Zakiah Hanum — first woman to head a federal govt dept — dies at 81

Datuk Zakiah Hanum Abdul Hamid speaks to reporters in Kuala Lumpur July 12, 1990. — Bernama pic
Datuk Zakiah Hanum Abdul Hamid speaks to reporters in Kuala Lumpur July 12, 1990. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 — Datuk Zakiah Hanum Abdul Hamid, the first woman to head a federal department and recipient of the Ramon Magsasay Award, died of pneumonia today. She was 81.

Her niece Nasyriah Ariffin told Bernama that the former director-general of the National Archives of Malaysia died at 12.45am at a private hospital here.

She leaves behind husband Datuk Mohamed Nor Ismail, 84, two sons and a daughter.

She was laid to rest at the Bukit Kiara Muslim Cemetery here at 3 pm.

Zakiah Hanum, who hailed from Alor Setar, was a multi-talented individual and was well-known as an administrator, historian, culture expert and nationalist.

She began her career in the civil service in 1961 as Assistant Keeper of Archives, National Archives before being promoted to head of the Archives Division the same year and deputy-director general in 1970.

She was director-general of the National Archives from 1980 to 1995.

During the time as DG, Zakiah Hanum was conferred the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1989 for helming the department using the most sophisticated technology throughout South-east Asia. The award presented by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation of the Philippines is internationally-recognised as Asia’s Nobel Prize.

During her lifetime, Zakiah Hanum had also set up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial, Tun Razak Memorial and P. Ramlee Memorial.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj and Tun Abdul Razak Hussein were Malaysia’s first and second prime ministers respectively while P. Ramlee was a legendary actor and musician.

Meanwhile, Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin in sharing his sorrow over the death of his aunt whom he fondly called Mak Anum, said since he was small she had taught him much about the history of Malaysia.

“I was very close to Mak Anum. As the DG of the National Archives she always reminded me the importance of memories and to keep letters received because one day they could have immense value,” he said when met at the funeral. — Bernama

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