Seminar/Book Launch: Meeting Malaysia’s Unfinished Past




Discussion and Launch of
Drifting into Politics: The Unfinished Memoirs of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman
(ISEAS 2015). Edited by Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail and Ooi Kee Beng
Barbara W. Andaya, Leonard Y. Andaya, Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail and Ooi Kee Beng

The riots of May 13, 1969 in Kuala Lumpur precipitated profound changes in the practice and rationale of politics in Malaysia, and in the structure of power itself. One of the most difficult jobs during those tumultuous times was done by Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman. Called back from recuperative retirement to again serve as the home affairs minister put a great strain on his health. Known as a fair man who could not stand fools, his style of leadership won him great respect among the various ethnic communities and from others who knew him including Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew.

Tun Dr Ismail had until his decision to leave the government in 1966 served Malaysia in many capacities, as the country’s first ambassador to the United States and its first permanent representative to the United Nations, minister of commerce and industry, and minister of internal security, and of home affairs, among others. He passed away suddenly of a heart attack on August 2, 1973, and it continues to be debated what path Malaysia would have taken had Tun Dr Ismail lived to succeed Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, to whom he served as deputy from 1970 to 1973.
Among his private papers, which are housed at ISEAS Library, was his unfinished autobiography. This has now been published, and is the third volume about the man that has been published by ISEAS Publishing since the papers were presented for safekeeping to the Institute in 2005. The other two are the Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (2006) and Malaya’s First Year at the United Nations as Reflected in Dr Ismail’s Reports Home to Tunku Abdul Rahman (2009).

These papers were preserved at home for 30 years by Tun Dr Ismail’s eldest son, Tawfik, who is now a spokesman and member of the G25 group of former civil servants who are among those calling for administrative and political reforms in the country. Tawfik is presently being investigated for sedition on having called for the disbandment of the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim). He has for many years been reminding Malaysians about the contemporary importance and significance of his father’s legacy.

Leonard and Barbara Andaya are the authors of one of the most appreciated books on Malaysian history—A History of Malaysia (1982/2000). They began their close association with the country in 1970, and are completing the much-awaited third edition of their book while based at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. In this seminar, they revisit those early years to provide a brief historical overview of Malaysian politics.

(BA and Diploma of Education, Sydney; MA Hawai‘i, Ph.D. Cornell) is Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS –Yusof Ishak Institute. She is Professor and Chair of Asian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i. Between 2003 and 2010 she was Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and in 2005-06 she was President of the American Association of Asian Studies. In 2000 she received a John Simon Guggenheim Award, and in 2010 she received the University of Hawai‘i Regents Medal for Excellence in Research.

She has lived and taught in Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her specific area of expertise is the western Malay-Indonesia archipelago, on which she has published widely, but she maintains an active teaching and research interest across all Southeast Asia.

Her publications include Perak, The Abode of Grace: A Study of an Eighteenth Century Malay State (1979), co-editor Tuhfat al-Nafis (The Precious Gift) (1982), co-author A History of Malaysia (1982; revised edition, 2000); To Live as Brothers: Southeast Sumatra in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1993); The Flaming Womb: Repositioning Women in Early Modern Southeast Asia (2006), a Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 2007. Her most recent book (with Leonard Y. Andaya) is A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and a third edition of A History of Malaysia will appear this year. Her present project is a history of religious interaction in Southeast Asia, 1511-1800.

LEONARD Y. ANDAYA is Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS –Yusof Ishak Institute. He is a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu. He has written extensively on the early modern history of Southeast Asia, particularly on Indonesia and Malaysia.

His most recent books are Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008), and with Barbara Watson Andaya a History of Early Modern Southeast Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. They are also currently writing a third edition of A History of Malaysia to be published by Palgrave.
He is currently writing a history of eastern Indonesia in the early modern period.


Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail was Member of Parliament for Sungei Benut, Johor (1986 to 1990). He founded Johor’s first international school, now relocated to Sungei Buloh, Selangor as IGB International School (IGBIS).

