Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time

Bakri Musa Wrote:-
At first glance they had all the ingredients for a divisive and acrimonious relationship. One was a lawyer the other, a physician; two professionals not known to get along well with each other. Members of the two professions view society differently; likewise their approaches to problem solving.
Lawyers cross examine their witnesses; doctors get a history from their patients. Lawyers assume their clients would lie; physicians implicitly trust theirs. Attorneys’ clients may think it is in their interest to lie; patients however risk their lives if they were to mislead their physicians.
What made the Razak-Ismail team worked remarkably well was that both were true professionals as well as consummate politicians in the best traditional mold. It was this combination that made their partnership blossomed. As professionals they were able to separate their personal feelings to address the problems at hand; as accomplished politicians they were skilful in the art of compromise, a fine sense of politics as the art of the possible. They were able to sink whatever personal, political and professional differences and ambitions they harbour in order to best serve their client: the nation.
They also shared many similarities. Under different circumstances or with other personalities, those similarities could well be sources of unending conflicts. Consider their age; only seven years separating them, with Razak the younger. Politicians are inherently ambitious and competitive; they all aspire to be the number one. The number two could hardly wait for number one to exit, making for an often stormy relationship towards the end, as demonstrated by the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown show. Being comparable in age would only aggravate that aspect of the rivalry.

The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time
Ooi Kee Beng


Ismail was born on Nov 4, 1915 into an already illustrious family. His fatherwas Abdul Rahman bin Yassin. Abdul Rahman's sister, Anima, had died young,leaving him the only surviving child of Mohamed Yassin bin Ahat, a governmentofficer and son of Orang Kaya Ahat of Padang Muar. Mohamed Yassin's wife was adaughter of Chinese convert Haji Mohamed Salleh bin Abdullah from Singapore, whowas Johor State Treasurer and his Malay wife from Mersing. When Mohamed Yassin'swife passed away, he married her younger sister.


The family lived in a huge house in Johor Bahru called Rumah Tawakkal. AbdulRahman Yassin was employed by the Johor Land Office, and was married to hiscousin Zahara binte Abu Bakar, "a vivacious woman, warm-hearted and great", who was also "generous and stylish".


According to Ismail, Dato Abdul Rahman Yassin was never made Mentri Besar of Johor because he was a "lone wolf" and "refused to indulge in intrigues".
Nevertheless, the Johor State Assembly later elected him to independent Malaya's Senate, where he became its first president. He also became the first chairman of Malayan Banking when this was formed in 1960.

When his wife Zahara passed away in 1936, Abdul Rahman was encouraged by Sultan Ibrahim, who as a rule sought to unite the aristocracy through marriage within the upper class, to take Kamariah, the daughter of the Mentri Besar of Johor and sister of Onn Ja'afar, as his new bride.

Ismail's mother had often been sick, and his early upbringing had largely been
at the hands of his paternal step-grandmother, who loved visiting her many
married daughters whose husbands were posted in different corners of the state
of Johor.

The young Ismail was taken along on her many trips, "at the expense of my
attendance at school". His earliest playmates were therefore his own distant

The friends he eventually made in his first school years were all Malays, and it
was only after he started secondary education at the English College in Johor
Bahru that he had companions from other cultures.

A "voracious reader", the teenage Ismail had a liking for "serious books" with
philosophical content. His interests at this time were, however, not limited to

(In those days, the non-Malay girls especially the Chinese girls had more
freedom than those of other races. I enjoy the company of the opposite sex and
since it was not possible to find them among my own race, I began to get closer
and closer to my non-Malay friends. I am convinced that this early mingling with
the other races during the most impressionable stage of my life had a lot to do
with my non-racial outlook.)

While at the college, he showed interest in sports and loved to read. He learned
to admire English ways and he believed that it was the interpretations he formed
about them that made him different from other Malays, "although I always got on
well with the latter".

However, the uniqueness that he noticed about himself also had another cause.
His family was different from those of most other Malays in those days in that
his father was totally convinced that great financial sacrifices were worth
making for one's children's education. This left each of them "possessing an
insatiable ambition to get on in life".

Two of the four boys became lawyers, one became an economist and Ismail
qualified as a medical doctor. In fact, in 1939, the British General Adviser
W.E. Pepys publicly lamented that as far as he knew, "the only Johore Malay who
has got a university degree is Inche Suleiman bin Abdul Rahman, the son of Dato
Abdul Rahman, State Treasurer, Johore. He is a BA (Cantab) and has been
supported entirely by his father without a scholarship".

