A broadcaster’s life has been considered as glamorous but when the occasions arise it could affect one’s life and future. We will overlook the glamorous part and look at the extreme when the announcer was tasked to announce changes to the governing of a nation.
The latest is the fall of Zine el-Abidin Ben Ali the long time President of Tunisia on Friday 14 January 2011 following a popular protest in Tunis the capital of Tunisia. He had the dubious distinction of being the first Arab leader to be overthrown under such condition. The national TV broadcaster who made the announcement Abeer Madie al-Halibi quoted part of a poem “and the people wanted life, and the chains were broken” and continued to mention that it would serve as a “lesson for countries where presidents and kings have rusted”. It is a prophesy that could reverberate in the Arab World. The media was quick in dubbing it as the beginning of the "Arab Spring"
Nearer to home changed did take place in different form. When the Communist Party of Indonesia PKI wanted to take over the country, one of their first targets was the national radio network of Radio Republik Indonesia. They managed to reach the main continuity room of RRI, the pulse of radio broadcasting on the air at that time. At gun point on the head they forced the duty announcer Dahari Oskandar to read the declaration of the take-over. Better known as “Os” the broadcaster coolly read what was given to him. That task affected his life for many years. Later he and his family found their way to Kuala Lumpur and Os spent many years at the Indonesian broadcast of the Voice of Malaysia as our key announcer. He is a pleasant hard working man and never complains about burden of work. His voice was husky and presented the programme very well. When I left VOM in 1980 he was still there but later when I went to Jakarta for some work I saw him reading the news over TVRI and made contact through mutual friend. Os told me the trauma of his “unpleasant experience” was in the past and that he could now meet his friends and relatives without any feeling of guilt as in the old days.
At home the nearest experience I had was the separation of Singapore from Malaysia. The formation of Malaysia was on 16 September 1963 when the people of Sabah and Sarawak agreed to join Malaya and Singapore under Malaysia. Singapore was having problem adjusting to the new federation. On 9 August 1965 without the representative from Singapore the Malaysian Parliament passed a bill favouring separation of Singapore 126-0. I was in our office at Federal House that morning when the news came and was asked by En Tahir Ramli to assist in the wording of the announcement as special “news break” over the Malay Network, the only Radio Malaysia network on the air at that time. Tahir read the announcement in his cool style which reverberated throughout the country. That afternoon in a live press conference Lee Kuan Yew declared Singapore a sovereign, democratic, and independent state. In tears he told his audience, “For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories”.
There are many such happenings throughout the world. It will continue to happen until we co-exist with each other peacefully.