Hussein Onn
حسين عون
Studio Hussein, c. 1960s
3rd Prime Minister of Malaysia
In office
15 January 1976 – 16 July 1981
DeputyMahathir Mohamad
Preceded byAbdul Razak Hussein
Succeeded byMahathir Mohamad
3rd Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
In office
13 August 1973 – 15 January 1976
Prime MinisterAbdul Razak Hussein
Preceded byIsmail Abdul Rahman
Succeeded byMahathir Mohamad
4th President of the United Malays National Organisation
In office
15 September 1978 – 28 June 1981
Preceded byAbdul Razak Hussein
Succeeded byMahathir Mohamad
1st Youth Chief of the United Malays National Organisation
In office
PresidentOnn Jaafar
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byAbdul Razak Hussein
Minister of Defence
In office
MonarchAhmad Shah
Prime MinisterHussein Onn
Preceded byAbdul Taib Mahmud
Succeeded byMahathir Mohamad
In office
MonarchAhmad Shah
Prime MinisterHussein Onn
Preceded byAbdul Razak Hussein
Succeeded byAbdul Taib Mahmud
Minister of Federal Territories
In office
Prime MinisterHussein Onn
Preceded byHassan Adli Arshad
Succeeded byAbdul Taib Mahmud
Minister of Finance
In office
Prime MinisterAbdul Razak Hussein
Preceded byTan Siew Sin
Succeeded byTengku Razaleigh Hamzah
Minister of Trade and Industry
In office
13 August 1973 – 14 September 1974
MonarchAbdul Halim
Prime MinisterAbdul Razak Hussein
Preceded byIsmail Abdul Rahman
Succeeded byHamzah Abu Samah
Minister of Education
In office
MonarchAbdul Halim
Prime MinisterAbdul Razak Hussein
Preceded byAbdul Rahman Ya'kub
Succeeded byMohamed Yaacob
1st President of the International Islamic University Malaysia
In office
ChancellorAhmad Shah
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byAnwar Ibrahim
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Sri Gading
In office
4 November 1974 – 16 July 1981
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byMustaffa Mohammad
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Johore Bahru Timor
(Parliament suspended 13 May 1969 – 20 February 1971)
In office
20 February 1971 – 31 July 1974
Preceded byFatimah Abdul Majid
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Hussein bin Onn

(1922-02-12)12 February 1922
Johor Bahru, Johor, Unfederated Malay States (now Malaysia)
Died29 May 1990(1990-05-29) (aged 68)
Seton Medical Center, Daly City, California, U.S.
Resting placeMakam Pahlawan, Masjid Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Political partyIndependent (1987–1990)
Other political
United Malays National Organisation (Before 1951; 1968–1988)
Independence of Malaya Party (1951–1963)
National Party (1963–1968)
(m. 1948)
Children6 (including Hishammuddin Hussein)
EducationEnglish College Johore Bahru
Indian Military Academy
Alma materLincoln's Inn (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance British Raj
Branch/serviceBritish Indian Army
Years of service1940–1945

Tun Hussein bin Dato' Onn (Jawi: حسين بن عون; 12 February 1922 – 29 May 1990) was a Malaysian lawyer and politician who served as the third Prime Minister of Malaysia from the death of his predecessor Abdul Razak Hussein in 1976 to his retirement in 1981. Moreover, he was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sri Gading from 1974 to 1981, representing Barisan Nasional (BN) and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). He was granted the soubriquet Father of Unity (Bapa Perpaduan).


Hussein bin Onn was born on 12 February 1922 in Johor Bahru to Onn Jaafar (1895–1962) and Halimah Hussein (1900–1988). His father was a fighter for Malaysian independence and co-founder of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).[1] Hussein's grandfather, Jaafar Haji Muhammad, was the first Menteri Besar of Johor while his grandmother, Rogayah Hanim, came from the Caucasus region of Ottoman Empire. She was likely presented as a concubine (see Circassian beauties) by the Ottoman court to the Sultan of Johor.[2]

Additionally, Hussein was the brother-in-law of Abdul Razak Hussein, his predecessor as prime minister, for whom Hussein wed Suhailah Noah, a daughter of first Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat Mohamed Noah Omar, in 1948. Abdul Razak was also concurrently married to another of Mohamed Noah's daughter, Rahah Noah.[3]

Hussein and Suhaila had six children, including their fourth child, Hishammuddin Hussein, who is a senior UMNO politician since the 1990s.[3] Their eldest daughter, Datin Roquaiya Hanim (born 1950), died on 17 September 2006 from breast cancer.[3]

Early education and career

Hussein received his early education at Telok Kurau Primary School, Singapore, and at the English College Johore Bahru. After leaving school, he joined the Johor Military Forces as a cadet in 1940 and was sent a year later to the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, India. Upon completion of his training, he was absorbed into the Indian Army and served in the Middle East when the Second World War broke out.[1] His vast experience prompted the British to employ him as an instructor at the Malayan Police Recruiting and Training Centre in Rawalpindi.[1]

Hussein came back to Malaya in 1945 and was appointed Commandant of the Johor Bahru Police Depot. The following year, he joined the Malaya Civil Service as an assistant administrative officer in Segamat, Johor. He was later posted to the state of Selangor, becoming Klang and Kuala Selangor's district officer.