What the daughters lacked in education, their father compensated for with gifts
of land. Abdul Rahman Yassin owned a medium-sized rubber estate, and managed to
give almost all his children a tertiary education. The two eldest daughters grew
up at a time when it was not customary for Malay girls to be sent to school, let
alone to an English institution. The third daughter was less lucky, and had her
education cut short by the Japanese Occupation. She never went abroad for higher


Among the Chinese families in the culturally unique atmosphere of Johor Bahru
were two that would play a central role in Ismail's life. One was the family of
Cheah Tiang Earn, a golf-loving medical doctor who had practised in Foochow and
Penang, and who moved his family and his practice to Johor Bahru in the
mid-1920s. His wife was Emily Brockett, daughter of a successful English tea
merchant based in Foochow, who was married to a Chinese lady. The Cheah family
was therefore English-speaking and well trained in English manners.

Dr Cheah was a bosom friend of Abdul Rahman Yassin, and when it was time for the
latter's eldest son Suleiman to be sent to England for law studies, it was
decided that the boy should spend an hour or two each week at the Cheah house,
having meals and learning etiquette appropriate to life in England.

The two families were therefore very close, and Ismail had an especial fondness
for the Cheah children that would last throughout his life. The two youngest
Cheah daughters - Eileen and Joyce - were to marry two of the Kuok brothers,
Philip and Robert, respectively. Through the Cheah sisters, Ismail would later
also become intimate friends with their husbands. Leslie Cheah, the son in the
family, remained a close friend of Ismail and his family throughout his life.

The second Chinese family in Johor Bahru with strong ties to Ismail's family was
the Kuoks. The patriarch was Kuok Keng Kang, also from Foochow, a late immigrant
to Johor Bahru, who had to face fierce competition from the dominant Teochews,
and who attributed his subsequent success to the help he received from the Malay
community. By 1920, Kuok's fortune was already made, and he was among the very
few who could afford the new luxury of motorcars. He and his wife, Tang Mong
Lan, a devout Buddhist whom Ismail would sometimes go to for advice in later
years, had three sons - Philip, William and Robert. William later joined the
communist insurgency, and perished in an ambush in Pahang on Sept 8, 1953.

Another family with close ties to the Kuoks, the Cheahs and the Abdul Rahmans
was that of Joseph Chako Puthucheary. His origins were Keralite, and he and his
wife had five daughters and five sons, James, George, Anthony, Dominic and
Francis, several of whom would become significant actors in Malaysian and
Singaporean politics.


On 26 July, 1946, Ismail the 31-year-old doctor, the first Malay to graduate
from Melbourne University, arrived back in Singapore.


Ismail's immaculately dressed elder brother Suleiman met him on his arrival, and
quickly briefed him on "the controversy over the Malayan Union". What
immediately struck Ismail after being six years in Australia was how "political
feeling engulfed Malaya as a fire engulfs a forest on a hot dry day".

Ismail's family was deeply involved in the resistance against the Malayan Union
that the British, after the fall of Imperial Japan, were trying to impose on the
whole peninsula. After the Sultan of Johor signed the MacMichael Agreement, a
treaty with the British accepting the Malayan Union idea, seven men, led by
Abdul Rahman Yassin and including his eldest son Suleiman as well as son-in-law
Awang Hassan, issued a pamphlet criticising the move. These men, all government
servants, were consequently suspended for six months.

As many Malays understood it, the Malayan Union aimed to abolish the sultanates
and the special position of the Malays. The opposition to this was strongest in
the Unfederated Malay States, especially Johor, where the elite was also most
active. At a meeting of forty-one Malay associations held in March 1946 in Kuala
Lumpur, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) was born. UMNO's
opposition to the Malayan Union proved highly successful, and the plan in effect
never got off the ground, and was instead replaced on 1 February, 1948 by the
Federation of Malaya Agreement.

This later polity allowed for all seats in the federal and state legislature to
be filled by nominees. Onn Ja'afar, the Mentri Besar of Johor and the founder of
UMNO, offered Ismail a state seat, which he accepted. One of the first things
Ismail did as Johor state councillor was to demand that his opposition to the
establishment of the federation itself be duly recorded. He considered the
federation illegal, especially with regard to the Johor constitution.

