Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, passed away on the 6th of December, 26 years ago. He was known as one of the key negotiators of our Independence and a leader who once said he was the “happiest Prime Minister in the world”. Sadly, this changed after the May 1969 riots. Check out our Visual Timeline on the Tunku at this link (http://buff.ly/2gwNViL). Al-Fatihah. May he rest in peace.
The following excerpt was taken from the New York Times Obituaries.
“The Tunku was the seventh son of Prince Abdul Rahman Ibni, a sultan who ruled for 61 years in Kedah, a northern principality. His mother was Makche Menjelara, who was half Burmese and half Siamese. She was a daughter of Luang Mira, a chieftan of the Siamese Shan states.
Tunku’s ancestors ruled a jungle dynasty that continued unbroken through 9 Hindu rajahs and 20 Muslim sultans. But in his student days, there were questions about his ability and predisposition to lead. He was unspectacular as a law student in England. He did not gain admittance to the bar there until he was 47 years old. When he made it, he broke the solemnity of the Inner Temple London Law School when he said, “I must be the only student to be admitted to the bar on his silver jubilee.”
Until he returned to his homeland to begin a life of public service, he was known for his interest in poker, golf, soccer, tennis and a red sports car, not as the leader who would have the patience and skill to try to lead the ethnic Malays, most of them Muslim, and the Chinese, most of them Confucian-Buddhist, in a Government that would be at best unwieldy and at worst fraught with violence.
Yet, he was able to walk the line between the two religions and won the trust of both. He became a success symbol for Chinese-Malay political cooperation and was known for his self-effacing wit and ability to move audiences with simply spoken common sense. In his tenure he was consistently pro-Western and anti-Communist.
The intensity of his desire to see Malaysia succeed was such that in 1969, after violence had erupted between the Malays and Chinese, leaving hundreds dead, he wept uncontrollably on national radio. He retired from public life the next year and lamented over the years that Malaysia had not turned out to be all that he had hoped for.”
(The NYT obituary in full at http://buff.ly/2gwS1Yk)