Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tun Omar Ong Yoke Lin

In August last year, in the run-up to the Merdeka celebration, I blogged about a pivotal piece of our history. It was about a friendship between two men that led to the first collaboration between UMNO and MCA. That collaboration led to the formation of the Alliance Party coalition that comprised UMNO, MCA and MIC.

One of the men was Ong Yoke Lin. Tun Omar Ong Yoke Lin's place in Malaysia's history is secure.

I just read about his passing at age 92. I offer my condolences to the late Tun's family.

In Tun's honour, I reproduce below the blog post I did on 13 August 2009:

Merdeka lessons: The value of friendship

As the leaders of UMNO and MCA grapple with pockets of implosion due to circumstances that are either beyond their control or, of their own doing, the Merdeka fortnight approaches.

And, as the mood of the country turns schizophrenic, from bouts of racialism and multi-racial friendships, the Merdeka fortnight approaches.

The importance of friendship among Malaysia's leaders cannot be ignored and, the stories of past friendships should never be forgotten.

One of the useful things about having been an avid bookworm since my teenage years, particularly on books written about Malaysian politics, is that I have been able to build up a fairly respectable personal library.

One of the greatest pleasures of a book afficionado is to be able to browse. The pleasure is all the greater is one browses one's own stock of books. I wish to refer to a fairly obscure book published in 1979. It's an semi-autobiographical work by TH Tan, a name that now hardly warrants a footnote in Malaysian history books.

Mohammed Tahir Tan Hong Hye also known as T. H. Tan, was a Singapore-born journalist and politician who became the Secretary of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the first honorary Secretary-General of the Alliance Party in Malaya. He is mainly remembered for being among the three men (the others being Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak) who took part in the UMNO-MCA Alliance delegation to London in 1954 to demand for an effective elected majority in the Federal Legislative Council of Malaya.

He embraced Islam in his later years due to his utter love and respect for the values that Tunku Abdul Rahman demonstrated and, later, became one of the key persons in the founding of PERKIM. Ironically, the onlyonline biographical input on TH Tan that I could find is in the Singapore National Library website. That is a sad testimony to how badly unavailable Malaysian archival records are. How to learn Malaysian history like that?

Anyway, in 1979, TH Tan published The Prince and I, which provides a good and solid and highly readable account of the events leading to Merdeka and the ensuing years.

Here is an extract of TH Tan's book that describes how the personal friendship between Ong Yoke Lin of Kuala Lumpur MCA Branch (later Tun Omar Ong Yoke Lin, past Speaker of Dewan Negara and founder of the air-conditioning company, OYL Industries Bhd) and Datuk Yahaya bin Abdul Razak of Kuala Lumpur UMNO Branch had the impulse to moot the idea for an UMNO-MCA alliance to contest the Kuala Lumpur Municipal elections in 1952. from here.

This was the seed that was planted that became a sapling that grew into the Alliance Party (Parti Perikatan) and, later grew into a massive tree that we now know as Barisan Nasional.

They were school friends. They held a series of meetings between themselves to discuss the impending Kuala Lumpur Municipal Election which the British Administration agreed to under pressure of public opinion. Having agreed between themselves that co-operation was not only practicable but, indeed, essential for political progress, Datuk Yahaya and Ong Yoke Lin brought the proposition to their respective State party chairmen. This led to a formal meeting between UMNO and the MCA, under the chairmanship of Col. (now Tun) Henry HS Lee.

The meeting unanimously decided to form an UMNO-MCA "merger" to contest the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Eelections. This was reported to the national Presidents of UMNO, Tunku Abdul Rahman and of MCA, Datuk Tan Cheng Lock, both of whom unhesitatingly gave their blessings.

Thus was the Alliance born.

Historians may embellish TH Tan's version of events with the context of the times and, that Tan Cheng Lock had one foot in Dato' Onn bin Jaafar's Independence of Malaya Party (IMP) camp at that point in time. But, my point is a simple one.

It is a historical fact that Datuk Yahaya Abdul Razak of UMNO and Ong Yoke Lin of MCA were schoolmates and friends. That rapport was the catalyst and balm that sparked the idea of two communal parties to form an historic alliance.

1 comment:

walla said...

Life is short. Good legacies should be cherished if only to help all tide through difficulties by inspiration of what was which can be again.