COMMENT | The Holy Grail – national unity

Thor Kah Hoong

Modified 17 Feb 2021, 11:28 pm

COMMENT | When the Union Jack was lowered at the Selangor Padang at midnight of Aug 30, 1957, and the Malayan flag was raised in its stead, and the clock tower was ringing out a dozen bass strikes, I was barely seven years and a couple of months old, too young to fully grasp the significance of the occasion.

Or know of the restiveness in Malayans after the war, chafing under colonial direction, the desire to chart our own course, leading to the communal cohesion to press for independence.

That I learned from History lessons in school, and later at the University of Malaya. That the races of Malaya, coalescing around Umno, MCA and MIC, presented a united front and voice in negotiations with the British.

Time, inevitably, will turn political success into hagiographic myth, but I have no reason to doubt the official narrative that the races came together for a common cause.

On a personal level, growing up in “Hundred Quarters” in Brickfields, the hive of 100 families of Morris Minor government servants in Rozario Street and Chan Ah Tong Street, my childhood mayhem involved Indian, Chinese, Malay kids.

Yes, we called each other “Cina babi” and “Melayu babi” and “India babi”, but we were just kids with loose lips (the cult of “political correctness” hadn’t infected society), and babi was just a catch-all term like “bugger” or “bastard”, no venom in the saying, just kids joshing each other. If there were squabbles, it was always personal, never racial – don’t friend him, he dirty fellow.

My experience in secondary school was the same. There are dozens of us, from the 1963-69 batch of students, who still meet in quarterly birthday lunches, annual dinners and other occasions, who are linked to more mates overseas, staying in touch. Under a regime of the cane and its relentless insistence on excellence in everything that we did, our friendship was forged.

In Upper Six, on the morning of May 13, 1969, just after the ... 

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