U Razak: educator, champion of Pali literature and Martyr

  • By Thi Thi Min
    Photo: Aye Min Thu

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U Razak, the third son of the 13 siblings born of Police Inspector Mr. A. Raman and Daw Nyein Hla, once proclaimed boldly, “If other schools produce one ICS (Indian Civil Service), mine will produce ten rebels against British government.”
Indian Civil Service was the elite higher civil service of the British Empire in British India during British rule in the period between 1858 and 1947. Its members ruled more than 300 million people[1] in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma.
U Razak was among nine people who sacrificed their lives for bringing independence within reach of the nation.
He passed his matriculation exam from Wesley High School in Mandalay in 1912 and was one of the participants of a university boycott.
In an effort to endow the youth with nationalistic spirit, he founded Mandalay Myoma National High School in 1921 and acted as the principal of the school.
His eldest son U Tin Myint remembers how the school was run.
“At the school, participation in worship was a must for every student, and saluting the national flag was compulsory. He used to discipline those who did not participate in the worship. He showed respect to Buddhism.”
While he was acting as the principal, he organised a cadet company for Myanmar youth, enabling to receive military training. The cadets were trained by Sir U Ba Tin (Bo Ba Tin), who was a veteran of the Mesopotamian campaign. U Razak himself was a police general of the police force of his school.
U Tin Myint said, “Father’s national school produced patriotic revolutionists and top military leaders. Those who were excellent in the political arena or in sports are the products of his school.”
Although U Razak was born of a father who was a follower of Islam and a Buddhist mother, his style was very similar to Myanmar. He was excellent in Pali and very good at teaching English.

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U Tin Myint.

“As a war refugee in Mingun, he taught Pali to novices. He also taught English. Regarding Pali, he also taught the definition. Some of these novices became abbots. My father revered the monks very much. As regards differences in faith, our family has no sentiment.” said U Tin Myint.
After completing the BA exam of the National Education Board, U Razak referred to himself as A Razak – BA (National). From 1922 to 1941, he acted as the principal of Mandalay National High School and married Daw Khin Khin in 1933. He fathered three children.
While he was discharging his duties as education and national planning minister in General Aung San’s cabinet, he was assassinated together with eight other leaders on 19 July 1947.
U Tin Myint also recounted his memories of that day.
“Myoma school was closed on Sunday and the Sabbath day only. On the 19th of July, the school was open. We were very happy because we got to go back home early. Upon arrival at home, we found our mother crying.”
At that time, he was just 6 and didn’t understand what had happened. He felt not so much emotional pain while the elders made phone calls to relatives in Mandalay.
The remains of the martyrs were brought to Jubilee Hall for public obeisance on 20 July 1947, and the remains of U Razak and Yebaw Ko Htway were brought to Campbell Road in Tamway (now Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda Road) and were buried in accord with the traditions of Islam faith.
As regards the funeral, U Tin Myint said that funeral ceremonies were held in Martyrs’ Mausoleum, and also in Tamway, and, per the rules of their respective faiths, the remains were buried within 24 hours.
After the leaders were assassinated, the government at that time gave Ks100,000 as compensation to each family. The widow of U Razak received Ks40,000, and the three siblings Ks20,000 each, Ks60,000 in total for the children. The money was kept by Myanma Alinn U Tin and he disbursed the cash later.
“A house on Campbell Road was given to us, but mother didn’t want to take it, and the government gave us a plot on Myoma Kyaung Street and we built a house at a cost of Ks60,000. At the time, the value of Ks60,000 was great.” said U Tin Myint.
As regards the holding of Martyrs’ Day ceremonies through the years, U Tin Myint said, “The ceremony was held on a grand scale in the time of President Mann Win Maung. From then on, successive presidents held the ceremony. Later it was attended by the mayor.”
“Every year, I attend the ceremony. In memory of father, we make donations for and offer meals to orphans. This year also will be the same.” said U Tin Myint.
The old students of Mandalay National High School wished to erect a statue of U Razak, but they were afraid to do so at that time and kept the statue in hiding. When a top government leader and a former student made a visit to the school, they submitted the matter to him and he chose a place to keep the statue at the school.
“As the school was founded by my father, we usually donate books to the school library. Till now, we do our best to fulfill the needs of the school.” said U Tin Myint.
U Razak sought the approval of General Aung San to open a university in Mandalay. Finally, Mandalay would have a degree-granting college.
U Tin Myint expressed his opinion by saying, “At that time the top-down relations were frank and we showed respect to each other. There was no ‘Yes, sir.’ or ‘No, sir.’ In this way, the leader can differentiate between right and wrong. It is wrong everything the senior says is right.”
Former Mandalay college student U Ko Lay, a returnee from England, was assigned the duty to open Mandalay Degree College. He named the the first completed building Razak Hall. Former students pushed to erect a bronze statue of U Razak, and this was allowed just two years ago.
“My father had a wish not only to establish Mandalay University, but also to open Pali University. If he could have, he would have.” said U Tin Myint with frustration.
U Tin Myint also said, “Father didn’t pay serious attention to religions. He just wanted to fulfill the needs of his nation. It is sure that after gaining independence and all were in stable conditions, he would return to his school and teach his pupils.”

(Translated by Wallace)

 

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    U Razak

    U Razak
    (20 Jan 1898-19 Jul 1947)

  • * He served as the Minister of Education and National Planning in General Aung San’s Cabinet. U Razak was born on Thursday 20, January 1898 in Meiktila.* His parents were Mr. Rahman, an Indian police inspector and a Burmese Buddhist Daw Nyein Hla.
  • * He matriculated at Mandalay Wesley School in 1912. Mandalay National High School was established in 1921. He was a headmaster of Mandalay National High School from 1922 to 1941.* He married Daw Khin Khin in 1938 and the couple had three children
    (Maung Tin Myin, Ma Khin Khin Sein and Maung Hla Kyi). After WWII, the national school was re-opened and U Razak was a member of writing the Burmese National Constitution in 1945.
  • * He and other cabinet ministers including Prime Minister General Aung San were assassinated on 19 July 1947 in Yangon.
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