Remembering Tun abdul Razak’s lasting legacy

Remembering Tun abdul Razak’s lasting legacy

KUALA LUMPUR: In 1974, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein made history by becoming the first Malaysian head of government to visit China and officially establish Sino-Malaysia diplomatic relations.

Of significance, the second prime minister delivered his thank you speech before a packed audience at the Great Hall of the People in Peking (now Beijing) on May 29 in the Malay language, said Associate Professor Obaidellah Mohammad.

Five decades have passed, but the premier’s landmark speech is still fresh and alive for the former lecturer at the Department of Chinese Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Universiti Malaya, who was among the Malaysian delegation to Peking for six days from May 28.

Abdul Razak’s historic visit to China was among his key contributions to the nation since taking over the reins as prime minister on Sept 22, 1970 from Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. It also changed the course of history given Malaysia’s anti communist stance which was adopted since independence under Tunku’s leadership.

Although 48 years have passed, the visit was one of the most memorable for him as he never expected that he would be selected to join the Malaysian delegation to the People’s Republic of China as an interpreter.

“It was drizzling outside when Tun Razak delivered his speech at the Great Hall of the People that night on May 29, and to my surprise, the hall was packed with people, and I still remember that Tun had called me up prior to the event in Peking.

“(He) told me that he wanted to deliver his speech at the state banquet that night in Malay, that is one para (in Malay) and I will translate it (in Mandarin),” said Obaidellah.


Obaidellah, 77, was sharing his experience as part of Abdul Razak’s entourage to Peking, during the chat series organised by the Malaysian Historical Association at Wisma Sejarah here recently.

Speaking at the programme to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of the late Tun Abdul Razak, he said the historical visit by the ‘Father of Development’ to China was bold and decisive.

This is because the trip was undertaken at the height of the Indochina War and the Cold War, which was based upon the ideological differences of the countries of the East and those of the West. At the same time, the communist insurgency was still active in Malaysia.

Under his leadership, Tun Abdul Razak can be seen as succeeding in revolutionising the political, economic and social landscape of the Malays. He was also aware of the communist threat given that China was still supporting the remnants of the communist insurgency in Malaysia.

“As such, he took the wise decision and initiated a diplomatic policy with China, making him the first statesman in Asean to establish diplomatic ties with China,” said Obaidellah.

Several talks were held during Abdul Razak’s meeting with China’s Prime Minister, Chou En Lai and in fact, the Pekan-born statesman also had a one-and-a-half hour discussion with Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong).

During the visit, six declarations were made by both parties through a joint communiqué inked on May 31, 1974 between Chou and Abdul Razak, among others a communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relationship between the two nations.

“As such, he made a wise decision by embarking on a diplomatic mission to China. The signing of the agreement made Malaysia the first in Asean to normalise the relationship with China,” Obaidellah noted.

“Besides that, the governments of China and Malaysia also agreed to establish and develop peaceful and friendly relations between the two countries on the basis of the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.


Having spent six days as part of the premier’s delegation to Peking, Obaidellah said Abdul Razak proved that he was a great statesman who showed his honesty, integrity and wisdom during his meetings with foreign leaders.

In fact, he was able to remain calm and controlled during tense situations and during discussions with leaders and delegations from China, Abdul Razak was very open and kept abreast of international political changes and the communist ideology.

“He is a leader to be emulated by the people,” he said, adding that the opportunity to join the delegation to China as an interpreter for the prime minister at a young age of 27, was indeed an experience of a lifetime.

He said he was first informed by the late Royal Prof Ungku Abdul Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid that he was selected as interpreter to Abdul Razak during the visit.

“One day Ungku Aziz called me to ask whether I was interested in becoming interpreter to the prime minister. I agreed. Subsequently, I received a note from Wisma Putra on the matter and made further arrangements,” he recalled.

Obaidellah still remembers at the airport before departing for Peking, a reporter from a Chinese newspaper who asked the prime minister on who chose him (Obaidellah) as the interpreter in the delegation.

“Why was he chosen? asked the reporter, but Abdul Razak was quick to reply…I was the one who chose him,” shared Obaidellah who could only smile but admitted he was nervous yet felt proud to have been entrusted with the job.


