Abdul Rahman Putra
Abdul Rahman Putra was born in Alor Setar, Kedah on February 8, 1903. He was the
twentieth child of Sultan Abdul Hamid Halimshah, the twenty-fourth Sultan of Kedah.
Tunku's mother, Nerang, better known as Che Menjalara, was the daughter of Luang
Nara Borirak, a descendent of Chao Phya Maha Kota, head of Mataban, Thailand.
the age of six, Tunku went to a Malay school in Alor Setar, then an English-medium
Government English School. In 1913, when he was ten, his mother sent him to Bangkok
to stay with his eldest brother, Tunku Yusuf, who was working there.
Bangkok, Tunku did quite well at Debsurin School, where he made many friends.
However, his brother, Tunku Yusuf, passed away in 1915 and Tunku had to return
to Kedah. He then studied in a Malay school for a year and then joined the Penang
he was seventeen, Tunku left for England to continue his studies. There he sat
for a University Entrance Examination after a period of coaching and was accepted
into St. Catherine's College, Cambridge University.
was when he had his first taste of racial discrimination. His application to stay
in the college was rejected because of colour. Later, when it was learnt that
he came from a royal family, he was offered a place, but he declined on principle
and stayed in rented rooms throughout his university course.
experience deepened his faith in the equality of man as an ideal to be fought
for. At the same time, it kindled a desire in him to free his people from British
obtained a bachelor's degree in law and history from Cambridge University in 1925.
In 1926, Tunku returned to Kedah. Four months later, his elder brother, Tunku
Ibrahim, who was Raja Muda (Crown Prince) of Kedah at that time sent him back
to England to continue his law studies at Inner Temple, with a view of qualifying
to be a lawyer or a magistrate.
England, Tunku found that the number of Malay students had increased but they
had no association or organisation. He showed initiative, leadership qualities
and a nascent nationalism in the way he got them together to form 'Kesatuan Melayu
Great Britain' (The Malay Association of Great Britain). He was elected secretary
of the association.
heart was not in his law studies, however, and after five years returned to Kedah.
He joined the Kedah Civil Service as a cadet in the Legal Advisor's Office, and
then District Officer in several districts of Kedah.
years later, in 1933, Tunku married a Chinese lady who became a Muslim and took
the name Meriam. They had two children, Tunku Khadijah and Tunku Ahmad Nerang.
1935, when Tunku was in charge of Kuala Nerang, he fought to improve health and
medical conditions there, for the district was malaria-ridden. Tragically, his
own wife died after contracting the disease. Even in his grief, he went on striving
to better the lot of the people.
attempt to complete his law studies in England was made in 1938, but when the
Second World War broke out Tunku had to return to Kedah. He was appointed District
Officer of Sungai Petani and later of Kulim.
Tunku had married Violet Coulson from England, but the union was short-lived.
In 1939, he wed Sharifah Rodziah bt. Syed Alwi Barakbah. Theirs was a happy marriage
that lasted to the end of Tunku's life.
1940, Tunku was appointed Deputy Director of Civil Defence, Southern Kedah. When
the Japanese handed Kedah over to Thailand in 1941, Tunku was made Supervisor
of Education, a post he held till the British took over Kedah and the rest of
to complete his law studies, Tunku joined the Inns of Court in England in 1947.
He received his legal qualification in 1949 and returned to Kedah.
after his return to Kedah, Tunku was made Chairman of the United Malays National
Organisation (UMNO), Kedah. When Dato' Onn bin Jaafar resigned from his post of
UMNO President, a delegation asked Tunku to accept the leadership of the party.
Tunku became President of UMNO on the 26th of August, 1951.
the next few years, Tunku worked towards unity, travelling all over the country
to speak to the people. His simplicity and warmth won him the respect and affection
of people from all communities and all walks of life.
efforts and those of Chinese leaders, saw fruition in a political alliance of
UMNO and the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) in 1952; later was known as the
Alliance Party. The Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) joined the Alliance in 1955.
people of Malaya, as the country was called then, were sufficiently united to
push for self-government in their progress towards independence. In July 1955,
the first general election was held. The Alliance won 51 out of the 52 seats contested.
Tunku was appointed Chief Minister and Minister of Home Affairs.
Chief Minister, Tunku made a big effort to end communist terrorism in a peaceful
way. On the 9th of September 1955, he declared an amnesty for communist terrorists
who surrendered. As a follow-up, the Baling Talks were held on the 28th-29th December
1955 between the Malayan Communist Party, represented by Chin Peng, Chen Tien
and Rashid Maidin; and the Government represented by Too Joo Hing, David Marshall,
Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tunku. The talks failed when Chin Peng rejected Tunku's
proposal that the communists lay down their arms unconditionally. Tunku was more
determined than ever to vanquish the terrorists. Five years later, the concerted
effort of Malayans succeeded in ending the Emergency caused by communist terrorism.
1956, Tunku led a delegation to London to hold talks with the British Government
concerning independence for Malaya. The Malayan delegation, comprising of four
representatives of the Malay Rulers and four Alliance representatives, convinced
the British Government to set a date for independence: 31st August 1957.
independence peacefully needed a great deal of wisdom and give-and-take. Tunku
Abdul Rahman Putra and other leaders like Tun Abdul Razak, Dato' Sulaiman Abdul
Rahman, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tun H.S. Lee and Tun Sambanthan, made invaluable contributions
to the Merdeka cause.
the 30th of August 1957, at the Selangor Club Padang (now known as Dataran Merdeka
or Independence Square), as the clock struck midnight the Malayan flag was hoisted
to take the place of the Union Jack. Early the next morning, the 31st of August,
at the Merdeka Stadium, Tunku read the Proclamation of Independence. On both occasions,
Tunku's shouts of 'Merdeka!' were joyously echoed by thousands of Malayans who
were there, and the millions who followed the proceedings through the radio.
three years later, Tunku mooted the idea of Malaysia, to comprise Malaya, Singapore,
North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei. An inter-governmental committee was formed.
On the 6th of January 1962, the governments of Britain and Malaysia set up the
Cobbold Commission to find out how the people of Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak
felt about joining Malaysia. The Philippines and Indonesia opposed the formation
of Malaysia. Brunei decided not to join. On the 9th of July 1963, Malaysia was
formed consisting of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. Unfortunately, Singapore
left Malaysia on the 9th of August 1965. The decision to let Singapore go was
a sad one for Tunku.
Just as Malaysia seemed securely set on a course of peace and prosperity, the
race riots of May 13, 1969 jolted everyone into realising that there were imbalances
and rifts in Malaysian society, which must be corrected. Emergency was declared,
Parliament suspended, and the country governed by the National Operations Council
chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak. On the 22nd of September
1970, Tunku, profoundly saddened by the May 13 Tragedy, stepped down, and Tun
Abdul Razak became Malaysia's second Prime Minister.
could not stop serving his beloved land. Through his newspaper columns, books
and occasional speeches, he continued to emphasize the importance of national
unity, religious tolerance and the eternal values of truth, justice, freedom and
compassion among men.
received numerous awards in recognition of his role and efforts from State and
Federal Governments, universities, charity organisations and foreign governments.
to the end of his long life he remained vocal and active, deeply concerned with
national, regional and global issues. He wrote articles for his 'As You See It'
columns in the daily tabloid, The Star. He also wrote several books - 'Viewpoints',
'Something to Remember', 'Lest We Forget', 'Challenging Times', 'May 13, Before
and After', 'Political Awakenings', 'Contemporary Issues in Malaysian Politics'
and 'As A Matter of Interest'.