February 9th, 2015

Keeping Tunku’s memory alive

The National Archives of Malaysia has big plans to turn the Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Memorial in Jalan Dato’ Onn into a must-visit destination this year.

In conjunction with what would have been the first prime minister’s 112th birthday tomorrow (he was born on Feb 8, 1903), StarMetro visited the memorial to get a glimpse into Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj’s life and the future of the memorial.

The National Archives of Malaysia director-general Azemi Abdul Aziz said officers would be trained at the memorial to provide better services to visitors.

Humble and modest leader: The Tunku at his desk when he was Prime Minister.

Humble and modest leader: The Tunku at his desk when he was Prime Minister.

“Sometimes, the visitors come in and then leave in a short while.

“So, we thought of having our officers explain Tunku’s part in the nation’s history to the visitors,” he said in an interview with StarMetro recently.

Noting that the memorial’s vast array of artefacts may be difficult to be viewed in one visit, he said they also planned to have a list of the most interesting attractions of the memorial and highlight stories of Tunku.

“Different people have different interests, so hopefully all these things will create excitement one way or another for the visitors.

“It can be a learning centre for the younger generation. That is what the memorial is for, so that everybody can benefit from it,” he said.

Well preserved: The interior of Tunku’s office as it was when he was the prime minister.
Well preserved: The interior of Tunku’s office as it was when he was the prime minister.

In order to gather memorable moments, he said they would draw information from official records and recordings with people who knew Tunku personally.

“The crucial thing now is that most of the people who knew him are aging and passing on so we need to talk with them soon.

“If they don’t write about it, we need to record it so we have that information. If not, it is very hard to obtain this information later on,” he said.

In order to get to a larger audience, Azemi said the National Archive was planning to draw up a social media strategy.

Stately mansion: Tunku’s home in the memorial’s ground was transported brick by brick from Klang.
Stately mansion: Tunku’s home in the memorial’s ground was transported brick by brick from Klang.

“We cannot rely solely on print media as there are a lot of other opportunities that are minimum in cost but wide-reaching,” he said.

Now that the National Archive of Malaysia is under the purview of the Tourism and Culture Ministry, he said they would collaborate with private tour agencies to bring more traffic to the memorial through the tourism circle.

He aimed to implement the various initiatives to improve the memorial and attract more people by Aug 31 this year.

Walking through Tunku’s 120-year-old home, in the lead- up to his 112th birthday, the simplicity of the place is striking. Many would have thought the son of a Sultan and the prime minister of a country had lived lavishly, showing off his power and prestige to visitors.

The areas of the home where guests were received are decorated with of the home downstairs with souvenirs and gifts from his diplomatic travels.

The Cairo room, where Tunku entertained male guests, contains white furniture from Cairo and a tiger rug with a tiger’s head still intact.

A young Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj with his Mother and Father.
Good son: A young Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj with his Mother and Father.

Tunku’s cars, including the one that carried him home after his trip to London, are parked outside.

Venture upstairs and you are presented with a different scene. The sparsely furnished bedrooms are a time capsule from his life reflecting his humble and modest nature. The man who inhabited these rooms dedicated his life to serving his country, fostered racial harmony, the arts and culture.

The Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial Park is made up of two buildings exhibiting artefacts from his life, his home and the museums give a glimpse of his personality. Apart from his political service to Malaysia, Tunku also has a fun side.

He enjoyed golf, swimming and dancing, and even tried his hand at hula-hooping.

Tunka was an accredited lawyer but also directed films. In his 87 years he lived a full life and left a lasting legacy.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj enjoyed sports and recreational activities including swimming, gold and football.
Active boy: Tunku enjoyed sports and recreational activities including swimming, gold and football.

His office, transported twice before it came to rest in one of the buildings adjacent to his Residency, maintains its original style.

The office is made up of the Prime Minister’s office, two secretarial offices, a waiting room and a general staff office – all with a vintage look.

The building contains the table where the first Malaysian Cabinet sat, as well as Tunku’s sporting equipment, clothes and personal items.

Original photographs allowed visitors to envision the man behind the nation.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Hajs personal items including spectacles, watches and cologne are on display in the museum. There is also a rang of his clothes and sports memerabelia.
Personal items:Tunku personal items including spectacles, watches and cologne are on display in the museum. There is also a rang of his clothes and sports memorabilia.

The other building houses a chronological exhibition of Tunku’s life from his childhood into old age.

He became the chairman of Star Publications in 1974.

