Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sports Coverage that Shaped My Career – 3

In 1980 Director General Dato’ Abdullah Mohamad discovered I was wasting my talent at the External Broadcast SUARA MALAYSIA (Voice of Malaysia). He brought me back into the main stream of RTM being Head of Public Affairs Programme, with sports under its purview. There were lot of hard work to be done changing the ladisical work culture among the staff. At the same time the boss saddled me with extra duties, writing and presenting working papers for the upgrading of various senior posts in RTM. The paper that I enjoyed writing was the formation of RTM’s Sports Department. It culminate yours truly being appointed the pioneer head of the department as of 1982, a job I enjoyed and savour with satisfaction.

Team Leader: The first time I was asked to take charge of RTM’s major sports coverage on foreign soil was The South-East Asian (SEA) Games in Manila, Philippines in 1981 by virtue of being the Head of Public Affairs Programme. The preparation for TV coverage was complex as the Philippines were supplying NTSC signal forcing us to hire “signal convertor”. The host broadcaster PTV4 the government entity was not big in sports. PTV4 has to farm out most of the coverage to private entities. I was lucky as I have befriended the Head of News PTV4, a certain Mr Aquino in KL and Jakarta earlier. He introduced me to the supremo of the coverage, a well known personality and ex racing driver, Ramon Diaz. The first thing I did was to present him with a bottle of Scotch. It was really a trying coverage battling the infamous Manila traffic jam to be at the venues in time as well as battling the date-lines. Malaysia was doing well in athletic and we wanted to have a presence at the stadium by having live telecast of our athlete’s performance. As we were short of commentator, I had to double-up for the athletic events. When Ramon Diaz heard this he informed me that he himself would be the director of the coverage but he needed guidance on what to cover as he had no experience. He was a fast learner and was ready for the job with some explanation. I asked Ramon to change the camera positions from the original. We had a walkie-talkie connection between the two of us. I informed him what I needed and he was on the go focussing the athletes, the score board as well the individual’s score strip on the side of the event. I don’t know how I survive giving commentary as well as giving instruction to the director, both live. What I know was that Ramon gave me a dinner that night because he was so happy being complimented by the Philippines audience for a live telecast well done. He told me he has never done an athletic event in his life. His speciality was basketball and motor racing.

Challenging Test: My first challenge as Head of Sports was the 1982 World Cup in Spain. It should have been a walk-over but there was no sponsorship for the telecast. The signal from Spain’s venues was for the asking. Football fans were making noise culminating in the afternoon tabloid Malay Mail playing an aggressive role by collecting donations from its readers naming it “Tajaan Rakyat” (People’s Sponsorship). A substantial sum was collected. Together with RTM’s budgeted amount for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and Final, and the support of spots buying by certain brands we manage to pool enough amount to telecast live some of the choice preliminary matches. I had several meetings with the newspapers representatives and agreed to those matches they suggested. The event brought the football fans together to create a world record of sort. It also brought awareness to the big time companies especially the cigarette boys the opportunity they missed in exposing their brand. The following World Cup in 1986 was a walk-over for RTM as the big timers came knocking on our door well before the qualifying rounds for Mexico. It also led to the idea of forming a private TV entity by the NST Group specialising in sports broadcast.

The Monopoly is Over: My biggest challenge as RTM Head of Sports was the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. RTM and its associate the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union ABU was caught napping at the broadcasting right negotiation. The LA Games was different cattle of fish from the previous Olympics which were run by the Olympic Council of the host country. This time the Games was run by a private entity in conjunction with the local OC. The aim was to make money for sports development. STMB-TV3 the newly established commercial TV station in the country went ahead to acquire the right at an amount of more than 18 times negotiated for RTM by ABU. RTM has no choice but to abandoned its Olympic dream. The media and the public outside Klang Valley where TV3 signal could not be acquired were making noise. TV3 at that time was only testing its signal on its sole transmitter in Klang Valley. Their official launching was several months away from the Olympics. We were approached by TV3 authority for an amicable solution. They extended the broadcasting rights to RTM with no payment incurred. We told them our coverage plan was simple. We would be telecasting two daily summary supplied by the ABU team in LA one of which would be tailored for Malaysian viewing. We accepted their offer of choice sports events. It was agreed that both stations would carry the Olympic sports of Track and Field and Swimming. TV3 was keen in the football, hockey, and boxing. We conceded we would not touch those sports except in the summaries. They laughed at us when we said we will concentrate in gymnastics, basketball and volleyball. We did our best as we didn’t have a secure satellite path like TV3 which has 2 dedicated path 24 hours daily. We didn’t accept their offer of extending their signal from their operating centre to Angkasapuri via the link as we were afraid of mishap. We ran a lengthy coverage covering the “dead” spot with interesting recorded events which the viewers love and thought “live”. Our compeers and commentators Dato’ Rahim Razali and Dato’ Hasbullah Awang gave flawless performance compared to the staccato presentation of the non experienced personality at TV3. We did fine in collecting advertising revenue just like the success of the privatise LA Organising Committee for the first time in the Olympics history. At the end of the day the national newspapers, especially from the NST stable gave a glowing report on RTM’s coverage. I must congratulate my staff for a job well done under duress.

