Early life… Tunku Abdul Rahman is the first Prime Minister of Malaya (1957-63) and Malaysia (1963-70). He was born in Istana Pelamin, Alor Setar, Kedah, Abdul Rahman was fourteenth son and twentieth child of Sultan Hamid Halim Shah, the twenty-fourth Sultan of Kedah. His mother Paduka Seri cik Menjalara was the Sultan’s sixth wife and the daughter of a Siamese nobleman, Luang Naraborirak (Kleb), a Thai district officer (Nonthaburi Province) during the reign of King Rama V of Thailand.
In 1902, the Keeper of the Ruler’s Seal was exposed as a man who had misused the trust placed in him and sold state land for his own gain. Punishment lay with the Sultan, who ordered death for the keeper, and decreed that the right thumb of the Keeper’s wife. Besides that, children should be chopped off as a taint they would carry on for the rest of their lives. The Keeper’s wife rushed to Menjalara, then known to be the Sultan’s favourite and implored her intervention. Menjalara following her maternal instincts, agreed to intercede.
She had an audience with the Sultan and told him that she was pregnant again, but feared her child might be seriously affected if the punishment in the Keeper and his family were to be carried out. Menjalara was a clever woman, as there is a Malay superstition that a husband should do nothing evil during the period of his wife pregnancy, otherwise a dark spirit would enter the child in the womb. Sultan Abdul Hamid was so elated at the news that his favourite wife was presenting him with another child, and so anxious that nothing unfortunate should happen that he ordered the Keeper to prison instead and cancelled the punishment on his family.
The truth, however, was that Menjalara was not pregnant at that time. But she conceived soon afterwards, and the child was Tunku Abdul Rahman who, when he was alive, delighted in saying that was “born under a true”. Early Life… Abdul Rahman began his education in 1909 at a Malay Primary School, Jalan Baharu, in Alor Setar and later was transferred to the Government English School, now the Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Setar, where he studied during the day and read the Qur’an in the afternoon. Two years later in 911, when he was eight, he was sent to study at the Thebsirintrawat School (Debsirin School) in Bangkok along with his three brothers. In 1915, he returned and continued his studies at Penag Free School. In 1918, Abdul Rahman was awarded a Kedah State Scholarship to further his studies at St Catherine’s College in the University of Cambridge. It was the place where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in1925. He was the first students from Kedah to study in the United Kingdom under the sponsorship of the Kedah State Government.
Upon his return home, Abdul Rahman worked in Kedah public service and was appointed District Officer of Kulim and Sungai Petani. In colonial Malaya, almost all the District Officer were British. Abdul Rahman who was the only Malay District Officer at that time had the people’s interest at heart. This made him cross swords with the British Administration many times. However, the British Administration in Kedah could not do anything as he was a prince and the son of the Sultan.
However, him angering the colonial administration cost him many chances of promotion to higher offices. Sometime later he returned to England to complete his law studies at the Inner Temple, but was forced to stop them in 1938. At the outbreak ofWorld War II, he returned to Malaya. During this period Abdul Rahman met with Abdul Razak Hussein (later was known as Datuk and Tun). He was elected president of the Malay Society of Great Britain, and Abdul Razak, who was twenty-six, was his secretary. Economic Policies…