Office boy who won heart of PMs
PETALING JAYA, Aug 30 — Yusoff Abdullah was implicitly trusted by the first three prime ministers of the nation despite being outside their small coterie of political advisers.
He knew their “secrets”, their strengths and weaknesses and what made them tick, endearing himself to them in the process.
The 88-year-old, who began working with Umno at its inception in 1946, was a confidante by default.
He was an office boy, privy to the inner workings of the early Umno leadership.
He served Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn who rose to the highest elected office in the land.
Also well-known to him were Tan Sri Khir Johari, Tun Ghafar Baba, Tan Sri Senu Abdul Rahman, and Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah.
“I knew them well. I was like a son to them. They were men of excellence. I was especially close to Tunku,” said one of the first two Umno full-time employees in a recent interview at his Bukit Jelutong home.
Through dint of hard work, he climbed the ladder to eventually become assistant secretary at party headquarters with a number of staff under him.
In the process, he received several government awards including the Kesatria Mangku Negara (KMN) and Ahli Mangku Negara (AMN) from the federal government.
The Johor royalty also honoured him with several awards including the Pingat Ibrahim Sultan (P.I.S.).
Although his favourite was Tunku whose simplicity he admired, Razak and Hussein were no less appreciated because of their honesty and honourable life.
It was to be a principle that the father of seven, grandfather of 29 and great-grandfather of 11 strictly adhered to all his life.
Yusoff is a repository of first-person accounts of encounters with the three leaders and former deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman that few know about.
For instance, Tunku once gave him a letter in Johor Baru in the days before independence to be delivered to Samad Ismail (later Tan Sri) who was editor of Utusan Melayu in Singapore.
“Tunku told me to pass it to Samad. I knew it was an important letter but did not know its contents,” he said, adding the Umno office gave him a few cents to take the bus to the island.
He later came to know the letter allegedly contained details of how the British had used underhand tactics on the Tunku to force him not to insist on independence for Malaya.
Yusoff, who was known for his loyalty to Umno and the three early prime ministers, said Samad was supposed to release the contents of the letter if the British acted against Tunku.
It was only then that Yusoff realised the importance of the mission that Tunku had sent him on that day.
Yusoff said he had several pleasant encounters with Razak, including one where he accompanied the young Umno leader to “see his future wife, Tun Rahah, at the Convent School in Johor Baru.”
There is a story about Dr Ismail that confirms his no-nonsense attitude when it came to work.
“I was given a letter to deliver to Tun Dr Ismail and was stopped by an office staff member on arrival to see him. My boss told me to personally hand the letter to him and I insisted on doing so.”
Apparently Dr Ismail, on hearing the commotion, inquired about what was happening and scolded the person who had stopped Yusoff.
“From then onwards, he said I was to have unrestricted access to him when I came with official documents,” he added.
Yusoff has an insider’s knowledge of happenings involving Umno leaders over the years “but I never once revealed any or used them to my advantage.”
The Johor-born who has been married to Asiah Othman for 59 years, has a wicked sense of humour that may be key to his good health.
His seven children are looking forward to celebrating their parents’ 60th wedding anniversary next year.
As Malaysia marks its 60th anniversary of independence this year, Yusoff is grateful he is still in good health to celebrate the occasion.
“We have done our part for the nation. It is now the responsibility of the younger generation to put their best foot forward for their country,” he said.