The memorial is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 5.30pm. It is closed on Mondays except for school and public holidays.

Tribute to a great moderate man who likes heroic tales

Late Tunku liked heroic tales, says former archive official

PETALING JAYA: He may be a national hero himself, but Tunku Abdul Rahman was always fascinated by the heroic tales of others and even wanted to make a movie on the legendary Malay warrior, Tengku Kudin.

Malaysia’s first prime minister had an interest in legends and historical figures as his mother used to read him stories about them when he was young.

S. Prabhakaran Nair, former director of the National Archives’ National Heroes Centre, revealed this story about Tunku, who was born on Feb 8, 1903.

“Tunku always liked local heroes and he didn’t want them to be forgotten.

“Perhaps this was why he wanted to make the movie on Tengku Kudin, the arbitrator in the Klang War during the 19th century,” said Prabhakaran, 60, who has written several books about Tunku.

He said while Tunku was serious about making the movie, it was not completed for unknown reasons.

Prabhakaran recalled a brief meeting with Tunku in the 1980s when he came to the National Archives to do some research on Tengku Kudin.

“I was just a research officer then and part of the group attending to Tunku. During his visit, I noticed that the Tunku had a fantastic sense of humour.

“We came across a fact about Tengku Kudin’s character. I did not find it entirely funny but Tunku was very tickled and laughed about it,” said Prabhakaran.

He said Tunku absorbed the facts quickly during his visit although he was having trouble with his vision and wanted the materials to be read out to him.

“He just came across as a very warm person and wouldn’t take you to task even if you made mistakes,” said Prabhakaran, who retired in December last year.

Tunku, Malaysia’s well-loved Father of Independence, passed away at the age of 87 on Dec 6, 1990.

Tunku was a moderate Malaysian

Good old days: Chung (left) and his colleagues posing for a photograph with the late Tunku Abdul Rahman.

GEORGE TOWN: The late Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman was a moderate Malaysian of his time, according to his former aide-de-camp Owen Chung.

He said Tunku was also a strong believer of meritocracy and was not concerned about colour or creed.

“People did not expect any favours from him, even if they were his close friends or family members. He disliked cronyism and nepotism.

“He believed in success through merit. It’s different nowadays with people making monetary gains through connections.

“Malaysia won’t be what Malaysia is today if not for the late Tunku.

Owen Chung, former aide-de-camp of Tunku Abdul Rahman, stressing a point during the interview. Pix by zainudin ahad, 05/02/15
Chung as he is today.

“He was the leader who brought all the races together,” he said when interviewed at his house in Tanjung Tokong here.

Chung, 83, who paused between words to emphasise his points, said it was a different scenario if Tunku knew about those who were down with illnesses and required financial help.

“He would go all out to help them, even if it meant having to leverage his influence.

“He also always had a heart for the poor,” said Chung, who was with Tunku from 1972 until his death in 1990.

The former jungle squad commando said he believed Tunku had a hand in his promotion from Chief Inspector to Assistant Superintendent (ASP) in order to become an aide-de-camp.

“I was in the jungle squad fighting the communists and one day, I was given the orders to protect Tunku after intelligence had it that somebody was trying to get rid of him.

“When I was given the tough task, a senior political leader disputed my appointment, saying that a senior inspector was not qualified enough to become an aide-de-camp.

“But three weeks later, the then state police chief gave me a call and said that I had been promoted to the rank of Asst Supt. I am grateful to him,” he said, adding that Tunku’s favourite line was: “Never take anything from anybody unless God gives it to you.”

Chung said among the valuable things which he inherited from Tunku was an autographed first-day cover of the Independence of Federation of Malaya in 1957.

He said he refused to sell it to a tycoon who had wanted to buy it.

“I have held on to it till now but I feel it is time for me to part with the first-day cover.

“I will sell it to whoever wishes to own it. Half of the proceeds will go to a family member of Tunku who is staying in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

Reminiscing the good old days, Chung said Tunku would have been 112 years old if he were still around.

“In his later years, Tunku’s birthday celebrations were small parties, involving his close friends and family members.

“It was never a big bash attended by VIPs. He was always a simple man with a simple lifestyle, and would eat anything prepared by his cook,” he said.

A tribute to a great man

OUR founding father, my great grandfather.

We learn of great men from history books, memorials, museums, art and literature that immortalise their achievements, sacrifices and even downfalls.

We recognise them by the taglines which sum up their achievements, like Alexander the Great, Richard the Lion Heart and John the Baptist for example.

