TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN PUTRA (1957 - 1970)
For his contributions and sacrifices in bringing the country from colonialism to independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman is known as the Father of Independence. He became the first prime minister of the Federation of Malaya from 1957 to 1963, and of Malaysia from 1963 to 1970.
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. Realizing the Malay students there were not represented by any organization, 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 Organization (UMNO) soon after his return. On August 26, 1951, Tunku became the UMNO President succeeding Dato' Onn Jaafar. He traveled 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.
In May 1961, Tunku proposed the idea of Malaysia - a federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo (later called Sabah) and Brunei. All but Brunei joined in the federation on July 9, 1963. Singapore however withdrew from Malaysia in 1965 due to disputes. On Sept 22, 1970, Tunku stepped down as the Prime Minister and was succeeded by Tun Abdul Razak.
Tunku, who was blessed with seven children from his marriage to the late Sharifah Rodziah Syed Alwi Barakbah, passed away in 1990.