Her calm countenance and demeanour belies the 87 years of a life worth living. For many, they may assume that she has led an enviable life, a quiet one, perhaps.
For those who don’t know her, they will think that she has had it easy being the youngest child of the former Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, Mohamad_Noah_Omar. And she later became the wife of Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak. Subsequently, she was the mother of the country’s sixth Prime Minister, Datuk Sri Najib Tun Razak.
For those who know her, however, they are aware that she has gone through all kinds of trials to bring up her five children as a single mother after the passing of the late Tun Razak due to leukemia when she was 43 years old. At that time, he had just assumed office of the Prime Minister six years before that.
To her credit, the late Tun Hajjah Rahah was the matriarch we all look up to. She was calm and poised at most times, and happiest when she was with her family.
Allahyarhamah Tun Hajjah Rahah was born on 11 June 1933 in Muar, Johor, and received her early education at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), Johor Baharu.
According to The Star, in its article entitled: The Band of Brothers, published on 06 Dec 2008: “Johari Razak, the second eldest, read law, like his father. He is a senior partner at Shearn Delamore & Co, a large law firm in Kuala Lumpur. He is also a non-executive director in several publicly listed companies including chairman of Ancom Bhd, deputy chairman of related Nylex (M) Bhd, and directorships in Hong Leong Industries Bhd and Daiman Development Bhd. He is also a director of Deutsche Bank (M) Bhd.
“The middle brother, Datuk Mohamed Nizam Razak studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University in the UK and was a stockbroker, being CEO of PB Securities Sdn Bhd in the 1990s. At present, he is also a non-executive director in several publicly listed companies including Hiap Teck Venture Bhd, Mamee Double-Decker (M) Bhd, Delloyd Ventures Bhd and Yeo Hiap Seng (M) Bhd. Like Johari, Nizam is also a director of Deutsche Bank.
“The fourth brother Datuk Mohamed Nazim Razak, who also studied in a British university, is an architect, while the youngest brother, Datuk Nazir Razak had studied at Cambridge University where he obtained a master of philosophy.
“A career banker, he joined CIMB Investment Bank almost 20 years ago, rising through its executive ranks to become its CEO in 1999. Following the merger of CIMB and Bumiputra-Commerce Bank to become Bumiputra-Commerce Holdings Bhd (BCHB), Nazir became CEO of the merged group. This was not an easy charge as Bumiputra-Commerce Bank, during its years as Bank Bumiputra, had a history of falling into financial difficulties and needed to be rescued by the government.
“Under his watch, the BCHB group, which is branded as CIMB Group, was transformed into a GLC (government-linked company) bank that could compete with its peers in the private sector regionally.”
The said Star article added: “Najib has been careful that there is no incidence of “family cronyism”, although that has not deterred his political opponents from raising the issue.
“His record, however, is a good one. Among his brothers, only Nazir has risen to the top post of a large GLC but he had to climb the corporate ladder.
“More importantly, Nazir has proved to be a capable banker, an accolade offered by his peers and fund managers for the results he produced at CIMB group. Furthermore, he advanced at CIMB at a time when Najib held other cabinet posts, not that of finance minister.
“In recent years, Najib had held the portfolio of defence minister and throughout his term of service, there were no scandals of defence contracts involving his brothers. The family is proud of the Razak name and do not want to tarnish that.”
Yet, the brothers have built their respective careers and have the right, as any other individual, to move up in their careers. They could have moved to public service as they are well-educated and are known to be well-mannered, rather than arrogant, and have not been known to abuse their family ties.
Heartbroken And Devastated
As a mother, she must have been heartbroken and devastated at the way the Pakatan Harapan government (May 2018 – January 2020) had treated her eldest son, Najib. Apart from the slew of court cases which were beyond comprehension, they had raided his homes and confiscated his properties and till the day she passed away on Friday, 18 December, these items have not been returned to Najib and his other family members. Not to forget the fact that even her house in Jalan Eaton was raided by the police during the investigations on her son and they even broke the ceiling of the house to look for any hidden loots.
