About Tunku Abdul Rahman

[Tunku had] ...high sense of patriotism, as well as loyalty, and kindness to his friends and fellow human beings... without any regard to the colours of their skin, to their religious background and status in society.

- Almarhum Tan Sr Khir Johari's description of YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman


YTM Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj

“Father of Independence and the first Prime Minister of Malaysia.”

The twentieth child of Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj was born on 8th February 1903, in Alor Setar, Kedah. In his early years, he was notorious for mischief and was not a high performing student, driving concern among his family members until he was sent by his parents to Debsirin School in Bangkok. In 1915, he returned to his hometown to continue his study at Penang Free School.

Four years later, Tunku won the Kedah State Scholarship and pursued his studies in Law at St Catharine’s College in University of Cambridge. His application to stay at the college residence was initially rejected due to the discrimination of his skin colour. The application was later accepted upon the discovery that he was a prince, but with dignity, Tunku refused the offer and rented a room throughout his studies.

One of the milestones of his political career was his appointment as the Chairman of United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), replacing Dato’ Onn Jaafar in 1951. He united the various communities of Malaya and spearheaded the alliance between UMNO, the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC).  Together, the Alliance party won the election in 1955 and Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first Chief Minister of Malaya.

In 1956, Tunku led a campaign to negotiate with the British for the independence of Malaya. He successfully secure the immediate self-government of Malaya and the promise of independence by August 1957.

That promise was kept and on 31st August 1957, Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first Prime Minister of an independent Malaya. He would retain that post when the Federation of Malaysia (which was then consisted of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak) was formed in 1963.

With his power diminishing and Singapore separated from the Federation, Tunku resigned from his post in September 1970. In that same year, he became one of the founding members of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and was elected as its first Secretary-General in 1971. 

In 1990, Tunku Abdul Rahman passed away at the age of 87.

All life is experience, and everyone makes mistakes... Talking for myself, I made more mistakes as a youth than most men my age, but today they have proved to be of inestimable value to my career as the leader of my nation.

YTM Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman, in the Malayan Youth Council, 1960



In honour of Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman’s 118th birthday on the 8th of February 2021, we proudly present an illustrated story of Tunku's compassion for the people during an era of great war and tragedy.

There were touchpoints of Tunku throughout our lives, yet as a generation, we grew up never realising these touchpoints.

In honour of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s 118th birthday, our very own Tunku Scholar Alumni, Maisarah Abdul Kamil looks back at his life with appreciation and a keen remembrance of his legacy.

Tunku was a visionary with a noble dream of “unity in diversity” for our beloved land – a dream that was ahead of its time.

On Tunku Abdul Rahman's 118th birthday, Prof. Shad Saleem Faruqi reminds us about Tunku's role in creating a multicultural haven for all Malaysians and the importance of preserving that legacy.

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In the spirit of Tunku, we focus on honing the potential of the future leaders of Malaysia, regardless of colour or creed.