Honouring Tunku Abdul Rahman
August 30, 1957. We had our manhood. All over the country it was being expressed in joyous preparations. Merdeka was real. We all felt we were potentates. From millionaires down to the school-boy playing kledek outside his father’s thatched house, Merdeka carried a meaning. Old women with wrinkled faces and toothless mouths fallen in, carried profound inspiring gleams in their eyes that day. The Malayan sunlight suddenly had no malevolent shadows spinning. It was a special feeling which made the atmosphere so. A romance gives the shining quality of newly minted coins to everything. On the Selangor Club Padang, thousands of people began to gather by evening. Buntings and flags fluttered in the wind. The random play of city lights across buildings and roads had a magical dimension. People murmured among themselves and overall it was as if a giant amplifier was on catching the humming tones and signifying the gathered energy. The Selangor Government Secretariat building was flood-lit. Approach roads were jammed. Every possible vantage point was occupied. The people stood shoulder to shoulder. The humble with the rich- all sharing the occasion as Malayans. At one minute to midnight the Tunku arrived, escorted by Police and Alliance Youth motorcycle outriders. As the roar of the motorcycles was heard the people began to cheer even more loudly. ‘Bapa Malaya’ had arrived. As always he was smiling benevolently. He mounted the dais and glowingly looked at the thousands who filled 10-acre sports ground. His speech was short – perhaps the shortest of his political career. Elation, emotion, lit up his face. Shouts of ‘Bapa Malaya’ (Father of Malaya) rent the air and echoed into the stillness of night, as the secretariat clock began to strike the hour of midnight. With each chime, the Union Jack was lowered from the flagmast in front of the dais, and simultaneously the flag of the new, independent federation of Malaya was hoisted to take its place. Promptly at the last stroke of 12, the flag of the young nation fluttered in the slight breeze, and the thousands of Malayans saluted…Then followed a rush, almost a stampede, to shake the hands of the Father of Malaya. His eyes were moist as the crowd surged towards him. It was with great difficulty that the Police and Alliance Youth managed to hold back the wildly, enthusiastic crowd to enable the Tunku to reach his car to return to his official residence less than a mile away, for a short rest before the official celebrations begin within a few hours. The scene at the Merdeka Stadium where the official celebrations took place, on the morning of 31st August, 1957 was gay but controlled. To hand over authority from the British to the Prime Minister of the new, independent Federation of Malaya was the Duke of Gloucester representing Her Majesty the Queen of England. The handing-over took place in the presence of Their Highnesses the Rulers who were seated on a red-carpeted dais. The ceremony was simple yet august. Tunku Abdul Rahman read the Declaration of Independence The heart of Malayans welled with pride, with gratitude to Tunku and his collegues for having led them to freedom which was symbolise by the release of hundreds of pigeons as the symbol of freedom, followed by the call of Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar…to the starin of Nobat ancient music of Kedah and firing of canons. Free…independent…sovereign….that’s the Federation of Malaya, as of that day! It was, however, only the opening of a new chapter in the history of a young, hopeful nation. Ahead lay an enormous amount of work of putting the house in order – after all, the state of emergency was not over; of development, of nation-building, of creating a new society with one loyalty to King and Country.
- T.H. Tan. The Prince and I. 1979
My advice to our young people is never to give up hope. For this reason I am writing about my experiences, I started off badly but ended up with success as Prime Minister. I am well, with a loving family, a good home and crowds of good friends. What else can one ask of life? I am a social worker, and I am still interested in what goes on in the country. I am carrying on with the association I helped to form and organise. We call it Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia (Muslim Welfare Organisation, Malaysia), but in actual fact it is for the welfare of all those who deserve and cry for help. It is a voluntary organisation and brings benefit to many unfortunate souls. But it has also opened up a new world for me, unlike the time when I was in politics and was Prime Minister. Nothing I did then was right. On the other hand, the people with whom and for whom I work now are happy and appreciated the little I did for them. So, I must say I am a happy social worker. As a district officer, I took a lot of interest in the life of the kampung people- the poor and the neglected. I spent a lot of time with them. Most of the government servants at that time gave little attention to them. As a young assistant district officer, and later district officer, I used to go for picnics in the kampung and mixed with them freely. I went game hunting, which in those days consisted of wild boars and, in rare circumstances, a tiger when it had killed goats in the kampung. This brought me into closer contact with all kinds of people from all races. Wild boars were given to the Chinese who in return gave us cartridges.One of the most important episodes in my life was when I snatched my father, the late Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, from the British convoy which was taking him to Singapore for propaganda purposes. I brought him to Kulim and hid him in Kampung Sidim. I told the people I had entrusted the Sultan to heir care as I had to return to Kulim to keep law and order in the district, and they must guard him with their lives. All the people from the surrounding kampungs watched over him day and night. When the British finally evacuated Kedah, and the Japanese came, the Sultan was safely conducted back to Alor Setar. But I can never forget the loyalty of these kampung people as long as I live. I had made appeals to the State Government to give some comfort to the kampung folks which the Government turned down. For instance, anti-malarial work was never carried out, and no roads or paths built in Kuala Nerang until my wife was accidentally killed through the negligence of an expatriate doctor. Her death, however, saved the lives of so many others for it was then that the Government decided to carry out anti-malarial work, or else face court action for the death of my wife. This incident illustrated the Government’s disregard for the life and well-being of the people. All the high officials could do was to sit in their offices and enjoy the comfort of their surroundings. That was why when the election was agreed upon, and when we succeeded winning in that first election 1955, I thanked Allah for His benevolence and magnanimity which I felt would now bring about a change for the better. It gave the people a share and a big say in the formation of the Government. Today, these small people can decide on the fate of the Government, and can make or unmake any politician. In other words, the people are the powerful force that counts today. It has brought an about-turn and a change for the good of the people. And it is a privilege for me to see all these happenings during my lifetime. I had prayed hard for it, and it came at last. Now the people alone have the power to decide! See what happened in Sabah? All the government machineries were put in motion to help Berjaya, a Barisan Nasional member. The ministers went to help the party over in power to win the elections. But the ordinary men decided otherwise, and Berjaya was toppled. That was a lesson for politicians to learn, a very painful but useful one. The result came in an unexpected way. The people of Sabah were politically backward, immature, and wary of the men who make promises. Yet in the end, when least expected, they became a powerful force which returned the party after their hearts to run the states. Democratic election to the state assemblies and parliament will continue to be held from time to time, unless a dictatorship or a military rule is established. Countries run by dictators have never been proved successful. In the end they crumble. The people in these countries are never happy. Because of the fear of reprisal and the cruel enforcement of punishment, the people dare not rebel, or even raise their voices in protest.
-Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra. Political Awakening.1986
Speech by Tunku Abdul Rahman
"But while we think of the past, we look forward in faith and hope to the future; from henceforth we are masters of our destiny, and the welfare of this beloved land is our own responsibility. Let no one think we have reached the end of the road: Independence is indeed a milestone, but it is only the threshold to high endeavour-the creation of a new and sovereign State. At this solemn moment therefore I call upon you all to dedicate yourselves to the service of the new Malaya: to work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty-a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world."
An Excerpt from Tunku Abdul Rahman's Speech at THE PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE AT MERDEKA STADIUM, KUALA LUMPUR ON 31ST AUGUST, 1957