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Tunku's Rumah Takdir, a symbol of unity in diversity

Category: News Published: Friday, 02 September 2022
The grand old 1929 heritage mansion, Rumah Takdir.

The grand old 1929 heritage mansion named Rumah Takdir by Malaysia's first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj stands proud as a symbol of unity in diversity.

It was in this well-preserved double-storey bungalow in the town of Pulau Tikus here that Tunku Abdul Rahman, a Kedah prince, had lived after his retirement in 1970 until his passing in 1990.

Tunku Abdul Rahman bought the house for RM180,000 from his gratuity payment after retirement as prime minister.

Rumah Takdir is located at No. 16 in Jalan Ayer Rajah, now renamed Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman in recognition of the Malaysian statesman as the nation's father of independence.

The two bedroom-three bathroom bungalow has a land area of 64,472 sq ft and a built-up area of 9,867 sq ft.

Walking through the house is like stepping back in time. The elegant yet exotic bungalow which embraces a splendour of British design, has a white interior with brown flooring. The house in a blend of white and brown hues creates a pleasant and engaging ambience. The walls in the living room are lined with portraits of Tunku with other leaders and the people during his term in office.

The bungalow is surrounded by lush green lawns with strong rooted trees. The spacious front garden and simple façade had been the venue for large gatherings of various races hosted by Tunku. The architecture evokes a sense of nostalgia and attainability that resonates with the homeowner.

Brought all races together

Reliving the memories of the historic bungalow, president of the Penang Malay Association (Pemenang) Tan Sri Mohd Yussof Latiff said he was among Tunku's closest friends who witnessed how Tunku transformed Rumah Takdir into a base to foster racial unity.

Mohd Yussof who was then in his 50's said he was often called by Tunku over several matters related to books, articles and newspapers, etc and in fact, visits by various communities were a common sight.

"After his retirement, Tunku chose to stay in Penang as he regarded the state as being very close to him. He initially stayed in a terrace house in Western Road but was later offered by a friend to move to another house in Ayer Rajah Road.

"During that time, Tunku had just received his gratuity from the government after his retirement as prime minister and he immediately bought the house and named it Rumah Takdir," he told Bernama in an interview here recently.

Never a quiet moment

He said there was never a quiet moment for Rumah Takdir as it was always bustling with activities with visits from people from all races as well as prominent leaders both locally and abroad.

Mohd Yussof said it was also Tunku's open nature which endeared him to Malaysians of all ethnicity, as reflected by the steady stream of multi-racial visitors to Rumah Takdir.

"The most joyous occasion was observed annually on Feb 8 when people from various races in their colourful costumes brought food to Rumah Takdir to celebrate Tunku's birthday.

"Tunku himself was also happy that Rumah Takdir played a significant role in fostering racial unity. At any celebration or event, Tunku would always drive home the message that the people should remain united.

"Tunku also reminded the people that unity was their fundamental strength as a people and as a nation, and it was for this reason, the nation was able to achieve independence and that they should preserve the spirit of unity to the next generation," he added.

Mohd Yussof said during that time, the people were committed to racial unity and tolerance to ensure the nation progressed and was free from being colonised.

He opined that it was not wrong to make Rumah Takdir as a 'Unity House' as it was there that Tunku showed the way to racial harmony and unity.

Mohd Yussof said he was also informed that the house that was inherited by Tunku's daughters was sold to a buyer who later had some repair work done to the property.

He also called on the Federal Government to buy the house from the owner and undertake restoration of the historic landmark to showcase Tunku's legacy.

"The house is Tunku's legacy and it should be preserved as a fitting tribute to his struggles and immense contributions to the nation. It is in honour of this man who had brought the people from diverse ethnicity and backgrounds together," he added.

Gathering of Muslim converts

Meanwhile, heritage activist Khoo Salma Nasution said that besides serving as a venue for fostering racial unity, Rumah Takdir was also a gathering place for Muslim converts.

She said as 'Bapa Perkim' or founder of the Muslim Welfare Organisation Malaysia (Perkim), Tunku was also the main focus of Muslim converts to Rumah Takdir after his retirement.

"Besides serving as the house of unity, Rumah Takdir was also a place for Muslim converts to meet Tunku for information on related matters from time to time; as such, I feel that this property should be preserved as a heritage house.

"The house should continue to be the symbol of racial unity for all especially the younger generation; lest they forget, what is achieved today is brought about by racial unity forged by past generations," said Khoo Salma, who is also Penang Heritage Trust vice-president.

Besides proposals to convert Rumah Takdir into a museum, recent reports said that the property is now up for sale for RM62 million or for rent for RM25,000 a month to private individuals or organisations. - Bernama


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