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Malaysia Tuns’ of Past and Present

The “Tun” title has existed in the Malay society for hundreds of years. In ancient times, Tun was an honorific title used by noble people of royal lineage and was inherited by the male descendants.

Have you heard of Tun Dr. Mahathir or Tun Sambanthan and wondered what the title Tun means?

The “Tun” title has existed in the Malay society for hundreds of years. In ancient times, Tun was an honorific title used by noble people of royal lineage and was inherited by the male descendants.

Over the years, the Tun title is bestowed by the King on the recommendation of the federal government to the most deserving recipients especially those who are influential, exceptional in their field and have greatly contributed to the country.

Tun is the most senior federal title awarded to recipients of either the Grand Commander of the Order of the Defender of the Realm (Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara SMN) or Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia (Seri Setia Mahkota SSM).

The Tun title is very exclusive due to the fact that at any given time, the total number of living recipients of this title is limited. For example, Tun Musa Hitam was conferred the Tun title only after the death of Tun Ghafar Baba.

The wife of a Tun is referred to as Toh Puan, whilst the spouse of a female Tun holder does not receive any title.

Tun Abdul Razak 

Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein Al-Haj was the second Prime Minister of Malaysia, ruling from 1970 to 1976. He set up Barisan Nasional, which is the ruling coalition of political parties that have held power in Malaysia till today. He is also renowned for launching the Malaysian New Economic Policy (MNEP).

Of aristocratic descent, Abdul Razak stood in and won a seat in Malaysia's first general elections in July 1955. He was appointed as the Education Minister and was instrumental in the drafting of the Razak Report, which formed the basis of the Malayan education system.

Tun Razak was also a member of the February 1956 mission to London to seek the independence of Malaya from the British.

In 1959, he became the Minister of Rural Development in addition to holding the portfolios of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence.

His achievements include formulating the development policy known as the Red Book.

Tun Razak succeeded Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Tun Razak was later granted the name Bapa Pembangunan or ‘Father of Development’.

Tun Dato Sri Tan Cheng Lock

A businessman and a key public figure, Tan Cheng Lock devoted his life to fighting for the rights and the social welfare of the Chinese community in Malaya. Tan was the founder of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).

Post studies, Tan was involved in the founding United Malacca Rubber Estate Limited and two other rubber companies.

Like most people of his era, he was deeply influenced by ideas of independence. He championed social causes like opposing opium smoking, promoting Chinese language education, legislating against polygamy and pressing for immigration policy reform.

Tan is recognised as one of the founding fathers of modern day Malaysia, along with Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun V. T Sambanthan.

Tun Sambanthan 

V.T. Sambathan passionately fought for the rights of the Indian community while in school and university and his leadership qualities was finally revealed when he was appointed as the president of the Malayan Indian Congress party MIC at the age of 36. After that he was appointed as full Minister in various departments.

In 1955, the first general election, Tun Sambathan represented Kinta, Perak and won. He held the position as Labour Minister.

V.T. Sambathan had rendered much of his service in areas of harmony among the multicultural people of Malaysia, and raising the spirit of nationalism. To commemorate his contribution to the country and people of Malaysia, his name was immortalized on a road in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

Tun Hussein Onn

Tun Hussein Onn renowned for his campaign in racial unity and had a reputation of being firm against anyone that tried to create racial unrest. He has become passionately known as Bapa Perpaduan or 'Father of Unity'.

In 1949, he became the first youth chief of UMNO (United Malays National Organization), a party his father helped established. Tun Hussein studied Law at Lincoln's Inn, London and qualified as a Barrister-at-Law.

He returned to politics in 1968 and won at the general election. He was appointed as the Education Minister. Tun Hussein Onn succeeded the late Tun Dr Ismail as the Deputy Prime Minister. He became Prime Minister of Malaysia in 1976 after the death of Tun Razak. Tun Hussein through policies aimed at rectifying economic imbalances between the communities.

After his retirement as Prime Minister he continued to contribute to welfare organisations. He set up the Tun Hussein Onn Eye Hospital.

Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman 

Ismail bin Dato’ Abdul Rahman obtained a degree in Medicine from the Melbourne University. He was the first Malay to graduate from that university. 
In 1953, he begun to involve himself full time to fight for the independence of the country. He was part of a convoy to London in 1956 to negotiate the independence of Malaya.

Tun Dr. Ismail was known among international and local leader for his intelligent debates and his constructive plus brilliant ideas. He was the first person to come up with the Southeast Asian Neutral Policy.

Tun Tan Sri (Dr) Fatimah

Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Tan Sri (Dr.) Fatimah was the first woman appointed as a Cabinet Minister, holding the post Minister of Public Welfare of Malaysia.

In 1959, she moved to Kedah and was appointed as a candidate for election for Jitra-Padang Terap. She won the election that year and held that position for three times in a row for the same area.

In 1969, she was appointed Minister of Public Welfare, the first woman in the country to be appointed a Minister. Aside from politics, Tun Fatimah is also extremely active in social movements, especially in women’s organization.

Tun Dr Siti Hasmah 

One of the first Malay woman doctors in Malaysia and the first woman to be appointed a Medical Officer in government service for the State of Kedah, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah bt Mohd Ali has set an example of personal and professional achievement for all women in her country.

Since the appointment of her husband as Prime Minister in 1981, she has used her position as the wife of the Prime Minister to campaign tirelessly for women's health, family planning, drug abuse control and adult literacy.

For her 23 years of public service, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah has received many honours. The Yang Di Pertuan Agong, as well as the Sultan of Selangor and the Sultan of Kedah, have bestowed titles upon her including her tunship in 2003.

Tun Mahathir Mohamad

Tun Mahathir Mohamad is the fourth prime Minister of Malaysia. Serving from 1981 to 2003, he holds the distinction of being the longest- serving prime Minister of the country and arguably the most famous and controversial. He engineered Malaysia's transformation from an agricultural to an industrialized country. Mahathir is also known for his outspoken criticism of western and developed countries.

He served for 22 years in office, retiring on 31 October 2003. Upon his retirement, he was awarded the title Tun, which is the highest civilian honour in Malaysia.

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