To say that Ani Arope epitomises a true Malay statesman is an understatement.

In his recently launched ‘Memoirs of Tan Sri Ani Arope', the former chairperson and chief executive of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (1990-96) portrays himself as a good communicator who speaks fluent Hokkien, passable Cantonese and Mandarin and reasonably good Tamil and French.

Yet, he did not at any point lose his identity as a Malay, a person well-respected by family and friends as ‘Pak Ani' or Uncle Ani.

NONELamenting that a lot of today's woes are the result of gutter politics played by politicians bounded by arrogance, boastfulness, avarice, hate and jealousy, the octogenarian says his major concern is "to see a more stark polarisation of races in our schools and institutions of higher learning".

Ani, the country's first recipient of the Fulbright scholarship in 1964, said such polarisation opened the door to prejudice and bigotry among the various races.

"Harnessing our diversity could be the driving force for development, not only in respect of economic growth but also of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life," he says.

In his latest book, Ani, 81, also includes a chapter on his speech to the Fulbright alumni on enhancing cultural and religious tolerance in Malaysia.

"It is convenient to put the blame for this prejudice and bigotry as part of the legacy of the former colonial masters," he says. "However, the reality is that much of this prejudice and bigotry are our own making and enforced by interested parties driven by fear-based environment."

Without mentioning Umno in his speech, Ani adds: "These parties need to perpetuate the prejudice and bigotry to exist, because these, whether real, perceived or invented, are the reasons that justify the existence of these extreme chauvinistic groups."

Sense of superiority
Warning how some ultra-Malay groups were disturbing the race harmony in the country, Ani continued to point out that the concept of ‘Ketuanan Melayu' is where "one group would have a sense of superiority from believing that they are members of some elitist group that is superior to others".

What saddens him further is that the mass media is in fact giving support to reinforce this kind of thinking, which he considers as an "insidious moral and social disease in our midst".

Calling himself an "endangered species" who still carries the Malaysian spirit at heart, Ani opines that, whatever the conflicts, they should not be swept under the carpet but met head-on and discussed openly and honestly.

"We may disagree, but we must understand that healthy disagreements would help build better decisions," he advises the younger generation of Malaysians.

"We must be prepared to discuss our value systems and our priorities. We should not feel embarrassed to talk of the shortcomings amongst us or the marginalised sections of our society who are not able to participate in the mainstream of society."

An avid user of the social media, Ani in one of his postings on hisFacebook page wrote: "Do you know why a car's windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small? Because our past is not as important as our future. Look ahead and move on!"

‘Memoirs of Tan Sri Ani Arope' is published by the Fulbright Alumni Association of Malaysia (FAAM). The soft-launch of the 143-page memoir was done at Fulbright's 50th anniversary dinner in July this year by its president Prof Dr Gendeh Balwant.

The book will be available in major bookstores nationwide soon.

Yesterday: Race riots could be costly, warns Ani Arope in memoirs
Tomorrow: How TNB got a raw deal from the IPPs

STEPHEN NG is a chemist by training. He dealt with printing ink, paint and emulsion polymer for 15 years before becoming a freelance writer.

~ Malaysiakini