He was the Minister of Finance (1976–1984), Minister of International Trade and Industry (1984–1987), former chairman of Asian Development Bank, former chairman of Islamic Development Bank, founding Chairman and Chief Executive of Malaysian oil company, PETRONAS, and chairman of the 33rd Board of Governors of the World Bank and IMF. He is now the longest serving member of parliament in Malaysia. His popularity has earned him nicknames such as "People's Prince" and "Ku Kita" (Our Tengku). He is affectionately known as Ku Li, derived from the last syllables of Tengku Razaleigh; deriving a nickname from the last syllables of one's name is a common custom in the Kelantan dialect.
Razaleigh was born in Kota Bharu to Tengku Seri Maharaja Kelantan, Tengku Muhammad Hamzah Ibni Almarhum Raja Muda Long Zainal Abidin Ibni Sultan Muhammad III, who was the Menteri Besar of Kelantan. Razaleigh was educated at English-medium schools and attended Sultan Ismail College before moving on to the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK). He left MCKK disliking the boarding school environment there, and transferred to Anderson School in Ipoh, Perak. He received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Queen's University of Belfast in 1959 and later continued his studies at Lincoln's Inn. However, upon his father's death, he was forced to return and never continued his studies.
Razaleigh took over the family business, and then joined the United Malays National Organisation, a major Malay political party.
Starting from the mid-1960s, with the support of the then Prime Ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak, several initiatives launched to increase and expand Malaysia's economic growth. Several of these initiatives were led by Razaleigh. These initiatives were major corporate takeovers of foreign conglomerates and major industries which was previously owned by foreign shareholders respectively.
Due to his excellent drive and contribution to the country's economy, and his strong economics and finance background, he was entrusted to manage the country's finance and was made the Finance Minister in 1976, Chairman of Asian Development Bank in 1976, IBRD (World Bank) and IMF in 1977, and Islamic Development Bank in 1978.
The New Straits Times Press (initially News Straits Times Press Sdn Bhd) was formed by the Directors of the Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad, to acquire a majority shareholding in the company which was the largest mass-circulation news organ in the territories of East and West Malaysia.
The Malaysia operations of the Straits Times, the Sunday Times, the Malay Mail, the Sunday Mail, Berita Harian and Berita Minggu were transferred to this new company. An agreement was reached in 1972 between the directors of the Straits Times group and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for the disposal of 80 per cent of the stock of the News Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. for the Malaysian interest.
On 4 June 1965, "Kongres Ekonomi Bumiputra" (Bumiputra Economic Congress), sponsored by the Ministry of National and Rural Development, were held in Kuala Lumpur for 3 days to generate an interest among Malays and other local indigenous groups to participate in commerce and industry. Seven working committees were formed to achieve these objectives.
Tun Abdul Razak, the then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia announced that the Government had agreed to form a local Bank ("Bank Bumiputra") as recommended by the Economic Congress based on a majority of the 69 resolutions passed in the meeting. The Bank, with its initial capital to be provided by the Malaysian Government, would be established. The Bank's ownership would ultimately be sold to the public through shares. On 15 July 1965, Tun Abdul Razak announced the Government agreed to provide RM5 million as the initial capital for Bank Bumiputra. In an event presenting certificate to 80 students at "Taman Latehan Wanita", Lornie Road, Tun Abdul Razak reiterated that the main aim of the bank was to assist rural businessmen in the form of loans irrespective of religion.
Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Berhad was formally launched by Tun Abdul Razak on 1 October 1965 with authorised capital of RM25 million, instead of RM5 million announced earlier. The senior management was headed by Mohd Raslan bin Dato' Abdullah (managing director), former Accountant General of Government and Tengku Razaleigh (Executive Director). The other board members are S.O.K. Ubaidulla (President of United Chamber of Commerce), L.E Osman (a lawyer), K. Mushir Ariff (an incorporated valuer), Wan Yahya bin Haji Mohamad (a businessman from Terengganu), K.D. Eu (a company director, and Kuok Hock Nian (a company director). The general manager of the Bank was Wong Aun Pui, a prominent local banker with 20 years of experience and director of many rubber and palm oil companies.
PERNAS (Perbadanan Nasional Berhad or National Corporation) was set up in November 1969 as a wholly owned government company to carry out the resolutions at the Second Bumiputera Economic Congress. Among the major shareholders included were Malaysia's Ministry of Finance, Bank Negara Malaysia (The Central Bank of Malaysia) and Bank Bumiputera Malaysia Berhad. Pernas was put under a solid footing under the chairmanship of Razaleigh (1970–1974) who had been the Minister of Finance from 1976 to 1984.