Creating World Record in Broadcasting: Not many knew that RTM created a world record in broadcasting all the 52 matches at the FIFA World Cup in Mexico in 1986. None of the European broadcasters including the BBC ever attempted a coverage on that scale due to lack of audience interest to some of the matches by what was referred as insignificant teams. RTM was committed to the telecasts as the two big boys of cigarettes were coming in a big way to sponsor. Of course one has got to give way to the other. Thanks to what happened to the last tournament in Spain. When all is well at the sponsorship front, RTM had a problem in securing satellite footprint from Mexico. The signal on the Atlantic Ocean path (AOR) utilised by the European was not sighted in Malaysia. The signal was not available on the India Ocean Satellite (IOR). The ABU Operational Group headed by Ir Lawrence Lo of HKTVB discovered a miniscule path from an isolated outpost in the north-western edge of Mexico at Hermosillo that sighted the Pacific Ocean Satellite (POR) and were clearly received in Hong Kong and Kuantan on 4 dedicated paths using a hired portable earth station, after several tests. It was sent from Mexico City via the busy western corridor link of Mexico to USA. So RTM enjoyed dedicated satellite signals shared with other ABU members. At the end of the tournament I received personal complains from my counterpart in TVRI-Indonesia, the Thai TV and SBC-Singapore that they were jolted by the bosses for not following RTM’s footsteps in showing all the matches. It seems from reports many of their citizen move over to the Malaysian borders temporarily to watch RTM’s live telecasts. The following tournament saw different scenario where the other countries did not want to be left behind in telecasting live all the matches.

Olympic Rivalry: By the time the next Olympic Games 1988 in Seoul, South Korea came, TV3 was full-pledge broadcasting entity, with some experience in sporting coverage. They have decided to join the ABU as a member in order to secure many benefits including broadcasting rights of the Olympics at a reasonable rate under collective negotiation. Malaysia had the strange distinction of having rival stations covering the Games alongside each other. As usual we had the disadvantage of red tape regulations enforced on financial expenditure making uncertainties in our preparation. The approval came at the last minute and we were able to send only a crew of 5 to Seoul. I opted to direct operation from Angkasapuri by sending Zulkarnain Hassan as the team leader with the able Isamudin Ahmad as the producer. The commentator was Dato Hasbullah Awang. The other two was the technical and camera crew. We were operating on a dedicated satellite path from Seoul which was booked years ahead, come what may. I had a 24 operational set-up at Angkasapuri with all the Sports Department staff working on shift. The cooperation from the Engineering and Technical crew was splendid. I had a dedicated monitor monitoring TV3 broadcast in order to counter their preesentation. We had Dato’ Rahim Razali as our studio anchor who worked tirelessly for the whole duration of the Games. Our rival was having their operation in Seoul but half way through have to follow our way of operation as their inexperience crew in Seoul was not up to the mark. Again diligent work carried the day for us and the print media was full of praised.

Sponsorship Trust Account: “Akaun Amanah Tajaan” was not a sporting event but a special trust fund created by the Finance Ministry for RTM in the finance of sports coverage initially. It came about after the difficulty in getting approval for big and recognised sports coverage abroad that was well received by the audience and attracted the sponsors. All programme sponsorship and expenditure of the Sports department came under the account. It was managed by 3 officers headed by the Ministry Finance Division Secretary, Dicky Lee. Looking after the commercial aspect was the head of the Commercial Division, Hanan Alang Endut, and I as Head of Sports look after the coverage and programme. It was well managed. The system worked well. The coffer was swelling to the tune of millions of ringgits. In order to encourage the dwindling sponsorship of the privatised drama, it was later incorporated into the account. A big improvement in quality and commercial support was clearly seen in the local drama. Later the Engineering Division was seeking entry into the account as an entity as the technical facilities needed for the operation was handled by them. The account started after the Olympics difficulties. I am not sure when the account was disbanded as I was not member by then due to my promotion and having to deal with other chores. When the account started it change complexity of sports coverage for the better. I personally feel it should be continued but I suppose they have discovered other means to streamline the financial procedure in the public sector.

Those were the main sporting coverage that influenced my career while at RTM. There were other events which merit mentioned later on.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sports Coverage that Shaped My Career – 2

After 6 years in the north I came back to Kuala Lumpur in 1972 doing different job due to expansion of broadcasting but I was still involved in sports commentating. I had to handle most of the coverage in KL as fellow commentators like Aziz Ibrahim, Zulkarnain Hassan and  Baharin Tahir were still in the regions.

Maiden Overseas Coverage - In 1973 I was picked to cover the 2nd World Hockey Tournament in Amstelveen, Holland where the national team participated. It was my first overseas assignment in sports. I had to handle everything single handed. In the spirit of integration with the formation of Malaysia I had Haji Ahyar from Sabah as fellow commentator. We were a strange pair as Ahyar have never covered sports event and hockey was a strange sport to him. He admitted his weakness. Ahyar was a hard working man and willing to learn. He was a good assistant. Our first obstacle was the non existence of any publicity about the tournament as soon as we arrived in Amsterdam. At the end we found our way to Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam, and straight away went into business. At the Final I was asked to double up as commentator for TV. Ahyar did not participate in commentating as he was not up to it. I made him write the daily report and read them. Our good rapport with Mr Elli, the Dutch liaison officer assigned to us carried the day for us as the Dutch Broadcasting entity NOS technical crew was willing assist us in laying the cable from our normal Radio commentary position to the TV booth at the other side of the stadium in front of the swelling crowd. The host nation Holland beat the kingpin of hockey India 4-2 on penalty strokes after a 2-2 draw at half time.  That was good exercise in public relation.

