Prime Ministers of Malaysia

From Tunku Abdul Rahman to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, this timeline presents the lives of the Prime Ministers of Malaysia.

Tun Razak's Early Childhood

Even though Tun Abdul Razak was born into an aristocrat family, he was raised very humbly. His family home was by far the largest and most prominent house in the district so there was much to do at home. Like other village boys, he bathed by the river as during that time, there was still no electricity nor running water at home. He looked after and rode his grandfather's buffaloes to the rice fields, jungle, and 'attap' schools. All these facets of village life and poverty made lasting impressions on his mind, one that would help him envision rural development in the future. (Tun Abdul Razak: A Phenomenon in Malaysian Politics)

Malay Reserve Lands

During Tun Razak's term as Prime Minister, the Constitution also made provisions for Malay reserve land. The law was instituted to protect landholdings, the rationale being that if there were no such reserves, the Malays were likely to sell most of their landholdings. (A Doctor In The House, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, p.262)

1974 Elections

Instead of waiting until 1977 to hold Elections, Tun Razak chose to hold elections in 1974. The elections marked his plans to return to political normalcy after May 1969 and would validate his leadership as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. By 1974, the despair that had clouded the nation since 1969 had mostly dissipated. The National Operations Council (NOC) headed by Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Dr. Ismail as its Deputy and Home Affairs Minister had managed to restore order to the country. One of the events organised by the NOC to draw various races together were Durian Parties which were popular. Tun Razak also enlarged the Barisan Nasional and ensured that it stood on the principle of sharing political power and economic wealth. In the 1974 elections, BN won 59% of the popular votes and 135 of the 154 seats in Parliament.

Tun Dr. Mahathir on the NEP

Tun had doubts about the implementation of the NEP, doubts that were confirmed when Malays who had purchased shares under the 30% Bumiputra allocation mandated by government quickly sold them off again. He wrote: "Had the profits from their sale been reinvested to expand existing businesses or to buy more shares, that might have been defensible. But mostly, the money was spent immediately on luxuries, which gave them the symbols of status in modern Malay society." (A Doctor In The House, p.267) Thus, while the NEP was a "sound policy", Tun thought too many Malays abused the special treatment accorded them. The only way to increase Malay share of the country's wealth, he thought, was to change their mindset.

Tun Dr. Mahathir's Thoughts on Tun Razak

"Tun Razak..valued discussion..he invariably made sure that we contributed, deliberated and planned...He understood administration, planning, and implementation, and so he understood what he needed to do for the Malays and the country. During his term as Prime Minister, he focused on rural development, something he initiated during the Tunku's time. His foreign policies were also different from the Tunku's. Tun Razak was less Western-oriented and was more inclined towards non-alignment and establishing diplomatic relations with every country, irrespective of ideology or system of government." Tun also praised Tun Razak's ingenuity in implementing the NEP, praising the setting up of state economic development corporations to oversee the development in each state. The idea was for the SEDCs to go into the big industries like timber, mining and rubber plantations. Individual Malay entrepreneurs would then be brought in once they had accumulated capital and business savvy. Unfortunately, Tun said that the SEDCs did not fulfil their objectives. They acted like government departments. Malays who were in business had to compete against these SEDCs for timber or tin concessions,and often lost. Yet, despite being favoured by Government, the SEDCs often failed in business. (Source: A Doctor In the House, pp.263-264)

Tun Razak enlarges the Alliance

Tun Razak actively courted Opposition parties to join the Alliance coalition. One of these was Gerakan, under Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu, who had left the MCA due to differences with Tun Tan Siew Sin. Malays were not happy with the move, as Gerakan was mainly Chinese. Although he was out of UMNO, Tun found himself in the position of defending the move, which he thought wise, to include Opposition parties into the coalition. "I went on to explain that in Malaysia, no party which appealed only to communal sentiments could ever expect to form a central government. Neither could any party which forgets the racial origin of its members hope to succeed." (Source: A Doctor In The House, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad)

Tunku Writes for The Star

Tunku was by approached The Star, which was then a regional (Penang-based) newspaper, to take up a stake in the entity. He agreed and became its Chairman in 1974. He also became one of its most famous columnists, writing weekly for the "Looking Back" (and later "As I See It") columns. Tunku's Monday column boosted circulation of The Star and it soon became a national newspaper. Many of his articles, especially in the 80s and 90s, were critical of the government. Tunku's best columns have been compiled in book form. He remained with The Star until his death in 1990.

Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)

The establishment of the MSC, of which Cyberjaya is the nucleus , was a step towards embracing the future. It is intended to facilitate the country's transition from an industrial-based economy to an Information Age multimedia economy, keeping the nation competition in the global economy. The MSC is the leading edge of a new national strategy for Malaysia to achieve the goals described in Vision 2020. Ultimately, MSC is envisaged to become a global community living at the leading age of the Information Society. (Excerpt from the speeches of Mahathir Mohamad on the multimedia super corridor, 1998, p.23)

Tunku Signs Formal Agreement on Malaysia

In Marlborough House, London, Tunku signs the official Agreement for the setting up of Malaysia with Sir Harold Macmillan, Lee Kuan Yew and representatives of Sabah and Sarawak. Malaysia would consist of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. Negotiations with Brunei had broken down earlier over a few issues, including the share of Brunei's oil wealth due to the Federation.

Tunku Faces Malay Critics

Tunku had been facing criticisms from the Malays who saw him as conceding too much to the Chinese. He also faced a very critical faction in UMNO who wanted him to resign, a faction he labelled as "Ultras". Among those critical of Tunku's leadership at the time was Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. On 17th June 1969, Tunku received a four-page letter in Bahasa Malaysia from Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad which blamed Tunku for the desertion of large numbers of Malays from UMNO to the PMIP (Pan-Malaya Islamic Party, now better known as PAS). Tunku was said to be "stunned and hurt" by the criticisms. He forwarded the letter to Tun Razak who called for an emergency party meeting on 12th July. Tunku stayed away from the meeting. Tun Dr. Mahathir attended to defend his letter. In July 1970, the Council voted (with 5 dissenting votes) for Dr. Mahathir to be expelled from the party.

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