admitted to HSB on Tuesday after his condition worsened and his appetite diminished.

‘Iron Gate’ Yusoff Abu Bakar

Dato’Yusoff, who brought glory to the nation and exhibited an excellent record when representing Malaya in the “Pesta Bola Merdeka” (Merdeka Cup) in 1958, served in the Malaysian Prisons Department since 1957.

Image result for Malaysian Goalkeeper Dato Yusof Bakar

His last post was as Alor Setar Prison Director from 1987 to 1990. Other than Yuzaily, Yusoff leaves behind his wife, Halimah Mohd Zain, 80, and two daughters, aged 51 and 42. His remains will be put to rest at the Masjid Al-Bukhari Cemetery, Alor Setar, at 11am tomorrow.

Owning Up to History


September 1, 2016

Owning Up to History

by David J. Collins

The Jesuit cemetery in St. Inigoes, Md., used to be surrounded by tobacco fields. Over the course of roughly 150 years, those fields were worked by hundreds of slaves owned by the Jesuits. In June, I sat in that cemetery, as a priest and a history professor at Georgetown University, with 16 Jesuit seminarians. We discussed what had happened there in 1838, when several hundred men, women and children were rounded up by the churchmen and their hired agents and transported first by wagon, then by ship to plantations in Louisiana.

I tell this history to seminarians every year. Both as historian and as priest, I am convinced that the past matters in the present. That is one reason I did not hesitate to lead the working group on slavery, memory and reconciliation that has as its goals the recovery of a neglected history and the pursuit of present-day reconciliation at Georgetown. The group’s recommendations for how best to acknowledge and recognize the school’s historical relationship with slavery will be released on Thursday.

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The 1838 sale is the most harrowing story I tell the seminarians. But it is hardly the only such story. The visit to the plantations is a chance to teach them that the Jesuits in colonial North America and the early United States owned more than 1,000 slaves on Maryland plantations, as well as in the Midwest and Deep South. Few of the slaves were emancipated until the law required it.

This slave labor generated revenue for Catholic pastoral and educational foundations. Revenue from the sale of these men, women and children regularly supported a growing network of missions, parishes and schools. In 1838 such revenue saved Georgetown from serious debt and settled a dispute with the archbishop of Baltimore, who had wanted the plantations for himself. But even in the 1780s as church officials were planning to open Georgetown, revenues from the sale of “supernumerary” slaves were already targeted for the school’s operations.

In telling this history of slavery to the seminarians, I am also handing on what I learned myself as a first-year Jesuit nearly 30 years ago. The history of the Jesuits in colonial Maryland beginning in 1634 has so many proud chapters — of adventurousness in the face of the unknown, of resoluteness in answer to state-sponsored religious bigotry, of creativity and generosity in response to pastoral need. But there is a darker side to that history: Racism, hypocrisy and brutality are part of it, too. Two centuries of Jesuit slaveholding and slave-trading demonstrate that. I will not let the young Jesuits take pride in and inspiration from a select set of uplifting episodes without challenging them to grapple with our history’s offenses as well.

I learned that perspective on history — that the failures need to be claimed as much as the successes — not in the United States but in Germany, when I was a student there. I still remember how startled I was by the frankness of a fellow Jesuit explaining that as a German he had no right to take pride in Bach and Brahms without taking responsibility for Bergen-Belsen and Birkenau.

That was not how I had learned my American history, in particular the history of slavery. Of course we had learned in school that slavery was deplorable. But as we processed its implications among ourselves, our responsibility was subtly attenuated with the suggestion that the Civil War, Reconstruction and civil rights legislation had paid the historical debt, as if hitting a reset button on race relations. And besides, as I remember, the reasoning of my circle of grade-school friends — mostly the grandchildren of Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants — was that our families had arrived too late to have a share in any culpability.

American history is replete with such cruelty and degradation, so much so that the figures can feel too large to fathom — like the one million slaves forcibly relocated to the Deep South in the 19th century. And exactly herein lies the value of the Jesuit history: The story of the sale that saved Georgetown draws our attention to 272 specific people, and meticulous Jesuit record keeping unwittingly spares these victims the final indignity of forced anonymity. We know the people’s names; when they were born, married and buried; whom they were sold with and whom they were separated from. We can trace their family connections, sometimes even to the present.Image result for Georgetown University and slavery

Several of Charles Hill’s ancestors were among people the Jesuits sold to a Louisiana slave owner to ensure the survival of Georgetown. Credit William Widmer for The New York Times

Those 272 biographies sting in a way a statistic of one million can’t. This is what makes the Jesuit case compelling, useful to study and promising for communities with a particular connection to it, like Georgetown University, the Jesuits and the descendants of the slaves. This story cries out its injustice against our American tendency to distance ourselves from the ugly realities in our history.

