1st Prime Minister of Malaya : Tunku Abdul Rahman
A Great Leader and Stateman
NAME : Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim
OCCUPATION: Prime Minister
BIRTH DATE : February 08, 1903
DEATH DATE : December 06, 1990
PLACE OF BIRTH : Alor Setar, Malaysia
PLACE OF DEATH : Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
BEST KNOWN FOR
Tunku Abdul Rahman was chief minister of the Federation of Malaya (1955–1957), the
first prime minister of an independent Malaya (1957–1963), and the prime minister of
A Malayan governmental figure since graduating from college, Tunku Abdul Rahman
became his country’s first prime minister and foreign minister after it gained its
independence, continuing in that post when the federation of Malaysia was formed in
Tunku Abdul Rahman was born February 8, 1903, in Alor Setar, Kedah, in Malaya, a
country then under British control. He was the twentieth child of Sultan Abdul Hamid
Halim Shah and Che Manjalara, the sultan’s fourth wife. In 1913, he went to study at
Debsurin School in Bangkok, and in 1919, he was awarded a scholarship to further his
studies at Cambridge University. After a lengthy trip from Singapore aboard a cargo ship,
during which he contracted malaria, Tunku disembarked in the village of Little Stukeley,
England. He graduated from Cambridge in 1925 and returned in 1926 for an honors
degree in law. He sat for the bar exam in 1930 but failed to complete a section of the test
and therefore did not pass on this first try.
In 1931, Tunku Abdul Rahman received an appointment as a cadet to the Kedah civil
service and was later an assistant district officer in Kulim. In 1933, he passed the cadet's
law exam on his first attempt, and finally, in 1939, he retook the English bar exam he had
failed nine years before and passed. In 1949, he was called to the bar and was then named
deputy public prosecutor in the Malayan Federal Legal Department, a position he left in
1951 to embark upon a political career.
A Life In Politics
Abdul Rahman became president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO)
and spearheaded the alliance between the UMNO and the Malayan Chinese Association
(1951) and that of the UMNO and the Malayan Indian Congress (1955). His Alliance
Party won a sweeping majority in the election of 1955, and Abdul Rahman became the
first chief minister of Malaya. In August, he used his first broadcast as chief minister to
declare his determination in seeking independence from Britain without bloodshed.
In January 1956, Abdul Rahman led a mission to London to negotiate for Malayan
independence, in the end securing immediate self-government for Malaya and the
promise of independence by August 1957. That promise was kept, and Abdul Rahman
became independent Malaya’s first prime minister (a post he would retain when the
Federation of Malaysia, which consolidated the countries of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah,
and Sarawak under one umbrella, was formed in 1963). At midnight on August 30, he
stood at the flagpole in Merdeka Square, in Kuala Lumpur, when the Union Jack was
lowered for the last time and the new Federation flag was raised.
In September 1970, with his power slipping and Singapore gone from the Federation for
five years, Abdul Rahman relinquished his post as prime minister. He died in 1990 at the
age of 87.
Tunku Abdul Rahman A Great Leader and Statesman
TUNKU Abdul Rahman envisioned Malaysia as a nation founded upon the noble
principles of liberty, human rights, natural justice and the rule of law, possessed of a
leadership committed to serve the welfare, happiness and peace of the people as a whole,
devoid of discrimination of any sort.
He resolutely believed in the supremacy of the Constitution, which he deemed must
always be respected by all Malaysians, regardless of social standing, ethnicity, political
preference or religious persuasion.
He firmly held that the principles of good governance enshrined in the political ideal of
constitutionalism served as a permanent and reliable guarantee for the stability and the
very continuity of the nation.
Driven by his ingrained political creed of liberalism and a deep consciousness of the
country’s plural heritage as well as of his own immediate maternal Thai extraction, the
Tunku embraced a liberal approach to the country’s rich and diverse cultures and
religions throughout his life.
