Friday, November 6, 2009

Our TUNKU - Father of Independence

31 August 1957 - Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaims Independence for Malaya at the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur after reading the declaration
(photo credit: New Straits Times Special by NSTP Resource Centre)

'Merdeka!' ( Independence!) - shouts of ecstasy and pride ring out every year when Malaysians celebrate our nation's independence from British colonial rule. This year , on 31 August, 09, the 52nd Anniversary of Independence Day , the cries reverberated again.

At the Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra , Tunku's life and achievements are cherished by a nation ever so grateful for his immense contributions towards nationhood. The 3 floors of The Residency, once the official resident of Tunku is filled with memorabilia of the late Tunku.

How time passed in the 2 hour leisurely walk . During those school days, we were taught and learned facts about Tunku and the struggle for Independence. I daresay the Memorial exhibition beats everything I've learned. It's History alive ! I just felt the Gallery walls hugged the images of the past so nostalgically and reverently !

I didn't see any school children on tour that morning but I hope schools organise trips here as it will likely stir interest in History which needn't be viewed as dull. The shared experiences of visits can be taken back to the classrooms to make excitng discussions and learning.

In this blog I present some pictures (credit to the archives) to share with my readers some memorable times in the life of Tunku endearingly called - 'Bapa Malaya ( Father of Malaya), Bapa Kemerdekaan ( Father of Independence), and Bapa Malaysia ( Father of Malaysia) . Also, he was a royal so steadfast and humble that his people accorded him the title, 'Prince among Men' .

Tunku passed away on 6 Dec, 1990, aged 87. He was accorded a state funeral with full honours. He requested to be buried at the Royal Mausoleum, Langgar, Alor Star, next to his mother's grave.

Though gone , our dear Tunku will never ever be forgotten. As his people, whom he worked tirelessly for, let us , hand in hand, come together as ONE , in this globalising world for a better future with our shared destiny.

Tunku from the Kedah genealogical lineage. He was born the 7th son of Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, the 24th Sultan of Kedah. His mother, Paduka Seri Cik Menjalara, was the Sultan's 6th wife and daughter of a Siamese nobleman ( all pictures from the Memorial archives).

'Merdeka!' - ` At the stroke of midnight, a great roar tells the world: We are now a nation!' - (The Straits Times, Singapore, Saturday, August 31,1957 )

Independence for Malayans was all the sweeter as it was achieved through negotiation and not by bloodshed. In the words of the late Tunku : `Independence is a highly valuable commodity and it is something that cannot be bought with money; something that we demand with all our strength: even sacrificing our lives.'

The Selangor Padang Club was filled with more than 10,000 people as the Union Jack was lowered to the music of 'God save The Queen'. The Federation Flag was raised and the National anthem, 'Negara Ku' was played.

Tunku always believed that diversity was our strength and upon it, our nation was to be built. It was not without its trials and tribulations but the guiding principle to make a nation work was the pragmatic approach .

The team for the Negotiation of Independence, 1st January 1956 . Success was achieved on 20 February, 1956.

The regalia Tunku wore at the Merdeka ceremony. The attire is called 'Muscat dress', the official dress of officials from the state of Kedah

Tunku was a man of humanity . He cared for his people of all races. `Malaysia has no such things as first or second class citizen: every citizen who lives in this country enjoy equal rights and treatment offered by the state government.'

Pleas for help from the impoverished came from near and far. Here's a letter from Idrissoli Dan Baba from Ghana , Africa , expressing praise and admiration for Tunku. A missionary priest from Assam, India, wrote to ask for help for the people who lived along the River Brahmaputra.

Tunku received many awards in recognition of his services - from home and abroad. `You must always remember that no matter how high you climb, you must come down the same way.' - at a convocation ceremony speech, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang.

'This year... sometime...' Malay Mail , Jan 7, 1956
The Residency exhibition has its small dose of humour by the cartoonists of the day. How sweet the victory :))

Tunku's Cadillac Fleetword 1959 , from the USA. It was his official car during his 13 years as Prime Minister of Malaysia .

Tunku at Arafah performing the Haj in Mecca.
Tunku, himself a Muslim, promoted Islam at home and abroad, even to his last days. He was responsible for the Al-Quran reading competitions, the formation of PERKIM (Islamic Welfare Org.) and portrayed as the pioneer of OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference).

Tunku loved sports and had many hobbies among which were jogging, football, badminton, yatching. His favourite pastimes were horse-riding and golf.