Slavery is our history, and we are its heirs. America would not be America except for its deplorable history of slavery. There will be no “liberty and justice for all” until we understand that, not just Georgetown University and the Roman Catholic Church, but we as a nation.

Condolences to Singaporeans on the Passing of President S R Nathan


August 23, 2016

To all our Friends, Associates, the Government and People of Singapore, and Madam Urmilla Nathan and the Nathan family, Dr. Kamsiah and I wish to convey our condolences on the passing of former President S R Nathan on August 22, 2016.

Having read his 651 page memoirs,  An Unexpected Journey: Path to the Presidency twice, I have grown to admire and feel close to Mr. Nathan for his many achievements in the service of his country. May Mr. Nathan, a towering but humble man, who inspired countless Singaporeans from all walks of life and  won countless friends in ASEAN and the rest of the world for Singapore rest in peace.  –Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

Former President S R Nathan dies, aged 92

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/former-president-s-r/3064846.html

Mr. S R Nathan and his wife Urmila Nathan posing for a picture together in their living room on Aug 21, 1999.PHOTO: ST FILE

“I have known Mr Nathan for 40 years, since I was a young officer in SAF. I remember him as a man guided by a deep sense of duty to the nation. He stepped up each time duty called. He was a true son of Singapore.”–Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

SINGAPORE: Former President S R Nathan died on Monday (August 22), three weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 92.

In its statement, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said: “The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues are sad to learn of the passing of Mr S R Nathan and would like to convey their condolences to his family. The late Mr Nathan passed away peacefully at Singapore General Hospital on Monday at 9.48pm.

The PMO said a state funeral service will be held for the late Mr Nathan from 4pm on Friday at the University Cultural Centre in NUS.

His body will lie in state at the Parliament House from 10 am on Thursday to 12 pm on Friday, and members of the public who wish to pay their last respects can do so from 10 am to 8 pm on Thursday, according to the statement.

PMO also said that condolence boards will be available at the Istana from 6am on Tuesday for those who wish to pen tributes to the late President.

Mr Nathan had been warded at Singapore General Hospital since his stroke on July 31. He leaves his wife, daughter, son and three grandchildren.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam said that he and his wife Mary were “deeply saddened” by Mr Nathan’s passing. “As President of Singapore, Mr Nathan championed social causes by initiating the President’s Challenge in 2000. The President’s Challenge gained much support from the community and raised over $100 million for more than 500 beneficiaries during Mr Nathan’s two terms of office,” he wrote on Facebook.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sent his condolences to Mrs Nathan and the family. “I have known Mr Nathan for 40 years, since I was a young officer in SAF. I remember him as a man guided by a deep sense of duty to the nation. He stepped up each time duty called. He was a true son of Singapore,” Mr Lee said.

Mr Nathan officially stepped down on Aug 31, 2011 after announcing that he would not seek a third term in office, and was succeeded by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

After stepping down as President, Mr Nathan took up appointments as Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Yusof Ishak Institute) and at the Singapore Management University’s School of Social Sciences.

Prior to becoming President, he held key positions in the civil service, as well as in security, intelligence and foreign affairs. He was appointed as Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia in 1988 and later Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States of America from 1990 to 1996.

He also served as Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large, and later Pro-Chancellor of the National University of Singapore.

George Washington– A Decisive Leader of Integrity


July 1, 2016

George Washington A Decisive Leader of Integrity

By Richard C. Stazesky

George Washington, Genius in Leadership

George Washington’s profound morality, unselfish nature and self control coupled with what was obviously a good intellect enabled him to out think all the other generals and Founders. Of them all, he had the best long and short range ideas and how to maintain coherency between them.– Richard Stazesky

Why did George Washington emerge as the most significant leader in the founding of the United States of America, even to the extent of being called the Father of the Country?

This is a question that inevitably arises in the mind of anyone who studies, even on a casual basis, the founding of our nation. Washington lived and worked with brilliant philosophers, thinkers, writers, orators and organizers, such as Franklin, Mason, John and Sam Adams, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Hamilton, Madison, Dickinson, the Randolphs and the Lees, almost all of whom were far better educated than he. Yet at the three major junctions in the founding of the nation, the Revolution, the Constitutional Convention and the selection of the first President, for each position the leader chosen was George Washington. In his own day he was seen as the indispensable man, the American Moses, The Father of the Country. Why?

