Abdul Rahman Ya'kub

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Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Datuk Patinggi
Haji Abdul Rahman Ya'kub
4th Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak
In office
2 April 1981 – 2 April 1985
Preceded by Abang Muhammad Salahuddin
Succeeded by Ahmad Zaidi Adruce
3rd Chief Minister of Sarawak
In office
7 July 1970 – 26 March 1981
Governor Tuanku Bujang Tuanku Othman
Abang Muhammad Salahuddin
Deputy Stephen Yong (1970-1974)
Sim Kheng Hung (1974-1990)
Dunstan Endawie Enchana (1976-1979)
Daniel Tajem (1980-1987)
Preceded by Tawi Sli
Succeeded by Abdul Taib Mahmud
Personal details
Born (1928-01-03) 3 January 1928 (age 86)
Kampung Jepak, Bintulu, Kingdom of Sarawak
Nationality Malaysian
Political party Barisan Ra'ayat Jati Sarawak (1961-1968)
Parti Bumiputera Sarawak (1968-1973)
Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (1973–1981)
Persatuan Rakyat Malaysia Sarawak (1987-1991)
Spouse(s) Toh Puan Normah Abdullah (Deceased)
Toh Puan Siti Maemunah
Residence Sri Bahagia, Petra Jaya, Kuching
Alma mater University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Occupation Politician, Statesmen
Religion Islam

Tun Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Rahman bin Ya'kub (born 3 January 1928) is a Malaysian politician of Melanau descent from Mukah. He was the third Chief Minister of Sarawak and the fourth Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak (Governor of Sarawak). He is also an uncle of Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, the forth Chief Minister of Sarawak and also the incumbent Governor of Sarawak as well.


Rahman's first wife, Toh Puan Normah died in 1984. Rahman's daughter, Khadijah, later married to Tun Abdul Razak's son, Datuk Mohd Nizam.[1] Datuk Norah Abdul Rahman, who is also her daughter, is a Malaysian Member of Parliament for the Tanjung Manis constituency. He then later married Toh Puan Siti Maemunah.

Hobbies and interests[edit]

Rahman Ya'kub was very active in sports during his school days, especially football (soccer). In the later years of his life he also enjoyed playing golf. Rahman is a very religious man and loves reading religious books on Islam. He even conduct free-religious classes for the public after leaving active politics in 1985.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Rahman Ya'kub was born in the village of Kampung Jepak, Bintulu, Sarawak to a fisherman by the name of Tuan Wan Ya'kub bin Wan Yusuf and Siti Hajar binti Haji Mohd. Tahir who was a housewife. He first attended a Malay school and then the Sekolah Anchi in Miri. His father, who wished that Rahman Ya'kub be given an Islamic education, attempted to send him to the Al-Juned Arabic School in 1939, a decision that was opposed by his mother due to the outbreak of World War II. He then transferred to St. Joseph Miri, but his studies was cut short by the Japanese invasion.[2] At a young age, he learnt the Japanese martial art Aikido and was able to also meet Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.

He worked as an oil-tester for the Sarawak Shell Company and a school teacher before being accepted as a Native Officer in the Sarawak Civil Service in 1948. He graduated from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom as a trained lawyer[3] and worked as the Deputy Public Prosecutor in the Sarawak Legal Department from 1959 to 1963. He was the first Bumiputera from Sarawak that graduated as a lawyer in 1958 from Lincoln's Inn.[1]

Early political career[edit]

The first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman brought Rahman Ya'kub into politics while the second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak mentor him. Rahman was the deputy Lands and Mines Minister in the 1960s.[1]

He was one of the people who proposed that Malaysia should create their own oil company, now known is Petronas. Rahman Ya'kub also founded the now defunct Bank Utama Berhad in Malaysia.

Education minister[edit]

He was an education minister before he returned to Sarawak to become the chief minister in 1970. He made a bold move by changing the medium of instruction for all the schools and higher learning institutions from English to the Malay language.[1] He is also credited for the creation of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in 1970. He also did away with primary six common entrance examination, so that all the primary six students will be able to continue with their secondary education.[4]

Appointment to Chief Minister[edit]

He won the Kuala Rajang state constituency during the resumption of 1969 state election in 1970, representing Parti Bumiputera Sarawak, which was part of the Sarawak Alliance. After the election, there was not any party holding a clear majority. However, he was able to convince SUPP to form a coalition government with him as the chief minister. He was called by Tun Abdul Razak to tackle the communist insurgency in Sarawak.[1]

1974 Sri Aman Operation[edit]

Peace was restored in Sarawak when Bong Kee Chok, the former leader of Parti Rakyat Kalimantan Utara, together with 482 communist guerillas surrendered their arms in 1974 after the Sri Aman Operation initiated by Rahman Ya'kub.[1]

