Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Remembering King Ghaz

I heard the announcement Tun Ghazali Shafie is to be given a state  funeral and buried at the Warriors’ Mausoleum in the compound of Mesjid Negara (the National Mosque) on Monday 25th January 2010. It is an honour deservedly given to a great statesman who has contributed greatly to the Nation in its growing years.

I don’t know Tun personally but came across him on several occasions in my line of duty especially when he was Minister of Broadcasting and Information. He was considered by many as a “feared” boss, mainly for being a disciplinarian and perfectionist. I beg to differ on the word “fear” as on the occasions that I encountered him, I found him a charming person and willing to engage in discussion on various subjects.
I first heard of him during the formation of Malaysia. He was then the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Ministry. His name was in the limelight as he was the Permanent Adviser to the Cobbold Commission that reviewed the opinion of the people of Sabah and Sarawak. He was better known as “King Ghaz” (a character in the Alley Oop cartoon of old) for his no nonsense approach in his work. It seems that was how he was “feared”.

The aftermath of the 13 May incident following the 1969 General Election change the course of history of the country and with it the social and economic outlook. The New Economic Policy was introduced. Soon after, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj handed over the Prime Ministership to Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. This was when Tun Ghazalie came to the forefront. He was made Special Function Minister to oversee that national unity is truly fostered in the country. He was responsible for introducing the Rukunegara (the National Tenet). Then he became the Minister of Broadcasting and Information.

Tun was very keen in Sports. He became the President of the Malaysia Amateur Athletics Union MAAU. He wanted a sports song to unite the sports fraternity of the country. He asked his old friend the renowned and prolific composer the late Jimmy Boyle to pen-down the song. Jimmy approached me for the lyrics in Bahasa Melayu. I told Jimmy frankly that I knew nothing about music or writing lyric. So Jimmy was very patient and took the trouble to
coach me the rudimentary of music composition and encouraged me to produce an inspiring lyric. So I diligently did my best to follow Jimmy’s instruction to the letter, and produce what I thought was an inspiring lyric. We recorded a piano piece and another with the vocal by one of the local singer. It was sent to Tun’s office in Angkasapuri. Later we were asked to come to his office and that was the first time I met him in person. The song “Sukan Malaysia” became the theme song of RTM’s sports programme for many years. That was the only lyric I have ever written for a song and I am proud to be in partnership with a great musician in Jimmy Boyle.

I was stationed in Penang then but when the Public Affairs Department was created in RTM, its Director the late Dato’ Sulaiman Alias, a confidante of Tun, selected me to be in the Department after seeing my multi-racial interviews for a TV segment. I was transferred to Kuala Lumpur in 1972. The first time I met Tun face to face again was when I was asked to be the commentator for the live telecast of the 1973 Merdeka Day. He was Chairman of the Organising Committee. He was a stickler for perfection, and the crew was apprehensive. I was quite nervous as I was very raw at TV commentary. It was a coincident that his Senior PrivateSecretary, Ahmad Musa, was an acquaintance in his teaching days while I was in Penang. So I decided to have a chat with Ahmad and jokingly told him to inform his “garang” boss that the commentator was his pal who wrote the Sports Song.

Doing TV work is quite tedious. There were so many things to attend to, not counting the several meetings and briefings, as it involved many people. Two important meetings involved the Minister, his briefing prior to the coverage planning of the occasion, and later the post-mortem of the recording of the full dress rehearsal. The later was the one feared by many. We were expecting the worst that afternoon from the King. Fortunately he came out smiling and said “Well done. Make sure we get the same result on the actual morning”. We were relief. As usual he had his parting shot, and told our Producer Shaharoom Shaaban, “Make sure your closing shot of the crowd is tight, as we don’t want the audience to see a sparse crowd on the screen”. That was a brilliant observation. We have another post mortem on the actual day recordings and we came out top.

The other occasion that I encountered Tun was at the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union MAAU meet at the newly built Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan, Pahang. Tun was the President of the MAAU. I was doing live radio coverage for the National Network. We heard over the news that the Deputy Prime Minister, the late Tun Dr. Ismail passed away during his official visit to Canada. We have invited Tun Ghazalie for an interview prior to receiving the news. During the interview we received instruction from Kuala Lumpur to prolong the interview as long as possible while they prepare for a sombre broadcast from Kuala Lumpur. So I had a field day talking live on the air with Tun on several topics related to sports and athletics. We went on for about 90 minutes, one of the longest interviews I had with a prominent personality. When it was finished, Tun waited to give his parting shot with a smile to me “so you use me as a filler, eh?”, thats broadcasting term for filling the gap.

The last time I met him again was about two years ago at the funeral of the German husband of my old friend Fawizah Deen better known as Kak Chik at the mosque in USJ 2. Tun was there wheel chair bound. He was a forlorn figure by himself. So I brave myself to approach him. He seems excited, gave me a big hug, and seems to remember me. I could not converse with him as his speech was limited, although he tried hard to express himself. I was quite sad at not being able to have a conversation like the time I interviewed him.


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