We have such tags for our own leaders, too: Bapa Kemerdekaan, Bapa Pembangunan,Bapa Perpaduan, Bapa Pemodenan.

These attributes illustrate their contributions towards the building of the nation. Of course, these are merely associations and there is a danger to reduce these great men to just that.

Today marks the 112th anniversary of the birth of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

A few years ago, as a tribute to the man who liberated Malaya and created Malaysia, I paid a visit to Onn, a long-time family friend who used to work as a caretaker at the house occupied by the former prime minister.

He had been under Tunku’s employment from 1972 till his death in 1990.

“When I started working with Tunku, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand him because his Kedah accent was so strong. For example, once he asked for ayak(water) but where I’m from, ayak means to sieve rice.

“Tunku was very humble. Every year for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, he would give all the staffduit raya and kain pelekat. As long as you did the job right, it was easy to work for him.

“Of course, I was scolded a few times. Once he had a surprise visit from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Tun, who was living at Bukit Tunku at the time, wanted to pay a visit but had asked me not to tell Tunku.

“When he arrived, Tunku was having breakfast in his pyjamas. After Tun left, he was very angry that I did not tell him,” said Onn.

He said every morning, he had to read the newspapers to Tunku while he ate his breakfast as by then his eyesight had been impaired.

“I would read the headlines and if there was a ‘hot’ issue, he would ask me to read the whole report. I read The Star, New Straits Times, Utusan Malaysia and Watan. I wasn’t good in English, but he would encourage me and correct my pronunciation,” he said.

Onn’s face lit up as he remembered Tunku’s other roles as a father, grandfather and great grandfather.

“Tunku would make steamboat for his great grandchildren who would sit in front of him while he watched television.

“He was also stubborn. When he fell sick, he refused to go to the hospital. His son, Tunku Nerang, had to persuade him. He was once admitted for a month and we all took turns to look after him,” Onn added.

Over the past few years there seems to be more efforts to commemorate Tunku’s contributions and popularise his values and ideals.

We often have high expectations of our great leaders. As they are our elected leaders, we expect them to do the right things, to respect our rights, to bring growth, to deliver promises, like the cliché, with great power comes great responsibility.

We lower our heads in disappointment when they fall short. But ultimately, they are still human beings with different roles to play, including being politicians.

I had a taste of what Tunku was like as a family man through recollecting memories of him. But sometimes it was difficult to swallow the learning of the decisions he made as a politician.

I grew up knowing only great stories of him. But now as a woman with an opinion of her own, I have come to realise that I’m able to disagree with some of his decisions, and that it is okay to do so.

To my great grandfather, happy birthday!

Medium sokongan utama

Dalam transisi perubahan sistem pendidikan negara, selalunya kesalahan diletakkan di bahu pelajar atau sekolah jika mereka gagal memperoleh keputusan sewajarnya.

Mengambil kira isu keputusan mengecewakan dalam Penilaian Tingkatan Tiga (PT3), baru-baru ini, kesalahan seperti diletakkan pada satu pihak semata-mata tanpa mengambil kira punca sebenar.

Silap menunding jari bukan saja menjatuhkan reputasi, malah menimbulkan persoalan, benarkah kesalahan akibat perubahan itu hanya perlu ditanggung segelintir pihak saja?

Atau semua perlu akur dan menyedari bahawa perubahan dilaksanakan itu tanggungjawab semua.

KERJASAMA penting bagi menjadikan ibu bapa lebih prihatin terhadap sebarang perubahan dalam sistem pendidikan negara,
sekali gus menjadikan pelajar lebih yakin untuk mengikuti perubahan itu. - Gambar hiasan

Pensyarah Fakulti Pendidikan dan Pembangunan Manusia, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), Tanjung Malim, Profesor Emeritus Dr Othman Lebar berkata, apabila berlaku perubahan sistem pendidikan negara, semua pihak perlu memikul tanggungjawab terutama ibu bapa.

Beliau berkata, sebagai medium sokongan paling utama, ibu bapa perlu memulakan langkah pertama melakukan anjakan minda, sekali gus memudahkan proses pemahaman pelajar.

APA jua perubahan yang dilakukan adalah bertujuan memberi pembaharuan kepada sistem pendidikan
sedia ada sebagai persiapan memenuhi keperluan semasa juga global. - Gambar hiasan

“Apabila ibu bapa faham, pelajar akan faham kerana mereka bersandarkan pada sokongan ibu bapa.