Hockey Mania: The 3rd edition of the Hockey World Cup came to Kuala Lumpur in March 1975. It was the last edition to be played on natural grass when the international body decided to have the games on artificial surface astroturf. Kuala Lumpur had several good pitches but the rainy season when the tournament was held took its toll. Matches were shifted at last minute. We had to do a lot of running in covering and providing facilities for the foreign broadcasters. Malaysia had a good run beating Holland in the quarter final at the Kilat Club ground in Pantai. I did the radio coverage on top of the Club’s toilet as that was the nearest point to a secure telephone line. The Deputy President of Malaysia Hockey Federation at that time Judge Raja Azlan Shah (now Tuanku Sultan Perak) wanted a vantage point to watch the match and he sat beside me assisting in the commentary. At the end of the match Sultan Azlan mentioned to me that the match won by Malaysia was dedicated to the Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, who was MHF President. Tun was listening to my commentary with his cabinet ministers as they were in the midst of the cabinet meeting when the match was on. It was a happy occasion. Malaysia didn’t make it to the Final losing to India the eventual winner at Stadium Merdeka in the semi-final. It was a heart-breaking commentary as I found it difficult to blame my good friend the defender who made a slip that allowed India to the Final. Malaysia lost the 3rd spot to Germany 0-4, the highest ranking the national team achieved thus far in the tournament. In the Final India beat Pakistan 2-1. The Final was played at the newly renovated Merdeka Stadium.

The Dawn of a New Era - My first Asian Games experience was in Teheran, Iran 1974 (1-16 September). That was during the time when the country was rule by the absolute monarchy The Shah. The Games was to showcase the country. The facilities were spanking new with ultra modern stadiums. The TV facility and personals manning the equipmets for the coverage was imported from France in Seacam format which has to be converted to PAL for transmission in Malaysia. This is the first time I was learning the variation of TV signals. The situation was quite grim with the presence of the military all over and security was very tight, the soldiers had their weapons bayonet on. We heard of the restlessness of the religious group led by the ayatollahs but none was sighted. There were 7 of us in the technical and production crew headed by Kassim Aris. On arrival we were invited to visit the refugee camp in Kurdistan early next morning. I opted not to go to the annoyance of Kassim. After explaining that I needed to sort the radio facilities as I noticed the chaotic situation, Kassim relented. He himself decided to stay back and sort out the TV facilities. We were right in our decision as the situation remain unsorted even at midnight that day. Those who went for the trip came back well past 2 am. Zulkarnain Hassan told me it was a waste of time as it was more of propaganda thing than touristic. We had to continue sorting out the facilities the following day. Obviously the host broadcaster was not ready for the event as they depended on the foreign expertise and was having language problem as well. The only good thing was their eagerness to satisfy their guests by laying out sumptuous food on the table for us to savour at the International Broadcasting Centre IBC. Perhaps that cools down tempers.

Being Pioneer - The most memorable coverage I experience was being commentator at the 1978 Football FIFA World Cup final Buenos Aires, Argentina. This was TV Malaysia first coverage of the event at such a scale. I was honoured to be the first broadcaster to commentate in Malay live on the spot. Again security was strict as the country was under military dictatorship and there was a truce with the rebels as both sides wanted to showcase the country to the world via the month long tournament. We had a long and arduous journey from KL to the Argentine capital, lasting more than 40 hours. We had to sort the visa in Bangkok after an overnight stay. Then we had to catch the connecting flight after an interline stop-over in Frankfurt, Germany. Then it was off at night via Dakar, Senegal, crossing the Atlantic Ocean with stopover in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Both of us, my team leader and Producer Shaharoom Shaaban and I were dead tired by the time we cleared the immigration and customs at the airport. While waiting for our turn to take a taxi to our hotel, we didn’t realise that Shaharoom’s briefcase was snatched from the trolley by a thief. All our official documents including Shaharoom’s passport was in the briefcase. We were at a loss and made a police report. We had difficulty as we knew not Spanish the official language. The police wanted to detain Shaharoom for illegal entry. We had none of that and I decided to give a call to an ex-general who was befriended by Kassim and group that covered the World Cup Hockey final there several months earlier. The general was very kind. He came over immediately and sorted thing for us. The police check with the immigration and custom and was satisfied that our details were recorded. The police and the immigration gave Shaharoom a temporary entry permit. The general gave us a ride to our hotel. Then I contacted the Indonesian Ambassador who was a close friend of Dato Abdullah Mohamad our Director-General. The Ambassador was formerly President of Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union ABU as well DG of Radio Republic Indonesia. He advised us to go to the British Embassy as Malaysia which has no diplomatic relation with Argentina was accredited with them. We spent almost 3 weeks sorting Shaharoom’s temporary British passport and travel document. In the meantime all the official and financial documents had to be sorted out at KL and despatched to Buenos Aires under my name. The inflation was at its height in Argentina and the exchange rate fluctuates all the time. The Bank had strict ruling, all money had to be converted to the pesos. Just imagine the hardship of exchanging telegraph transfer in US dollars to pesos hard cash, and then back to US dollars as the European Broadcasting Union EBU who led the coverage on behalf of the International Broadcasting Consortium imposed the ruling that all payments must be in US dollar. Luckily most of the matches were in late afternoon and in the evening. At least I had the luxury of doing my forex activity in the morning after the visit to the British Embassy. That was an unforgettable experience, being commentator as well financial officer.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sports Coverage that Shaped My Career - 1

I have gone through many unforgettable moments in line of duty while covering sports events. Many were happy but most were distracting needing patient and self-control to carry through. Here are some of the prominent ones that shaped my carrier and style of leadership.

