LETTER | The passing of Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid on Tuesday, Dec 15 is an event of substantial significance for me and perhaps for many Malaysians of my generation.
Malaysia has lost one of its greatest and most illustrious sons, a pioneer in higher education and cooperative trusts, an economist, a cultural and arts encyclopaedia and an esteemed scholar of Japan. An affable, eminent and erudite personality of that stature would be revered, recognised and remarkably renowned in any country.
But in Malaysia, the news of the passing of a controversial and ill-conceived budget overshadowed that important event.
Ungku Aziz had served as the vice-chancellor of the country's first and premier university with great ability, acumen and aplomb for twenty years. After that, our country just allowed this icon to fade away although his family and the academic, arts socio-cultural and a somewhat cantankerous cooperative fraternity attempted to provide him due recognition and respect.
He was not a politician and would not have sought the patronage of any politician. He sought to observe political neutrality to maintain reasonable standards of academic distinction and discourse.
Ungku Aziz worked hard on safeguarding the university's performance and prestige in the face of challenges coming from a somewhat immature and in-a-hurry political establishment. There wasn't sufficient appreciation of the university as the highest centre of learning.
He would have excelled in any scholarly public position, but I always saw him as being particularly well equipped, experienced with the exquisite expertise to represent Malaysia as a superb ambassador, especially in Japan.
Ungku Aziz's extensive reading and knowledge, a deep appreciation of other cultures, circumspection and courtesy towards anyone who met him would have been an excellent advertisement for Malaysia in any country. He had it in himself to prove that he was neither unequal nor unprepared for any high assignment he would have been chosen for.
Regrettably in our country, we seem to be deaf and dismissive of such talent and treasures in our midst.
It is noble that some of us thought of a place in the Heroes Mausoleum for the late Ungku Aziz. The federal government can still commemorate his passing with flying our flag at half-mast for a day, for instance.
M SANTHANANABAN is a retired ambassador..
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