Development policy[edit]

Rahman Ya'kub set up the Sarawak foundation to provide scholarships and educational loans for the needy students. He also established several statutory bodies including State Planning Unit to speed up the development in Sarawak. Five administrative divisions in Sarawak has been increased to seven under his tenure of office. A bridge built in May 1975 which connects the two administrative divisions, namely Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara (DBKU) and Majlis Bandaraya Kuching Selatan (MBKS) was named after him.[4]

Logging industry[edit]

Rahman Ya'kub was known for controlling the logging industry in Sarawak. A case study in Belaga district revealed that the shares of the Lembahan Mewah timber licence was 70% owned by his daughters while the remaining 30% of shares was owned by the wife of Datuk Tajang Laing, the state assemblyman for Belaga district.[5] Rahman quit as chief minister after undergoing heart surgery in London in 1981.[1]

Appointment to Governor of Sarawak[edit]

In 1981, he resigned his post as the Chief Minister and became the Governor of Sarawak. He left his chief minister post to his nephew, Abdul Taib Mahmud. However, Rahman Ya'kub retained his influence over the state's principal levers of patronage such as land development permits, government contracts, and timber licenses.[6] He later quit his post as the governor of Sarawak in 1985 due to health reasons.[1]

1987 Ming Court Affair[edit]

This political crisis already started brewing when Rahman Ya'kub was the governor of Sarawak. He criticised his nephew in a speech at a ceremony of opening of Bintulu port in 1983.[7] In 1985, Rahman Ya'kub was involved in a bitter dispute with his nephew, Abdul Taib Mahmud over allocation rights. In 1987, Rahman Ya'kub formed a new party named Parti Persatuan Rakyat Malaysia Sarawak (PERMAS) to challenge Taib Mahmud at the polls. He also formed an alliance with Sarawak Dayak People's Party (PBDS) to unseat Taib Mahmud. In March 1987, 27 of the 48 state assemblymen suddenly directed their support to Rahman Ya'kub while calling Taib Mahmud to resign as a chief minister. Among the defectors were Taib's 4 cabinet ministers and 3 assistant ministers. A war of accusations on timber concessionaires then broke out between Rahman Ya'kub and Taib Mahmud. Taib Mahmud revoked 30 timber licenses held by his defectors and Rahman's clients.[6] Taib then accused Rahman for awarding 1.25 million hectares of logging concessions worth RM 22.5 billion to Rahman himself and his relatives. Rahman Ya'kub, in return, revealed a list of timber concessions covering 1.6 million hectares held by Taib's clients and family.[5] Despite the unsuccessful attempt at the 1987 Sarawak state election, Rahman continued his struggle with his allies, Sarawak Dayak People's Party against Taib's led Sarawak Barisan Nasional until 1991 Sarawak state election when Taib's coalition won an overwhelming majority of 49 out of 56 seats in the state assembly.[6][8]

Later life[edit]

Rahman celebrated his 80th birthday in Hilton Hotel, Kuching in 2008. During the grand ceremony, he hugged his nephew, Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, marking the end of the 20-year-old strained relationship between an uncle and a nephew after the Ming Court Affair. He said that he already stitch up his relationship with Taib because "blood is thicker than water".[1] He is now active in religious activities as he conducts free religious classes for the public at his residence, "Sri Bahagia", in Petra Jaya.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Truly memorable 80th birthday The Star
  2. ^ "Tun Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Rahman Ya'kub (Malay language)". National Archives of Malaysia. 16 October 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Jackson, Caroline (2 January 2008). "'Blood Is Thicker Than Water', Says Tun Rahman Yakub Of Ties With Taib". Bernama. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Revisiting 48 years of leadership". The Borneo Post. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Politics, Law and the Logging Industry URL assessed on 1 December 2009
  6. ^ a b c Ross. M.L (2001). In Timber booms and institutional breakdown in Southeast Asia. Cambridge University Press. p. 148-149. ISBN 0-521-79167-7. Google Book Search. Retrieved on 1 December 2009.
  7. ^ A long-standing political contest laid to rest at the Wayback Machine (archived 21 November 2009) New Straits Times
  8. ^ Borneo anti-logging party loses election The Age


  • Suhaimi Mokhtar, Putera Kenyalang: Satu Dekad Penuh Cabaran, 1981.
Preceded by
Tawi Sli
Chief Minister of Sarawak
Succeeded by
Abdul Taib Mahmud
Preceded by
Abang Muhammad Salahuddin
Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak
Succeeded by
Ahmad Zaidi Adruce