Onn Ja'afar also offered Ismail a position in the Federal Legislative Council
but only on condition that the latter joined UMNO. Ismail refused, telling Onn
Ja'afar that he would give up his medical practice to go into politics only if
the party was fighting for independence, which it was not doing. Despite his
stand, Ismail did harbour respect for UMNO's official founder.


Political consciousness among the Malays during this period was strongly
configured by the fear of losing their special status, and Onn Ja'afar's
popularity was built on his ability to defend that status. However, this agenda
- best expressed by the slogan Hidup Melayu (Long Live the Malays) - existed in
a tense relationship with the idea of independence - Merdeka.


Be that as it may, Onn Ja'afar seemed to have realised that the British would
not hand over power to a purely Malay organisation.


His next move was to open UMNO to non-Malay citizens of the federation who were
at least sixteen years old and who were willing to work for Malayan


Resistance within the party to the change suggested by him proved too strong
even for him, and he left UMNO on 26 August, 1951 at the end of his term as
party president. He formed the multi-racial Independence of Malaya Party (IMP)
on 17 September, which in effect was to function like the reformed UMNO that he
had failed to achieve.

Onn's departure from UMNO precipitated a crisis, as he had expected. But after
his successor to the presidency, Tunku Abdul Rahman - reading the mood of the
Malays correctly - adopted a platform for immediate and full independence, the
party slowly gained new life and members.


Ismail's reading of the times was that Malaya was undeniably bound for
independence, with "the pace (being) dictated by the national leaders while the
British would try their level best to thwart them". He also thought that Onn
feared for the Malays should (the) British simply withdraw and felt the "wealth
and the intellectual power" of the Chinese "would submerge the Malays" if
independence was achieved too soon.


Ismail thought that Onn Ja'afar, though "the man of the moment", was
unsuccessful "because he did not believe in what he was doing". Onn's failure
convinced most other parties for a long time to come, that the country was not
ready for anything other than race-based politics. The Alliance formula created
in 1952 - where parties representing all the major races formed a coalition -
would prove to be the workable solution, at least in gaining independence.

For Ismail, the direction that his life was taking was not what he had intended
for himself. As he would state later in life, he was a doctor who had "looked
forward to being a millionaire" in his line of work, but who became a politician
only reluctantly. Between 1947 and 1953, he ran a moderately successful private
practice in Johor Bahru, calling his clinic Tawakkal (Trust in God), after his
childhood home. Robert Kuok recalls that Ismail had his practice opposite the
Kuok shop on Jalan Trus.


Soon after coming back from Melbourne, Ismail joined about half a dozen other
returned students in forming a political discussion group called the Malay
Graduates' Association.


Ismail later said that it was after the Tunku had taken over UMNO that he
decided to go into politics.

I remember that one of my pastimes then was swimming and one day after swimming,
Dato Sardon came to the beach in his sports car. We talked and he asked me to
join UMNO. But I did not join UMNO until UMNO adopted Independence as its
platform. I knew at that time the thinking of the Malays (was) that if
Independence (were) achieved without Malay participation then there would be no
meaningful place for the Malays after Independence. Thus when UMNO changed its
stand and decided to fight for Independence, and with persuasion from Tunku
Abdul Rahman, I drifted into politics.


Ismail and his wife Neno first met the Tunku when they were on their way to
Penang for their honeymoon in 1950 - their respective families had paired them
for marriage. A mutual friend of the Tunku and Ismail, Eugene Seow, had them
both over at his flat in Kuala Lumpur. The first time Ismail saw the Tunku, the
prince was sitting in a corner, sipping gin: "I was struck by his friendliness,
charm and unassuming ways." The older man invited the couple to the Kuala Lumpur
Flying Club for the evening. However, he later shooed them out on discovering
that they were in fact newlyweds: "In typical fashion he bundled us off telling
us that we had no business being on the dance floor so late when we should be in
bed enjoying our honeymoon."

Tunku remembered this first meeting with Ismail, and in an article he wrote for
The Star newspaper on 2 June 1975, he recalled how his friendship with Ismail
grew from that moment on, "becoming very staunch indeed".

