Wednesday February 20, 2013
The Tunku’s strong stand on apartheid
JAMES Gonzales’ tribute to the Tunku on the 110th anniversary of his birthday on Feb 8, “The Tunku’s legacy” (The Star, Feb 15), is remarkable.
Permit me to add the lesser known contribution of the great leader.
As in his struggle for freedom from imperialism, the Tunku was committed to defend to the hilt human rights principles at all levels.
The brutal policy of apartheid enforced by the South African government for 12 years came to a head in mid-March 1960 with the Sharpeville massacre.
The police killing of 69 black protesters led to international condemnation.
Tunku was one of the world leaders to protest against the brutality.
He immediately sent a telegram to the then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to include apartheid on the agenda for the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers to be held in May 1960.
The South African Prime Minister Dr Verwoerd avoided the con- ference, perhaps due to hostile criticism from many member countries. He sent his Minister for External Affairs Mr Louw to face the music.
It is relevant to note that Malaya was a new member and that conference was the first since our country gained independence.
So it was the first conference Tunku attended.
The sad part is that the conference had no constitution or written rules.
There was, however, a general understanding that members do not interfere in the domestic policies of other members.
So the matter was discussed informally by prime ministers with Louw. The Tunku took the bull by the horn.
Although the Tunku’s efforts did not yield the desired results, his courage in pursuing the issue boldly must be appreciated.
Apart from apartheid, the con-ference discussed a wide variety of important subjects including Malaya’s proposal for technical assistance which was well received.
At the final press conference, the Commonwealth Relations Secretary, Lord Home, said that non-Asian members appreciated very much the opportunity the conference gave them to benefit from the wisdom and experience of such eminent statesmen as Nehru and Tunku Abdul Rahman.
The Tunku’s outstanding statesmanship and diplomacy must have earned him this honour.