Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pretender to the Throne.

I am attracted to the recent news that a Malaysian, and Malay at that, is the richest man on the planet. He was supposed to have in his bank account a saving of a sum of more than 5 trillion Euros (RM 20 trillion) which made him the first trillionaire in the world ahead of the crowded billionaires. The figure is mind boggling.

Kamal Ashnawi who hailed from Tanjung Malim, Perak and educated at the prestigious Sekolah Alam Shah claimed that his wealth came from the “Combined International Collateral of the Global Debt Facility” that was instituted by the world’s royal family way back in 1875. He claimed to be the descendent of the royal household of Jawa with the name of Raden Mas Prabhu Gusti Agung Ki Asmoro Wijoyo who was part of the claimant to the wealth. He was expected to be declared the “Maharaja Indonesia” in a coronation.

I am intrigued by this story.

Soon after I retired at the end of 1995 I was approached by a group of people headed by a Raja who claimed to be the legitimate Sultan of Selangor according to the lineage. The Raja earnestly said that his forefather the Selangor ruler then with the agreement of the Sultans of Langkat, Johor and Pontianak decided to form a consortium to save their wealth in the Bank of Switzerland for security and safety reason. The saving was left at the Bank until that time.

The raja said being the legitimate descendent of the ruler he was entitled to the wealth. He could prove his legitimacy. At the same there was legal representation who was working on the claim in Europe. Individuals interested in the claim can have their share through him with payment, has access to the legal papers and could present themselves at the research in Europe.

The fee per share was RM 250,000.00. Of course, I don’t have that amount in hand. On quick calculation, I noticed that with my gratuity, EPF and the only property I owned (my house) the amount just reached that figure. My mind starts working: “clever fellow”. I just told the Raja outright that I was not interested to be “rich” and would be satisfied with my meagre pension. He was adamant as he kept repeating the benefit.

Not to be rude, I asked him if he would entertain some questions on the issue. He was happy to answer. My first question: what was the main ingredient of the savings. His answer was simple and expected: GOLD. I told him if it was gold the consortium should include the Sultan of Sambas. He was surprised as he had never heard of the place. I told him it is a province in Kalimantan Barat a neighbour of Pontianak. It produced one of the best gold in the world, 24 carat. The normal gold was 21.

He couldn’t answer specifically how the rulers obtained their wealth during that early period. I put my case to rest when I asked him whether he knew that Langkat produced black gold. He was dumbfounded but told me there was no such thing as black gold. He told me he has never been to Langkat. So I advised him to go there and look at the wealth that could be found there in abundance on the field waiting to be collected. He said I must be joking. I said it’s a fact – Langkat has oil reserve and the term used for it is black gold – remember the song by Frankie Laine.

So the Raja and entourage left my house without bothering me anymore. I suppose he was a happy to find new information from me to convince his future audience.

As for Kamal Ashnawi he must be one lucky guy to have found his bounty. He fulfilled the slogan “Malaysia Boleh”.

Past Sports Commentators on RTM

I have posted on my past experiences on sports commentary way back on March 7, 2010. I am continuing on the subject – this time on past luminaries in sports commentating over the Malay Service Radio broadcasts as well as the early Television Malaysia days whom I could remember.

In fact there were legendary figures in sports commentary in the other language services (English, Chinese and Tamil) of the then Radio Malaya and later Radio Malaysia. I will just concentrate on the ones in the Malay broadcast that I was more familiar with.

Radio broadcasting came late to Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia). The colonial British concentrated their broadcasting headquarters in Singapore. It was only after Malaya gained its independence that Kuala Lumpur became the focal point of broadcasting with regional stations in Penang (North), Kota Bharu (East) and Melaka (South) serving as transmission stations and feeder services in the country. Before the formation of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak had their own radio broadcasts centred in Jeselton (Kota Kinabalu) and Kuching. It was only after the formation of Malaysia that all the radio centres were integrated under one Department known as Radio Malaysia and expansion began in earnest, even at regional level. Later every state has its own radio station with regional headquarters changing from Kota Bharu to Kuala Terengganu for the Eastern Region of Peninsular, and Melaka to Johor Baru for the Southern.

Sports programme on its own was non existence in the early days of broadcasting when transmission was limited to certain hours of the day. The only sports programme in those days was the weekly half-hour of sports round-up “Arena Sukan” during the week-end. The News mentioned prominent events only, giving the result without details.

The earliest sports commentator over the Malay broadcast was the late Murtadza Zaaba who came from a family of broadcaster in Singapore. Murtadza was interested in motor sports, and himself a prominent motor bikers in the class of the legendary Bulldog Kwan. Murtadza’s voice was crisp and confident describing in details matches “lives” – listeners were endeared to his well know voice.

