I am particularly struck by two events revealed in the book.
Page 34 – while stopping at a newsagent in Petaling Jaya in September 1978 enroute to the Subang International Airport flying to London to study law, Kula caught sight of a book that was displayed, Time Bombs in Malaysia, which was published for the July 1978 General Election.
He wrote: “I purchased a copy and commenced reading the book in the taxi to the airport, and while in the departure lounge awaiting embarkation, and on the flight to Heathrow Airport, London. By the time I landed I had changed my mind about immigrating to another land. I wanted to complete my studies and come back to the country of my birth to see what I could do to change things”.
Page 50 – 51 on his visit to P.Patto, who was a Operation Lalang detainee in Kamunting Detention Centre in 1988, and airing his family’s view on emigration to Australia.
Kula wrote: “He reacted angrily. I was jolted by his reaction. He told me not to waste his and my time by visiting him if I harboured thought of migrating. He did not spare my feelings. He made it sound like I was a coward if I wanted to migrate. He appeared to equate patriotism with a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of making the country a better place for all Malaysians. Patto told me not to visit him again if I persisted in wanting to migrate.
“The telling off by Patto had the effect of scuttling all thoughts of migrating. I recalled when I left for law studies to England in 1978 that I had a notion to migrate. But I dropped the idea when I read Kit Siang’s book Time Bombs which I purchased in Petaling Jaya en route to Subang Airport for the flight to England. At the end of the long flight I had read the book through and dropped the idea of migration. Similarly sometime in 1988 while visiting Patto at Kamunting I had the migration idea flushed out of me by the verbal shelling I received from Patto.
“Prior to meeting him, I had yet to encounter a person of Patto’s staunch political convictions and fervour. I know he was an effective public speaker in Malay, Hokkien and Tamil. But I had not expected to find him that effective in private conversation. He took my stated intention of migration and shook the stuffing out of it. I felt like a penitent schoolboy before a strict headmaster.”
Kula had an illustrious political career. Although he failed in his first electoral outing in the Perak State Assembly seat of Canning Garden in the 1995 General Election, he achieved a great electoral victory in the Telun Intan by-election in 1997 – making famous the slogan “Write History, Create Miracle” to win against insuperable odds.
Barisan Nasional had won Teluk Intan in the 1995 General Election with as 15,000-plus majority. Kula achieved a stunning turnaround of votes, winning with a 2,619-vote majority.
I was tickled to read of our trip to the Socialist International conference in New Delhi in the late 1990s, as I had quite forgotten about it.
This is what Kula wrote in Page 69:
“Once in New Delhi where we shared a hotel room during a meeting in the late 1990s of the Socialist International to which the DAP sent two representatives. I was awakened at five in the morning by the sound of somebody at work. It was Kit banging away at his laptop……Kit was drafting a statement. What was amazing was that he and I had several drinks till late the previous night with fellow attendees at the Socialist International. We had gone to bed fairly inebriated but Kit was up at dawn, working at this laptop. As anyone knows who has had several drinks late into the night, to get up early the next morning to write is evidence of an iron discipline.”
Kula returned to Ipoh to contest in the 1999 General Election, but that was a bad general election where Karpal Singh and I got defeated, as the Chinese urban voters succumbed to the MCA propaganda that a vote for DAP was a vote for PAS, and that there would be no Chinese schools, temples would be closed and there would be no pork!
In Perak in the 1999 General Election, the DAP was virtually wiped out clinging only to one parliamentary seat. But in the 2004 General Election, Kula and I were able to wrest back political control of the DAP in the Kinta Valley. The rest – together with Kula’s three-term election as MP for Ipoh Barat and now Minister for Human Resources – is history.
Kula Segaran’s book “M Kula Segaran – From Estate to Cabinet” should be read by every Malaysian for it typifies the credo of a New Malaysia, where every Malaysian, regardless of race, religion, region or socio-economic origin, can reach for the stars.
Ordinary Malaysians have saved Malaysia from a global kleptocracy and becoming a failed and rogue state.
The challenge now is whether Malaysia can succeed in nation building out of the diverse races, religions, languages and cultures that have made Malaysia their home to become a model of an united, tolerant, incorruptible, successful, progressive and prosperous nation.
This is within the realm of possibility if every Malaysian, regardless of race, religion, region of socio-economic origin, can reach for the stars and the journey from estate to cabinet is a normal Malaysian phenomenon.