Being baptised into sports commentating - It was in 1964 when I was a rookie broadcaster being asked by my boss to assist in the live coverage of the Final of the All Blues Final Rugby HMS Malaya Tournament. It was the first time the Malay Service was doing a rugby match. I was picked because the boss read my school activity included Rugby. The main commentator was Baharin Tahir. Being new I have no experience in sports commentating. Baharin introduced the match in the usual fashion. Then he handed the microphone to me to continue as he was answering nature’s call, he said. I did my best. I was lucky I recognised most of the players on the field as most of them were my friends. Baharin turned up at the end of the match for the conclusion. That was how I was baptised into sports commentating. Baharin did not know the game of Rugby. My boss was happy as she received complimentary calls.

Being elevated unofficial team leader - I was assigned the commentator for the Malay Service at an athletic meet in Seremban in 1964. We had the usual unwritten procedure of having someone to be “team leader” among the 4 language services then. As someone new and in learning process I was happy to have my good friend Lee Pak Gong from the English service to be the “leader”, a job entailing to make the necessary arrangements such as line booking (for transmission), liaising the commentary positions as well as getting the necessary information from the local organiser, and accommodation arrangement. I was the most senior in rank from the other services. Right from the start I noticed there were differences among the three fellow commentators. The Indian service commentator was adamant that he wouldn’t take instructions from Lee. Strangely he was supported by our Chinese service colleague. They insisted I should be the right person to lead the coverage. I had to use my wits to diffuse the situation. Lee relented to the pressure to avoid ill feelings. So out of the blue I learnt human relationship in a multiracial society quite fast. The coverage went well without anything amiss. From that day I was always appointed team leader of sport coverage among the services representatives. That was how I learn to be a fair and firm leader.

On the eve of Singapore separation from Malaysia - In early August 1965 I was assigned the commentator for the Malaysia Athletic Championship at Ferrer Park, Singapore. The atmosphere was strange. We were not getting assistance from our counter-part at Radio Singapura. The Singapore Telecom was not helpful when they refused to provide connection for our live commentary to Kuala Lumpur. At the Opening Ceremony by The Yang Di Pertuan Agong, Singapore was represented by its Yang Di Pertua Yusof Ishak. None of the State’s ministers including the Chief Minister attended. We thought that was strange. As for the broadcasts we have no choice but to record the whole events and brought them back to the newly built Studio in Johor Baru for a delayed transmission. We have to stay in Johor Baru and continue the same procedure till the end ferrying the materials. When we came back to Federal House, it was announced on 9 August that Singapore was no longer in Malaysia. I was involved in scripting the announcement of the separation for the Malay broadcast.

Longest Commentary - When I was the Malay Programme Organiser (MPO) of the Northern Region 1966-72 there were many sports events at national level being held in the northern states. One of those unforgettable one was the Malaysian Badminton Championship held at the brand new Syed Omar Stadium in Alor Star. All the great names in badminton of the early days were there, P.Gunalan, Tan Yee Khan, Ng Boon Bee, Abdul Rahman Mohd and many others. The Final started at 6.00 pm. The BAM President then the late Tan Sri Khir Johari expected the whole affairs to be over by 10.00 and the big crowd would get home via the bus service. It didn’t work that way. The old scoring system forced the matches to extend well past 1.00 am. As the commentator I was asked to continue till the end of the last match due to over-whelming demand from listeners throughout the country. It was a harrowing experience commentating single handed for 7 hours without a break. Luckily the technical staff was helpful in getting the good food and drink around the pasar malam surrounding the stadium that night.

Fair and Balance Reporting - The 13 May (1969) incident in KL took its toll on the Malaysia Cup football final between Perak and Selangor which was supposed to have been played at the normal venue, Stadium Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur. It was moved to the Penang City Stadium at Lorong Kulit. I was asked to be the TV commentator. We were placed on top of the lower roof beside the grandstand. It was a nervous experience as we were in full view of the packed stadium and I have not done any TV work for some time. It was an exciting match. I did my best. Somehow the reader’s reactions in the national newspapers were not complimentary to me being accused as being biased against Perak the losing side and my home state where I have some friends playing in the team. I thought I did a fair job not to side any team in local tournament. That thought me a good lesson in being fair in commentating but the perception of audience will always be different.

