Author/Editor: Tan Pek Leng
Format: Paperback, 451 pages
Subjects: Biography & Memoir, History, Politics
Many witness momentous events in their lives, but few participate, much less leave their mark. Dr M.K. Rajakumar, on the contrary, left an indelible mark at every phase of his eventful life. As a medical student at the University of Malaya in Singapore, he co-founded the University Socialist Club and later landed himself in court on a sedition for an editorial that condemned Western imperialism and aggression in Asia. The victory of the eight students responsible for the club’s organ, Fajar, in the trial propelled them to fame, drawing them further into Singapore politics. Rajakumar was invited by Lee Kuan Yew to join in the preparations for founding the People’s Action Party (PAP). Even after his return to Malaya to practise medicine, he was associated with politicians, trade unionists and activists detained without trial in various mass arrests, notably Operation Cold Store, and was involved in the Malaya-Singapore merger debate, the establishment of the Barisan Sosialis, etc.
His quest for social justice and political freedom led him to join the Labour Party of Malaya to become one of its key leaders. It was a time of struggle over the nature and future of Malaysia itself. The Socialist Front – a coalition of the Labour Party, Partai Rakyat Malaya and National Convention Party – had emerged as the biggest opposition bloc in the country, until official repression decimated it. For championing his beliefs, Rajakumar was incarcerated without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA) like so many of his compatriots before and after him. But the two years of detention (1965 -1967) did not deter him and he continued to lead the Labour Party after his release until it was deregistered in 1972.
Rajakumar then immersed himself fully in the medical profession and the advancement of science in the country with the same zeal and commitment. His core concerns were equitable and affordable universal health care and holistic medicine as embodied by family practice. The report on The Future of Health Services in Malaysia, mainly conceived by him and completed in 1980 during his term as the President of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), remains a landmark study. Rajakumar also devoted three decades to founding and naturing the Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia (AFPM). He elevated his crusade for primary health care and family medicine to the international level through the World Organisation of Family Doctors (Wonca). Posthumously, the global movement for mentoring young family doctors, The Rajakumar Movement, was named after him.
Through historical investigations, personal recollections and tributes from colleagues, friends and family – including Tan Kai Hee, Syed Husin Ali, Poh Soo Kai, Said Zahari, Lim Hock Siew, Jomo K.S., Wang Gungwu, Ronald McCoy, Jeyakumar Devaraj, Lee Ban Chen, Abu Bakar Suleiman, Zuraina Majid, Sunita Rajakumar, Sukumari Sekhar, Ong Kik Hong and Shantha Nayar – this book constructs the portrait of a remarkable man who inspired many by the power of his intellect and the force of his conviction.