With the background of poor and very low participation of Bumiputeras in the private sector and industries at that time, PERNAS' principle were to:enter undertakings which would bring high economic returns,
when enter into joint ventures, PERNAS was to be the majority stockholder with controlling interest over operations,
Bumiputeras were to be employed at all levels of operations and undertakings.
8 subsidiaries were set up under PERNAS to achieve its objective. Malaysia National Insurance Berhad (MNI) was established in April 1970. There followed during 1971 Pernas Construction Sdn. Bhd., Pernas Engineering Sdn. Bhd., and Pernas Securities Sdn. Bhd. Then came Pernas Mining Sdn. Bhd (1973) and Pernas Edar Sdn Bhd (1974).
Razaleigh was in the thick of what became known as the Haw Par imbroglio of the mid-1970s, working with the Singapore-based Haw Par Brothers International Ltd, then an offshoot of the empire of British wheeler-dealer Jim Slater, to acquire control of London Tin Company, the British-controlled tin conglomerate, and the Sime Darby plantations conglomerate. This was to be achieved through a complex series of transactions by which PERNAS would end up as the largest shareholder of both. It failed when Singapore accused Haw Par of financial irregularities and later jailed a senior executive and the head, Donald Watson, fled to Ireland.
But it proved a short-lived setback for Razaleigh. Within two years, a share and proxy battle orchestrated by merchant bank Rothschild – which was also a part owner of Bumiputera Merchant Bankers – brought Sime Darby under Malaysian control and its headquarters shifted to Kuala Lumpur. Control of London Tin Company was acquired the same year. In another coup in 1979, Malaysian money made a "dawn raid" on British plantation giant, Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd, which wrenched the company from British control; most of the other British owned plantations soon followed.
Among the major corporate takeover exercise and formation of new businesses during Razaleigh's stewardship as Pernas chairman wereInsurance – Malaysia National Insurance Bhd,
Banking – Maybank Bhd,
Mining – the then world largest tin mining company, London Tin Company which later were renamed into Malaysian Mining Corporation. It is known as MM Corporation Berhad.
Palm Oil and Rubber Producer – Sime Darby, Guthrie Berhad, Highlands and Lowlands Berhad.
In 1971, Razaleigh's led trade delegation went to China to initiate a prospect of initiating a business relationship. During the visit to China, Razaleigh managed to meet the then China's Premier Zhou En Lai. Total trade with China stood at a mere RM105.6 million in 1971, but ballooned to RM1.6 billion in 1980. Since then the contact between the two countries has been on the increase as evidenced by the number of visits of trade, medical and sports delegations to China.
On 6 September 1974, Malaysia's then prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak, announced the appointment of Razaleigh as chairman and Chief Executive of PETRONAS (Petroliam Nasional Berhad). Tun Razak said: "From among the new blood, I intended to bring Tengku Razaleigh into the Cabinet. However, I have an important job for him, a job as important as that of a Cabinet Minister. I have decided to appoint him as chairman and Chief Executive of PETRONAS, which is equivalent to being a Cabinet Minister.". Subsequently, Razaleigh had to relinquish his job as Chairman of PERNAS which he held from 1970, but retained the chairmanship of Bank Bumiputra.
He also set up "Bank Pembangunan Malaysia" and founded and established both Bank Islam and Syarikat Takaful, an insurance company run in accordance with Syariah principle.
Institute of Marketing Malaysia (IMM) was founded by Razaleigh in 1977 and he became the Institute's first Patron.
Razaleigh was President of Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, President of Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and consequently the President of ASEAN Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He played a major role in the strategic restructuring of the Malaysian economy. The Malaysian Chamber of Commerce acknowledged his expertise in the petroleum business and once called him the "Malaysian Oil Prince". In the 1975 Malaysian Chamber of Commerce resolution, Razaleigh was named "Father of Malaysian Economic Development".
As the former president of the Malayan Students Union in London and secretary of the Malay Society in Britain, Razaleigh has entered into politics on 23 April 1962. He was unanimously elected as chairman of the Ulu Kelantan Division of UMNO at its annual meeting. He had returned to Malaya earlier that year to attend the funeral of his father.
Tengku Razaleigh was part of the Malaya's delegation to the United Nation for 17th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in 1962. The leader of the delegation was Dato' Dr. Ismail bin Dato' Abdul Rahman, the then-Minister of Internal Security.
