Meeting Tengku Abdul Rahman – The 1st Prime Minister of Malaysia

The 1st Prime Minister of Malaysia was Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj. As an ardent student of the subject “History”, it was my hope that one day, God willing, I will have the opportunity to personally meet the Tunku or Bapa Kemerdekaan face to face.

The events which involved Tengku are many. For example, his famous meeting with Communist leader Chin Peng at Baling in 1955, was one incident I would surely wish to ask him about.

Why did the Tengku decided to step down as the first Prime Minister in 1972, was another question I would like to ask him about too.

The above wish to personally meet the Tunku led our group writing to his personal secretary, Mr. Chuah Phee Geok, I think, requesting him to kindly arrange for 50 members of our group to meet Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj at his home, Takdir at No.1, Jalan Tunku, in Penang, some 35 years ago.

To be exact, we were fortunate enough to meet this amazing and wonderful man on December 17th 1975.

Finding the Tunku’s humble home or teratak hamba he namaed Takdir, was not difficult. I still vividly remember the Tunku’s house nestled among many full grown trees.

Surprisingly, although a famous man of history that he was, the Tunku’s house had no security measures at all. Our group’s bus, a 50 seater air con bus belonging to the Kuala Selangor Omnibus Company, Klang, Selangor, and driven by our driver Encik Rahman and his co-driver, Mr. Kah Yong, drove the bus right into the vicinity of Tengku’s house.

The first thing, which the Tunku commented upon seeing our group mainly made up of young people and youths, which included some teachers, was to say that he was touched by our visit. In fact, the Tunku said that he was very touched to see so many of the young students still remembering him even after his retirement as the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The Tunku, ended his 1 1/2 hour long encounter with us, which incidentally was held at the porch of his house, by advising us not to be involved in drugs which he said would bring much misery to us eventually.

Readers of this blog, should first of all be informed, that our group which comprised 50 members we at the Tunku’s house for more than 2 hours. I remember our group had free access to his entire house.

Some members even nearly decided to go for a swim at Tunku’s heart-shaped swimming pool, when given permission by the ex-Prime Minister to do so.

It was the lack of swimming attire that finally prevented members of our group from taking a dip in the pool itself.

Readers of this blog, I’m sure will surely like to know how the encounter or meeting with Bapa Malaysia proceeded. I will try to recall those episodes the best I can.

Before proceeding any further, the Tunku was well known to be a compassionate person, one who always cares for his rakyat or citizens. Why do I arrive at such conclusion?

The Tunku, upon seeing the members of our group tired, immediately made it a point to direct his personal secretary, Mr. Chuah to liase with E&O Hotel, Penang to supply cakes, ice cream, soft drinks, coffee and tea for the entire group’s consumption.

His care and concern for us immensely touched our hearts. Even today, after 35 years, those in our group will still remember the refreshments which the Tunku accorded us that day.

As leader of the group or Chief Organiser, I was the one responsible for itemizing many of the questions which we would like to ask the Tunku when we met him.

Amongst the many questions the Tunku was asked was, “Why did the Baling talks which was held in Kedah in 1955 failed?”

As a student of history, I had always assumed that the above talks held between Tunku and Chin Peng was a failure. Many historians like Dartford and J.A. Kennedy in “History of Malaya”, for example, had always advocated the above talk failed.

However, I received a surprise, when asking the Tunku this question, nearly got a rebuke from the ex-Prime Minister, who reiterated that the Baling talks did not fail. When asked why he arrived at such a conclusion, the Tunku replied the Baling talks was held to show the people, the rakyat, what type of person Chin Peng was.

In short, it was Tunku’s aim to demonstrate to Malayan people what type of person Chin Peng was. That Chin Peng was a man not to be trusted.

With this premise in mind, according to Tunku, the Baling talks was indeed a success! Chin Peng had rejected Tunku’s offer for peace.

The Tunku in his meeting with us, proved to us, that he was a person with a caring character. When he heard our group were housed up at the Science Teachers’ College, located in nearby Green Lane area, he was kind enough to offer the group his personal beach resort chalets at both Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bunga for our stay.

The group had to however turn down Tunku’s good offer as it was found the two resorts were in fact too far away from town.

We however thanked the Tunku for his gracious offer. We told him that, maybe in our next visit to the Penang Island, we would take up his offer to stay there at his beach resorts.