Little wonder that the Tunku was so fondly revered as Father of Malaysia among
Malaysians from all walks of life. This was true not just during the period he held the
helm of the country as the first Prime Minister but right up to his very last days. Only a
few world leaders can boast of such continuing adulation.
We also owe it to the Tunku’s insight in statecraft, sagacious statesmanship and
diplomatic adroitness that we achieved political independence earlier than most people
expected, and in such a healthy and amicable fashion.
This was all the more creditable in light of the challenges posed in garnering a multiethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious populace into a cohesive and progressive nation
that was to confidently take on its role and responsibilities in the international arena.
From its birth as an independent country, Malaya was drawn into the thick of the Cold
War that was characterised by a fierce rivalry between the democratic world led by the
United States of America and Western Europe on the one side and the communist bloc of
countries represented by the Soviet Union, the Peoples’ Republic of China and Eastern
Europe on the other.
The Tunku chose to steer the nation’s foreign policy in a distinctive pro-Western
direction. Having experienced the atrocities and wanton destruction the internal
communist insurgency had inflicted on the people since 1948 and overcoming the
subversive communist threat in 1960, the Tunku could not help but be sensitive to the
threats communism posed elsewhere in the world.
He never hesitated to take a strong stand against these threats. For a small, newly
independent country to pursue a stridently anti-communist foreign policy most certainly
constituted a courageous, principled stand.
The Tunku was among the very first to stoutly condemn communist China’s “rape of
Tibet” when in 1959 Communist Chinese troops “subjugated” the people of Tibet. In the
same anti-communist fervour, the Tunku vehemently castigated China for “naked
aggression against India” when the Sino-Indian border-conflict flared up in 1962.
The Tunku was in India on that fateful day on an official visit. In several Indian cities, as
part of his itinerary, he vehemently condemned China’s aggression and repeatedly
reiterated Malaya’s support for India. I am told that, as a symbolic expression of
camaraderie, he donated his blood for the Indian jawans (soldiers) who were bravely
fighting in defence of democracy.
His spontaneous gesture was rewarded with profound appreciation by the government
and the people of India from all across the country. On his return home, the Tunku
embarked on a bold initiative in launching a public campaign, the “Save Democracy
Fund” which raised over a million dollars to help India defend itself against communist
Chinese armed attacks.
The Tunku’s spontaneous support in India’s hour of need had the electrifying effect of
winning the hearts and minds of Indians. Thus, although he was a leader of a relatively
small nation, the Tunku was held in high esteem in India for years to come. Our students
located all over India can vouch how they were embraced with the warmest of hospitality
by complete strangers and treated with brotherly affection because of the Tunku’s
unequivocal support for India.
On a personal note, I nostalgically recall the “special treatment” accorded to me at the
official level, as well as in private Indian circles, during my diplomatic stints as Assistant
High Commissioner in Madras (present day Chennai) from 1969 to 1973, and
subsequently, as Counsellor in our High Commission in New Delhi from mid-1973 to
Many a leader from among far more powerful countries was somewhat perplexed over
the Tunku’s anti-communist policy stance which was distinctly vociferous even in
comparison to the non-communist posture which neighbouring Singapore opted to adopt.
No doubt the Tunku’s staunchly anti-communist foreign policy was drawn from
historical experiences of combating the internal communist insurgency and the steady
spread of communism in the region.
His ability to successfully steer the development and progress of our infant nation in the
face of serious challenges encountered in the international arena is largely attributable to
his enlightened vision, sagacious statesmanship and diplomatic acumen.
The leadership qualities, personal skills and gentility which the Tunku personified and
brought to bear in the country’s diplomacy and conduct of foreign affairs were in fact a
unique feature of the Malay royal families, aristocracy and elite that merit appreciation in
a separate article.
