The 1975 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service
CITATION for Tun Mohammed Suffian
Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies
31 August 1975, Manila, Philippines
Law is the cement of enduring civilizations, codifying aspirations of a people for their mutual well-being. The law thus must supersede the individual, yet, in its framing and interpretation, sensitivity to personal needs and simple justice are requisite for its continued acceptance. Especially is this so when diverse customs and values must be welded to shape a common national identity.
Tun SUFFIAN's career parallels the emergence of Malaysia. Born in 1917 into a humble family in a kampong in the northern Malayan state of Perak, he was the first pupil of any rural school to win a Queen's Scholarship. Study in England at Cambridge University was followed by call to Bar at the Middle Temple, London in 1941. Enroute back to Malaya, the Japanese occupation of his homeland caught him in Ceylon. Joining the war effort he began broadcasting to Malaya for All India Radio and later for the British Broadcasting Company.
The end of hostilities prompted SUFFIAN's return to England to study public administration and social anthropology at the London School of Economics, before joining the Malayan Civil Service. Named Magistrate of Malacca in 1948, he also served as Harbor Master. Throughout the difficult years of the Emergency he was posted to such city and state positions as Federal Counsel, Public Prosecutor, Solicitor-General and Constitutional Adviser in Kuala Lumpur, Johore Bahru, Brunei and Pahang. He learned to know broadly his people and their problems. While serving as High Court Judge in Alor Star in 1964after creation of the Federation of Malaysiahe was appointed Pro-Chancellor of the University of Malaya, and the following year became Chairman of the Royal Commission on Salaries of the Public Service.
Called to head Malaysia's court system as Lord President in 1974, SUFFIAN's life long pursuit of fostering both better government and better citizenship has not slackened. His book on Malaysia's constitution, written in fairly simple language, was aimed at the wide public outside the university and the courtroom. The Government relies upon him to head commissions on controversial issues, knowing a careful study will be made on time and his findings will be trusted. Withal, in deportment and concern he has retained a sense of his simple beginnings, advising others in high office not to be dazzled by prestige.
Searching for a new legal synthesis that truly will make of Malaysia a harmonious society, guiding the university system to relevance, speaking with a voice of moderation, SUFFIAN gives form to his motto, "life is service." For the young of his nation he has provided a model of what can be accomplished for the public good by following this precept.
In electing Tun MOHAMED SUFFIAN BIN HASHIM to receive the 1975 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his uprightness and humanity in adapting Western legal forms to realities of his own plural Asian society and shaping the public institutions of a new nation.
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