I had the opportunity of meeting him as a schoolboy when he was commentating on a key football match of the Malaysia Cup at the Yuk Choy School field in Ipoh. My late father who was a keen follower of the Perak team took me there and had a strategic seat quite near the commentators’ area. I was more ears to Murtadza’s commentating while watching the match on the field. I felt he described the match aptly. At the end of the match we met and the little schoolboy was in awe. He advised me to do well in my study and joined the radio department and be a sports commentator. I never gave that a thought.

Murtadza went on to cover the multi events sports at the Olympic in Rome. His career as a sports commentator was cut short by the department’s expansion. He rose in rank from heading the Malay broadcast to be the department no 2.

 In the meantime in 1959 Rahim Razali came into the scene to take over the mettle of sports commentating from Murtadza. Rahim just completed his Sixth form study at Anderson School, Ipoh. While his classmates were busy looking for temporary teachers job back in Perak, Rahim travelled to Kuala Lumpur to be with his uncle Ir Ghani of Tenaga in Bangsar. He was taken in by the then Malay Service of Radio Malaya as a Temporary Broadcasting Assistant Grade III. He was busy doing his job, but was interested in sports and spent most of his leisure hour watching sports around the city. He was at Stadium Merdeka commentary booth as a spectator when Murtadza Zaaba was covering the Malaysian Athletic meet. Murtadza called him to take over as Murtadza was having stomach problem and had to leave the post. That was how Rahim was baptised into sports commentary. He never looked back. When I came to study in Pantai, I used to be his guest in the commentary box watching the football matches at Stadium Merdeka, the Mekah of Malaysia football, the Merdeka Cup tournament. That was the time I watched with keen interest Rahim’s ability at sports commentating. It was unfortunate he has to leave broadcasting to continue his study in Australia the early 1960.

The void was filled by newcomers like Aziz Ibrahim, Zulkarnain Hassan and Baharin Tahir who just joined the Radio Department as Broadcasting Assistant Grade III, better known as BA3. Their jobs entail them to be all rounder, being announcer, news reader, script writer, programme producer, commentators, and many other chores. These three have good voices and were good in sports coverage, while others were proficient in other areas.

Aziz hailed from Penang. He was involved in all sports discipline while at Penang Free School the breeding ground of sportsmen in Penang. Zulkarnain Hassan was from Johor, while Baharin Tahir who hailed from Melaka was more of a local from Klang. Departmental expansion led them to regional stations leaving the sports commentary scene to the younger set that didn’t really raised to the occasion. Whenever there were prominent events, sports or ceremonial, they would be recalled to the scene.

I joined the Radio Department at the end of 1963 as a Temporary BA2; job entailment was no different from the junior post except I was expected to be in supervisory capacity. Opportunity to do sports commentary came in 1964 when the Malay broadcast decided to cover the HMS Malaya Cup Rugby final between the Asian players (All Blues) for the first time in its history between Selangor and Perak. The commentator was Baharin Tahir. I was called by my boss the late Jamaliah Long to assist as Rugby was in my dossier. Everything was fine when Baharin did the lengthy introduction to the match and started the commentary. Then he passed the mike to me for further description. Baharin then disappeared from the scene with nature’s call as the reason. I have no choice but to continue in my own style. I was actually at a lost not knowing what to do except to describe what was going on in the field. I was lucky; I recognised most of the players without referring to the players’ list as most of them were my friends.

I was ready for the firing Range next morning but was happy the boss was satisfied with my performance from the calls she received, including Murtadza. From that day I was saddled with sports commentary beside other chores.

I too had my fair share of taking charge of the regional broadcast when I was transferred to Penang 1966-72. I didn’t stop doing sports commentary as some of the big national level sports events were held in the northern states. The power that be at headquarters asked me to take charge of the coverage as well as commentated. I consider it an honour to be selected, and was happy to keep in practice my interest in sports commentary.

When I came back to KL in 1972 the expansion was in earnest. We were placed in specialised departments. I was in the Public Affairs Department. Sports were under its purview. As a supervisor I find it tedious in the selection of commentators who were not my staff but interest among the others saved the day. I managed to rope in Aziz Ibrahim and Zulkarnain Hassan who was back from the region but was placed in “siaran” (broadcasting) section of the Malay broadcast. I did manage to recruit new comers as part time script writer and compeer.

The unexpected happen in 1974 when my colleague and good friend Manaf Abdullah passed away at a young age. His demise left a void at the Voice of Malaysia (VOM) where he was the no.2. I was transferred to take over the post doubling up as the supervisor for the Indonesian broadcast. I thought that was the end of my part in sports commentating. I find the job in VOM very light and had plenty of time in hand. I used to be invited once in a while to compeer and do television commentary (sports and other events) prior to my transfer to VOM. Then Kassim Aris who was the TV Sports producer at that time invited me to be his compeer and commentator for his programme. With my boss permission I was quite happy to perform the job without extra remuneration except the allowances for outstation trips which was borne by the television section. At the same time I was helping out the VOM’s language broadcasts in their sports coverage.

