|11th January 1998
. . . continued from page 1
Tan Sri Taib Andak, the first chairman of Felda and a one-time chairman of Malayan
Banking, who arranged for Razak to meet his potential wife, Rahah Noah, was one of
Razak's closest friends in Singapore London and in his later life. Taib died in the
autumn of last year. Taib was a good civil servant, a jolly man who hugely loved
the fun of living. I found him a good friend although agewise I could have been one
of his sons. I am two or three years older than his eldest son Hamidon, a pub owner
in Kuala Lumpur.
Razak revisited his alma mater twice officiaUy: in 1955 when the coUege celebrated
its Golden Jubilee and he was making his debut as the nation's first education minister,
and; in 1965 when I accompanied him for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It was
a sentimental journey marred by one unfortunate incident. He had to leave midway
of the evening's festivities because he suddenly felt unwell, the first time I recaU
that had ever happened to him.
He maintained close relations with the Malay College Old Boys Association (MCOBA).
MCOBA, whose president then was Tan Sri Nik Ahmad Kamil, the Speaker of Parliament,
honoured the "coUege's favourite son" with a reception at the Lake Club
in October 1970, three weeks after Razak became prime minister. Razak recaUed it
with fondness. At the Lake Club that evening he met four generations of "stalwarts"
of his alma mater.
Razak and I were so unlike in many ways yet we formed a long successful political
and personal partnership. I believe one reason why the relationship lasted so long
inspite of machinations to torpedo the aUiance was because I was an effective operator
behind the scenes and an excellent buffer. The youth in me relished in equal measure
the brickbats of detractors and the plaudits of friends and mentor.
Razak neither approved or disapproved my modus operandi. All that mattered to him
was results. And he got them - a political style and romanticism in Malaysian public
life which has long disappeared.
Like the Malaysian public life, MCKK too, has changed. Gone are the traditions of
uprightness, archaic discipline and impeccable manners. StiU the number of parents
queuing to enrol their sons is rising aU the time. The legend of a privileged education
Much as it has changed MCKK remains an exclusive institution which does not do any
harm.On the contrary, it does a world of good to the nation: it provides the key
which opens many doors and opportunities which simply otherwise do not exist.
On Razak's recommendation I was offered the congressional Fellowship of the American
Political Science Association in 1960 and when I returned two years later he gave
me a job as a special assistant to the Alliance secretary-general, the late T.H.
Tan ( later Tan Sri Tahir Tan).
Sri Tahir Tan).
Since "T.H.", as everybody caUed him, was hard y in the offfice nor the
executive secretary, Lee San Choon, a member of parliament for Kluang in Johor, I
was pretty much left on my own. Datuk Lee San Choon later rose to become president
of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and minister of transport during Razak's,
Hussein's and Mahathir's administrations.
The AUiance Headquarters was on the same floor as the Umno secretary-general's offfice
at the Umno headquarters at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (now the Tun Razak Institute
of Technology), infect next to each other. The Alliance headquarters had a small
staff: an absentee secretary-general, and an unavailable executive secretary Yap,
the office assistant Miss Lim, the financial clerk a messenger, a driver a Maiay
translator, Hussein Jusoh, who eventually became a senator and myself.
"T.H.", whom I met occa
sionaUy, usuaUy at parties in honour of or for Tunku Abdul Rahman or Tun Razak, always
told me tongue-in-cheek I was a "free bird", and to report directly to
Tun Razak. I would write for Tun Razak's eyes only about national and international
goings-on as perceived by a 25-year-old former reporter who thought (wrongly) he
San Choon advised me I should spend time at the Umno headquarters since neither he
nor I had anything much to do at the Alliance headquarters because aU the action
was at the headquarters of the component parties (then the Umno, MCA and MIC). It
was good advice for which I was and am grateful for. San Choon's advice caused my
desk-career to change track
What followed, followed.
Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the
(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun