while having my local black coffee "Hang Tuah"...with local hard "benggali" biscuit after dinner... this is my personal observation and analysis of the local political landscape... what been said in the main stream media and what is not is the most important of all is to unspin the spinner...
The Ministry of Education last week highlighted the top 20 schools in the nation as part and parcel of their educational excellence programme under the NKRA agenda. That is a very good starting point to begin to clearly define excellence but allow me to make some observations.
From their listing, two things became very obvious to me. First, there was no school from Sabah or Sarawak; residential or otherwise. Why? Someone from their departments of education in the two states or the federal department has to give some legitimate answers.
More importantly, there must now be a programme to consciously develop one excellent school in each state as a benchmark for these eastern states. Second, the Royal Military College and my alma mater, the only military run and nationally recognized fully residential school was not in the list. Why? If I may add, this is the only multi-ethnic residential school in the country, except for the token 10 percent in MSRMs.
Why therefore was the RMC left out especially since this entire agenda is also now under Najib's 1Malaysia programme foci? The Ministry of Defence, the board of governors and the Old Putera Association of the school have to also give some clear answers and then ask some more searching questions.
Let me give therefore a brief history of the school. Started on July 3, 1952, as the Boys Company of the Malay Regiment in Port Dickson, it was later renamed the Federation Military College in 1953. The Charter of the College sought to “prepare young Malayans to take their places as officers, public servants and other professionals in the industrial and commercial life of the country.” Its motto has always been to 'serve to lead.'
The college moved to the present campus in Sungai Besi in 1961 and was opened by the Yang DiPertuan Agong. Then in 1966, this national institution of utmost importance was re-designated as the Royal Military College and received her regimental colour on June 3,1981 from His Majesty, the Yang DiPertuan Agong. The Council of Rulers must also therefore ask why this “royal school of theirs” is not in the top 20 schools. It was designed to be a federation-established school at the highest level.
Allow me to give my hypothesis of her “reduction in quality over the years.” Firstly, and rather unfortunately, in my final year in the college, i.e. 1968, the Ministry of Defence began a policy which called for the “compulsory military service component” by insisting that at least 25 percent of the intake of students into the Boys or Putera Wing must join the Armed Forces. Starting then, and with the rise of many other options, especially for Malay parents, with other residential schools and education in MRSMs, the college slowly but surely lost its glitter, shine and attractiveness.
Train leaders for all walks of life
The RMC was originally designed to train leaders for all walks of life in Malaysia and was always multi-ethnic in stature, quality and culture. Until the mid-1970s the college probably did this federation-oriented education and character development excellently well. In my undergraduate thesis of 1971, I studied whether “The RMC was a source of elite recruitment?” I concluded from my primary study of tracking of the movement of the older graduates that they were well on their way to achieve the status of tertiary elites in the Professor Marshall Singer's model of elite mobility and movement.
Therefore it was a foregone conclusion, to me at least, that by year 2000 that the chief secretary and about nice secretary- generals of ministries were RMC Old Boys, or Old Puteras as they prefer to be called. In the Armed Forces too, and whether in the Army, Navy and Air Force many chiefs were Old Puteras. The same was true of the commercial sector, or in industry, many CEOs were from the RMC. NGO leaders; in sports or arts and cultural exemplars, we had our share as well.
In fact, the Old Putera Association decided to demonstrate these talents for posterity. For the 50th Anniversary Merdeka Parade, an entire contingent of RMC Old Puteras were presented by the celebration organizers and assigned the first place marching squad and they were led by none other than the then minister of home affairs.
Also, for another fact, when the Old Putera Association in 2000 launched their “RMC Salutes the Nation Dinner,” the then prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad called the RMC “the most successful experiment in multiracialism.” And, in fact most recently, about two weeks ago the minister of defence announced a shift in the policy to “return to an intake of 30 percent for non-Malays into RMC,” which had been inadvertently reduced to about 10 percent. This is 1Malaysia taking shape, at a very small scale.
The original quota of 30 percent was recommended and did reflect the Reid Commission Report and was meant to be applied for all racial quotas into public funded services, although only at the point of entry.
There was and never will be a parallel to the RMC within the nation. Unlike the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar or the Tuanku Kurshiah (or the Girls Malay College) in Seremban, the RMC was the only fully residential college uniquely designed and developed for a multiracial leadership for this mixed nation; which we now call Malaysia Truly Asia.
Today though, as Najib repeats his 1Malaysia mantra, the performance now of the only multiracial residential school cannot make it into the top 20 for reasons unknown to this writer. This raises even more questions than answers.
New agenda and spirit
Allow me to conclude as to what I think is the problem. FMC and later RMC was the original vision of Sir Tun Gerald Templer as the answer to the challenges of “new leadership needed for a newly independent nation.” Old school ties and the spirit of camaraderie were essential for forging collegiality and unity to a differing but different set of leaders.
Tun Abdul Razak believed in this vision too. But, sadly, after the 1965 departure of Singapore and the May 13, 1969 problems; a new agenda and spirit which was not truly nationalistic took over. Today that spirit is labelled 'Ketuanan Melayu'. It was that spirit which destroyed many “national institutions of utmost importance,” like even the RMC. We have experimented with failure as we tweaked and changed policies at the whims and fancy of half-baked leaders. As a result, although I have four sons, I have not encouraged any of them to go into the RMC. But, I am praying that my grandchildren will or can go the RMC; my alma mater.
My view is that the cabinet should therefore reinstate the RMC as a trust school under the high performance schools programme but allow it to be set it up as a foundation. Assign them the funds needed to “recapture their older glory and excellence and give them the autonomy to be run much like the Sekolah Tuanku Jaafar or the Yayasan UEM School in Bukit Beruntung.
The RMC Old Boys of the last 50 years are quite capable and can reinstate the best traditions and character building opportunities of the past, if given an opportunity to sit directly and steer the board of governors. But, the real challenges of the future require new and globalised leaders who can provide quality leadership whether we call ourselves 1Malaysia, Bangsa Malaysia or Malaysia Truly Asia. May God bless Malaysia.