A leader's greatness can be measured by the longevity of his legacies. Many of Tun Razak's legacies are relevant even until now. No doubt they will endure long into the future.
The list of his enduring legacies is indeed impressive. PERNAS, MARA, PNB, PETRONAS and of course FELDA, BANK BUMIPUTERA, FAMA, FELCRA, UDA,MAS, LPP, UKM, the state SEDCs, BERNAMA, PUSAT ISLAM and many others. . These were undoubtedly the product of Tun Razak's attuned thinking about what were needed by Malays and Malaysia. Unless the issues of income disparities and poverty are solved, there will never be unity in Malaysia. Nothing more threatens the unity of the various races than widening income disparities.
I am sure; the various disabilities that constrained Malay society were uppermost in Tun Razak's mind. Certainly he wasn't oblivious to the differing maximising postulates of Malays. These postulates hold that the Malay has in him the same desire for success as other races such as the Chinese. The difference lies in the belief that the meaning of success to the Malays is different as that held by the Chinese. The Malay values graceful living more than making money as the prime motive. To the Malay, there is this trade-off between graceful living and making more money. The more money you make means you have to give up the opportunity to live out life gracefully.
In my mind, whether these postulates turned out as predicted or actually governed the economic behaviour of the Malay, is secondary. To Tun Razak the trade-off is a luxury of choice issue and because it is choice grounded on luxury, it is usually exercised as a matter of personal matter.
In other words, Tun Razak did not fully subscribe to the finitely predictive and confining properties of the maximising postulates. The maximising postulates would also hold as true, that Malays shun changes and innovation simply because they are more intent to preserve the old ways of their forebears. To Tun Razak, they do not.
More important to Tun Razak, was how to ensure, Malays get to the position of being able to exercise such a luxury of choice in the first place. And to arrive at that position, the more important issue to Tun Razak, was to increase the capacity of Malays to earn more. Herein, to my mind, lies the genius of Tun Razak. In particular, it lies in his stubborn refusal to cave in to constraining values. The crucial mission for Tun Razak, was to emancipate the Malays from mental servitude. It must begin with the Malay man himself.
Although I am not a FELDA settler not the product of FELDA parents, I would place the creation of FELDA settlements as the most important of the Tun Razak legacies. Even those pioneers who were given the opportunities to own land and work on them were not able to envisage the significance of FELDA. Indeed when Tun Razak went around enlisting volunteers to join FELDA, he encountered opposition. There were Malays opposing the idea, saying it was a communist inspired land resettlement. Or even worse, there were also accusations that FELDA was a modern version of enslavement.
FELDA encapsulates the singularly most important element in Tun Razak's thinking- that man is master over his self and environment. That within permissible limits, man sets out to accomplish what he sets out to do and in doing so, he must by necessity, unbound himself from his surroundings. His surroundings then represent surmountable limits and not limiting walls. To Tun Razak, if the man is incapable of becoming aware that he can overcome his constraints, he must be cultivated to do so.
That's the beauty of the idea behind FELDA. You transplant thousands of Malays from their traditional settings of idyllic villages and comforting limitations to new surroundings. You provide them with challenges that can only elicit the necessary responses. These came in the form of individualised attempts to overcome the new challenges. Whether its mastery over his physical surroundings or adjusting to new inter-personal relations. Malays from diverse backgrounds and social settings were forced to live together and therefore induced to make the necessary adjustments.
But the most important aspect of the idea behind FELDA was the liberating effects of the uprooting. For not only it disentangle Malays from traditions, but it also liberated them from the bitter world of myths and incapacitating legends. That to my mind was the most important element behind the idea of FELDA.
I can only speculate that Tun Razak was not unaware of Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History. He would have understood the idea behind mimesis or imitation. In particular, he would be aware by the direction taken by mimesis in differentiating a forward looking and backward looking society. In backward looking society, taken to be synonymous with less advanced society, mimesis or imitation takes the form of replicating what tradition decreed. Generally speaking, in societies where customs are overbearing, those societies remain static.
In forward looking society/progressive society, mimesis or imitation is directed towards creative personalities who embody the pioneering spirit. In such a society, as Walter Bagehot observed, the 'cake of custom' is always being broken and society is thus placed in dynamic motion along a course of change and growth. Since Tun Razak spent a number of years in England, he would have also been familiar with the thinking of Bagehot.
That is the other most important idea behind FELDA- imbibing the Malay with a pioneering spirit.
To Tun Razak, economic development of society is determined by at least three influences.
- The constraining effects of his environment on him and how that impinges or liberates him
- His willingness and ability to master and transform his environment.
- The attitudinal values bequeathed upon him by his forebears.
The idea of FELDA seeks out to minimise the limiting effects of physical surroundings. In their stead, the idea reinforces Tun Razak's belief that to change and progress was a doable thing by the Malays.