Fare Thee Well (17) Azhar Ahmad

This is not an archive material as I just wrote the story of my close friend the late Tuan Haji Azhar bin Haji Ahmad. He passed away a couple of years back after battling with health problem for some time. I had many happy moments with this kind man who tested me in the written and voice tests when I applied for post at Radio Malaysia Malay Service in 1963. He guided me well. I learn the trick of the trade from him although he was holding a junior post but he was already there for several years with useful experience. We were quite close when we retired and kept in touch till the closing chapter of his life.

I prefer to write in Malay when remembering old friends like Azhar. I may miss some of the dates. I hope those who remember would kindly inform me through the comment column so that this piece could be corrected.

Azhar Ahmad

Di zaman gemilang Radio (RTM) dulu nama Azhar Haji Ahmad adalah tidak asing kepada pendengar-pendengar kerana suara dan penyampaiannya sukar ditandingi ketika membaca berita atau menyampai rancangan selain dari menjadi pengulas siaran secara langsung peristiwa terkemuka tanah air. Dia juga terkenal sebagai penerbit Drama Radio.

Saya mengenali tokoh yang berasal dari Air Tawar, Perak ini semasa menjadi staf Radio Malaytsia pada penghujung 1963. Dia sudah pon bertugas disitu beberapa tahun sebelumnya dalam jawatan Pembantu Siaran Gred III (BA3).

Kali pertama saya bertemu dengannya semasa saya menempuhi ujian tulisan dan ujian suara selepas memohon jawatan “BA2 sementara” pada tahun 1963. Dia ditugas menjalankan ujian itu oleh Ketuanya. Saya amat beruntung dia yang menjadi penguji saya kerana dia telah memberi petua dan tunjuk ajar yang sungguh baik sahingga saya faham barulah ujian dijalankan (dirakam untuk ujian suara). Saya tidak tahu sama ada ujian ini masih dijalankan oleh RTM untuk mereka yang berhasrat menjadi penyiar. Pada saya ini adalah cara yang paling baik.

Bila saya melaporkan diri sekali lagi Azhar adalah antara pegawai yang membantu saya mendalami tugas penyiar. Walaupon jawatan saya lebih kanan daripadanya, dia tidak kedekut dengan ilmu yang ada padanya sehingga kami menjadi kawan rapat. Pada masa itu bilangan staf siaran Bahagian Melayu amat terhad. Dengan cepat kami mengenali satu sama lain. Saya selalu mengikuti Azhar dalam tugasnya kerana pada masa itu, itulah caranya belajar sambil kerja. Tiada latihan formal seperti sekarang dengan Pusat Latihan IPPTAR. Rasanya saya adalah seorang anak murid yang cepat menimba ilmu.

Pada masa itu kediaman kami (Majid Kayat dan saya) di Blue Boy Mansion menjadi markas kawan-kawan penyiar Bahagian Melayu kerana banyak kemudahan termasuk berhampiran tempat hiburan “BB Park” yang terkenal satu zaman dahulu. Azhar adalah salah seorang pengunjung tetap.

Pada tahun 1966 sebagai seorang baru saya telah dipertanggungjawab menjadi Pengelola Rancangan Melayu Kawasan Utara di Pulau Pinang. Terputuslah hubungan saya dengan rakan-rakan sekerja di Kuala Lumpur. Setahun kemudian Ketua kami arwah Aziz Abu Hassan menguhubungi saya nak menukarkan saya ke Kota Bharu, Kelantan untuk menerajui siaran Melayu disana. Sebelum ke Pulau Pinang dulu En Aziz dan saya ada perjanjian jika saya tidak serasi di Pulau Pinang saya boleh minta tukar. Saya mengingatkan kembali perjanjian itu kepada En Aziz. Dengan itu Azhar telah ke Kota Bharu.

Pada masa itu siaran kawasan sedang berkembang begitu pantas. Kami dipertanggungjawab memastikan kejayaannya dengan mengenal berbagai jenis rancangan baru sesuai untuk kawasan masing-masing. Perkembangan ini memerlukan kakitangan. Kami di beri “mandate” untuk mengambil pekerja sambilan sebagai juruhebah dan penulis sekrip.
Selain dari menyiarkan seni dan budaya Pantai Timur, Azhar telah memperkenalkan rancangan kegemarannya Drama dengan mewujudkan slot khas. Dia terus mengadakan kursus penulisan sekrip drama dikalangan bakat-bakat disana, disamping mencari bakat suara yang sesuai sebagai pelakon. Keadaan itu mengangkat Azhar kepada gelaran “Masta” dikalangan anak buahnya. Dia telah mengasaskan Persatuan Penulis Kelantan, dan pernah menjadi Setiausahanya untuk menjamin kejayaan aktibitinya. Ramailah penulis-penulis Kelantan menjadi anak muridnya. Sekaligus lapangan drama Kelantan menjadi meriah.

Ketika perkembangan pesat rancangan dan siaran radio pada tahun 70'an Azhar telah kembali ke Kuala Lumpur di tempat baru di Wisma Radio Angkasapuri. Dia telah naik pangkat “Pembantu Rancangan” dan ditugaskan Pengelola Drama Radio, bidang yang amat digemarinya. Ketika inilah kami sering bertemu, sekurang-kurang seminggu sekali dalam Mesyuarat Pengelola-Pengelola Radio. Sebagai Pengelola Suara Malaysia saya lebih merupakan pemerhati memberi pandangan dan “input” untuk siaran radio keseluruhannya. Azhar adalah Pengelola yang aktif dengan pandangan yang bernas.