In the 1969 general election, Razaleigh won Kelantan State Legislative Assembly seat of Ulu Kelantan Barat. Him, being of royal blood has the right to use the combined title of 'Yang Berhormat' which is the equivalent to 'The Honourable' and 'Yang Mulia' which is equivalent to 'His Highness'. Hence, he has the combined title of Yang Berhormat Mulia. If translated to English, it would be His Highness, The Honourable Tan Sri Tengku.
In 1971, he was elected to the UMNO Supreme Council. Besides Musa Hitam and Prof. Abdul Jalil Hassan, he was among the new 7 faces in the Supreme Council.
Later he was appointed as the Treasurer of UMNO by the then-President of UMNO Tun Abdul Razak in 1973.
In 1975, after securing the most votes for the Vice-President post in the party election, he continue to serve as one of the Vice-Presidents of UMNO.
In the 1974 general election, Razaleigh won the Parliamentary seat of then-Ulu Kelantan (now known as, Gua Musang).
After Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak's sudden death in 1976, he was appointed as Finance Minister by the new Prime Minister, Hussein Onn. Razaleigh's planning is reputed to have been the main reason the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, of which UMNO is a member, almost totally defeated the opposition Islamic party of PAS in the 1978 general election and the Kelantan state elections of the same year.
When Mahathir bin Mohamad succeeded Hussein Onn as Prime Minister, he declared the election for the Deputy Presidency of UMNO – and thus by extension the Deputy Prime Ministership – was open; he would not support any candidate. Razaleigh joined the fray, and his main opposition was Musa Hitam. Eventually, Musa won the election with 722 votes to Razaleigh's 517 votes, becoming the new Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister. Razaleigh blamed himself for taking "a rather passive stance" and not having a campaign strategy.
In 1987, Tengku Razaleigh challenged Mahathir. In the election, Dr. Mahathir managed to retain his position. However, UMNO was split into two separate entities as Tengku Razaleigh was left unsatisfied with the result.
The split forced the Malaysian court to declare UMNO as illegal. Shortly after the court ruling, Dr. Mahathir reestablished UMNO as UMNO Baru (New UMNO), though the new UMNO was badly weakened. Tengku Razaleigh at the same time went on his own path and found a new political party called Semangat 46 in 1989. The number 46 refers to the year UMNO was founded.
In the 1993 constitutional crisis, Razaleigh strongly opposed the amendment for Rulers to be tried at court and their legal immunity be stripped. However, his efforts failed to bear fruit as it did not gain enough support. In 1996, Tengku Razaleigh disbanded Semangat 46 and rejoined UMNO.
In 2004, he announced his interest for the UMNO top post yet again but failed to garner enough nominations to contest the presidency.
On 22 July 2011, Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah), a Non-Government Organisation was launched by Razaleigh at Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman to revive and restore the spirit of Merdeka among Malaysians. The organisation is led by Razaleigh himself as the President, along with several other public figures and prominent activists.
He lost his wife, Nur Yvonne Abdullah, who died on June 5, 2015 due to multiple myeloma, a disease she had been suffering from for the previous year. While being out of the limelight and shying away from the public, she was married to him since 1995.
Tengku Razaleigh is one of many Malaysian politicians, celebrities, and other well-known personalities who appear in Pete Teo and Namewee's public service announcement voter education video "Undilah" on YouTube, released in 2011. Razaleigh provides a spoken word introduction to the rap song.
In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia, Pete Teo released the video "Hari Malaysia", featuring many public figures and well-known personalities. Tengku Razaleigh was seen sitting next to Lim Kit Siang, another Malaysian prominent political figure, in Merdeka Stadium.
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah won the parliamentary seat of Ulu Kelantan in 1974 uncontested.
No data. Incumbent retains seat.
On August 1, 1995, the Kota Bharu High Court ordered a fresh election for the Gua Musang Parliamentary Seat after declaring the contest in the 8th General Election held in April the same year null and void. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was the incumbent MP. The court ordered the by-election as Hussein was disqualified from contesting when his nomination papers were rejected by the returning officer on the grounds that he had mistakenly filled the address of his house in Pasir Mas in the column that was meant for the address in the constituency. After submitting a petition, the Election Court subsequently ruled that the returning officer had erred in rejecting the nomination paper and ordered fresh polls for Gua Musang Parliamentary Seat.