Sunday, 6 October 2013


The Tunku

Many a tale has been told about the Tunku in the mass media during his colourful

political leadership, first as Chief Minister of pre-independent Malaya, then later

as Prime Minister of independent Malaya and finally as Premier of the expanded


But there were also other equally interesting stories that could not be printed, for

obvious reasons.

One such occasion happened when I was a rookie journalist in the mid 1960s with

The Straits Times (before it became The New Straits Times). One day, my tough,

hard-nosed and seasoned News Editor Felix Abisheganaden ( also called The Boss)

gave me an assignment. Interview the Tunku, he said, and shoved me a piece of

paper torn from a notebook that was recycled from damaged newsprint rolls. On it

he had scribbed with his familiar Bic ballpen eight questions to pose to Tunku.

His further brief was this: The Tunku would be arriving at 7 am the next morning at

the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. I was to catch him as he disembarked from his


Dressed casually, I waited at Platform One at 6.30 am for the train from Butterworth

to arrive. Those were the days when our clocks were not set back and therefore

even at 7 in the morning, it was still dark. And cold and misty.

Except for myself and a couple of policemen, the platform was deserted. After the

diesel locomotive drew to a complete stop, the Tunku stepped out, in his usual

dapper style, with hat and a muffler around his collar.

I approached him, introduced myself and asked if I could pose to him a few

questions. Ever obliging, he said Yes. I started off with the first question, then

proceeded down the list. Despite the long journey during which sleep is not usually

undisturbed, the Tunku who appeared visibly tired, patiently answered my questions.

But when I got to Question no. 5, he smiled at me and said:”Young man, why do you

ask me so many questions so early in the morning ? You know me, whatever you

want, you just write lah.I won’t deny”.

I thanked the Tunku and with that the interview ended. The Tengku was whisked

away to his home to get ready to run the country. And I went to Balai Berita to get

ready to meet ire of The Boss.

But the Boss was not upset that I had not asked all eight questions. Instead, he

helped me write up a nice story that had colour, content and flow, and substantiated

with quotations. In the years ahead, I don’t remember a single occasion when the

Tunku has denied any quotation attributed to him.

Philip Mathews, 07 Sept 2012


Dua peristewa mengenai Tunku Abdul Rahman yang tidak

dapat dilupakan.

Kedua-dua peristewa ini berlaku waktu saya bertugas sebagai

pemberita kadet di Berita Harian di sekitar tahun tahun 1964.

Malaysia then was facing confrontation (konfrontasi) by

Indonesia as President Sukarno had opposed its formation. The

Pakistani government then was headed by Zulfikar Ali Butto as

Prime Minister who is very close to Sukarno and thus supported

Indonesia in the confrontation with Malaysia even though it was

then a member of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference (as it was

then known) had converged in London in 1964. (The name was

changed to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in

1971 in Singapore).

The Tunku had attended the meeting just as the Pakistani

PM. On the day of his return from the meeting a group of us

reporters had converged at the Sungai Besi airport (now the

TUDM base - it was then KL’s international airport.) to find out

whether he had met Zulfikar Ali Butto while in London.

As soon as he emerged from the plane and coming into the

terminal building we confronted him to get his views of the


A reporter had then asked: “Tunku did you meet Mr Batto in

London” (Radio and TV Malaysia had then pronounced his name

as such considering that ‘Buto’ would sound like the crude

name of the male organ in Malay ‘butoh’), thus everyone in

Malaysia had then pronounced his name as such.

The Tunku in his usual jovial stance and without batting an

eyelid had spontaneously quipped: “Oh Mr Butoh of Pukistan”

to the guffaws of all of us present. (puki is of course the Malay

word for the female genital).

Satu lagi peristewa juga pada tahun 1964 ketika membuat

liputan lawatan Tunku ke Kampung Pandan yang waktu itu baru

dibuka. Sekumpulan kami pemberita telah berada di khemah

berdekatan dengan tempat Tunku akan berucap.

Tanpa sebarang amaran hujan telah turun dengan amat lebat

sekali hingga ramai daripada orang ramai yang berada di

padang untuk mendengar ucapan Tunku terpaksa lari mencari

tempat berteduh.

Tunku kemudian telah tampil ke tempat berucap dan dengan

selamba berkata: “Hujan dah turun lebat dan saya ta mahu

tuan-tuan dan puan-puan berterusan di sini nanti semuanya

akan ‘lokoih’ (loghat Kedah basah kuyup).

“Pemberita yang ada di sini telah pun mempunyai teks ucapan

saya. Jadi depa bolehlah gunakan ucapan tu seolah saya dah


Itulah Tunku.

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