In January 2015, he joined “G25 Malaysia”, an informal group of Malay Muslims seeking to redress anomalies between Shariah laws and the Federal Constitution. Tawfik has been particularly vocal about the restoration of powers of the State Rulers over Islamic matters as provided for in the Constitution, which had now passed into the hands of the federal government. He is one of the editors of the G25 Malaysia book, Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation (2015). He also co-edited “Malaya’s First Year at the UN” (2010) and “Drifting into Politics: The Unfinished Memoirs of Tun Dr Ismail” (2015), and facilitated source work for Ooi Kee Beng’s “The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time” (2006).

Tawfik received his education at Sheridan School, Washington DC, USA (1957-1959), St John’s Institution, Kuala Lumpur (1959-1966), the Royal Military College (1967) and Geelong Grammar School, Melbourne, Australia, (1968-1971). He studied History and Politics at the University of New England (1972 to 1974), and Jurisprudence at University College, University of Oxford (1975 to 1977). While attached to the Malaysian International Merchant Bankers (1978-1981), he set up Malaysia’s first mini money market in Penang; and while working for Fleet Group Sdn Bhd (1981 to 1986), he was Director of the Bank of Commerce, now morphed into CIMB; Director of American Malaysian Insurance; Director of Fleet Telecommunications, during which he introduced Malaysia’s first Cellphone Network; Secretary to the Board of New Straits Times Berhad; and Chairman of the task force to set up Malaysia’s first private commercial television station.

OOI KEE BENG is the Deputy Director of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He is editor of Trends in Southeast Asia (ISEAS); and founder-editor of ISEAS Perspective and ISEAS Monitor, as well as Penang Monthly. He is a columnist for The Edge Malaysia.

He writes extensively on Malaysian politics and history, and on Asian nation building. His The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (2006) won the “Award of Excellence for Best Writing Published in Book Form on Any Aspect of Asia (Non-Fiction)” at the Asian Publishing Convention Awards 2008, while Continent, Coast, Ocean: Dynamics of Regionalism in Eastern Asia, was named “Top Academic Work” in 2008 by the ASEAN Book Publishers Association (ABPA).
Other major works include The Eurasian Core and Its Edges – Dialogues with Wang Gungwu on the History of the World (2015); Lim Kit Siang – Defying the Odds (2015); Young and Malay: Growing Up in Multicultural Malaysia (2015); “Drifting Into Politics: The Unfinished Memoirs of Tun Dr Ismail (2016); In Lieu of Ideology: An Intellectual Biography of Goh Keng Swee (2010); Malaya’s First Year at the United Nations (2009, co-edited with Tawfik Ismail); and Lost in Transition: Malaysia under Abdullah (2008).

For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 12 February 2016.


Seminar: The National Unity Blueprint: Redefining “Unity” in Malaysia



The phrase ‘national unity and integration’ appeared in an official document in Malaysia for the first time in 1971. It was in the five-year plan document called Second Malaysia Plan 1971-75 (1971) in which the well-known New Economic Policy (NEP) was spelt out, which had two-prong objectives; (i) to eradicate poverty, and (ii) to restructure society. The over-riding ultimate goal of NEP was to bring about ‘national unity and integration’ in the country. In 1991, Prime Minister Mahathir introduced his Vision 2020 with the ultimate aim of creating ‘a united Malaysian nation.’ Two decades later, in 2009, Najib introduced his 1Malaysia concept promoting an inclusive Malaysia within the framework of Vision 2020. After 45 years the elusive ‘unity’ has not been achieved. What then has Malaysia achieved during that period?

Many claimed that during that period Malaysia achieved impressive economic growth, experienced political stability, and enjoyed relatively harmonious ethnic relations. Indeed, quite frequently on the international stage, Malaysia has been perceived as a ‘model developing economy’ or ‘moderate Islamic majority country.’ Domestically, Malaysian political leadership, on both sides of the divide, continues to worry about the state of ‘national unity’ because they claim that the state of ethnic relations is worsening. As a result, a National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) was established in September 2013, tasked to produce a Blueprint for National Unity by 2015. The Blueprint has been endorsed, first, by the Prime Minister, then by the Malaysian Cabinet of Ministers, and eventually the Chief Ministers and Mentri Besars. The present seminar focuses not only on the making of the Blueprint but also the reconceptualization of ‘unity’ that informed it cast against the general background of Malaysia post-1998 Reformasi.