His contemporaries and subsequent commentators have enumerated many factors that entered into the selection by his peers for these three strategically important positions: physical size and presence, charisma, energy, multi-faceted experiences, charm, courage, character, temperament, being a Virginian, wealth, ambition, his reputation as a stalwart patriot and, especially after the Revolution, the regard, admiration and affection of the populace at all levels of society. The most commonly cited characteristic given for his emergence as the supreme leader is his character. The most infrequently cited, as far as I have observed, are his intelligence and his ideas.

The overall impression that many people have today, therefore, is that while Washington was a person of the highest moral character, he did not posses a first rate intelligence and he got most of his ideas from others, such as Franklin, Mason, Henry, Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison. A factual understanding of their respective ages relative to Washington and the dates on which his views were known would prove the fallacy of the assumption that Washington was intellectually dependent upon any of them or anyone else.

I want to suggest and argue that Washington was chosen for these leadership roles because of his character and also because of his being a genius in the area of leadership. They trusted him because he had demonstrated a noble and incorruptible character and he had also shown himself to be an exceptional leader.

In the remainder of my presentation I shall, first, briefly outline the characteristics of a highly effective leader, second, illustrate Washington’s genius as a leader in his roles as commander in chief of the Continental Army, president of the Constitutional Convention and first President of the country, third, note what contributed to his being such a leader, fourth, suggest why his genius in the area of leadership has not been widely acknowledged and, fifth, suggest some things we can learn from him for our own daily living and in regard to our country.

II. Leadership

Leadership. For the purpose of this discussion I shall use a concept entitled “The Visionary Leader” which I came across some years ago. The visionary leader, first of all, has very clear, encompassing and far-reaching vision in regard to the cause or organization involved. This vision includes ideas and goals which remain constant no matter how long it takes to realize them and regardless of the difficulties which the leader encounters. Furthermore, the leader never allows any of the means or actions along the way to violate or invalidate this vision and its constituent values.

Secondly, the visionary leader is skillful in designing and creating an organizational culture which will make possible the attainment of the leader’s vision and ideas. In fact, creating this organizational culture may be the most lasting contribution of the leader for it will consist of the enduring values, vision and beliefs that are shared by members of the organization.

Thirdly, the visionary leader is also a person who can attract others to follow him/her in seeking attainment of the vision. But more than that, this charismatic person is able to instill in others the ideas, beliefs and values of the vision so that they become empowered to move beyond the leader’s and their own expectations.

In brief, the visionary leader has a vision into the far future, can develop an effective organization and can attract others to strive also for the attainment of his/her vision so that it becomes a shared vision and they all work together in an organization that sustains the vision, its beliefs and its values.

Another characteristic of a truly effective leader is that she/he always focuses simultaneously on two seemingly different configurations, yet to such a leader they are always inextricably related, such as strategy and tactics. goals and objectives, big picture ideas and little picture details, statesman and politician, profound and practical, architect and plumber,wisdom and application and futuristic ideas and present actions.

Of all the founding fathers George Washington alone demonstrated fully the threefold characteristics of a visionary leader and the intellectual and moral capacity, over a long period of time and in the course of manifold difficulties, to maintain coherency between long range ideas and goals and short term actions.

This is why, I believe, we can assert that George Washington was America’s supreme genius in leadership and thus became the Father of Our Country. Consider this assertion in terms of his roles as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army of the Revolution, the President of the Constitutional Convention and the first President of the United States of America.

III. Examples of Washington’s Leadership

A. General  George Washington

On June 15, 1775, the delegates to the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, unanimously elected George Washington “to command all the continental forces, raised, or to be raised for the defense of American liberty.” His commission, dated June 19, 1775, designated him “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies”. He received it on the twentieth and he started for Boston on the twenty-first.

It is clear that several factors led to his selection: his character, they knew that they could trust him; he was the best known military person in the colonies; he was a Southerner and the delegates believed he could unite the forces of all the colonies; he was a man of wealth and presumably would be less tempted to corruption and he was known as a fearless, determined and competent leader. Another factor of great importance, although not stressed or perhaps even acknowledged by many historians and commentators, was that his ideas in regard to British and colonial relations were well known and were representative of ideas shared by the delegates and those whom they represented. They shared a common vision.

Consider just three of Washington’s major ideas as the General. First, he must win the war, no matter how long it took. Second, it was a war for independence, liberty. Third, the purpose of this independence from Great Britain was to establish a republican, constitutional government. Being a republic, its form of government and its ruling officials would all be determined by the people.