Indeed, Abdul Razak, who held the premiership from 1970 to 1976 had a heavy responsibility to shoulder while in office, said Chairman of the Centre for History, Politics and International Affairs, Universiti kebangsaan Malaysia, Associate Prof Dr Mohd Samsudin.

He said Abdul Razak’s administration was faced with various problems including poverty, education as well as non Malay issue.

Whatever problem faced during his tenure, he would approach it in a holistic manner.

“Abdul Razak was a leader who looked at things in a holistic manner. His main concern was the nation’s well-being and prosperity. In eradicating poverty among the people, several initiatives were rolled out by Abdul Razak and his priority was to focus on education as it was the key to solving poverty,” he said, adding that, the National Education Policy was formulated through the Razak Report 1956.

Abdul Razak who was then Education Minister underlined several important issues on the national education policy by standardisation the syllabus in all schools across the country, using the Malay language as the medium of learning in all educational institutions.

According to Mohd, Abdul Razak also embarked on reforms to the education system and provided larger allocations to schools, opened teachers’ colleges and increased the number of teachers. In addition, as head of government, he launched initiatives to boost the Malaysian economy and the national income which was focused on raw materials such as tin and rubber.

“To boost economic growth, Abdul Razak sought trading partners including visiting East Europe, China and looked for new markets to sell the country’s raw materials which were the source of income for the country then,” he added.

From the aspects of racial unity, Mohd said Abdul Razak was renowned for his efforts in fostering unity among the people in the aftermath of the May 13, 1969 racial riots and brought together a diverse coalition of nine political parties under the aegis of BN in 1971.

“Abdul Razak invited all political parties to join BN, invited political leaders to leave other issues and focus on rebuilding the nation as a coalition. We can see that Gerakan party under the leadership of Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, was outside the coalition before the election.

“Abdul Razak also brought parties from Sabah and Sarawak to merge as he believed that understanding was key to building a nation. Whenever he spoke of unity, we can see that Abdul Razak did not discriminate and the positions were given fairly,” he said.


Abdul Razak was born in a village in Pulau Keladi, Pekan, Pahang on March 11, 1922. An aristocratic descent, his family was known to have practised a moderate and frugal lifestyle. His father Datuk Hussein Mohd Taib was Orang Kaya Indera Shah Bandar, Pahang.

A bright student, Abdul Razak received his early education at Sekolah Melayu, Kampung Jambu, Langgar, Pekan before pursuing his studies at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar in 1934 and in 1947 at the age of 25, he received the British government scholarship to study law in England.

In 1950, he received a Degree of an Utter Barrister from Lincoln’s Inn. Upon his return, Abdul Razak joined the Malayan Civil Service. Owing to his political calibre, in 1950 he became the youth chief for United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Two years later, he was appointed State Secretary of Pahang and in February 1955, at just 33 years of age, became Pahang’s Menteri Besar.

He was appointed Education Minister in the first cabinet of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (the first prime minister) after the Alliance Party won the first general elections on July 27, 1955.

After the country achieved independence in 1957, he was appointed Prime Minister as well as Defence Minister. Abdul Razak succeeded Tunku Abdul Rahman Al-Haj as the second Prime Minister, heading the country from 1970 to 1976.

Tun Razak was also renowned for launching the New Economic Policy (NEP) in mid-1970. In addition to setting up the Federal Land and Development Authority (FELDA), he also created the ZOPFAN concept or the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality which was signed by the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore through the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Nov 27, 1971.

Abdul Razak married Tun Rahah Mohamed Noah on Sept 4, 1952 and was blessed with five children namely Datuk Seri Najib, Datuk Ahmad Johari, Mohamed Nizam, Mohamed Nazim and Mohamed Nazir.

For his contributions in rural development and the nation, Abdul Razak is known as the Father of Development. The country’s second most celebrated figure after Tunku, the Father of Independence, Abdul Razak left behind many lasting policies and institutions, which he introduced and set up before his death from leukaemia on Jan 14, 1976, at the age of 53.-Bernama