Education Minister-cum-UMNO Youth Chief Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein is NOT the man his father (Tun Hussein Onn) or his (Datuk Onn Jaffar) grandfather was.
He may want Malaysians to mention his name in the same breath as Datuk Onn Jaafar and Tun Hussein Onn or put him in their class.
But we can’t.
This is how both men are remembered by historians and commentators:
- Onn Jaafar and Hussein Onn were men of unwavering principles, leaders of men and politicians who never flinched from standing up for what they believed in even when it was politically unwise and expensive to do so.
- Onn Jaafar founded Umno and then left the party on Aug 26, 1951, to form the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP). He could have played it safe and gone with the flow but, like all men of principles and vision, he was not prepared to be a bystander.
- Onn Jaffar preferred to resign from the party rather than compromise on his fundamental belief that it was time for Umno to admit non-Malays as full and equal members. He was criticised, attacked and demonised for his vision of one Malaya for everyone. But he refused to be cowed into fear.
- Hussein Onn became the country’s third prime minister in 1976. A straight shooter, he had a zero tolerance policy on corruption .
- Hussein Onn was responsible for taking action against the powerful party warlord Datuk Harun Idris.Harun was jailed for six years and this went down badly with party members. But Hussein made no apologies. A law had been broken and action had to be taken.
He lived by this philosophy: “I would rather be politically unpopular than fail in my duty. What is one’s political future compared to one’s responsibility? It’s better if they curse me now than urinate on my grave later.”
- Both men could have scored major political points with their party men if they just played ball, if they just focused on the needs and wants of Umno. They didn’t. And they paid the price.
- Onn Jaafar left Umno and was treated like a nobody. Hussein Onn retired as the PM in 1981 and was never given the recognition that he deserved by his party. But they have something which money cannot buy – the true respect and admiration of Malaysians, many of whom are only now finding out about their integrity and deeds.
“When I think about my grandfather and father, their sacrifices, well, they never had it good either. Datuk Onn Jaafar was outside the party, out of Johor, too far ahead of his time.Simple. You are NOT THEM. Not yet anyway.
“My father went through tough times. But basically it is something you do because it is in the blood,” he said.
“My dad was known as Bapa Perpaduan, my grandfather left Umno to get the non-Malays into Umno. How on earth after what I told you about legacy, and family name, can anybody call me a racist?”
- Would either one of them have made a show of holding up the keris at three consecutive party assemblies and then make a hash of an apology? Don’t think so.
- On the apology, this is what he told the NST: “I did it because I wanted to move on … I am still proud of the kris and I still have that picture of me in my office.”
- Would either Onn Jaafar or Hussein Onn have tolerated a highly polarised education system? Don’t think so.
- Would either Onn Jaafar or Hussein Onn have stayed silent watching the excesses of ruling party politicians and the dominance of racial politics in Malaysia? Don’t think so.
- Would either Onn Jaafar or Hussein Onn have leaned heavily on rhetoric? Don’t think so.