Tun Sharifah Rodziah, First Lady of Malaysia during Tunku's prime ministership. She was the prime mover and motivation behind his success. She had great interest in the welfare of women and children's education.

Tunku loved adventure as a young boy. Tunku and Thavil, as boy scouts during school days in Thailand.

Tunku graduated as Barrister of Law, Inner Temple, London, 1947. Tunku did not practise law but entered politics and forged nationhood for his country.

Kudos to the Malaysian Inner Temple Alumni Assoc for succeeding in getting Tunku's portrait among the personalities of his alma mater in conjunction with the 400th Anniv. of the Inner Temple Almuni celebration on June 30th, 2009.

Tunku loved the arts and supported the film industry He used to be a columnist in The Star writing 'As I See It' and 'Looking Back'.

He had many diverse hobbies - reading, photography, fishing, boating. He enjoyed cooking too and roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was one of his favourite dishes.

Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra
Arkib Negara Malaysia
Jalan Dato' Onn
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 - 2694 7187


  1. Hello Keats, Syabas just to add in our Bapa Malaysia shouted seven times "Merdeka" [learned from 'Deal or No Deal' show]. One peel for you.

  2. Very interesting to read
    I learn many from other county's ;)
    Thanks for the infomation !!

  3. Keats, My sunshine girl, I was the first who voted for you today. I gave you the top maximum no. of stars. Tunku is my Ahli Tokoh Negara, I salute and respect him. He gave us our 1Malaysia. You have writen well.

  4. Hi banannaz, terima kasih! yes, Tunku shouted 'Merdeka' 7 times to the jubilation of every citizen . Thanks so much for your peel:))

    Anya, Tunku is truly our NO. 1 champion !!

    Autumn Belle, Thank you for your heartening note. I'm sure Tunku hears you :)) let's all be his number advocates and practitioners for 1Malaysia.

  5. Wow! That was a very moving post! And, you certainly did a lot of research to write it!

  6. Such a well written post, it is evident you have worked on this.
    Great read!

  7. Wow there is such good information here. I'm keeping it for reference and for my children to read. This is how history should be taught in school. Thank you Keats.

  8. Hi
    Roshni Mitra Chintalapati, thanks v. much for your kind comments. Do drop in again!


    Indrani, glad you enjoyed the post. Tunku's our favourite and it is my duty to be the best for him:)

  9. I just enjoy your blog so much, your culture, and the great way of telling about it. And thank you for visiting my blah blog.

  10. What an interesting post! I sailed a boat called Merdeka in Lombok many years ago .. you brought ood memories plus history through a story! Bravo!

  11. Hi Ocean Girl, thanks so much! Do pay a visit to the Tunku Memorial and enjoy too:)

    Lucy, Thanks for your compliments. I enjoy your blog too - real life stories which you tell very nicely. take care:)

    Laura in Paris, thanks! Do pop in again and keep voting for all the posts as the competition runs for 3 months.
    We're in the 2nd month and all votes are taken into consideration .Thanks v. much !

  12. Just had to say hello to my Sunshine Girl and thanks for reading my blog.

  13. Hi Sunshine Girl,
    Thanks for stopping by my new blog, I was wondering if I would get lost in the shuffle. It means a lot that you left a comment for me.
    Tunku had a full and wonderful life and performed so many services! His Cadillac was pretty sweet and his wife was lovely. Thanks for teaching me about his history.

  14. Hi
    Lucy, keep well:)

    Rosey Pollen, Tunku's Cadillac is parked in the porch at the entrance of the Memorial building. Really nice car but no chance of a ride anytime!!! Enjoy your new blog!

  15. Glad Tunku did not practice law! Malaysia would be a very different country today if he did, ha ha!

    I remember the day he passed away, Keats. It was declared a public holiday but the mood was sombre. Even us kids did not go out to play but stayed home to watch documentaries about Tunku's life. My Dad went to pay his last respects.

    And the Stadium Merdeka today is in such a state of disrepair. It is disgraceful how the country keeps constructing new infrastructure instead of repair, maintain and preserve the old ones which have great historical value.

    That photo of Tunku as a Boy Scout is priceless! I think he is the one on the right! ;oD

  16. I hear you, lawyer! The Stadium Merdeka is indeed of such historical value. I believe our Government can shed some light on what plans they have and put us citizens in the picture of things. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

  17. This is beautiful tribute and great informative post!

  18. Hi MedaM, thanks so much! I too enjoy your blog for your intuitive photos:)) have a good day.

  19. Hi i was just wondering if it was declared a public holiday on the day he passed in 1990?


Great to have you popping in!