It has been no easy task setting up the Tun Suffian Foundation. Tun Mohamed Suffian Hashim, 20th century Malaysia’s most eminent jurist, passed away in my Kampung Tunku home at exactly 9.37 pm on 26th September 2000, leaving in the sands of time an incredible legacy.
Not long after his demise, and at the behest of Tan Sri Datuk Wira Lal Chand Vohrah, a former Malaysian judge then serving as a member of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague who told me that the best memorial to remember Tun Suffian would be to establish a foundation bearing his name, I began communicating with several of my personal friends and relatives of the late Tun for their opinion. The response was with the exception of one, truly amazing and overwhelming.
One that really touched my heart was a short note from Kay Goon, whose family had been friends of the late Tun for years on end. “Suff will be honoured and remembered through a Foundation named after him. What a lovely thing to do in his memory,” that poignant message read.
However, the exceptional well-meaning naysayer, though a close friend of the Tun himself, in reply to my communication, retorted “I am afraid that as time passes, people who did not know Suffian personally would not volunteer as spontaneously and readily in the same spirit as the people like you, who knew him when he was alive.”
One of the greatest difficulties in establishing any charitable foundation is funding but that was then easily overcome with generous contributions that readily came from Tun Suffian’s old acquaintances, admirers, relatives and friends and corporate bodies, both local and international.
On 11 June 2002, less than two years after Tun Suffian’s demise, the Tun Suffian Foundation was established with then Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin as Chairman.
When Tun Dzaiddin relinquished the post in March 2014, Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, an octogenarian with vast experience in both the government service as well as in the corporate sector, succeeded him as the Foundation’s new Chairman.
It is significant to note that as we welcome our new Chairman, more than half of the current Board of Trustees are persons who were never close friends of the late Tun. And yet, contrary to the prediction of the naysayer, our new trustees remain as steadfast in spirit and enthusiasm as the rest of the remaining founding trustees in our determination to see that the Tun Suffian Foundation is here to stay.
The principal aim of the Foundation is to perpetuate the good name of Tun Suffian and to help nurture the philosophies and expectations of the late Tun amongst the younger generation of the whole globe with the hope that someday soon, these young ones would, through education, emulate and put into practice, the values and aspirations of this great man.
A number of Tun Suffian scholarships have been structured.
Although principally meant for Malaysians pursuing tertiary education in selected fields and certain institutions of higher learning both locally and abroad, the Foundation also offers scholarships to foreign students pursuing PhD courses at public universities in Malaysia.
The Federal Government has always been supportive of the Foundation. During its initial stage, we were granted tax-exempt status under section 44(6) of the Income Tax Act 1967. When the global economic crisis hit many nations including ours, the Federal Government’s generous financial contributions into our coffers has helped ensure that Tun Suffian Scholars are able to continue financially unhampered in their respective course of studies.
A total of 51 students have thus far become Tun Suffian Scholars since its establishment and these include two students from China and one from Indonesia.
In addition to 35 scholars who pursued the tertiary education in law at Malaysian universities, three were selected to read the Master’s degree in Law at Cambridge. Post-medical students have also been included in the list of our scholars. Of these, one was sent to Singapore, three to the United Kingdom, one to Canada and another to Australia. The Foundation has given financial assistance to young lawyers attending workshops outstation and also to a group of researchers from a local public university involving the National Land Code.
A group of 16 Japanese students (some of whom were descendants of survivors of the atomic bombing over Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and who had come to Malaysia to participate in an International Symposium themed “Younger Generation say NO to War” also received assistance from us.
Other than scholarships, the Foundation, in 2007, commissioned a renowned author Professor Dato’ Salleh Buang to write a biography on the Tun entitled “In Service of the Law – Simplicity & Greatness: Tun Suffian’s Legacy”.
Lately, a retired educationist, Datin Sharifah Mariam Syed Mansor Al-Idrus, formerly a Professor of Communications at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Malaysia, Sarawak (UNIMAS) has been commissioned to write the biographies of two of the nation’s many unsung heroes and heroines, namely Datuk Ann Majeed specifically in relation to her welfare work involving the teaching of the blind in Malaysia and Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman on his varied public services including when he was the Secretary of the National Operations Council after the 13th May 1969 tragedy in Malaya and thereafter when he successfully helmed Malaysia Airlines our national carrier.
In 2016, the Foundation sponsored the publication of a medically- related book entitled “Battling Adversity” by psychiatrist Associate Professor Dato’ Dr Andrew Mohnraj Chandrasekaran.
A book (with the collaboration of a well-known Malaysian artist) on Morals, Ethics and Values as well as an On-line Constitutional Law Library Service in partnership with the University of Malaya Faculty of Law are on the Foundation’s immediate pipeline. The Foundation also assisted in the establishment of the Tun Suffian Lectureship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and joint- ventured with the Faculty of Law of the University of Malaya in the holding of the Tun Suffian Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition which hopes to go international soon.
Sometime in the not too distant future the Foundation envisages the establishment of the Tun Suffian Chair on Constitutional Law at the University of Malaya and also the Tun Suffian Gonville & Caius College-Middle Temple Scholarships for outstanding students aspiring to follow the learned sage’s journey in their law study pursuit.
The Foundation has also agreed to establish annually, a maximum of two (2) full scholarships to students pursuing International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Tunku Kurshiah College, Bandar Enstek, Negeri Sembilan.
In conclusion, I am happy to record the Foundation’s heartfelt thanks not only to Tun Suffian’s old acquaintances, admirers, relatives and friends but also to the Federal Government and various corporate bodies, both local and international for their generous financial assistance in allowing us at the Foundation to fulfil both the vision and mission of the Tun Suffian Foundation.
To all our donors and well-wishers the following quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow says it all:
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time
Tunku Sofiah Jewa