Tidak berapa lama kemudian Azhar sekali lagi berpindah ke Kawasan Pantai Timur. Kali ini destinasinya ialah Kuala Terengganu sebagai Pengarah Kawasan apabila ibu pejabat berpindah dari Kota Bharu ke Kuala Terengganu.

Hampir di penghujung karyanya dia berpindah balik ka Kuala Lumpur tetapi tidak lagi terlibat dengan penerbitan dan siaran. Dia ditempatkan di Bahagian Penyelidikan sebagai Ketuanya. Disinilah berbagai-bagai maklumat dikumpul dan dikupas untuk dilaksana oleh semua Jabatan dibawah Kementerian Penerangan ketika itu.

Sepatutnya Azhar ditempatkan diibu pejabat RTM dimana bakat, pengalaman dan kepakarannya dalam bidang rancangan, penerbitan dan siaran radio amat berguna meningkat prestasi Jabatan khususnya dikalangan staf baru.

Jawatan terakhir sebelum bersara disandangnya ialah Pengarah Kawsan Selatan di Johor Baru. Rasanya dia tidak gembira kesana kerana meninggalkan keluarganya di Kuala Lumpur.

Bila bersara pada tahun 1993 Azhar menetap dirumahnya di Kelana Jaya. Dia menumpukan aktiviti beramal ibadah sepenuh masa di Mesjid berhampiran, selain dari melawat saudara-mara menghubung kembali silatulrahim.

Kami menjalin hubungan setelah saya berasara di penghujung 1995. Hubungan kami kebanyakannya melalui talipon bimbit yang sangat popular dizaman itu ketika diperingkat permulaan ia di perkenalkan. Azhar rupanya seorang yang suka berjenaka. Banyak juga jenaka yang saling kami bertukar-tukar antara satu sama lain dan juga kawan-kawan seangkatan.

Azhar juga suka melawat tempat-tempat menarik. Kami telah pergi bersiar-siar di Kolam Air Panas Sungai Kelah di Trolak dua kali bersama isterinya. Dia seronok sekali menemui kolam air panas itu, disamping menjamu selera dengan makanan yang enak di Slim River dan Tanjung Malim. Dia sendiri memandu kereta Mercedesnya. Memandu adalah kegemarannya.

Kemudian saya mencadangkan kepadanya untuk bertemu di sarapan pagi dengan kawan-kawan lain. Kami memulakannya dengan menjemput Sidik Shamsuddin yang duduk di Subang Jaya berhampiran kediaman saya untuk pergi ke Gombak bersarapan dengan Haji Azharuddin Hussein dan Mohd. Hassan. Kami lantikkan Azhar Penghulu kerana usianya yang lebih lanjut dari kami semua. Restoran pilihan Azharuddin ialah Ros Fatimah. Seronok juga berjumpa dan berborak-borak dengan kawan-kawan lama. Ia bermula sejak 2004. Oleh kerana semuanya orang pencen, kami membuat keputusan masing-masing membiayai sarapan sendiri. Tiada yang membangkang.

Sebulan kemudian kami mengadakan sarapan pagi di Kelana Jaya. Seterusnya diadakan pula di Gombak. Kali ini kumpulan dibesarkan dengan menjemput Tengku Mohd. Ali dan Zulkarnain Hassan. Kawan-Kawan dari Gombak juga turut sama termasuk Samad Haroun dan isterinya Liz yang kebetulan berada disana.

Apabila berita mengenai sarapan pagi ini merebak dikalangan kawan-kawan ramai yang meminta untuk dijemput. Masaalahnya ialah lojistik. Kami telah melantik Haji Azharuddin menjadi kordinator dan T.Ali sebagai Setiausaha kerana Tengku juga pada masa itu Setiusaha Agong Kehormat PVRTM.

Berikutan dengan itu beberapa lokasi telah dipilih di Bangsar dan Petaling Jaya di restoran-restoran yang bagus makanannya dengan harga patut. Haji Azhar menghadirinya secara tetap, walaupon bilangan ahli bertambah besar hingga mencecah 30 orang. Ini adalah aktibiti persendirian kerana masing-masing mengeluarkan bayaran dari kocek sendiri. Aktibiti ini juga membantu PVRTM menambah ahli-ahli baru.

Oleh kerana ramai yang mengadu sukar merempuh kesesakan lalu lintas disebelah pagi, maka untuk keselesaan Breakfast Club itu di tukar kepada Lunch Club (Jamuan Tengah-hari) diadakan 2 bulan sekali di Restoran Tappers, The Sphere, Bangsar Selatan dimana terdapat kemudahan letak kereta.

Azhar tetap menhadirinya sehinggalah kesihatannya terganggu dan terpaksa berulang ke Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya untuk rawatan.

Tiba-tiba diterima berita isterinya meninggal dunia dalam tahun 2009. Selang dua bulan kemudian Azhar sendiri kembali ke rahmatullah.

Maka kami kehilangan seorang sahabat.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fare Thee Well (16) Karim Mohd

This is the last story in this series that I found in my archive that I have written years back that never reach its destination at the PVRTM Website. I may have written more. I have to check on that. 

