December 28th, 2013

The roti seller is my Person of the Year 2013

TIME magazine should have named Edward Snowden its Person of the Year. I believe he made more headlines than Sir Alex Ferguson, Jennifer Lawrence of The Hunger Games, Pussy Riot, our sepak takraw team in Myanmar and Datuk Ibrahim Ali combined.

In a world where leaking information is the in thing, he was more like a white knight than a dark prophet. He saved humanity from the indignity of being betrayed by friends and neighbours.

Perhaps Julius Caesar was glad to die knowing Brutus betrayed him. But in today's world, even the mightiest nation on Earth betrayed its allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone was even hacked into.

President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister James Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt took a selfie at Nelson Mandela's memorial service. For being insensitive, they deserve a joint Persons of the Year award.

Ah, what a word it is. Oxford English Dictionary made it Word of the Year for 2013.

Then again, I wanted to posthumously nominate the author of The Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu) for writing such a masterpiece many centuries ago. It is the best known Malay historiography.

Tun Sri Lanang was definitely ahead of his time, telling stories that remain relevant to this day. Had only our politicians read the kitab, they would have been a lot wiser. Had only they learned from the stories of Semerluki, Hang Nadim, Tun Kudu, Hang Kasturi, Sultan Alauddin, Si Kitul and Sultan Mahmud Shah.

I am quite happy to nominate my old friend, Hishamuddin Rais, the firebrand student leader, now a firebrand political activist. I met him at a restaurant last week after a long time since he came back from 20 years of exile. And our photo together (selfie it was not) went viral. A person even tweeted, "Ah, this is a happening!", as if we are full-fledged nemeses. Hishamuddin was one of the faces of student activism of the 1970s, an ideologue of his generation and certainly the one with the most notorious reputation. The world has changed but not him. Why should he, anyway?

I would like to nominate Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the most popular Umno vice-president today and certainly the busiest minister. He is a crusader extraordinaire. He goes after the bad guys -- those gun-totting, no-gooder samseng -- all menace to society.

And he's going after Mat Sabu, too, for his Shia leanings, we are told. That announcement sent a chilling reminder to me not to talk too much about Iranian movies, which I like so much, for fear that I would be labelled a Shia sympathiser. These two friends of mine, mind you, had crossed paths back in the 1970s when both were student leaders but most dramatically, one fateful night, of Sept 21, 1974. That was one of the most sensational events in the history of student activism in the country.

Leaving them both, I am compelled to name my teh tarik buddies for perfecting the art of complaining about price increases.

And, also, those heads whose departments were named in the Auditor-General's reports. I wouldn't complain if the Auditor-General himself is named Person of the Year for he is an indefatigable champion of ridding the country of Little Napoleons and incompetent fools.

How about giving it to the one who gave the Pingat Gagah Berani (PGB) to soldiers who lost their way? I deserve one, too, for I once helped a lost trekker in the Bukit Gasing jungle.

I have always wanted to name the volunteers of the recent flood in Terengganu, Pahang and Johor for their tireless dedication and sacrifice. They are the real heroes. Just ask Datuk Ahmad Talib how Batin Idris Seman of Kampung Belukar Nangka near Pekan coped when his village was inundated by water. He deserves a mention, too. And all the victims of the recent floods for their sufferings and fortitude.

And I want to name the police and army personnel who were there taking the beatings during the Lahad Datu incursions. And the donors who helped our Lahad Datu fund hit RM10 million.

They all deserve the award. But I have decided to award a roti seller on a motorbike who stopped and helped a motorcyclist involved in an accident. He was lying on the road, alone, bloodied, amidst people snapping pictures from their cars or standing nearby. Until the roti seller came. The picture went viral. When I came down, the roti seller had left. He showed us the meaning of compassion.

He is my Person of the Year for 2013.

Johan Jaaffar | | twitter: @Johan_Jaaffar New Straits Times Online Opinion Columnist 28/12/2013

TV Malaysia's Golden Jubilee: TV Malaysia turns 50 today Read more: TV Malaysia's Golden Jubilee: T

TV Malaysia is 50 today. It was officially launched by then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra on the evening of Dec 28, 1963, from Studio 1 -- a converted garage of a two-storey government office building next to Dewan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Jalan Ampang.

It was broadcast live, in black and white, with PAL system, and only covered the Kuala Lumpur area.

On this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to and remember the first group of television production team with related support personnel, such as floor managers, script assistants, technical crew, film camera men, photographers, film editors, make-up artists, props men, designers, graphic artists, stage hands and others.

There were fewer than one hundred of them. These dedicated young men and women, who were trained locally and abroad, were the pioneers who established the foundation of the development of television networks in Malaysia.

The then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman unveiling the plaque bearing the crest and
name of TV Malaysia to officially declare open the TV House at Angkasapuri, Kuala Lumpur, on Nov 17, 1969.

I was privileged to be selected to join the first group of seven other professional television producers in the country. They were (Tan Sri) Ahmad Merican, (Datuk) Syed Alwi Syed Hassan, Hashim Amir Hamzah, Long Hin Boon, Tan Geik Seam, Jimmy Massang and Richard Job.

The Department of Television was then headed by its director, Aw Keng Low, and assisted by four other heads of programmes (Raja Iskanda), engineering (K.K. Loh), film services (John Netlton), stage and design (Anthony) and news (Luke Ang).

One may remember the many locally produced television programmes from the temporary studio in Jalan Ampang. The first ever locally produced television drama in English, Going North, was written and produced by Syed Alwi with Manaf Abdullah, Che Gu Rashid, K.K. Das and a beautiful Chinese girl whose name I have forgotten.

The first Malay television drama was produced by Hashim Amir. Then, there was the weekly Arena Sukan with Datuk Rahim Razali, a cooking programme with Raja Teh Zaitun, musical shows, such as Take Five with Tony Soliano, the ever popular Empat Sekawan, Tamil detective series Inspector Sekar and many others.

Television Malaysia (then separated from Radio Malaysia) was established under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. It was merged into Department of Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) in 1969 on recommendations by the Sambanthan Report.

The establishment of the first television network in the country was an important chapter in the history of this nation.

Yet, it appears that very few people are aware that today is its Golden Jubilee, sadly, including those responsible for the development of the electronic media in the country.  Congratulations TV Malaysia!

Datuk Abdullah Mohamad, Former director-general of RTM, Kuala Lumpur New Straits Times Online Opinion Letters to the editor 28/12/2013