It was a happy arrangement. People not in the know of the arrangement thought I was a TV staff. Till today the television sector of RTM do not have a permanent commentator or script writer on its payroll.

In 1980 I was transferred as Head of the Public Affairs broadcast for radio and TV. From the Radio building my office shifted to the second floor of the glamorous Angkasapuri tower. Dato’ Abdullah Mohamad the Director-General at that time saddled me with the task of writing working papers on the upgrading of posts and getting new ones. At the same time he asked me to apply for the formation of a Sports broadcast department which at that time was under the purview of Public Affairs. By 1982 the Sports Department at RTM was officially operational. I was asked to be its inaugural Head.

Among my staff at Radio who did sports commentating was Zulkarnain Hassan himself (the Sports Programme Organiser over Radio, my deputy). He doubled up for TV sports commentary.

The others were the late Ismail Long and Jamaluddin Alias, the Keroncong singer who was famed in delivering the patriotic songs during "konfrantasi" days. We recruited casual workers who were keen in sports.

My first task was to spot talents. In my travel all over the country covering sports events I was fortunate to mix around with the local radio staff, part time included: 

In Kuantan I was taken in by the booming voice of Hasbullah Awang who was a part time. In Ipoh I spotted Abdullah Hasim who has good voice for commentating. In Johor Baru there was the reluctant Taroni Khalid, preferring to be in Johor than KL. From Penang there was Jahaya Mahmud who was quite withdrawn. From Kota Bharu were Husin Ibrahim and Rahim Mohd. in the early days. Later came the good looking Suhaimi Mohd who anchor our TV competently during SUKMA. From Sarawak we had the fast talking and versatile Hashim Lazim. There were others whom I can’t recollect.

Whenever big multi events such as the SEA Games and SUKMA being held we would seek the assistance of the regional and local stations of their staff who were involved in sports programming. They were of immense assistance.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Into Year 3 of Blogging (A New Title)

I am into my third year of blogging. I have not been an active blogger and remained a reluctant one but will continue giving my life and work experiences for the benefit of the present generation.

Coming into year 3, I have decided to give the blog a new title “tokcik tengok” literally translated “tokcik’s outlook”. It is much shorter and easier to understand than the lengthy and romantic title of “hujan dihulu bah dihilir” (tapestry of life).

To followers of the blog I hope you all will tolerate the change of title. I will continue to write the thing close to my life and experience. I hope to be a more active blogger in the coming days.

Wishing you all a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Olympics over RTM

 Congratulations to RTM for clinching yet again the broadcasting rights of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The national broadcaster has been covering the Olympics since the 1960 Rome Olympics through its Radio arm before TV Malaysia came into existence in 1963. It was a one man show by the late Murtadza Zaaba who was a competent sports broadcaster in his own right. He set the commentary standard over Radio Malaya. He rose to be the Deputy-Director of Broadcasting Radio.

Those early days of broadcasting in this country, the question of the Olympic broadcasting rights never arise, not until the private sector got involved in TV broadcasting in 1984. There was no strong interest in its coverage as the country was not involved in sports at international standard in the early days.

When television came to the country in 1963, we were getting film reports of the Games via the BBC for the Olympics in Tokyo 1964 and Mexico City 1968.

We became interested in the Games when the national football team qualified for the Munich 1972 Olympics. We sent 2 commentators to cover the national contingent for Radio, Aziz Ibrahim (Malay) and R. Jeyanathan (English). Aziz also double-up for TV commentary. Unfortunately the football team did not reach the next round although they played reasonably well. The Munich Olympics was much remembered by international political furore created by the group known as “Black September” resulting in RTM reducing its coverage for security reason.

RTM did a reasonable coverage of the next Olympic in Montreal, Canada 1976. The national Hockey team which finished 4th at the World Hockey Championship in KL in 1975 qualified for the Olympics. Unfortunately the team did not fare too well due to internal differences in the team. RTM was concentrating on the TV coverage. The 3 men team was led by Sports Producer Kassim Aris. The commentators were Amran Hamid and Zulkarnain Hassan. This Olympics is well remembered for its financial disaster for its host which has not been resolved to this day.

At the next Olympics in Moscow, Soviet Union, 1980 the national football team for the second time qualified. For the record the national Hockey team was also a qualifier. Unfortunately Malaysia was among the 65 countries to boycott the Games during the cold war period in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. RTM has to abandon its coverage plan.