Washington, more than anyone else in that period, understood the full implication of these ideas in regard to all aspects of his functions as the military leader – strategy, operations, tactics. He revealed himself as a genius in leadership as the “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies.”

Consider, first, his role as a visionary leader. I have already shown that Washington had the vision of an independent, republican, constitutional government controlled by a free people. He also envisioned this nation as contributing to the uplifting and happiness in the years, even centuries, to come of the whole world. (This vision is now being fulfilled as an increasing number of the nations of the world become democracies.)

As a visionary leader, Washington developed an organization with an organizational culture which achieved the goal of winning the war for independence. This, as Washington well knew, would be just the first step in the founding of a republican, constitutional government. During the eight years of the American Revolution, General Washington spent far more time, thought and energy as the organizer and administrator of the military forces than he did as a military strategist and tactician. Without Washington’s persistent, intelligent leadership, the army as an organization would have collapsed from within, unaided by British military might.

As a visionary leader, Washington also attracted both military and civilians to follow him to victory. He faced the realities of short term enlistments, desertions, very poorly clad and equipped soldiers, recalcitrant congressional and state legislators and wavering loyalty to the Glorious Cause among the populace. Yet enough soldiers and civilians so trusted him, believed in him, loved him that they stayed with him and his ideas.

Three pivotal episodes illustrate this charismatic appeal. After the 1776 Christmas day battle at Trenton after the crossing of the Delaware, many of the soldiers were ready to leave because their enlistments were up. Washington urgently appealed to them to step forward and stay with him in this noble cause. Hesitantly at first, but then almost completely, the soldiers stepped forward because of their trust in and regard for Washington. In that moment, he saved the army and the revolutionary cause.

The battle at Monmouth, New Jersey in 1778 also revealed his charismatic leadership and his genius as a battlefield tactician. In this crucial battle with Cornwall’s army, the American troops were in retreat and disarray when Washington took personal control. Lafayette said that “his presence stopped the retreat” and Hamilton also wrote “Other officers have great merit in performing their parts well, but he directed the whole with the skill of a master workman…I never saw the General to so much advantage.” The British retreated to New York.

By his presence among his officers at their Newburgh, New York, encampment in March l783 Washington’s personal standing with the officers saved the Cause from being lost, even though in terms of battles it had already been won. There was a conspiratorial movement among many officers because they had not been paid and recognized adequately for their years of sacrifice. Washington appealed to their reason but it was probably due as much to their emotional ties to him that, after his dramatic meeting with them, they affirmed their loyalty to the Cause and dropped all conspiratorial intentions. Washington biographer James Thomas Flexner wrote: “Washington had saved the United States from tyranny and discord.” He then cited Jefferson’s comment: “The moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of the liberty it was intended to establish.” (See Washington, The Indispensable Man, pg. 175.)

Washington excelled in all three roles of a visionary leader; he excelled equally in maintaining coherence between his long term goals and specific, current actions. We see this time and time again in his unfaltering commitment to the idea that in a republic the military must always be subject to civilian control. He made this clear in innumerable letters, orders, addresses and especially by his actions that the army must always act in accordance with Congressional decisions, even when he disagreed with them. These decisions involved such basic things as the selection of officers, planning of strategy and the equipping and paying of the soldiers.

The climatic action in this regard, of course, was Washington’s carefully staged resignation as “General and Commander in Chief” at Annapolis on December 23, 1783. The response of the Congress, written by Jefferson, noted that Washington had always recognized the civil authority’s supremacy over the military.

Paying tribute to President George Washington at his Final Resting Place, Mount Vernon, Va.

Washington understood the essential ingredients necessary for the establishment of a constitutional, republican government: control by the people, respect for the government, personal as well as public virtue and their inextricable relationship, respect for each other, civil over military authority and others. These ideas were not to be violated in the midst of a war. Thus, when soldiers went out to forage for food and supplies, they were ordered to show respect for all the citizens even if a lack of it might have facilitated a greater return from their foraging. Washington knew that the use of unethical and disrespectful means to attain short range gains could prevent the attainment of long range goals.

As the General and Commander in Chief, George Washington became America’s true hero and, to use our terms, America’s role model because of his exemplary character revealed with his unexcelled visionary leadership and his ability to maintain coherence between his far-reaching ideas and his immediate words and actions.

B. President, Constitutional Convention

As the unanimously elected presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia May 25 to September 17, 1787, Washington again demonstrated his genius in leadership. We must ask again, why was he chosen as the leader by this group which Jefferson termed “an assembly of demigods”? One reason, certainly, is that the delegates knew that the most respected, beloved and even idolized person in the country was George Washington. As on previous occasions, however, he was also selected for this crucial role because of his character and because he was a recognized leader who was skillful in reconciling various views; in short, he was a supreme politician.

