It’s time to honour this key figure from our history


OPTIONAL PIC, IF USING, MUST USE CAPTION AND CREDIT: Iconic: Onn speaking after the Umno flag was raised for the first time in Kluang, Johor, in 1946. -National Archives Malaysia

IT is interesting that we are now having a lively debate on approaches to the nation’s history in certain informed circles. We took the first steps towards writing a Malaysia-centric history more than 50 years ago with eminent historians like Wang Gungwu and RR Bonney.

In the drive and haste to achieve development and create new successes, we seemed to have overlooked our nation’s own key founders. After more than 20 years of developing Putrajaya, our national administrative centre, there does not seem to be any single facility of note to honour Datuk Onn Jaafar.

It was Onn who, together with some other distinguished nationalists, founded Umno and took the first steps towards the country becoming an independent, sovereign and modern nation.

Onn was a very broadminded leader who believed in an all-inclusive and united society and placed great importance on the mastery of both Bahasa Malaysia and English. He placed overarching importance on the attainment of peace as well as welfare and justice for the people.

He was also a selfless leader who endured much hardship in order to discuss, debate and disseminate information about topical issues.

Few leaders have shown this kind of selflessness, visionary sense of national purpose, and sacrifice in wanting to contribute to a multiracial, united, strong and well-educated Malayan (as we were then) nation.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, our first prime minister, acknowledged Onn’s role and changed the name of the road on which his Prime Minister’s Department was situated in Kuala Lumpur. Tunku had Jalan Brockman renamed Jalan Dato Onn and requested that every letterhead in the Prime Minister’s Office bear Onn’s name so that future generations would remember this illustrious pioneer of a united nation.

It is perhaps appropriate and timely to name Putrajaya’s key thoroughfare after this legendary leader who was ahead of his time.

M. SANTHANANABAN , Kajang, Selangor

Note: The writer is a retired ambassador with 45 years of public sector experience.

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