Distinguished Professor Shamsul A.B. is one of the only four Distinguished Professors in Malaysia to date. Currently, he is Deputy Chair, National Council of Professors, Malaysia (with 2500 members), the Pro-Tem Chair, Academy of Social Science & Humanities, Malaysia and, as of January 1 2016, appointed as Member, of the newly formed Malaysia’s National Science Council (NSC) chaired by the Prime Minister of Malaysia. He is the architect of the Malaysian Blueprint for National Unity 2015. Trained as a social anthropologist in Malaysia and Australia, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the CNRS, Paris, in 1986. Since 1973, he has researched, lectured and published extensively on the theme ‘economic development, culture and politics,’ with an empirical focus on maritime Southeast Asia and Malaysia.

He is often consulted by public and private sector interests on matters relating to risk study/issues. He also comments on local and international mass media, on history and current affairs of the region, such as in the Al-Jazeera, National Geographic Channel, Channel News Asia, BBC London, ABC Melbourne, and Wall Street Journal. For successfully promoting Asian Studies globally, in 2008, he was awarded the prestigious Academic Prize, Fukuoka Cultural Award, Japan, the only second Malaysian to have received the award since its inception in 1990.

For registration, please fill in this form and email to by the morning of 25 January 2016.


Workshop: Looking East at Sabah and Sarawak




The Federation of Malaysia was created on 16 September 1963 through the merging of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. Where ethnic demographics were concerned, Sabah and Sarawak, with their large native populations, helped to balance Singapore’s predominantly Chinese population. But when the original configuration of the federation broke down in 1965 and Singapore went its own way, the ethnic balance changed dramatically. The Sabahans and Sarawakians now found themselves small minorities within an increasingly Malay Muslim-dominated country. A gradual centralisation of power did in fact ensue, and more than half a century after the merger, Sabah and Sarawak are among the poorest states in the federation. Not only are Bumiputra minorities economically impoverished, they are also politically marginalized and their identities and languages threatened by aggressive assimilation policies implemented by the central power.

The Malaysia Studies Programme (MSP) at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute is pleased to present this one-day forum to discuss the situation of these East Malaysian states. We gather prominent scholars to speak on themes such as the politics and economics of federal-state relations; poverty and human development among the Orang Asal; the emergence and consolidation of Malay Muslim dominance; the social dynamics of the Chinese vote in Sarawak; customary native land rights; bumiputra minorities’ identity formation in the larger context of nation-building; and porous borders and (in)security in Sabah.

As attached here.

Attendance is free of charge but registration is required. Please register early as seats are limited.
To register, please complete and email the attached Registration Form to <> by 1 December 2015.


Seminar: Re-emergence and Re-configuration of Islamic Education in Malaysia





There has been an increasing demand for Islamic Education in Malaysia both formal and non-formal since the 1980s.  Parents seem to prefer their children to attend private or NGO-based Islamic schools with the integrated curriculum and the Tahfiz (Qurán memorization schools) despite the public schools offering Islamic studies education.  There is also an increase of state Islamic colleges for tertiary education. Why is there this resurgence of interest in Islamic education?  How effective are the training of Islamic studies in Higher Education? What are the effects and implications on national political, economic and social development, in particular the sustainability of cultural diversity and Muslims’ general wellbeing?  These will be some of the issues addressed.


Rosnani Hashim is Professor of Educational Foundations of Education at the International Islamic University, Malaysia.  Her areas of specialization are Islamic History, Philosophy and Education, and Curriculum and Instruction.  She was a research fellow with the Japan Foundation (2006), a Visiting Specialist under the Fulbright Programme (2007), a visiting professor at Damascus University, Syria (2009) and Professor for Global Education at Nagoya University, Japan (2011). She is presently the Editor-in-Chief for The IIUM Journal of Educational Studies. Among her major works are Educational Dualism in Malaysia, Reclaiming the Conversation: Islamic Intellectual Tradition in the Malay Archipelago and the latest edited work (2015), Critical Issues and Reform in Muslim Higher Education. She has written and lectured extensively on Islamic education, Islamization of knowledge, higher Islamic education curriculum and the Hikmah Pedagogy of Philosophical Inquiry.  Her current field of interest is in the application of the Hikmah pedagogy in schools through training teachers in collaborating schools.


To register, please complete this reply form and return it by fax: 6775-6264 or email: by 21 October 2015.