Friday, Apr. 12, 1963
Never too choosy about where he got political support, "Harry" Lee first tried cooperation with the Communists, later adopted a "leftist, not extremist, nonCommunist, not antiCommunist" policy. It did not work; to save his political neck, he was forced to go for help to an old golfing partner—Abdul Rahman.
Merdeka. Abdul Rahman was so busy politicking that he had taken little military interest in the brutal, bloody guerrilla war that 350,000 British and Malayan troops and home guardsmen were waging against Communist insurgents in Malaya's tangled jungles. But after his 1955 election landslide, the Tunku grew afraid that the British might use the emergency to delay independence, arranged to meet the Communist rebel chieftains in northern Malaya to see if some sort of settlement could be worked out. "My ideas about Communism were determined by that meeting," says the Tunku. "I became convinced that once a Communist, always a Communist. They could never coexist with us in an inde pendent Malaya."
As the war in the jungle began taking a turn for the better, Abdul Rahman flintily told Britain that the time was long overdue for Malaya's independence. After months of haggling and delay, the Tunku finally forced Britain's Colonial Secretary Alan Lennox-Boyd (now Lord Boyd) to the conference table. Throughout the grueling, three-week session in London, the Tunku refused to budge from his ultimatum that independence must come no later than Aug. 31, 1957. "When the Siamese have no intention of yielding, they just appear stupid," he told subordinates. "I'm half Siamese, you know." At last, Lennox-Boyd got the point and caved in. On the Tunku's target date, independent Malaya came into being.
"Good Old Tunku." The Tunku had no revolutionary blueprint for his new nation, brought into his Cabinet his old London crony, Abdul Razak, to hammer out a program for orderly progress. While Abdul Rahman ground down hard on Red subversives, Minister of Rural Development Razak (in the post he will retain in Malaysia's new government) started a program of new roads, schools and clinics to boost the standard of living in the primitive kampongs (villages) of the interior, where the Communists were trying to gain a foothold. In the air-conditioned "operations room" of his ministry, gadget-loving Razak carefully watched the progress of his bulldozers on dozens of charts, movie screens and map displays, kept his program constantly ahead of schedule with his cold insistence on re sults—or else.