I remember Aug 31, 1957, well

Opinion  |  Bob Teoh
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | I was in Standard Two when the country was getting ready for Merdeka or Independence. It was a joyous time to recall. Lots of holidays and fun. Excitement was in the air, to use a cliché.

One thing I remember well is that we could now have one of our kind to be the prime minister. No more British governors. And we get to sing our own national anthem.

What a celebration! Merdeka! I remember Aug 31. Come Independence Day, the new prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman shouted “Merdeka” seven times in the newly completed Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur and seven times the crowd roared back. Malays, Chinese, Indians and whoever cared to be there were of one voice.

Sadly, it’s different now. But I still remember Aug 31 well. I was then living in 227-A Burmah Road in George Town, Penang, a colonial-type government quarters, as my father was then in the Chinese Affairs Department under the colonial administration. The quarters have since become Hotel 1926, after the year it was built

My neighbour was Thamby. I don’t know him by any other name as that’s what his parents call him, being the youngest boy in his Indian family. But I remember my conversation with him. “Thamby,” I said, “After Tunku, the next prime minister should be a Chinese.”

“What about an Indian prime minister?’ Thamby asked.

“No problem, after the Chinese prime minister, an Indian one can take over,” I replied. That was my first attempt at giving a politically correct answer when none was required.

I lost touch with him after my family shifted to Kuala Lumpur shortly after. I wonder what Thamby would say when, after 61 long years, we still don’t have a Chinese nor an Indian prime minister...

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