Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra remembered

February 7, 2010

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Remembered

by Din Merican

Tunku was a true Malaysian. As we have forgotten him, we have also forgotten how to be Malaysians. We must learn again how to be free and equal citizens of a constitutional democracy.  In our national life we must learn again how to be a Federation of sovereign states governed by the rule of law”.–Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra–On Mahathir’s  UMNO

Let us remember this great Malaysian and Father of Malaysian Independence.  His Birthday is February 8, 2010.  He remains in the hearts of all peace loving Malaysians as a very special statesman. He had something to say about our  Fourth Prime Minister and his UMNO Baru. Tunku said that UMNO Baru is the creation of Mahathir Mohamad. He  also described Mahathir’s action to have UMNO declared illegal by our courts and to form UMNO Baru as zalim.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj was born in Alor Star, Kedah, on  February 8, 1903, the seventh son of the Ruler of Kedah, Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah. His mother was Che Manjalara.

Tunku received his early education in a Malay and English School in Alor Star, at Penang Free  School and  a Siamese school in Bangkok. In 1920, a State scholarship took him to England for  tertiary education. He entered St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and read history and law. He graduated in 1925 with a B.A. Degree. He then joined the Inner Temple, in London.

In 1931, he returned to Kedah and joined the Kedah State Civil Service. He served as District Officer in Kuala Nerang, then Langkawi, Sungai Patani, and finally in Kulim.

In 1948, Tunku Abdul Rahman became Chairman of UMNO Kedah. He returned to Inner Temple, London to complete his law studies and was called to the English Bar. On his return to Malaya in 1949 he was appointed as a Deputy Public Prosecutor. In 1951, he succeeded Dato Sir Onn bin Ja’afar as President of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). On  July 27, 1955, the Federation’s first elections to the Federal Legislative Council were held. The Alliance  Party swept through the polls, winning 51 out of 52 seats. In the new Government Tunku Abdul Rahman became Chief Minister.

On  December 31, 1955, Tunku Abdul Rahman headed a delegation from the Alliance, to London for talks with the British Government on the future constitution of the Federation. On  August 31,1957, Malaya became independent and Tunku Abdul Rahman became her first Prime Minister. In September, 1963, he became the  Prime Minister of Malaysia.  It was during his Administration that  the Bangkok Declaration was signed to form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He handed over power to Tun Abdul Razak in 1970 and took personal responsibility for the tragic riots of May 13, 1969.

A keen sportsman, Tunku had been a football fan all his life. He was President of the Football Association of Malaya, President of the Asian Football Confederation, and President of the Asian Badminton Confederation. His other personal interests include golf, sailing and photography. In addition, he was the owner of a remarkable collection of Malay weapons, especially the kris.

Tunku passed away at the age of 87 on December 6, 1990.


February 7, 2010

20 Years too late, Rais Yatim

Tomorrow (February 8, 2010), Tunku Abdul Rahman would have been 107 years old. Few would remember that except for a tahlil by family and some friends.

If anything, the Kedah prince is only famous for bringing Merdeka to Malaya, forming Malaysia with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, then kicking Singapore out and later kicking out one Dr Mahathir Mohamad from UMNO.

Today, Information Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim proposed to name December 6 as Tunku Abdul Rahman Day in memory of his death in 1990 and his struggles for the nation. All well and good, to actually have a day dedicated after being dead for nearly 20 years.

Yet, the self-declared “happiest prime minister in the world” would not find good company among those who seek to recognise his struggles two decades later. The Tunku, as he was known among the media, had stood for real substantive democracy, unity among the races and strong institutions in his time helming the young nation called Malaya and later Malaysia.

In his time, the country was rich with rubber and tin, talent and skills, and most important of all, hope and equality for all under the Malayan sun until the dark days of May 13 which pushed him out under a cloud of despair.

Yet, he fought for a just and equitable Malaysia in his political life until his death, with his footballing passion ensuring he believed in fair play for all occasions.

It is that belief that led him to refuse to join UMNO Baru that was resuscitated from the ashes of UMNO declared illegal in 1988. In fact, he openly campaigned against UMNO by throwing support behind Semangat 46 which was, ironically, led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah with Rais in tow.

Today, both are in UMNO Baru that is bereft of icons like Tunku but sprinkled with influential right-wingers who believe in being exclusive in race and religion, even the economy. For them, Malaysia is for Malays, not Malaysians, notwithstanding party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s prime ministerial mantra of 1 Malaysia.

And so today, Rais has decided to bring Tunku back out of the cold and the sidelines of party and national history by dedicating a day to him. By linking to him, the current Barisan Nasional government hopes to benefit from his popularity and warmth that a section of the electorate – be they Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kelabits or Kadazans – remember of the avuncular Bapa Kemerdekaan.

Well, 20 years is a bit too late to name a day after Tunku Abdul Rahman. Because  for those who still follow his dream of an ideal Malaysia, every day is Tunku Abdul Rahman Day.

Not just December 6. Not just February 8. And not just because Barisan Nasional finally had an attack of conscience and hope to gain support by remembering him.

It will just be taking Tunku’s name in vain. Stick to his ideas and dream of a Malaysia where justice and prosperity is for all – from the man in the street to the royalty in the palaces – and then truly celebrate Tunku Abdul Rahman Day.

13 thoughts on “Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra remembered

  1. New Yorker Bean and friends,

    I have very fond memories of the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. It began during the early days of the formation of Malaysia at a time when our country faced its first external challenge from Sukarno’s Crush Malaysia campaign. I remember being asked by Tun Ghazali Shafie to deliver a confidential report on the military and political situation in Sarawak on February 6, 1964. I went to the Residency in Jalan Dato Onn, behind the BanK Negara building at around 9pm. It was a modest place,compared what Mahathir and others had in Putrajaya. I suppose the Tunku did not have to be in a palatial place to show off his status and power.