To my question regarding that he wasn’t too successful as a young man studying in England, prior to the 2nd World War, the Tunku readily admitted, as a prince, he was not very serious in pursuing his studies.

Being young and with lots of money, he was more interested in fact in girls than anything else. As a result, his law studies at the Inner Temple England, ended in a failure.

But, the Tunku however, did remind us that after the 2nd World War ended, he went back to England to continue with his education and finally completed his law studies. He reiterated that we should in fact give him credit for his achievement.

Our group agreed with the Tunku’s suggestion, which evidently pleased him very much.

One more thing I feel it should be told to readers, in our encounter with the Tunku was regarding the famous bunga mas or flowers made of gold.

Malaysian – Thai history has it that the Malay states, especially Kedah, being a subject of Siam and therefore under Thai sovereignty in the 18th and 19th century, had to present and send the bunga mas to appease the Siamese authorities.

In my school days, I had always imagined the bunga mas to be a tree at least 2 or 3 feet tall. What a surprise I received when the Tunku showed me a bunga mas plant approximately only 13 inches tall, completely made of gold.

Readers, I’m sure will better understand, why a student of History should, if possible, make it a point to study the subject of History first hand. With this in view, history students are advised to go see the Taj Mahal of Shah Jehan, India, the Borobudur ruins in Indonesia, the Great Wall of China and the Buckingham Palace of London, to name but just a few historical places.

The Tunku was asked many more interesting questions in our interview with him. When asked when was the happiest moment he had regarding independence talks with British officials, the Tunku’s answer was the moment the British finally agreed to give Malaya its independence.

And not the moment when he raised up his right hand during independence day on 31st August 1957! That was the answer the Tunku actually gave us.

And when asked very seriously, the reason for his finally deciding to give up the premiership as Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, after the 1969 riots, the Tunku explained it was not pressure from his other Malay counterparts, but actually his having to accord due respects to the new Yang Di Pertuan Agong or King, who incidentally was his cousin, the Sultan of Kedah then. He, the Tunku, was the uncle.

To end this article, I would like to divulge a little interesting fact that the Tunku told only us. No history text was written about this inside information. The British was in fact reluctant to give independence to us back then.

The British had insisted on the various diverse races, the Malays, Chinese and Indians working and living harmoniously as one nation, before independence could be promised.

This is exactly what the present Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, is attempting to advocate in 1 Malaysia.

In trying to achieve solidarity amongst the UMNO-MCA-MIC, the rulers and Sultans, the Tunku told us he needed time to discuss with them this important issue.

That’s the reason the Tunku opted to sail from Singapore to London. He had to discuss and obtain his counterparts agreement before independence can be given by the British government.

Somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Tunku managed to secure the agreement of the Sultans and the other political leaders. That was when the Tunku decided to dock at Bombay, India, to immediately take a flight quickly to London to tell the British officials the good news!

He was as he (the Tunku) said, afraid of the Sultans and other leaders changing their minds! A wise move, which the Tunku made, I would say.

I would like to say, I am incapable to relating to you all the group questions that was posted to the Tunku when we met him some 35 years ago. Although a long time ago, I’m certain all members of our entourage, the organizers and those who participated in our visit to Tunku’s residence, will be unable to forget this memorable visit which we made that day.

Memories, they say will always linger on. We may grow old but sweet memories such as these are hard to forget and will always remain.

That’s the reason why I’m able to relate to you about our encounter with Tengku Abdul Rahman, Father of Malaysia’s Independence, who passed away in 1990 at the ripe old age of 87.

Hope readers have enjoyed reading these interesting episodes.

After visiting and going up the funicular railway up Penang Hill which Penang Island is so well known for, the group finally bade farewell to the Pearl of the Orient, taking back fond memories which has remained with us to this very day.

Our bus reached Kapar town way past midnight, some 12 hours late. Eager parents and friends were there to welcome us back!

By | 2010-10-16T10:45:49+08:00 May 2nd, 2010|My Memories|1 Comment

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One Comment

  1. Alexandra Wong June 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Cikgu Yap,

    I came across your post on your meeting with Tunku in the course of doing research for an article on our nation’s first prime minister and was wondering if I could persuade you to give a short quote.

    Would appreciate if you could contact me at my email address.


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