I, as a Foreign Service Officer, too remember Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman–What a Great Malaysian and Compassionate Leader Among Men
February 8 ― Several well-known veteran figures recalled nostalgic moments with the country’s “Father of Independence” and its first prime minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, and his endearing traits in conjunction with Tunku’s 114th birthday today.
Penang Malay Association (Pemenang) President, Tan Sri Yussof Latiff, who knew Tunku since the latter took over the UMNO leadership from Datuk Onn Jaafar in 1951, said Tunku’s integrity was his most distinct personal trait.
“Tunku’s integrity had no compromise, could not be doubted or questioned.
Tunku was honest and sincere. When he took over the UMNO leadership, the party had no money, so Tunku sold his house in Penang to fund the running of UMNO, he told Bernama.
Besides that, Yussof who is now 86, said Tunku was like a father from whom people could seek “shelter” under his leadership, and this regard for Tunku was not just among the Malays but the non-Malays as well.
He said Tunku’s family and the staff at his residence were multiracial and multireligious.
“That was typically Tunku. His cook was a Malay, his driver an Indian and his domestic helper who washed the clothes and dishes was a Chinese.
“Tunku also adopted children, especially of Chinese descent, into the family. He raised five of them from small until they became adults and got married,” added Yussof.
He also regarded Tunku, who died in 1990 at age 87, as a gift from God to this country to lead the Malays and UMNO, then obtained independence for the country and was a leader for all the races.
In remembrance of Tunku’s birthday, Yussof said he had organised a gathering of the Penang state muhbibah consultative council comprising 16 ethnic bodies since 2003, while Feb 8 was made Unity Day for Penang.
“In discussions, Tunku was very open and could accept everything that was voiced out. Tunku Abdul Rahman was irreplaceable,” he said.
Former Inspector-General of Police, Tun Hanif Omar said he first got close to Tunku when he was a member of Tunku’s security detail for the protracted Maphilindo (Malaysia/Philippines/Indonesia) talks in Manila in June 1963.
“He was extremely simple, kind and warm and remained so throughout his life which was guided every day by the Quranic verses that he opened to at random every morning after Subuh prayer,” he said.
Hanif said Tunku used to allow him the use of his beachfront home in Penang. “May Allah abundantly bless his soul and that of his late wife Tun Sharifah Rodziah,” he said.
Former director of Internal Security and Public Order, Royal Malaysian Police, Tan Sri Zaman Khan said he had fond memories of Tunku when he was the OCPD of Butterworth before the 1969 general election.
The former Prime Minister would come to Butterworth and stay at his small wooden bungalow at Telok Ayer Tawar where he used to hold meetings with Umno and the then Alliance.
Zaman Khan said when he was Penang chief police officer, his quarters was just a house away from Tunku’s.
He said he was advised by Tun Abdul Razak, who succeeded Tunku as prime minister, to keep Tunku company which he did usually after Isyak prayer. And almost every Thursday, Tunku would host local Umno heads for “chit chat sessions with lots of old stories”.
Former banker Dato’ Dr Rais Saniman said he had the honour of serving Tunku in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, when Tunku was Secretary-General of the then Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) soon after he stepped down as Prime Minister in 1970.
“Tunku had an idea with King Faisal to set up the Islamic Development Bank and I was directed by Tun Razak to go and join the international team of experts to set up and get the bank going,” he said.
And Dato’ Dr. Rais had this to say of Tunku: “I started with unease with Tunku but I ended up kissing his feet. He was warm and kind. “Open the first page of the Encyclopaedia of Democracy. He is on the first page. The greatest Malaysian.” ― Bernama