I stopped writing due to problem affecting my health over the years, and my PC Desktop was given to Izad and later Diyana when they were at the university. It came back outdated and I was already out of the fast expanding IT scene.

This time I am relating on a prominent name in Radio (RTM) many still remember to this day. Karim Mohd was a well known voice in the Malay broadcasting scene then.

As usual this piece is produced in its original form in Malay.


           Karim Mohd ialah kawan dan kenalan kepada ramai. Sifat semula jadi yang peramah, mudah bergaul dan tidak menyinggung perasaan orang lain adalah nilai yang menyebabkan dia berkeadaan demikian. Saya melihatnya sebagai seorang sahabat dan rakan sekerja yang petah bercakap, bijak berbicara, pandai berpantun dan menguasai tutur bahasa yang luar biasa. Itulah membezanya dari penyiar-penyiar lain tanah air seangkatan dengannya.

           Saya mengenali Karim Mohd. sejak pertengahan 1960’an ketika mula berkarya dengan Radio Malaysia (Bahagian Melayu) di Federal House dulu. Pada masa itu dia sering berada dikantin untuk memperagakan jualan insuaran yang menjadi kerjayanya ketika itu. Dia berasal dari Melaka. Rasanya kombinasi itulah yang menjadikannya bijak mengambil hati orang yang mendampinginya. Bakat semula jadi dan keinginan kuatnya kepada bidang penyiaran mendorongnya kearah itu. Dari seorang pelakun sambilan dibahagian drama dan juruhebah sambilan dia telah menjawat jawatan BA3 di Bahagian Melayu.

           Karim Mohd. adalah antara orang-orang Radio yang menjadikan kediaman kami (Majid Kayat dan saya) di Blue Boy Mansion tempat persinggahan kerana lokasinya yang tidak jauh dari Federal House dan tempat berhibur di BB Park di Jalan Bukit Bintang. Bila saya bertukar ke Kawasan Utara berpejabat di Pulau Pinang pada tahun 1966 perhubungan kami agak terputus buat sementara waktu sehinggalah saya kembali ke Federal House pada tahun 1972. Namun dalam tempuh itu sering juga kami berjumpa bila membuat liputan-liputan penting, terutama sukan.

           Karim mempunyai banyak kekuatan peribadi sehingga dia menjadi seorang penyiar “versatile” (serba boleh), dari juruhebah konti (kini DJ), pelakon drama (radio), juruacara rancangan dan majlis-majlis keraian, pengulas peristiwa-peristiwa penting tanah air secara langsung (live) sehingga menjadi pengulas sukan di Radio. Semua dilaksananya dengan tenang dan cemerlang, dengan penuh kesungguhan.

           Saya mengenalinya dengan lebih rapat apabila dia terlibat dengan siaran secara langsung peristiwa-peristiwa penting tanah air dan ketika membuat ulasan selari sukan, khususnya bolasepak. Pengkhususannya di Radio, sementara saya telah berhijrah ka TV. Kami banyak bertukar maklumat, tetapi kebanyakannya berat sebelah. Karim sentiasa merendahkan diri dan menanggap dia masih “belajar”, memaksa saya menjadi “abang”. Saya senang sekali mendampinginya kerana kehadirannya menyebabkan kami semua tak kering gusi.

           Secara peribadi saya dapati Karim ada dua kelemahan. Pertama, bila membuat ulasan selari bolasepak dia misti bertanya sama ada TV membuat siaran “live” atau tidak. Sekiranya TV membuat siaran langsung dia akan menggelabah kerana terpaksa berkerja keras dan tidak boleh “merapu” sangat bila membuat ulasan di Radio. Dia amat takut jika orang melihat TV sementara mendengar Radio. Pernah ada komen mengenai perkara itu ditulis dalam akhbar.

           Perkara kedua, dia tidak berapa yakin penguasaan bahasa Inggeris pada ketika dia naik pangkat ke BA2 pada pertengahan 1970’an. Salah satu tugas utama BA2 pada masa itu ialah mengolah skrip rancangan semasa “Ulasan Berita” dan beberapa yang lain dari bahasa Inggeris ke Bahasa Melayu. Dia menjadikan saya bahan rojokan. Itu tidak menjadi masaalah kepada saya yang pernah menjalankan tugas yang sama ketika mula-mula berkarya dulu. Lagipon sebagai Pengelola di Suara Malaysia ketika itu saya mempunyai masa terluang yang begitu banyak dan suka mengisi masa itu dengan bahan-bahan semasa. Boleh dikatakan setiap hari Karim akan berada dipejabat saya di Tingkat 3 Selatan Wisma Radio untuk menjalankan tugasnya. Selepas itu dia akan membuat rakaman. Bila kerjanya siap dia akan talipon saya untuk “lunch”. Selalunya dia belanja (upah menolongnya).

           Dalam liputan sukan secara live (langsung) pada ketika itu kerap juga kami berada dilokasi bersama di beberapa tempat. Karim membuat liputan untuk Radio sementara saya untuk TV. Kami mengambil kesempatan dalam masa lapang berbual-bual dan berttukar-tukar pandangan mengenai perlawanan atau kejohanan yang diliputi. Salah satu daripadanya ialah di Stadium Nasional Singapura yang baru di buka untuk Kejohanan Bolasepak Pra Piala Dunia pada penghujung tahun 70’an. Pasukan Kebangsaan Malaysia yang dianggap handal menyertainya telah menunjukkan prestasi yang baik dan dijangka antara yang akan melanjut perjuangan diperingkat seterusnya. Semua itu tidak menjadi. Kesemua perlawanan berlangsung di sebelah petang dan malam, memberikan kami masa lapang disebelah pagi untuk meninjau tempat menarik Republik itu.