(Ismail) was that type of man - short in temper and easy to take offence - but
if he (were) allowed to reflect and calm down, he would recover his equilibrium
as quickly as he had lost it. Above all, at heart he was a very loyal and
faithful colleague.

After becoming UMNO president on 25 August 1951, the Tunku asked the Malay
Graduates' Association to nominate one of its members, preferably Ismail, to the
party's Central Executive Committee (CEC). This was done, although Ismail
cheekily suggested that the support he received from the group was given only
because "the other members of the Association were not prepared to sacrifice
their careers". Ghafar Baba from Malacca UMNO, who later became deputy prime
minister, remembered that the Tunku was in fact overjoyed at getting Ismail over
to his side.


Ismail was by now convinced that the main tactic of the Alliance should be "to
press for the election to be held at the national level as a means to gain
independence". The MCA, because of the restrictive citizenship laws at the time,
had not been especially enthusiastic about elections, fearing that such a
process would merely make the Chinese political subordinates to the Malays.
However, since the Alliance was proving to be highly successful, the Tunku and
Tan Cheng Lock decided on 16 March 1953 to set up UMNO-MCA liaison committees
throughout the federation in anticipation of federal elections. Onn Ja'afar
continued showing his antagonism towards the MCA, which helped to strengthen
Chinese support for the Alliance solution.

Ismail recalled once making a scathing attack on Onn, "dissecting him into four
parts, all of which were anything but complimentary to him", and encouraging Tan
Siew Sin to withstand pressure from his peers and instead push ahead with

known only to him and Ismail, the medical staff involved, and a couple of
Ismail's personal friends, who were all sworn to secrecy. This clandestine state
of affairs could not but strongly affect policy formation as the two leaders
discussed plans in the glaring light of Ismail's probable succession to the post
of prime minister. The doctors told Razak that he had four years at most to
live, although he managed to last six. Further pressure was exerted by the fact
that Ismail, though not terminally ill, had recently suffered a recurrence of
neck cancer, and his faulty heart valve was badly in need of surgery.

As fate would have it, the awe-inspiring and pipe-smoking Ismail was the first
of the two to fall. On the evening of Thursday 2 August 1973, at the relatively
young age of 57, he suffered a massive heart attack. He was alone in his study
on the upper floor of his house on Maxwell Road - now Jalan Tun Dr Ismail - in
Kuala Lumpur, resting after a light dinner and having checked on the younger
children in their rooms. His wife was in hospital recovering from a tubal
ligation operation, and Razak, for whom he was standing in, was away at the
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Ottawa, Canada. That summit had in
fact just started that same day.

Earlier that afternoon, Ismail officiated at the silver jubilee celebrations of
the Peninsular Malaysia Malay Students Foundation (Gabungan Pelajar-pelaiar
Melayu Semenanjung or GPMS) at the Sultan Sulaiman Club in Kampung Bahru in the
city. An explosion was included in the programme as a sound effect, but Ismail
was somehow not informed of it. As a rule, after the racial riots of 13 May
1969, explosions were understandably not permitted. The sudden bang startled
Ismail visibly. His 20-year-old daughter Zailah was watching the ceremony on
television at home, and noticed that her father sweated profusely after the
explosion. Ismail then left the ceremony as planned, and with no further ado
went off to visit his wife at Lady Templer Hospital. His press secretary, Wahab
Majid, who had helped to prepare the speech for that occasion, was on leave, and
so did not accompany Ismail, as would otherwise have been the case.

Although Ismail had clearly been feeling frail lately, his golf had never been
better. In fact, during a game the afternoon before at the Royal Selangor Golf
Club, he scored an eagle, and was exhilarated by it.

Ismail had confided to his friend Robert Kuok about a month earlier that he had
suffered three "quite serious" heart attacks in the space of two weeks.
Furthermore, he told Kuok, that his wife, Norashikin (nicknamed Neno), was
expecting their seventh child, which made him worry more than usual about his
family. Ismail agreed with Kuok that he should go back into retirement once
Razak had been on his trip to Canada. Interestingly, Kuok also noticed that
Ismail's golf had improved phenomenally, and that he at least once actually
managed to play par golf.

Ismail struggled with the fear that he might soon suffer a massive cardiac
arrest, and therefore took the painful decision for his wife to terminate her
pregnancy and undergo a tubal ligation. He was preparing the family for the
possibility that he would not live long. The tragedy of his passing was
therefore compounded for Neno by the fact that she had her fallopian tubes cut
only two days before her husband's demise, and she was actually still in
hospital recuperating from that operation when he passed away.