I wish to stress, however, that he was also chosen because his ideas in regard to constitutionalism were widely known and were shared by most of the delegates. They knew that they could trust him not only because of his outstanding character but also because of his ideas in regard to constitutional government. George Washington’s thinking on constitutional issues has not been adequately recognized by historians and commentators. This neglect or lack of understanding has been corrected by Dr. Glenn A. Phelps, professor of political science at Northern Arizona University, in an excellent book entitled George Washington & American Constitutionalism.

He wrote, Washington’s “writings reveal a clear, thoughtful, and remarkably coherent vision of what he hoped an American republic would become. These notions began to emerge early in the 1770s, took on a sharper, clearer perspective during the Revolution, and changed little thereafter. His words, many of them revealed only for family and friends, reveal a man with a passionate commitment to a fully developed idea of a constitutional republic on a continental scale, eager to promote that plan wherever and whenever circumstance or the hand of Providence allowed.

“This interpretation challenges the conventional view of Washington in several others ways. First, I maintain that Washington’s political values changed very little over time regardless of who his ‘secretary’ was; the various messengers seemed not to have affected Washington’s message. He was no political chameleon willing to change his colors to conform to the interests and ideas of his brilliant counselors. The contribution of his better-educated ghostwriters, steeped in philosophy, certainly improved upon his stolid prose, but the substance remained distinctively Washington’s.

“Second, Washington’s constitutional vision – drawing on elements of classical conservative republicanism and continentally minded commercialism – developed years before he ever met Hamilton, Madison, and the other Founders under whose spell he was supposed to have fallen. Thus, claims that Washington was chosen as a mere figurehead for the nationalist movement that emerged early in the 1780s underestimate Washington’s contribution. The nationalists did not merely capture Washington’s growing national reputation to lend authority to a cause of their own making. Rather, they looked naturally to him for leadership because his views were already well known and firmly established. Indeed, many of his ideas presaged the nationalist program.” (pgs. viii-ix)

Some of Washington’s basic ideas were: a strong union, a legislature chosen by the people, a written constitution, the rule of law, an executive with power to enforce the law, supremacy of congressional or national law over state laws, a permanent national military establishment and civil control of the military. As noted above, these and other fundamental ideas were well developed in Washington’s mind long before the Constitutional Convention was held.

In terms of leadership of the Convention, he was equally effective as a visionary leader and a long range/short range thinker. His style, however, changed for he was a presiding officer and not a general. His influence and power were utilized in personal conversations, meetings with the Virginia delegation where he voted and sometimes was on the losing side, and when the delegates met as a committee of the whole during which someone else presided. It was a very well organized convention, including all sessions being held in secrecy with no disclosures of the proceedings to anyone else. The power of Washington’s presence was seen when a delegate accidentally dropped a confidential document on the floor. When discovered, it was given to Washington who sternly addressed the delegates about the issues of confidentiality and secrecy. The mere thought of any one of the delegates ever receiving his displeasure over this prevented any of them from ever claiming the document.

The success of the Convention, both in terms of its process and outcome, testify to the genius of Washington’s leadership, just as its final confirmation by the American people did. Historians and commentators of that day and subsequent years credit Washington’s and also Franklin’s endorsements for bringing about the ratification of the Constitution to be the law of the land.

C. President, United States of America

It was no surprise to anyone in the nation, including George Washington, that he was unanimously elected as the first President of the new nation and four years later that he was reelected to this preeminent position. Just as with his other calls to duty by the people, Washington was chosen not only on the basis of his character and leadership skills but also because the people knew and trusted his ideas and commitments. These ideas were spoken, written and lived out during the Revolution, many were already included in the Constitution and still others were well known.

Evaluating him as the first President in terms of the visionary leader, it is clear that Washington had a very well developed and coherent vision with both long and short range goals. Some of these ideas were: the absolute necessity and even sacredness of the Union, faithful obedience to the Constitution, the development of a distinctly American national character, establishment of a government that would be trusted by the people, the role of the federal government in the furtherance of industry, commerce, education and what today we call the infrastructure, the need in a republic for public and private virtue, independence from all forms of foreign dominance and the maintenance of liberty. Some of these ideas and others were presented in the “Circular Letter” which he sent to all the governors in 1783 at the conclusion of the Revolution, in innumerable state papers, in personal and public letters and they were emphasized at the end of his presidency in what is known as the Farewell Address.

