Tun Suhailah Binti Tan Sri Haji Mohd Noah Omar

Tun Suhailah Binti Tan Sri Haji Mohd Noah was born on 26th October 1931. She was the daughter of Tan Sri Haji Mohd Noah, the first Speaker of Dewan Rakyat and Puan Seri Hajah Maimun Manaf of Muar, Johor. Tun Suhailah was the older sister of Tun Rahah, born only twenty months apart. In 1939, Tun Suhailah moved to Mersing with Tun Rahah and her parents, where her father served as the Deputy District and First Class Magistrate. Just like Tun Rahah, Tun Suhailah received her first English education at the Sultan Abu Bakar Girls School (SABGS) in Muar, and at the Temenggong Ibrahim Girls School in Batu Pahat. Tun Suhailah then went to Melaka Convent, when Tan Sri Mohd Noah was the District Officer in Segamat in 1947.

In an UMNO fund-raising concert, Tun Suhailah and Tun Rahah took part and performed a traditional Malay wedding. She acted as the bridegroom and caught the attention of Tun Hussein Onn, who was then a young army captain who had just returned from training at the Military Academy in Dehradun, India. Not long after, Tun Suhailah was engaged to Tun Hussein Onn while she was still at school. Tun Suhailah then married Tun Hussein Onn on 14th February 1948. It was a grand union between the daughter of the Permanent Chairman of UMNO and the son of the First President of UMNO. The couple had six children together, two boys and four girls. One of their boys, Dato’ Seri Hishammudin is now serving as Malaysia’s Minister of Defence.

Tun Suhailah accompanied Tun Hussein to London to study law at Lincoln's Inn. Then, she returned to Malaya in 1959 without Tun Hussein since she needed to care for two of her daughters who did not follow her to London. The couple reunited in 1960, when Tun Hussein came back after passing his law finals and became a certified lawyer.

Tun Suhailah came into the role of the First Lady of Malaysia in 1976, when Tun Hussein Onn officially became the third Prime Minister of Malaysia. Being a faithful wife to the Prime Minister, Tun Suhailah accompanied her husband to visits and gatherings. The kind-hearted person that she is, Tun Suhailah contributed to the country in her own way by setting up a Children’s Library that also functions as a recreational centre for children to read and borrow books. There was also a ‘Creative Centre’ where children can develop creative talents. Tun Suhailah’s other notable contribution was the formation of Badan Amal dan Kebajikan Tenaga Isteri-Isteri (BAKTI), an organization of wives of high ranking politicians serving the government.

Twenty-four years after her husband met his maker, Tun Suhailah passed away on 4 October 2014, at the age of 82. She was buried near the grave of her husband, Tun Hussein Onn and also the grave of her father, Tan Sri Mohamad Noah at the Heroes’ Mausoleum in Masjid Negara, Kuala Lumpur.

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