Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Binding Factor

This morning, Wednesday 3rd February 2010, my wife and I respectively received similar SMSes from our old friends informing us of the passing of Datuk Abdullah Majid (85), former Deputy Minister of Labour and Manpower under Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn. We didn’t actually know him personally. I just happened to have met him on several occasions in my line of duty. We knew that he was from Raub, Pahang where he served as its Member of Parliament after the 1974 General Election, and his burial took place at Kampung Durian Sebatang, Dong, Raub.

I have met his younger brother often. Dato Haji Wahab Majid who is active in social work, being the Nazir of Tun Abdul Aziz Mosque in Section 14, Petaling Jaya, known as “Mesjid Bulat” (Round Mosque) in reference to its shape.

We also knew they were close friend of the Poet Laureate and Sasterawan Negara Dato Dr Osman Awang. My wife’s friend who informed her of the passing was Haslina, eldest daughter of “Tongkat Waran” (Osman’s pen-name in the literary world).

My first incident of getting to know Dolah Majid, as he was fondly known then, was when he was detained in Kamunting Camp, Taiping, under the Internal Security Act, ISA. His niece Zaiton Shamsuddin who was then serving in RTM approached me one fasting month and requested if I could deliver a “Baju Raya” (Hari Raya clothing) for his uncle through my brother who was then the Director of the Camp. I was taken aback as how the relationship came to her knowledge. I didn’t ask her, as it was an open secret anyway. So I enquired from my brother if it could be done. His answer was in the affirmative referring to the auspicious occasion.

That year I spent the Hari Raya holiday at my late mother’s house in Kamunting. I complained to my brother of the overcrowding at the mosque in Kamunting Town as that was the only one in that fast growing area and there was no proper “suraus” around at that time including the kampongs surrounding the Camp. My brother assured me that he will fetch me for a comfortable Hari Raya prayer.

That morning I was surprised he took me to the Camp’s Surau to perform the prayer among the detainees and the Camp’s staff. It was indeed comfortable and not so crowded. The sermon was short and sweet befitting the occasion and place. I thought that after the prayer we would just leave for home, but the congregation was allowed to mix freely on the auspicious day to enjoy the goodies specially laid for them.

That was when I became a popular figure among four detainees, led by Syed Hussain (my tutor during my Pantai days), Kassim Ahmad, Abdullah Ahmad (better known as DKL, Dolah Kok Lanas, the constituency he once represented in Parliament), and the late Datuk. On recognising me, they rushed to greet me wanting to know the going on outside. The only answer I could give was nothing much has changed as what they could follow on the television that’s available to them and the newspapers that they were getting.

The topic then changed to sports and football. I was surprised as to how conversant and knowledgeable they were on the subject. They told me they have been following the live football telecasts RTM has been carrying, and heard my commentary and comments which they like. They were certainly very observant and really know their stuff. The late Datuk was reserved in his comment, and thanked me for helping in delivering the Baju Raya from his family in Kuala Lumpur. The other three was very boisterous and made many constructive suggestions as how to improve the programme. I took note and pass them to the relevant people in Angkasapuri as I was then in the Voice of Malaysia, and was only a TV commentator on casual basis.

From my interaction with the gentlemen I realise that one of the common denominator and binding factor among our multi ethnic, religious and cultural society is sports, and sports programme over television and radio has a big following. I realised this and made every effort to present to the power that be, RTM need to have a Sports Division. I was asked by the then Director-General Dato’ Abdullah Mohamad to write a working paper and made a presentation to that effect. I was happy my effort did not go to waste as the Treasury and the Public Service Department agreed to the proposal. The formation came into effect on 1st January 1982. I was made the pioneer head of the Sports Division.

As the planning, execution and work load at the new Division was heavy and need special attention I took the option of retiring myself from being a commentator, to save some embarrassment should I make mistakes. I made it a point to polish up the existing commentators and talent scout and trained new ones. The same went for the script writers and the production crew. I feel I have achieved the target set as at the next promotion exercise, I have to leave the Sports Division for a higher post.

Looking back, I still believe that sport is one of those factors that can bind this country peacefully. Special attention should be given to nurture this factor and create a culture.

Just look at some of the sports that break the racial barrier for decades past as far as support and attendance is concern if we can call them sport, such as “Cock Fighting”, “Top Spinning”, “Laga Lembu” (Bullfight), “Bird Singing”, “Kite Flying” just to mention some. The diehards take great pain to traverse the country and international boundaries to witness and support their sports. Their esprit de corps is solid and undivided. They exchange ideas and go a long way to help each other and assist their sport flourish. Most of the sport did not have the benefit of government support or grant. Yet they flourish on their own steam and supporters goodwill.

In short sport is big business. It generates an industry by itself. There is no reason for it to be given the back seat by the power that be.

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