Entering politics

Hussein, who came from a family with a deep nationalistic spirit and political roots,[1] resigned from the civil service to go into politics. In 1949, he became the first youth chief of UMNO, a party his father helped establish. In 1950, he was elected UMNO secretary general. Hussein, however, left UMNO in 1951 to join his father in forming the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP).[1]

With IMP losing momentum, Hussein went to London to study law and was called to the Bar and admitted as a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, qualifying as a Barrister-at-Law. He came back as a certified lawyer and practised in Kuala Lumpur.[1]

Rise to prominence

Hussein returned to politics by rejoining UMNO in 1968, persuaded to do so by then-Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein.[1] He stood and won the general elections in 1969 and was appointed as the Education Minister. Hussein's meteoric rise continued on 13 August 1973, when he took over as Deputy Prime Minister, succeeding Ismail Abdul Rahman, who died in office due to a heart attack.

Prime Minister (1976-1981)

On 15 January 1976, Hussein, who was the Deputy Prime Minister, was appointed as Prime Minister after the death of his predecessor, Abdul Razak.[4]

Hussein underwent a coronary bypass in early 1981. His deputy, Mahathir Mohamad become acting prime minister. On 17 July, the same year, Hussein retired from active politics and resigned from the office of prime minister due to health concerns.[1] He was succeeded by Mahathir.


Hussein died on 29 May 1990 of heart disease at Seton Medical Center in South San Francisco, California, at the age of 68.[1] He was buried next to his predecessor, Abdul Razak, at Makam Pahlawan near Masjid Negara, Kuala Lumpur.[5]


Hussein Onn era took the easy way out by putting opposition leaders into detention without trial, banning public rallies and controlling all the media.[6]

Election results

Parliament of Malaysia
Year Constituency Candidate Votes Pct Opponent(s) Votes Pct Ballots cast Majority Turnout
1969 P100 Johore Bahru Timor, Johore Hussein Onn (UMNO) 12,565 63.59% Lee Ah Meng (DAP) 7,193 36.41% 20,767 5,372 72.29%
1974 P109 Sri Gading, Johore Hussein Onn (UMNO) Unopposed
1978 Hussein Onn (UMNO) 19,761 89.06% Hassan Hussein (PAS) 2,427 10.94% 17,334

Awards and recognitions

Honours of Malaysia

Places named after him

Several places were named after him, including:

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Tun Hussein Onn". Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  2. ^ Mehmet Ozay; Ekrem Saltık (June 2015). "The Myth and Reality of Rukiye Hanim in the Context of Turkish Malay Relations (1864–1904)". Insan & Toplum – Journal of Humanity and Society. 5 (9): 55–74. doi:10.12658/human.society.5.9.M0116.
  3. ^ a b c "Tun Suhailah, widow of 3rd PM Tun Hussein Onn, dies at 82". The Malaysian Insider. 4 October 2014. Archived from the original on 23 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  4. ^ Tan, Chee Khoon & Vasil, Raj (ed., 1984). Without Fear or Favour, p. 38. Eastern Universities Press. ISBN 967-908-051-X.
  5. ^ Zainah Anwar (2011). Legacy of honour. Kuala Lumpur: Yayasan Mohamed Noah. p. 275. ISBN 978-967-10382-0-8. OCLC 816815135.
  6. ^ Tong, Liew Chin (2021). Lim Kit Siang: Patriot, Leader, Fighter. p. 71.
  7. ^ "Senarai Penuh Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat Persekutuan Tahun 1981" (PDF).
  8. ^ "Anugerah Tun untuk Hussein kerana jasanya pada negara" (PDF). Utusan Malaysia (in Malay). Perdana Leadership Foundation. 17 July 1981. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  9. ^ Ministers head Sultan's awards list. New Straits Times. 16 November 1972.
  10. ^ A Royal call to live in peace. New Straits Times. 29 October 1975.
  11. ^ "DK II 1977". Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  12. ^ "SPCM 1976". Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  13. ^ "Hussein orang pertama terima darjah Seri Paduka Negeri Sembilan" (PDF). Utusan Malaysia (in Malay). Perdana Leadership Foundation. 26 February 1980. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  14. ^ Pahang ruler birthday message. New Straits Times. 24 October 1975.
  15. ^ Hussein and Rahah get top Sabah awards. New Straits Times. 14 September 1974. p. 1.
  16. ^ "梹州元首庆六十华诞 三百五十六官民 受封赐各级勳衔" [Yang-Dipertua Negeri Penang celebrate 60th birthday 356 individuals conferred over awards]. 星洲日報. 16 July 1977. p. 6.
Political offices Preceded byIsmail Abdul Rahman Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia 1973–1976 Succeeded byMahathir Mohamad Preceded byAbdul Razak Prime Minister of Malaysia 1976–1981 Diplomatic posts Preceded bySuharto Chairperson of ASEAN 1977 Succeeded byCorazon Aquino