The boycott continued to the next Games at Los Angeles 1984. This time by the Soviet Union and 14 of its Eastern Block for safety reason. The boycott by the Soviet Union did not affect the Olympics. In fact it was the first time that an organising committee of the Olympics made a profit. The Game was run on a commercial basis, a forerunner to future Olympics. The Olympics itself was a success.

The 1984 was well remembered by RTM for the broadcasting rights debacle with the newly emerged private broadcaster “Sistem Televisyen Malaysia” (TV3). TV3 was given the licence to TV broadcast and not Radio. It wanted to create an impression by clinching the broadcasting rights directly with the Organising Committee in Los Angeles at 20 times above the amount that was negotiated by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) on behalf of RTM. The irony was that TV3 was not launched to broadcast officially before the Olympics and its coverage area was only in Klang Valley. The media and the public came hard on this forcing TV3 to extend the rights to RTM barely a week prior to the LA Olympics.

RTM was ill prepared for the coverage and left it to TV3 for the hand-outs. RTM did its best to get the satellite booking to bring over its coverage and transmission with careful coordination with the ABU coverage team in LA and Hong Kong. It was too late for RTM to send a team to LA for its coverage and decided to concentrate its operation at Angkasapuri.

It was strange, with less facilities, RTM emerged the better of the two organisations in terms of viewers, commercial supports and the final press reviews including those under the Media Prima stables. RTM has to thanks its capable staff and commentators for the good work.

The 1988 Seoul Olympics saw a real tough competition in term of coverage between RTM and TV3. By this time TV3 has matured and they have been pinching some of the fringe workers in RTM Sports Department to supplement their regulars. The broadcasting right was shared equally and negotiated via the ABU when TV3 decided to be its member. RTM sent a team of 5 to cover the sports in Korea and maintain the anchor in Angkasapuri. The team in Korea was ably led by Zulkarnain Hassan (Team Leader) and Isamudin Ahmad (Producer) while on the spot commentator was Hasbullah Awang. The anchor at Angkasapuri was Rahim Razali and the chief coordinator was Amran Hamid who secured the broadcasting rights for RTM earlier. Basing on the ratings, commercials and advertising, and the final summary of the coverage by the local press, RTM was on top.

I negotiated for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain and planned its coverage but was not directly involved with the coverage as I was posted to Kuching as the Director of Broadcasting of the Sarawak Region. The team to Barcelona was led by the capable Isamuddin Ahmad. I was watching the normal TV transmissions that reach Sarawak and was happy to note that the team did well in their effort. There was great joy in Malaysia when the Badminton pair of brothers Razif and Jailani Sidek won the maiden Olympic Medal in the Men’s Double, a Bronze.

I did assist in negotiating the l996 Olympics in Atlanta, USA but was not involved in the planning of its coverage by RTM as I retired from service in 1995. I continued to enjoy the meticulous coverage by RTM and its rival TV3. By that time Malaysia was doing well in the newly introduced sports at the Olympics, Badminton. There was great hope in winning the country’s first Olympic Gold Medal but we have to be satisfied with the Silver won by Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock in the Men’s Double and Bronze by Rashid Sidek in the Men’s Single.

With the dawn of the new millennium the broadcasting scenario interest in Malaysia took a turn with the introduction of the satellite broadcasts by Astro who were interested in Sports. As their stable control the satellite communication of Measat, they had access to the signals through the rental by international broadcasting bodies in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Astro Sports had the luxury of broadcasting the Olympics over its multi channels broadcast. Of course Astro gained the Olympics right being the sole satellite broadcaster in the country.

Due to lack of capable personals in broadcasting TV3 interests in sports seem to be on the wane, leaving RTM a wider open space in Olympics and other sports coverage for the local terrestrial broadcaster. This was obvious in the subsequent Olympics (2000 Sydney, Australia, 2004 Athens, Greece, 2008 Beijing, China and 2012 London, Great Britain).

Malaysian team at the Olympics hit a a dry spell in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 without increasing its Medal haul. Badminton ace Dato’ Lee Chong Wei did Malaysia proud by gaining the Silver at the Beijing Olympic 2008 in the Men’s Single event Final losing to China’s Lin Dan. There is great hope for more Medals at London 2012.

Although RTM as the national broadcaster seem to be at an advantage in obtaining the broadcasting rights for the Olympics there are  three main areas it has to concentrate and improve:
1)    The technical facilities and know-how must be improved and updated in accordance with the changing time and development. This goes without saying the men operating the technical must also keep in steps.
2)    The production personal has to be trained the proper art of sports coverage.
3)    The commentators have to be trained and capable of handling with deep knowledge of individual discipline in the Olympics.