Washington, within the sparse but basic stipulations of the Constitution, was responsible for the creation of a federal government. He did so and we live today with and by much of what he created. His skill as an organizational leader can be seen by his doing this as a strict constitutionalist and by his belief that Congress was primarily responsible for the creation of domestic policies and laws while the President was responsible for carrying out the policies and enforcing the laws. At the same time, Washington made clear that the development of foreign policy, including treaties, was the responsibility of the President. Washington carefully observed the role and authority of Congress while he also protected the role and authority of the President. We again see that he was a very sophisticated and skillful politician as well as being a well informed constitutionals. Yale history professor Edmund Morgan, in his little book, The Genius of George Washington, makes this very clear. He was, states Morgan, a genius in his understanding and use of power, including when to give up power as demonstrated in his
resignations as General and Commander in Chief and as President.

As a visionary leader President Washington continued to be a charismatic leader who kept the loyalty and affection of the people. He nourished this through his tours to all the states and through innumerable public appearances. However, when principle demanded that he act in such a way that would engender serious opposition, he stuck to his principles and in time the people, discovering that he had acted wisely, renewed their regard and affection. The two major events causing such situations were his declaration of neutrality during the French Revolution and his signing of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain.

As in his previous two important positions, Washington was not only a supreme visionary leader, he was equally supreme while President in keeping the details of his administration, the big and little necessary current decisions, subservient to the larger issues and ideas at stake. The Jay Treaty and the Neutrality Act again illustrate this. Washington’s vision of a strong and independent “empire” required that the new nation be given time to grow, as he knew it would, and therefore, it must not become embroiled in any actions which would prevent this growth. Endless illustrations could be given of his balancing long range goals with short range actions in a coherent manner and are given in George Washington & American Constitutionalism and other books.

While the genius of George Washington was, as Edmund Morgan contends, in the use of power, I believe that this was just part of an even broader and deeper configuration which reveals him as our nation’s supreme example of the genius of leadership.

IV. What Made Washington a Genius as a Leader?

While no one can fully explain the factors that combined to produce a Washington, Lincoln, Plato, Luther, Edison, Einstein or any other monumentally transformational person, we do know some of the streams that formed, as it were, the mighty Washington river.

The first, of course, are the givens of life, that with which he was born. Most obvious were his physical characteristics – height, strength, energy and physical coordination. His brain or intelligence is also a given. Generally unmentioned as a given is temperament. Students of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator suggest that George Washington would have tested as an ISTJ. I have attached as an appendix to these remarks a description of the characteristics of an ISTJ given by Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen in their book, Type Talk, page 215ff. Ray Choiniere and David Keirsey, using a somewhat different typology, Guardian Monitor, describe how Washington fits this pattern in their book, Presidential Temperaments. His driving ambition, love of detail, patience, determination, sense of responsibility and other conspicuous traits that made him the person that he was are related to the temperament with which he was born.

Another contributory stream was that made up of family and friends – his parents, his brother Lawrence and the Fairfax family. His father was apparently a strong, humane and entrepreneurial person. His mother was obviously a very determined, acquisitive, demanding mother. His brother was educated, cultured and militarily oriented. The Fairfaxes were courtly and very affluent. Something from all of these and other people can be seen in Washington.

Religion contributes a great deal to explaining Washington’s profound moral consciousness and morally sensitive conscience. While he was very reticent to express any personal religious views there can be no question that his religious convictions caused him very early, as he once said, he had “always walked a straight line.” (See Paul F. Boller, Jr., George Washington & Religion.) His serious participation in Freemasonry may also have contributed to his character.

Henry T. Tuckerman (Essays, Biographical and Critical, Boston, 1857, pages 7-8, 10-11, 21-22) comments on this moral factor in Washington’s life and its relation to his intelligence. “The world has yet to understand the intellectual efficiency derived from moral qualities – how the candor of an honest, and the clearness of an unperverted mind attain results beyond the reach of mere intelligence and adroitness – how conscious integrity gives both insight and directness to mental operations, and elevation above the plane of selfish motives affords a more comprehensive, and therefore a more reliable views of affairs, than the keenest examination based exclusively on personal ability.” (See Appendix B for his full comment.)

Washington’s profound morality, unselfish nature and self control coupled with what was obviously a good intellect enabled him to out think all the other generals and Founders. Of them all, he had the best long and short range ideas and how to maintain coherency between them.