Both Razak and Ismail had for quite some time had the same doctor, the taciturn
Scotsman Stewart C. McPherson. In a special check-up that Razak had with
trepidation requested sometime at the end of 1969, the doctor discovered that
the de facto premier was terminally ill. Razak quickly informed Ismail of this,
and had the medical personnel privy to the information sworn to secrecy.

No one else was to know. As Razak and Ismail saw it, a serious problem of
continuity now threatened the country's leadership and its reform policies.
Ismail scribbled down some thoughts after learning of of Razak's illness:

With Tun Razak a doomed man, my heart operation became vitally important not
only to myself and my family, but to the whole nation. Between the Tunku, Tun
Razak and myself on the one hand, and all the other politicians on the other,
there was a wide gap in leadership. With Tunku past his prime, Tun Razak a
doomed man although unknown to the nation, everything seemed to depend on me.

When chest pains came on the evening of 2 August 1973, Ismail's youngest sons -
13-year-old Tarmizi, 9-year-old Zamakhshari and 6-year-old Ariff - were the only
family members in the house. Neno was still in hospital and their two daughters
- Zailah and Badariah - were out. Their eldest son, 22-year-old Tawfik, was away
studying in Australia. The Chinese maid Ah Mui (Little Sister) was in the lower
part of the house, as were Ismail's two bodyguards. Ismail's dog Tomo - named
after a Japanese island - a boxer that lost a leg after being run over by his
outriders, was in the courtyard. The Indian gardener had gone home.

Zailah remembers that just before leaving the house earlier that evening, she
commented to her father that she had seen him on TV earlier, and had noticed how
he was perspiring. Ismail, who was having dinner by himself, nodded in
acknowledgement and complained that his steak was overly tough. As a rule,
members of the family, at Ismail's request, often ate lunch together, and Ismail
would try as far as possible to come home for the mid-day meal. Dinner-time,
however, was a more relaxed occasion. Tarmizi, his second son, later reflected
that his father "cut a very lonely figure eating his meal at the table" that

After finishing his meal, Ismail looked in on his young sons before going up to
his study. Later, he rang the bell for Ah Mui, and asked for Zailah, who had not
yet returned.

He had by then suffered his heart attack and quickly told the maid that "I am
going to die, please call my doctor and inform Gopal" (his private secretary).
Dr McPherson, who resided in the neighbouring house, was away looking after
Razak in Ottawa. Just before he left the country, Razak and Ismail decided that
the doctor would accompany the prime minister on his trip instead of staying
home to watch over Ismail. Ismail then dialled the telephone number of his other
medical doctor, Dr Catterall, for the distraught maid.

Tarmizi remembers being woken up by the maid and catching a glimpse of hectic
activity upstairs in his father's room. Dr Catterall, who lived in Petaling
Jaya, had already arrived, and was trying to resuscitate Ismail. The royal
physician, Dr Pillai, who had been called after the bodyguards had reported to
their superiors, had also turned up. Cabinet ministers started dropping in, and
the atmosphere in the main room became somewhat chaotic. The prime minister was
on the other side of the world, and the acting prime minister had just passed
away. The country was leaderless for the moment.

As Tarmizi remembers it, there was no "team of doctors" on the spot that night,
which contradicts later reports that there was. He was also disturbed by the
fact that the ministers were discussing the future of national politics while
the doctor was still doing his best to save his father. All in all, Dr Catterall
laboured for five hours to revive Ismail, although the official time of death
was later declared to have been 10pm.

On returning home later that evening after dropping off a friend, Zailah was
surprised to find that all the lights in the building were on. Shocked by the
news of her father's death, she set about making sure her younger brothers were
all right. She remembers that one of the ministers called the Malaysian Embassy
in Ottawa from the house, and she overheard Razak shouting at the distant end to
remind his ministers that he was still the prime minister.