“Selalunya, konflik akan timbul apabila ibu bapa tidak mendapat cukup maklumat untuk disalurkan kepada anak-anak menyebabkan mereka (pelajar) tidak tentu arah mencari jawapan.

“Jika ibu bapa tidak bertindak dulu, sebarang perubahan ingin dilakukan demi kebaikan pelajar sukar dilaksanakan,” katanya.

Katanya, dalam konteks budaya, peranan ibu bapa mencorakkan masa depan pelajar sangat besar.

FORMAT PT3 yang berubah mengakibatkan ramai ibu bapa tersentak dan bertindak menyalahkan
pihak lain akibat keputusan tidak memberangsangkan diterima pelajar. - Gambar hiasan

“Ini kerana kepercayaan pelajar bahawa ibu bapa mereka lebih berpengetahuan adalah tinggi.

“Setiap apa dicorakkan ibu bapa selalunya lebih dipatuhi termasuk urusan pembentukan masa depan pelajar.

“Jika ibu bapa tiada usaha melengkapkan diri dengan sebarang maklumat atau berubah mengikut arus semasa, sukar bagi pelajar menerima perubahan kerana bimbingan diterima tidak mencukupi,” katanya.

Keberkesanan sesuatu perubahan dalam sistem pendidikan negara, katanya, lebih banyak bergantung kepada kesediaan ibu bapa menerima perubahan itu.

KEBERGANTUNGAN anak kepada sokongan ibu bapa sangat perlu bagi membantu mereka berdepan perubahan. - Gambar hiasan

Menurutnya, ibu bapa perlu dididik menerima perubahan selari dengan keperluan dunia pendidikan hari ini.

“Misalnya, sudah banyak perubahan dilakukan untuk mengalih fokus pelajar daripada berorentasikan peperiksaan atau akademik semata-mata.

“Sistem ini bagus dan diperakui di kebanyakan negara namun di negara ini, ia kurang mendapat sambutan.

“Ia berlaku kerana minda ibu bapa dan masyarakat masih jumud dan menganggap sistem peperiksaan serta akademik adalah yang terbaik,” katanya.

PELBAGAI fasa sudah dilakukan sejak era pramerdeka untuk menjadikan sistem pendidikan negara
setanding negara maju dan tidak bergantung pada akademik atau peperiksaan semata-mata. - Gambar hiasan

Sejak 1957, pelbagai transformasi sistem pendidikan dilakukan selari dengan perubahan semasa dan global.

Namun, perubahan itu menyebabkan ada ibu bapa ‘terkejut’ dan menyalahkan pihak tertentu dengan pelbagai andaian.

Antara perubahan yang menggegarkan dunia pendidikan negara ialah pemansuhan Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) dan digantikan dengan PT3.

Dengan format peperiksaan bentuk baru, ramai ibu bapa tersentak, malah keputusan pelajar merudum.

Beliau berkata, melihat transisi yang dilaksanakan, ia satu isyarat kepada ibu bapa supaya membantu pelajar keluar dari zon selesa akademik semata-mata.

“Saya tidak nafikan akademik penting, tapi bukan semua ada keupayaan itu.

“Kita mahu menjadi negara maju, justeru, sistem pendidikan perlu perubahan.

“Ia bukan untuk kepentingan mereka, tapi demi masa depan pelajar,” katanya.

Legasi Tunku Abdul Rahman dipertahan

Nama Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj memang sinonim dengan rakyat Malaysia. Nama Almarhum cukup gah untuk dikenang sebagai pejuang kemerdekaan negara atau lebih dikenali sebagai Bapa Kemerdekaan Malaysia.

Namun, di sebalik nama Tunku Abdul Rahman, mungkin sebilangan kita, khususnya anak muda tidak tahu dan tidak sedar pengisian kemerdekaan yang digariskan pemimpin terdahulu bagi membolehkan rakyat Malaysia menikmati keamanan serta kemakmuran walaupun berbilang kaum.

Tunku Abdul Rahman berusaha merapatkan jurang ekonomi antara kaum.

Hari ini adalah hari ulang tahun kelahiran Bapa Kemerdekaan negara itu. Sebenarnya jasa beliau bukan saja berusaha memperjuangkan kemerdekaan negara, malah turut memastikan rakyat berbilang kaum dan agama hidup dalam kerukunan perpaduan, selain merapatkan jurang ekonomi antara kaum.