(Father of Independence) or Father Of Malaysia - Tunku Abdul Rahman
TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN PUTRA AL-HAJ
Tunku was born on February 8, 1903 in Alor Setar, the capital of
the State of Kedah. He is the seventh prince of Sultan Abdul
Hamid Shah, the twenty fourth Sultan of Kedah, and Che
Manjalara. Said to be a robust and bright boy with a particular
fondness for sports, Tunku received his early education at the
Debsurin School, Bangkok and Penang Free School.
On a Kedah Government scholarship, he went on to study at St. Catherine's College,
Cambridge University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in law and history in 1925. A
firsthand experience in racial discrimination with the college's administration was said to have
intensified his conviction in fighting for equality and ignited his desire in making his homeland
an independent state, free from British colonialism.
His leadership flair also unfolded in England. Realising the Malay students there were
not represented by any organisation, he established the Kesatuan Melayu Great Britain (Malay
Association of Great Britain) and became its first secretary.
After returning home, he joined the Kedah Civil Service as
a cadet in the Legal Advisor's Office, and then as a district officer in
several Kedah districts. He proved unpopular among some British
officials thanks to his outspokenness and tendency to introduce
reforms in his quest to improve the living standards of the people.
His attempt at completing his law studies at the Inner Temple in England in 1938 came
to a halt due the outbreak of the Second World War. He resumed his studies eight years later and
came home with his legal qualifications in 1949.
The political awareness he gained while making friends with people from various
nations in England did not go to waste, when he was made chairman of the United Malays
National Organisation (UMNO) soon after his return. On August 26, 1951, Tunku became the
UMNO President succeeding Dato' Onn Jaafar. He travelled all over the country meeting people
from all walks of life to promote unity. His efforts in overcoming the country's political
problems by way of cooperation among the various ethnic groups saw the birth of the Alliance
Party in 1955.
Under his leadership, the Alliance won the country's first
general election in July 1955. Tunku was then appointed the
country's Chief Minister and Minister of Home Affairs. In 1956,
he led a mission to London for a discussion with the British
government concerning the independence for Malaya. The meeting resulted in the signing of the
Independent Treaty at Lancaster House in London on February 8, 1956 and consequently, the
independence of Malaya in August 31, 1957. Tunku was then elected as the first Prime Minister
of Malaya, and led the Alliance to victory in the 1959, 1964 and 1969 general elections.
Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first prime minister of the Federation of Malaya from
1957 to 1963, and of Malaysia from 1963 to 1970.
He loved football and horse racing so much that he made them as his hobbies. Under his
initiative, "Pesta Bola Merdeka" was born in 1957 which led to his appointment as the first
President of Asian Football Confederation (AFC). "Whatever the sport, I was a very keen
sportsman. I have always been an outdoors man, a lover of all the wild things in life.
Characteristic (Father of Independence) or Father Of Malaysia
1. Tunku also paid special attention to culture, stressing the importance of the spirit of national
2. He remains loved and honoured by the nation, occupying a special place in Malaysian history.
3. Tunku was the architect of both Malaya and Malaysia. He was a man of peace and principle,
with great diplomatic and negotiating skills and vision.
4. He believed strongly in cooperation, not confrontation, and was humble, simple, likable, kind
5. He wanted the rakyat, regardless of race, religion and creed, to progress as brothers and
sisters. He believed in the capabilities and talents of others.
6. Tunku wanted all Malaysians to excel in life and be the masters of our own destiny.
7. It is hoped that Tunku's exemplary life, leadership qualities and vision will be cherished
forever by the people. And the best way to repay the first prime minister is by ensuring that this
great, unique nation enjoys racial harmony, political stability and prosperity, generation after
Tunku Abdul Rahman’s exemplary life, leadership qualities and vision will be cherished forever.
