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EXEMPLARY: He remained to the end of his days just a simple, unassuming person, devoid of any hubris
PART One of this article gave us the illustrious saga of a simple kampung boy from a humble background, who in the end, became a "Tun", and regarded as a national hero.
I must here bow to Loong Caesar, who can tell you more.
Tun Mohamed Suffian Hashim went to Cambridge. Caesar also went to the "other place". The former entered a kampung boy and left by the Gate of Honour. A promising start more than fulfilled in his subsequent multi-faceted career with its plethora of the highest honours, feats and awards.
I was intrigued. What sort of man was he? Intimidating? Not at all. He remained to the end of his days just a simple, unassuming person. Devoid of any hubris. Devoid of the hype we have come to expect in the celebrity cult of today.
The Agatha Christie in me was prompted to delve a little more behind the scenes into the personal side of this remarkable man.
He was to return to Cambridge time and time again. It could be seen as the love of his life. Except, there were two loves, both from the same source.
His permanent trophy from his university days was the lady he married -- his landlady's daughter, Dora May Evelina, otherwise known to us as "Bunny". Rumour has it that he had to compete for her favours against at least one other Malaysian.
There is a story behind that pseudonym "Bunny". Shortly after her debut in Malaysia, she was invited to an official function.
In those days it was de riguer for the ladies to wear hats. She chose one decorated with a rabbit and thus became "Bunny" for the rest of her life. It was a very happy life, given what a stalwart companion she proved to be. This is where I come in. I, too, married a "local".
Suffian came back in 1948. I came out in 1955 -- first to Singapore, but it was then Singalasia. Malaya and Singapore were Siamese twins with a commonality of race, tradition, custom and culture.
Malaya was still a British colony. The pillar boxes were red, the traffic drove on the left and English was the lingua franca. A familiar world for the young Cambridge graduate. But not so much for his English wife -- or me. We had breached the white standard.
Tun Suffian was of that original pioneer generation who took over at Independence and as a patriot had no other aspirations but to serve his country.
Despite his pre-eminence in the legal profession, he had no desire to make a fortune by practising law in the private sector.
Most Malays of that earlier generation went naturally into the civil service. In the event, he gained much recognition not only in Malaysia, but internationally.
In 1959, he was given an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by the Sultan of Brunei -- deservedly so as he drafted their Constitution. In 1972, he was bestowed another Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Singapore. The University of Malaya conferred an Honorary Degree of Letters. All that was close to home, but his reputation went much further afield.
We saluted in Part One the Magsaysay Award he received in 1975 from the Philippines. Before that in 1964, he was given the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship.
In 1979, it was an honorary fellowship from the University College of Buckingham in the United Kingdom.
When we think about Tun Suffian, he seems almost a miracle man. But that was not how he saw himself. He attributed his success to the "kind and tactful advice of my clerks and interpreters", who he said helped him acquire a rudimentary knowledge of the art of dispensing justice.
When he was nearing statutory retirement, he was asked what his future plans were. Today, as we know, senior civil servants are in demand when they leave the service for high level, well-paid positions in the private sector.
Tun Suffian, when asked about his future plans, replied somewhat tongue in cheek, "to grow bananas, fruit trees and orchids". But he did add "as well as write".
Towards the end, he encountered health problems and was taken into the home and the tender care of two old, dear friends -- Tunku Datuk Dr Sofia Jewah and her husband, Datuk Dr Yaacob Merican.
It was heartening that just before he died, came the culmination -- he was made a Fellow of Caius College Cambridge -- where his life, therefore, began and ended.
And the final accolade had still to come. He died on Sept 26, 2000 aged almost 83. He was buried in the Perak royal mausoleum in Kuala Kangsar. Back to his origins, but the wheel had come a full circle.