Hargai perjuangan pemimpin terdahulu

Sesungguhnya nilai perpaduan itu cukup mahal, untuk membinanya mengambil masa yang begitu lama tetapi meruntuhkan perpaduan itu boleh berlaku sekelip mata, khususnya generasi muda jika mereka gagal menghayati nilai perjuangan pemimpin terdahulu.

Memetik kata-kata Tunku Abdul Rahman ketika perisytiharan kemerdekaan negara: "Mulai 31 Ogos 1957, (kita) akan menjadi sebuah negara berdaulat dan demokratik untuk selama-lamanya, yang dibina berdasarkan prinsip kebebasan dan keadilan serta sentiasa memperjuangkan kebajikan dan kesejahteraan rakyatnya."

Tunku Abdul Rahman dari awal lagi menekankan kepada perpaduan, meneliti sejarah terdahulu usaha beliau untuk mendapatkan kemerdekaan negara turut disokong oleh beberapa pemimpin lain seperti Tun VT Sambanthan dan Tun Tan Cheng Lock.

Walaupun Melayu menjadi tuan di negara ini, Tunku Abdul Rahman sentiasa menekankan kepada perpaduan rakyat pelbagai kaum dan agama, malah tidak pernah menghalang penganut agama lain untuk mengamalkan agama mereka.

Berdasarkan kepada kontrak sosial yang dihasilkan pemimpin terdahulu, rakyat di negara ini perlu menghormati agama masing-masing tanpa membiarkan perbezaan ideologi sebagai pemisah kepada kerukunan perpaduan.

Menyedari betapa pentingnya perpaduan masyarakat berbilang kaum di negara ini, kepemimpinan Tunku Abdul Rahman bersama pemimpin utama masyarakat Cina dan India memuktamadkan kontrak sosial bagi memastikan kemakmuran negara serta hak masyarakat berbilang kaum dan agama terjamin.

Perpaduan kaum asas kukuh dalam pembinaan Malaysia. - Foto Datu Ruslan Sulai

Masa depan penuh cabaran

Menjangkakan masa depan negara berdepan cabaran dalam mempertahankan perpaduan kaum, Tunku Abdul Rahman sudah memikirkan usaha untuk terus memperkukuhkan perpaduan negara walaupun hari ini kontrak sosial dan Perlembagaan Negara mula dipersoalkan oleh generasi yang 'buta sejarah.'

Kontrak sosial perlu dipelihara dengan kematangan bagi memastikan keutuhan sesebuah negara serta perpaduan yang terjalin sejak sekian lama terus kekal terpelihara dan bagi Presiden Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM), Mua'amar Ghadafi Jamal Jamaludin, beliau berpendapat Tunku Abdul Rahman sudah menyediakan asas kukuh dalam pembinaan Malaysia.

Generasi muda perlu kekalkan perpaduan

Baginya, anak muda hari ini perlu menghayati perpaduan dalam erti kata sebuah negara merdeka yang mana roh dan semangatnya terus dihayati dan dipelihara bagi memastikan pembinaan sebuah negara yang diasaskan Tunku Abdul Rahman kekal terpelihara.

"Sememangnya Tunku Abdul Rahman meletakkan asas yang kukuh dalam pembinaan Malaysia, asasnya perlu disantuni dengan perpaduan dan kesepakatan masyarakat berbilang kaum dan agama. Seperti mana diterapkan dalam MBM, kasih-sayang bukan saja sesama bangsa, malah melangkaui sempadan kaum, budaya dan agama.

"Golongan muda hari ini perlu menghayati dan merasai serta mempertahankan nikmat keamanan negara yang dikecapi hasil perjuangan orang terdahulu, keamanan dan perpaduan akan terus terpelihara jika terus berpegang kepada prinsip Rukun Negara," katanya.

Tahun 2015 cukup mencabar untuk Malaysia, apatah lagi negara berdepan dengan sedikit gangguan ekonomi akibat kejatuhan harga minyak dunia, kemerosotan nilai mata wang dan banjir besar yang melanda negara hujung tahun lalu.

Cabaran besar ini bukan saja dilihat dari sudut ekonomi semata-mata, malah kesatuan rakyat Malaysia yang berbilang kaum juga adalah senjata ampuh bagi mendepani situasi ini.

Pelbagai insiden uji ketahanan negara

Kalendar 2014 yang sudah beberapa minggu berlalu dengan pelbagai insiden menguji kekuatan dan ketahanan negara serta keutuhan masyarakat Malaysia untuk terus bersatu tanpa mengira warna kulit mahupun ideologi.