           Sejak itu perhubungan kami agak rapat juga, kesana kemari bersama, hinggalah dia bertukar ke Melaka dipenghujung 1970’an. Rasanya dia tidak begitu gembira berada dinegeri asalnya kerana dia sering menghubungi saya mengadu ada sahaja yang tidak kena. Saya hanya mampu menasihatnya supaya banyak bersabar kerana bidang tugas BA3 dan BA2 adalah berlainan, tambah pula tanggungjawab disetesyen tempatan dengan KL adalah berbeza. Mungkin “kejutan budaya” dan “suasana” kerja yang bertentangan dari apa yang dialaminya membikin dia kurang selesa. Lagipon dia terpaksa meninggalkan isteri dan dua anak kesayangannya di KL.

           Pada ketika itu bidang tugas baru saya di Wisma TV di Bahagian Hal Ehwal Awam membikin saya bertambah sebuk dan jarang sekali menghubungi Karim yang berada jauh di Melaka. Dia hanya memaklum saya dia akan berhenti dari RTM untuk mencebur diri dalam bidang perniagaan. Perniagaan yang dipilihnya ialah mengimpot kulit untuk diperoses membikin kasut, beg, “purse” dsb. Sebuk juga dia tu, ke Sumatra, ke Indonesia, ke Thailand dan kesana-sini. Jarang sekali kami bersua dan perhubungan semakin renggang. Kemudian saya mendapat berita perniagaanya bertembah merosot. Maklumlah dia seorang yang kurang faham selok-belok perniagaan kerana hanya bijak dibidang “pemasaran” semata-mata.

Selepas itu dia mencebur diri dalam bidang perniagaan yang lebih sesuai dengan dirinya selain dari menjadi juruacara majlis-majlis keraian dan “event management” (pengurusan acara) yang boleh dikatakan lumayan juga jika rajin dan berminat.

           Kemudian bila TV3 wujud pada tahun 1984 Karim Mohd menyertainya sebagai “penerbit”, pengulas dan juruacara. Saya tidak mengetahui prestasinya disana. Namun apa yang saya ketahui dia masih popular dikalangan rakan-rakan sekerjanya kerana kewibawaan semula jadinya. Kali terakhir saya melihatnya dikaca TV ialah ketika dia membuat laporan hari kebangsaan Ghana, negara benua Afrika, dimana dia bertugas sebagai wakil TV3 dalam projek kerjasama dengan stesen TV swasta di sana. Saya kira orang yang dipilih TV3 untuk mewakilinya di Ghana kena pada tempatnya kerana Karim mempunyai PR yang cukup baik. Namun berita terakhir yang diterima, projek itu tidak dapat diteruskan, mungkin kerana resesi ekonomi dunia yang meredum. Karim kembali ketanah air dan mengakhiri tugasnya dibidang penyiaraan bila mencapai usia persaraan. Namun anak lelakinya yang saya kenali sebagai “Boy” meneruskan penglibatan keluarganya dalam bidang siaran di TV3 tetapi diperkhidmatan teknikal.

           Satu hari saya mendapat panggilan talipon dari “Boy” menyatakan ayahnya berada di HUKM menerima rawatan. Terperanjat juga saya menerima berita itu kerana Karim Mohd. yang saya ketahui tidak pernah mengadu sakit hingga membawanya menginap di hospital. Dia amat terkenal memperagakan suaranya untuk “Pil Chi Kit Teik Onn” di Radio; jika sakit perut itulah ubatnya. Lagipon dia tak lekang dari “penadol” bila pening kepala. Sayapon bergegas ke HUKM. Pertemuan kami amat menyayat hati kerana kami tidak bersua muka kira-kira satu dekad. Lama juga kami bertukar-tukar cerita bersama rakan-rakan lama Haji Azhar Ahmad, Haji Sidik Shamsudin, Hajah Norhashimah Ismail, dan Siti Hawa Majid. Bising juga satu wad penuh dengan gelak ketawa orang-orang “veteran”.

Kerap juga saya mengunjunginya. Dia terpaksa menempuh terapi untuk penyakit barah.

           Tidak lama kemudian saya menerima berita Karim Mohd telah kembali kerahmatullah. Ketika memberi penghormatan terakhir nyata Allahyarham seorang yang sangat disayangi dan disenangi kerana jalan kekediamannya di Taman Tenaga, Jalan Puchong penuh sesak dengan kenderaan. Mereka yang menziarahnya begitu ramai sekali datang beduyun-duyun, dari RTM, TV3, orang-orang setempat, sanak-saudara, handai taulan, kawan-kawan dari jauh dan dekat. Semuanya hadir untuk memberi penghormatan.

           “Harimau mati meninggalkan belang, manusia pergi meninggalkan nama”

           Semoga Allah mencucuri rohnya.


Subang Jaya