Washington’s deep respect for every person and his never failing, except on very rare occasions, good manners and self control can be traced back in large part to his internalizing as a youth the 110 “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” It is obvious that these became second nature to him. Just as he did not have to waste energy and thought in dealing with moral issues so he did not have to waste them either in deciding how to treat others; he treated everyone in a courteous and respectful manner. Another stream entering this river was that Washington always sought to learn more in order to improve himself.

Who knows from whence these traits came? He was a great listener, he was a keen observer of people and events and he read far more widely and deeply than has been generally assumed. (See pages 213-225 in Paul K. Longmore’s The Invention of George Washington for an exhaustive account of Washington’s reading.)

More than a contributory stream and more like a small river made up of a number of its own streams was the river bringing the models Washington chose for himself. These he deliberately, systematically and creatively melded together to form the George Washington whom he then portrayed. He saw life as a theater in which we all play our parts and he certainly had in his mind the character that he wanted to play and did play. This does not imply any lack of personal integrity or a multi-polar personality. It does mean that George Washington, in a real sense, invented himself by creating an original model from several that he had in mind and then lived by that model.

There were, at least, four such models that he used. One was the Roman model of Cato from Addison’s play “Cato” about a virtuous Roman. Washington saw the play many times, memorized parts of it and had it acted at Valley Forge. He also thought of Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer, who left the plough to lead the army that saved Rome and then went back to farming, refusing the role of “Dictator” offered by the Roman Senate. (See Garry Wills, George Washington and the Enlightenment.) Another model was that of the Patriot King, a role made popular in Washington’s time by the English writer Bolingbroke (see Longmore, pages 184-86). The Patriot King always had the people’s welfare at heart. A fourth model for Washington was that of the Father.

In addition to these four major models, Washington experienced many other major figures who influenced him. There were the royal governors of Virginia, the landed gentry and their leaders with whom he lived and worked while in the Virginia House of Burgesses for fifteen years and British generals Braddock and Forbes. Washington keenly observed them and learned from them all.

Even considering all these influences, models and the givens in Washington’s life we still cannot fully comprehend what made him the George Washington whom we know through his writings, his achievements and what was written about him. The best answer, I believe, is that the Washington whom we know is Washington, the Father of the Country, whom George Washington invented and portrayed. He was a genius in this creation as one part of his being a genius in leadership.

V. Why now the admiration two hundred years after his passing?

Why is it that just recently, two hundred years or so after his death, are we coming to appreciate the depth and breadth of Washington’s intellectual and organizational contributions in the founding of the nation and the institutionalization of those characteristics that have made the United States great?

I believe that the answer points again to the fact that he was eminently successful as the Father of the Country, a title bestowed on him but one which he also appropriated and lived. A truly successful and effective father is one who never claims credit for his achievements in being the father and who inculcates his ideas and values in his offspring so well that they, in fact, do not realize themselves from whence these came; they, therefore, tend just to take them for granted or to credit themselves for them. We all know the story of the college sophomore who was amazed at how seemingly uninformed, even stupid, was his father, only to discover later how informed, bright and wise his father had become. The ideas that Washington had and lived became so imbued in American institutions and culture, because of his skill as a visionary leader, that we have failed to realize from whence they came, namely, from our national Father, George Washington.

VI. Learning from Father Washington

In the tradition of George Washington, perhaps, my personal interest in the study of famous people who have made major positive contributions to life has always been what can I learn from them that will make me a better person and citizen. I believe that we can learn a great deal from studying the life of George Washington that would lead to personal and public renewal if we were to apply what we learn. I shall mention just a few items.

One, the need and importance to take responsibility for one’s own life by controlling one’s emotions; Washington had a volcanic temper which, with rare exceptions, he kept under control. Washington was able to control so much externally because he first learned to control himself from within.

Two, the importance of constant learning by observing, listening, reading and reflecting; Washington spent much time reflecting or pondering.

Three, the importance of civility (the 110 rules), which means basic respect for everyone.

Four, the role that morality and emotional maturity can play in enhancing one’s natural intelligence.

Five, the ingredients of effective leadership.

Six, the inextricable relationship in a democracy between public and personal virtue; the absence of one will always cause a diminution in the other and vice versa.

Seven, the need in a democracy for all citizens to be good citizens and for the government to be administered in such a manner as to merit the trust of the citizens.

Today we urgently need a rebirth of the ideas which he had which made our nation great and a renewal of Washington as our prime national hero and role model.

The future of our nation, to a large extent, depends upon Americans both personally and publicly developing the kind of character so fully and brilliantly seen in George Washington’s personal and public lives.

Bibliography

Abshire, David, The Character of George Washington and the Challenges of the Modern Presidency, The Center for the Study of the Presidency, Washington, DC, 1998, 15 pgs.

