Interview with Dato Harun Idris
Menteri Besar of Selangor, 1964-1976

extracted from The Victorian, 1965

Harun Idris

ato Harun was born in Petaling on the 21st of July in 1925, the son of a penghulu. He received his early education at a Malay school, after which he joined the Victoria Institution in 1936. School life was tougher then. He recalled that he used to cycle the full six miles from Petaling to attend classes, as did most of the other boys. His first encounter with this school was a memorable though painful occasion. Delayed by a puncture, he arrived late for class on the first day of school, and was made to carry his bicycle right from the bicycle shed to the classroom by his Form Master, Mr. Gorbex Singh. This embarassment so overwhelmed him that he recalled having cried in school that first day. Fate, however, played a strange hand because, years later, when Dato Harun was a magistrate, he encountered Mr. Gorbex Singh again when the latter appeared before him in court! "We are now the best of friends," commented Dato Harun.

Asked about his extra-curricular activities, Dato Harun remembered having represented the school at soccer, hockey, athletics and swimming. "I was a sergeant in the Cadet Corps. At that time the Cadet Corps was made up of one company and one band. Badminton was popular in those days as well." As he related his experiences, we were able to learn of some interesting episodes and facts about the school as it was in the old days. "In those days there used to be graves at the place where the Merdeka Stadium stands now. When these graves were being dug up, we pupils were there to pick up the coins that were found inside them."

Describing himself as a "mischievous" boy during his childhood, Dato Harun related how he had his first taste of the law and how this latter helped him decide to pursue it as a career. His mother had rewarded him for his success in the Junior Cambridge Examination by giving him a new bicycle. So, cruising happily along Campbell Road he overlooked a Stop-Look-Go sign as he turned into Ampang Road . . . right into the arms of the two policemen walking towards him! He had to stay in the police station until late that night before his cousin could get him out.

He later appeared in the dock before the magistrate, Raja Ayub. Recognizing him as the boy who used to pick tennis balls for him before, Raja Ayub gave the young Harun a severe lecture before discharging him. "In those days, even the minor offenders had to stand in the dock, and that was most unfair," observed the Mentri Besar with a smile. This singular incident did not discourage his cycling exploits, for later on he went on to participate in the Malayan Schoolboys' Cycling Carnival.

Dato Harun had originally intended to take up medicine and had actually enrolled at Hong Kong University. However, as he was taking his final examinations in the Pudu English School Hall, the Japanese invaded Malaya. During the war, he was a member of the Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army. His exploits included some close calls which we were understandably eager to find out. "There was an occasion where I missed death by only a few hours when I avoided an ambush at Subang where the present new airport is situated. On another occasion, after the bridge at Klang was bombed, I found myself on the same boat as the Japanese officer who was looking for me. However, because of the growth of beard I had on my face and the shabby clothes I was wearing, I managed to avoid being recognized and escaped."

He next had us listening intently as he described his eventful career during the postwar days. After a stint in the Berita Harian which he recalled as badly organized at that time, Dato Harun became a Field Officer in the Publicity Department. Next he joined the Malay Administrative Service as an Assistant District Officer of Gemas and Tampin. He was one of the founders of the Selangor Malays Union, and joined UMNO in 1949. In 1951, he joined the Judicial Service of Malaya, and was made a magistrate in Kuala Lumpur, serving under the present Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was then the President of the Sessions Court.

He was awarded a scholarship to study law in England at the Middle Temple in 1953. Returning two years later, Dato Harun held the position of the President of the Sessions Court in Taiping. When Malaya gained her independence in 1957, Dato Harun was made a Deputy Public Prosecutor and was later the Acting Registrar of Societies and the Official Assignee of the Federation of Malaya. A year later, he was appointed the State Legal Adviser for Selangor.

"All along I was interested in politics," he said, "but when I was in the Government Service I had to stay inactive. However, I felt that I could contribute more to the people by taking an active role, and so I resigned from the Service. I was appointed to this position in 1964." When we asked him how he felt about his present job, he disclosed that it was a very strenuous one, physically as well as mentally. "The reward I get is seeing things done in the state - schools being built, bridges being built, and the people happy."

When asked about the posts he currently held in sports, Dato Harun modestly revealed that he was the President of the Football Association of Selangor, the President of the Rugby Union, a Council Member of the Football Association of Malaysia, and a member of the SEAP Games Organizing Committee. Turning our attention to a subject of topical interest, we inquired about the progress of the Youth Exchange Programme initiated by him. He told us that the response from the various social organizations was good. "Interchange of students kills many birds with one stone," he remarked with a smile, "Through organized holidays, an understanding is created among the students and racial harmony is promoted. Future plans include exchanges with other countries like Japan."

As our interview came to a conclusion we asked the Mentri Besar to give a message to the present Victorians. With characteristic humility, he said, "The Victoria Institution has had such a long and colourful history that anyone even passing through it can feel proud. It has produced distinguished Old Boys in political life and in public service, even in Singapore. Be proud of your heritage!"

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