“I am so thankful that the Pakatan Harapan government is no longer in power. Because if they are, I doubt if they will accord the State Funeral for the late Tun Rahah, knowing how much they were against Najib Razak’s family at that time,” said Tan Wei Kheong, a Unit Trust Consultant.
Tan hopes that after the demise of his mum, there will be further respite for Datuk Sri Najib and his other family members as the attacks against them are just too evil – from the court cases and raids to the freezing of accounts and passports.
A Malaysian entrepreneur living overseas, Clement Woo, recalls how Tun Razak was always thinking of all the racial groups in the country and being his wife, she also played her part in being inclusive, as can be seen from her involvement in the Girl Guides Movement and other activities.
“I am sure, this inclusiveness must have rubbed on to their son Najib Razak, and probably given the idea to the latter to propagate the 1Malaysia rallying call,” Clement added.
This was what Muralitharan Ramachandran felt when he recalled the State funeral extended to Tun Rahah.
“I was just amazed to see the number of people who turned up for the funeral, especially during a pandemic. That shows the love they have for Tun Rahah and the Tun Razak family. And it was good to see the Opposition politicians there, from the different racial groups, and we hope this is a good sign for matured politics in the country,” said Muralitharan, who is the Vice-President of Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) and also the Managing Editor of the New Malaysia Herald.
Among the opposition politicians who paid their last respects were Ketari assemblyman Young Syefura Othman, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Bakri MP Yeo Bee Yin and Lembah Pantai MP Ahmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil.
Representing Wanita DAP, Young Syefura described the grit and personality of Tun Rahah as a single mother who raised five children as an example of a perseverant woman.
“She is a woman who is respected, a determined woman who successfully brought up her children after losing her husband at a young age. Her demise is a big loss to the country and to the women of today,” she said.
Meanwhile, Pandan MP, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail when met, said she was always amazed by Tun Rahah’s perseverance in educating her children when her husband was being treated for leukaemia.
Brave And Determined
“We could learn from her brave and determined attitude. Farewell from me,” she said.
This was also attested by Irma Darwis, a business development manager.
“Both Tun Razak and Tun Rahah were the role models for exemplary parenting, and this value is imparted onto their children who in turn had model families.
“I am blessed to be able to live with my mum till now and I can imagine how devastated DSN and siblings must be feeling right now, yet they are gracious to everyone, even though they are grieving,” she added.
Accolades were also received from foreign dignitaries, especially from neighbouring Singapore. Its Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong said that Tun Rahah Mohamed Noah was a source of strength, courage and inspiration for her family and for all Malaysians.
“She stood resolutely beside her husband, (the late) Tun (Abdul) Razak (Hussein), when he led Malaysia at a critical period in its history,” said Lee in his latest update on his Facebook recently.
“She will be remembered for her devotion to country and family,” he wrote further in his posting in which he appended a photo of Tun Rahah.
Not to be left out was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed also from the opposition bloc and a former Prime Minister (twice). He has treated Najib Razak as his nemesis in politics, although the latter’s father was instrumental in giving Mahathir is jumpstart into politics.
“The late Tun Rahah Mohamed Noah had made enormous contributions to assist Tun Abdul Razak Hussein when he was the second prime minister,” said Mahathir.
He described Tun Rahah as among the last from the independence generation who contributed invaluable services and sacrifices to the country.
“(She), is the ‘merdeka’ generation… not many people of the merdeka generation are still alive. Maybe (she) was among the last.
The loss of Tun Rahah was clearly felt by the people and for Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, Malaysia has lost an exceptional woman personality.
Certainly, with such accolades, it is deserving for her to be anointed as an Icon for Unity.
Meanwhile, when I was doing my research on Allahyarhamah Tun Rahah, I came across two simply moving articles that best describe the lives of Tun Rahah and Tun Razak. These were
- Translation of a speech by Sultan Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah at the launch of the book on Tun Razak by Shahreen Kamaluddin, Fulfilling A Legacy: https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/tun-razak-would-have-been-heartbroken
- An article in the New Straits Times by DR PARIDAH ABD SAMAD on Tun Razak’s final journey: https://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/01/122302/tun-razaks-final-journey – New Malaysia Herald #TOGETHER4UNITY