Arnold, James R., Presidents Under Fire. Orion books, New York, 1994, 352 pgs.

Baldridge, Letitia, ed., George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Mount Vernon, VA, 1989, 61 pgs.

Boller, Paul F., Jr., George Washington & Religion, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1963, 235 pp.

Brookhiser, Richard, Founding Father, Rediscovering George Washington, The Free Press, New York, l996, 230 pgs.

Callahan, North, George Washington, Soldier and Man, William Morrow & Company, New York, l972, 295 pgs.

Choiniere Ray and Keirsey, David, Presidential Temperaments, Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, Del Mar, CA, 1992, 609 pgs.

Flexner, James Thomas, Washington, The Indispensable Man, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, l969, 423 pgs.

Garrity, Patrick J. and Spalding, Matthew, A Sacred Union of Citizens, George Washington’s Farewell Address and the American Character, Rowman & Littlefield, New York, l996, 216 pgs.

Hannaford, Peter, ed., The Essential George Washington, Images From the Past, Bennington, VT, 1999, 180 pgs.

Higginbotham, Don, George Washington and the America Military Tradition, The University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA, 170 pgs.

Bernama pays tribute to Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad


June 13, 2016

Bernama pays tribute to Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad

The long battle against esophageal cancer finally took a toll on the life of Abdullah Ahmad, better known as Dollah Kok Lanas, in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The 79-year-old’s passing has been described as a big loss to the national political arena as he was noted for his dedication in carrying out his duties, among which included his loyal service to Malaysia’s second prime minister, Abdul Razak Hussein, for 14 years from 1962 to 1976.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam said Abdullah was an idol to those who liked to venture into politics. “Although he was given arduous tasks, he was still capable of resolving them,” he said when met at Abdullah’s house in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Meanwhile, Gua Musang Assemblyman Tengku Razaleigh Tengku Mohd Hamzah who knew Abdullah more than 50 years ago said: “We shared so many stories between us that it cannot be recounted.

Born on July 4, 1937 at Kampung Bandar, Machang in Kelantan, Abdullah obtained his early education at Sekolah Melayu Padang Garong at Kota Baru before entering Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), and following that, in 1960, he joined the American Political Science Association’s Congressional Fellowship programme for 18 months to study the American national politics. Then, he obtained a Master of Letters from Cambridge University in England.

Abdullah’s career path began when he was made special officer to Abdul Razak in 1962 before being appointed political secretary in 1963.

On January 14, this year, in conjunction with a special commemorative seminar on the Abdul Razak ‘Legacy of Leadership’ held in Kuala Lumpur, Abdullah in his speech said: “Abdul Razak had a great influence in the political arena and life of Malaysians during the 1970s.”

Abdullah also became Machang UMNO Division Chief and assemblyperson in 1974 when he won his seat in the fourth general election. However in 1976, Abdullah was expelled from UMNO following his arrest under the Internal Security Act.

This did not dampen his spirit as six years later, he rejoined UMNO and went on to become the Kok Lanas UMNO Division Chief (previously known as Machang) and assemblyperson in his win during the seventh general election in 1986. He remained Kok Lanas assemblyperson for only one session as he was defeated in the eight general election in 1990.

Career as a reporter started in 1957

Abdullah’s career as a reporter started at the New Straits Times in 1957. In 1995, he was appointed member of the board of directors for Utusan Melayu (M) Berhad, apart from holding the post as director at Utusan Melayu, Singapore.

In 2000, Abdullah was made New Straits Times Press (NSTP) Group executive director before being appointed NSTP group editor-in-chief beginning from 2001 until 2003, when he had to relinquish his post.

Meanwhile in the government sector, Abdullah held the position as Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in 1974; and science, technology and environment minister, two years later.

Abdullah had also served as special envoy of Malaysia to the United Nations from 1995 to 2000, replacing  Tun Musa Hitam.

Besides that, Abdullah had also written a book entitled, ‘Tunku Abdul Rahman and Malaysia’s Foreign Policy: 1963-1970′ as well as ‘Issues in Malaysian Politics’ which was published by the Institute of Foreign Affairs, Singapore.

He had also made his mark in the academia as a Fellow of the Harvard University Centre for International Affairs; Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association as well as Trustee of the Cambridge Foundation (Malaysia) for the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre in Cambridge.

Abdullah, who suffered from cancer since last year, is survived by widow, Puan Sri Fauzah Mohamed Darus (extreme right above) and three children, namely sons Adhha Amir, 47, and Fuad, 42, and daughter, Hamdia Munirah, 45.