Moving Towards Achieving Independence
While the undercurrent of awareness in the fight for independence is strong, the British
became worried should the Malays shift their support to the left parties such as the
National Malay Party of Malaya, Young Malays Union, Aware Youth Movement,
Conscious Women Movement and Malayan Communist Party. Because of that, when the
Alliance Party, UMNO and MCA began to place insurmountable amount of pressure
upon the British to have a general election, they have no choice but to give in.
The first Federal Election was held on 27 July 1955. Several parties such as UMNO,
MCA, MIC, Nation Party, PAS and Labour Party took part for the 52 chairs contested. At
the same time, to show a commitment towards independence for all, UMNO cooperated
with MCA (which was formed on 27 February 1949) and MIC (formed in August 1946)
to establish the Alliance Party in dealing with the election.
The result of that they succeeded in winning 51 chairs from the 52 chairs contested. This
became the foundation for an understanding in fulfilling the demands of the British that
independence is only achievable when there is full cooperation and tolerance amongst the
different races in Malaya. The Alliance’s assurance is a promise for independence within
On 1 August 1955, Tunku Abdul Rahman formed the first Cabinet that was represented
by 6 Malay, 3 Chinese and 2 Indian representatives. Tunku Abdul Rahman was appointed
as the Chief Minister and Minister of Home Affairs. Among the line of members are
Datuk Abdul Razak Hussain, Dr. Ismail Datuk Abdul Rahman, En. H.S. Lee, En. Abd.
Aziz Ishak, En. Baba Leong Yew Koh, En. Sardon Haji Jubir, Tun V.T. Sambathan, En.
Sulaiman Datuk Abd. Rahman and En. Bba Ong Yok Lin. They pledged duty on 9
Besides fulfilling the criteria of tolerance between races, Tunku Abdul Rahman is
confronted with solving the issue of communist rebellion for freedom. The British had
pledged that as long as communist threat is unresolved, independence will be delayed. In
dealing with the challenge, Tunku decided on diplomacy by having the Baling
Conference on 28-29 December 1956 with Chin Peng, the Chief Secretary of the
Malayan Communist Party. The endeavour agitated the British who had been dealing
with the MCP through force.
British’s agitation quickened the process of granting independence, which revealed
Tunku Abdul Rahman’s astuteness. At the same time, MCP rejected vehemently Tunku’s
request for its party to be disbanded and proceeded with an armed rebellion that brought
forth more suffering to the rural community as well as threatening the nation’s security
On 18 January – 6 February 1956, Tunku Abdul Rahman headed a group of people to
negotiate independence for the Federation of Malaya.
The expedition was joined by several leaders of the Alliance Party; Dato' Abdul Razak
Hussein, Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Kolonel H.S. Lee, Tuan T.H. Tan and Encik
Bahaman Shamsudin and representatives from the Council of Rulers; Dato' Panglima
Bukit Gantang, Dato' Nik Ahmad Kamil, Encik Abdul Aziz Majid and Dato Mohd. Seth.
On 8 February1956, the promise of Independence was realised with the setting of the date
31 August 1957 as the Independence Day for the Federation of Malaya. Returning from
London, Tengku Abdul Rahman made the Declaration of Independence at Padang
Pahlawan, Bandar Hilir, Malacca on 20 February 1956 and was received joyously by the
While preparations were being made to celebrate the birth of a newly independent nation,
a free-regulating official known as the Reid Policy Commissioner was formed on 21
March 1956 to examine and legislate laws for the Federation of Malaya. At 12.00
midnight on 30 August 1957, the Union Jack flag was brought down in front of the
Sultan Abdul Samad building, Kuala Lumpur, and soon the new flag of the Federation of
Malaya was raised in replace and waved proudly.
On the next day, the echoes of independence were heard seven times throughout every
nook of Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, during the proclamation of independence
ceremony by Tunku Abdul Rahman. The result of a struggle of the Malays and other
races, at last on 31 August 1957, Federation of Malaya succeeded in breaking the chains
of colonization that has long plagued her lands.
MERDEKA !! MERDEKA !! MERDEKA!!