    On my arrival, I was greeted by his private secretary, Nik Hassan, a kind and friendly gentleman, who took me immediately to see the Prime Minister. The Tunku was relaxing in the company of some of his friends after a hard day’s work at the office. He greeted me with his usual princely courtesy and asked me what he could do for me.

    I said, “Sir, I have this document for you from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs who would like you to read it urgently”. He retorted, “You mean from Ghazalie. Yes,then, it must be urgent. Why are you working it late?”. I said, “I am on duty, Sir, given what is happening between us and Indonesia”.

    He read the report and told me not to worry. He added that he would respond to my boss the first thing the next morning. When I asked to be excused, he said, “Yes, you may, but not until you had have a drink”. I did have a glass of cold coke, and said “Thank you, Sir.” He was most kind and it meant a lot to me as a young officer in Ghazali’s office. I was impressed with his style of handling people. He had a great sense of humour too, and teased his friends for having to abandon them momentarily.

    The last time I saw the Tunku was in June 1988 before I left for Singapore for a Sime Darby regional posting. Although he was then 17 years into his retirement, he was the same unassuming man I met when I was a young foreign service officer. Like all great men, he was ever graceful and kind. He never failed to offer me a drink. –Din Merican

  2. Yes, Din. For Tok Tam it’s always wine (read: whisky), women and songs – and poker and horses. Not necessarily in that order. You sure you last met him in 1998??
    New Yorker Bean,

    1988 not 1998. Tunku Ahmad asked me to see his Uncle. It was typo error, and I have corrected it. Your Tok Tam had no pretenses. He was as authentic as you would expect a confident leader to be. He was not even conscious of his royal background. He led a full life and was a good judge of human character. –Din Merican

  3. Yes, Tunku was acknowledged a good PM by all malaysians. He was no racist and in hindsight much loved by the non bumis. Among all the PMs I believe he is voted the best. During his PM period Malaysians lived in real peace and contentment of heart. God bless the Tunku.

  4. Yes! Remember him who sold us Singapore Malays off.
    Dal, selling off the Singapore Malays? They are not the property of Malaysia. I was recently in Singapore for the ISEAS Regional Outlook and asked a Singapore Malay ambassador why the Malays excelled in the republic. He replied rather curtly that “We didn’t have UMNO”. Seen from his perspective and with the benefit of hindsight, Tunku did Singapore Malays a great favour.–Din Merican

  5. “Your Tok Tam had no pretenses. He was as authentic ..” Din Merican

    He was sincere, unassuming and a man who has the interest of the common man at heart though an aristocrat by birth. That’s how I sum him up. And he was fair. All attributes lacking in our leaders today.

    Sadly, in the end it was the very people he had for thirteen long years devoted his entire life to serving who deserted him. He was made to appear like a sell-out by right wing elements within his own party. It hurt him deeply.

    In his time it was the Malay school teachers and the politics of language and education but in the 70s they were replaced by a new class of Malays who were first generation businessmen impatient to succeed in business, and a new kind of politics i.e. the politics of the NEP which later and under his nemesis culminated in the politics of cronyism and corruption.

    Personally, and in retrospect, it was better for him that he stepped down when he did because I feel he’s ill equipped to handle what was to come. He was a simple man, very sincere in wanting to see his people prosper, unassuming despite his aristocratic roots. Remember too his nephew was about to be King and it was very difficult for him to sembah his own nephew although we know it is to the throne and not to the man sitting on the throne. Still it was very difficult for him.

  6. Dont think much of Tunku.
    Happened to be there at the right time.
    He is looked upon as favoring the Chinese.
    That is wy the Chinese loved him.

  7. “In Aristotelian terms, the good leader must have ethos, pathos and logos. The ethos is his moral character, the source of his ability to persuade. The pathos is his ability to touch feelings, to move people emotionally. The logos is his ability to give solid reasons for an action, to move people intellectually”. Mortimer Adler

    Where do you rate Tunku on a scale of 1 to 10?

  8. The present Prime Minister’s father in cahoot with the longest serving Indian Prime Minister of Malaysia did the Tunku in.

    Tunku and Hussein Onn were the only two gentleman Prime Ministers we had who gave every Malaysian, irrespective or race, sex and religion, a fair go under the Malaysian sun.

    The rest of the Prime Ministers had were just bloody rascals who exploited the racial divide in the country to entrench power and all of them with one side of the tongue talking about racial harmony while the other side of the tongue was inciting racial hatred among our communities.

    With the information revolution, history will be kinder to the Tunku and Hussein Onn, than for the other rascal PMs we had and for current PM wehave, because UMNO will never have the same kind monopoly of Malaysian history as they had through their control of the MSM and the history books.

    Kids now have access to alternative sources and views of Malaysian history to the UMNO-sponsored history they read in schools.

    The younger generation of today will be more knowledgeable students of history to recognise the the imbecilic rants spewed in the BTN courses which they are forced to attend. Even the person of Hang Tuah is now open to question whether he was a Malay or actually a Chinese written into the annals of Sejarah Melayu as Hikayat Hang Tuah.

  9. Where do you rate Tunku on a scale of 1 to 10?

    !0, as a human being ! Although, he always acknowledged his roots and the special position of the Malays, he also recognised the roles of all the various races and being the Bapa Malaysia ,he truly treated all his citizens fairly as his children.
    If he is alive, he will be sadly disappointed with our present crop of leaders and especially with UMNO for running the country to the ground despite his admonishments of what was to happen to UMNO .

  10. Pingback: On 6 December in Asian history | The New ASIA OBSERVER

  11. Pingback: On 6 December in Southeast Asian history | The New ASIA OBSERVER

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