In Canada, news of Ismail's death had arrived while High Commissioner Zakaria
Ali was at a reception together with Razak and Dr McPherson. He was alarmed that
he was to be the bearer of such terrible news. He steeled himself for the task
and requested the doctor to tag along while he cornered Razak at an opportune
moment. Just as Zakaria had feared, the prime minister was shocked and dazed by
the news, and Dr McPherson had to take the frail man into an adjoining room to
care for him. After some time, they re-emerged, and Razak, now clearly more in
control of himself, set about organising Ismail's funeral and other matters over
the phone, losing his temper now and then and shouting down the mouthpiece. He
gave orders for a state funeral, and for his friend to be buried in the Heroes'
Mausoleum at the Masjid Negara. The Sultan of Johor had at the same time
expressed a wish for Ismail to be buried in his home state.

The Canadian government kindly put a special plane at Razak's disposal, with
which he immediately flew to Copenhagen where he caught a commercial flight for
home. Penang's Chief Minister Lim Chong Eu, who was also rushing home after
receiving the same piece of bad news, met him en route. Razak was still in a
"shattered state" when he arrived back in Kuala Lumpur on 4 August.

Back at Ismail's house, a discussion went on about how the widow was to be told.
The burden was finally placed on her brother Ghazali Seth, Philip and Eileen
Kuok, and Eileen's brother Leslie Cheah, who had been visiting Neno at the
hospital at various times of the day. Neno was still under sedation when the
group arrived.

Badariah, her younger daughter, was there and took the news about her father's
demise calmly. The widow woke up at 5.30 in the morning, and Cheah went into her
room to break the news. They then drove Neno back to the house in the early
morning through the quiet streets of the city. On their arrival home, she went
straight up to the bedroom where Ismail's body was lying.

In Armidale, Australia, the rugby team of the house that Ismail's eldest son
Tawfik belonged to had just won a tournament. A series of knocks on his door at
3.00 in the morning - what he thought was the beginning of some customary
victory prank by his Australian mates - brought him the sad news of his father's
death. He was immediately struck by the fact that it was Thursday night, the
most privileged time for Muslims to die, when followers of Islam all over the
world prepare themselves for Friday prayers.

Back home in Kuala Lumpur, Ariff, the youngest of Ismail's children, woke up
only at dawn. He remembers finding the furniture throughout the house covered
with white textiles, and the boy wondered what festive day it could be.

That day, Ismail's body was cleansed and then moved to Masjid Negara. Since the
road from the house was considered too winding, the procession proper started
from outside the Bank Negara Building. It moved along streets jammed with
mourners taking part in Malaysia's first state funeral, and ended at Masjid
Negara where Ismail's body was laid out in state.

Tawfik managed to reach home from Australia that night, while Razak arrived from
Canada the next morning. The burial had been postponed for his sake.

The situation became confused and chaotic when the body was to be moved to the
grave. Works and Communica-tions Minister Sardon Jubir, who was the most senior
cabinet minister after Ismail, had not followed the prime minister's definite
instructions. Not only was Razak furious over the fact that Ismail's body was
not laid out in state at the Parliament Building so that Malaysians of all
faiths could view it without discomfort, as he had ordered, he had also wished
for Ismail to be buried in the Heroes' Mausoleum. Sardon had instead prepared a
plot just outside it. He had apparently consulted a mufti who claimed that a
Muslim could not be buried under a roof. The Tunku was also upset by Sardon's
decision, and told Neno in exasperation: "My forefathers are all buried in a
mausoleum under a roof!"

The proceedings were halted for several hours by Razak while soldiers in
plainclothes armed with drills were brought in to to break through the concrete
and provide Ismail with a resting place befitting his stature.

Apparently, Razak had greater trust in the army getting things done quickly than
in the Public Works Department, whose workers had dug the first grave. As those
who had worked under Razak had learned, he would normally merely show some
dissatisfaction when something did not go the way he had wished, but would then
accept the situation and move on. On the matter of Ismail's burial, he was firm,
and demanded that the fault be immediately remedied.

Thus, Tun Dr Ismail Alhaj bin Datuk Haji Abdul Rahman became the first of
Malaysia's national heroes to be buried in the Heroes' Mausoleum.

Not long before Ismail died, Madam Tang Mong Lan, the mother of his close
friends Philip and Robert Kuok, had read his fortune and predicted that he would
rise yet higher in his career. In a cruel way, fate proved her right. Ismail did
not die as deputy prime minister, but as acting prime minister.

First published in The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time by Ooi
Kee Beng (2006). Reproduced here with the kind permission of the publisher,