A candid account of how late Prime Minister Tun Razak met his wife Toh Puan Rahah.
ON the evening of March 23, 1975, then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein threw a dinner at his official residence at Sri Taman to mark the wedding of his political secretary, Annuar Jusoh.
My wife Hamidah and I were sitting at the same table as Tun Razak and his wife Tun Rahah Noah, and other guests including Malayan Banking Berhad chairman Tan Sri Taib Andak, Dewan Negara President Tan Sri Ong Yoke Lin and his wife Puan Sri Dr Aishah Ong, Umno stalwart Tun Syed Nasir Ismail, his wife and Daiman Jamaluddin, who was then the Customs director-general and relative of the bride-to-be.
Conversation around the table was light-hearted and the guests were in a celebratory mood. Taib, who was Tun Razak’s close friend and always a gregarious presence at social gatherings, regaled everyone with stories about the Prime Minister.
The two men had known each other since they were law students in London, and Tun Razak had appointed Taib as Felda chairman from 1958 to 1971, entrusting his old friend to create homes and livelihoods for Felda settlers.
At some point, Taib told everyone that he had been responsible for arranging Tun Razak’s marriage to Tun Rahah. Tun Razak, who was in a good humour that night, was happy to let his friend tell the story of how he met his wife.
Taib said that in late 1951, Tun Razak’s father, Datuk Hussein Mohd Taib, had summoned him while Hussein was hospitalised at Bangsar Hospital, one of the oldest government facilities in the neighbourhood at the time.
Hussein told Taib that it was time for Tun Razak to be married and he wanted Taib to find his son a suitable bride. Tun Razak was then working as the State Secretary of Pahang.
Hussein’s only caveat was that his future daughter-in-law had to be from Johor. Arranged marriages were the norm at the time and Taib, who was already married with four children of his own, agreed to take on the task.
A few days later, Taib brought Tun Razak to the Convent Holy Infant Jesus in Johor Baru on the pretext of picking up Taib’s daughter Kalsom. Taib’s real intent was to let Tun Razak catch a glimpse of Tun Rahah, then a 19-year-old Form Five student at the same school.
Tun Rahah was the youngest child of Mohamad Noah Omar, who was then Johor’s State Umno Chairman. Tun Razak must have been smitten by the sight of Toh Puan Rahah because not long after the visit to the school, Taib and his wife visited Tun Rahah’s parents to make a formal proposal of marriage on his behalf.
As Tun Rahah told others later, when her parents showed her a photograph of her suitor, she thought he looked slim and handsome. She accepted the proposal. The two were engaged for nine months and were strictly chaperoned the few times they were able to meet during that period.
When Taib finished the story, Tun Razak told his guests that it had not just been his father who had wanted him to marry. Pahang’s Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Al-Muadzam Shah had also been telling him that it was time for him to settle down.
The Sultan had pointed out that as all district officers in the state were already married, it was sumbang (inappropriate) for Tun Razak, as the State Secretary, to remain a bachelor.
Tun Razak and Tun Rahah married on Sept 4, 1952 and went on to have five sons, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
In an essay she contributed to the book Tun Abdul Razak: A Personal Portrait, Tun Rahah described her husband’s down-to-earth nature.
“He was always kind and so calm, very seldom ruffled,” she wrote. “There was a lot of give-and-take between us. He hardly ever raised his voice – not to me, not to his children and certainly not to the household staff. He would advise rather than reprimand, showing us where we went wrong. He won our hearts and it was easy to win his.”
By the time Tun Razak passed away in 1976, the couple had been married for 24 years.
Tunku Tan Sri Shahriman Tunku Sulaiman was special assistant to Tun Razak and served as first director-general of the Implementation Co-ordination & Development Administration Unit.
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