Remembering my father, Tun Razak by Nazir Razak - The STAR
As Prime Minister, he was truly committed towards building a nation where every single one of its citizens could find a place under the Malaysian sun.
THIRTY-EIGHT years ago today, on Jan 14, 1976, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein passed away in London from complications wreaked by leukaemia.
Malaysia lost its prime minister. I lost my father. Malaysia was 19. I was nine.
The days immediately after were shrouded in personal sorrow and national mourning.
My four brothers and I sought to comfort our mother, while the public and heartfelt outpouring of grief throughout the country served as a resounding reminder that we were not alone in our time of tragedy.
I must confess that given my age, and my father’s hectic schedule, I sometimes lament the fact that he gave so much to the country, leaving too little for his family.
However, I have never wavered from being enormously proud of his selfless dedication to our young nation.
I did not get the time to know him. But imprinted in me are the values he imparted, the integrity that he insisted upon above all. Yes, above all; including his family.
I recall the time when my brothers and I approached him one evening and asked that a swimming pool be built at Seri Taman, the Prime Minister’s residence where we lived.
The lawyer that he was, he insisted that we make our case with logical and rational arguments.
We did so, and thought we had presented the argument pretty well, until we noticed his face had started to darken, and the eyes flashed with annoyance.
My father made it abundantly clear that while Seri Taman may be our home, the house belonged to the Government and, hence, to the people.
Anything spent on it would have to come from public funds; and there was no way he was going to allow the state coffers to be depleted on something as frivolous as a swimming pool. “What will the people think?” he thundered.
Father’s love: Nazir with his father on Tun Razak’s last Hari Raya.
In my years of growing up, I actively sought to hear from people who knew my father well, including those who had worked with him in government, politics, the Merdeka movement and so on as well as his personal friends.
It was my only way of getting to know him. What stood out for me was that in almost every conversation I had about him, the qualities they always referenced were his values.
As the custodian of the nation’s coffers, his frugality was legendary.
“You had to account for every cent, or he would be on your back,” one former minister told me. Well, I knew that already. Not just from the swimming pool episode, but many anecdotes.
My elder brothers often talk about one of the rare opportunities they had to accompany him on an official trip to Switzerland.
He made sure he paid their expenses himself, was so careful with the cost of the trip to the Government that he moved his whole entourage to a cheaper hotel than originally booked, and they dined over and over again at the cheapest restaurant in the vicinity of the hotel.