Namun, di awal tahun 2015 ini, ada beberapa insiden yang dilihat cuba melonggarkan kembali kekuatan perpaduan rakyat Malaysia dengan membangkitkan isu membabitkan sentimen kaum dan agama.

"Tunku Abdul Rahman meletakkan asas yang kukuh bagi pembinaan Malaysia yang berbilang bangsa dan agama, kini kitalah penentu kepada kelangsungan dan kejayaan pembinaan negara bangsa," kata Mua'amar Ghadafi.

Kisah RON97 dan ubah gaya hidup

Seorang rakan mengaku yang dia kini ada duit lebihan antara RM100 hingga RM150 sebulan, sejak tiga bulan lalu setelah harga runcit petrol turun. Kos minyak keretanya yang berulang-alik dari rumah di Sungai Buloh untuk ke pejabat di ibu kota iaitu lima kali seminggu, sudah jauh berkurangan.

Harga minyak mula diturunkan sejak September tahun lalu berikutan kejatuhan harga minyak dunia dan sejak itu, sudah tiga kali harganya menurun. Kali terakhir 1 Februari lalu dengan harganya kini terus turun iaitu RON95 kini RM1.70 seliter, RON97 RM2 seliter dan diesel RM1.70 seliter.

Selagi harga minyak dunia tidak berganjak di bawah paras AS$60 setong (kelmarin sekitar AS$57), selagi itu rakyat boleh mengharapkan harga runcit petrol di stesen minyak tempatan diturunkan lagi pada setiap 1 hari bulan, berikutan penetapan harga runcit RON95 dan diesel dilakukan mengikut kaedah pengapungan terkawal bermula 1 Disember lalu.

Berbalik kepada kisah rakan tadi, dia juga mengaku sebenarnya tiada lebihan duit dalam erti kata sebenar walaupun harga runcit petrol turun. Ada tiga alasan diberinya iaitu isteri saban minggu ajak balik kampung di Sungai Petani, Kedah kerana duit minyak sudah kurang, isteri lebih kerap ajak untuk makan di restoran kerana lebihan sedikit wang saku, malah turut menukar minyak kereta daripada RON95 yang digunakan selama ini kepada jenis RON97 - semuanya gara-gara harga runcit petrol semakin murah.

Pokoknya, rakan itu tadi bukan saja tiada lagi lebihan wang antara RM100 hingga RM150 sebulan, malah berbelanja lebih pula kerana menukar gaya hidup daripada makan di gerai, sudah berkeinginan menjamu selera di restoran dan menukar pula kepada penggunaan RON97 'kerana pecut kereta lebih lancar bila perjalanan jauh balik kampung'.

Hakikat ini turut disimpulkan oleh pakar ekonomi, Prof Dr Barjoyai Bardai yang menyatakan bahawa peralihan trend pembelian petrol RON97 dalam kalangan pengguna berkemungkinan mengakibatkan pembaziran sekiranya tidak diurus secara sistematik.

Situasi itu katanya, berkemungkinan berlaku apabila pengguna cenderung menghabiskan baki petrol di dalam tangki dengan berjalan jauh pada hujung minggu yang hanya akan menambah perbelanjaan sampingan.

Di sinilah timbul persoalan sama ada pengguna berbelanja mengikut kehendak nafsu atau keperluan. Jika mengikut kehendak nafsu, maka tersasarlah langkah penjimatan yang diperkenalkan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak sebelum ini.

Sememangnya kejatuhan harga minyak dunia meskipun memeritkan bagi negara pengeksport minyak, memberi senyuman kepada ramai pihak. Benar kata bekas Presiden Amerika Syarikat, John F Kennedy bahawa dalam setiap krisis atau kegawatan, ia juga mempunyai sudut positif dan peluang untuk kebaikan. Namun, sikap tamak haloba boleh 'merompak' kebahagiaan yang dinantikan... iyalah apabila harga minyak naik, peniaga dengan serta-merta akan turut menaikkan harga barangan meskipun stok lama, tetapi jika sebaliknya amat payah untuk menurunkan harga.

Diharapkan selepas ini, ramai peniaga akan menurunkan harga barangan melalui tekanan pelbagai pihak dan pengguna perlu menggunakan kebijaksanaan, selain bijak berbelanja.

PENGGUNA motosikal menggunakan RON97 disebabkan penurunan sebanyak 11 sen seliter mulai 1 Februari lalu di seluruh negara. - Foto Zulfadhli Zulkifli

Isu harga seperti ‘bangau oh bangau

MENYELAK kembali isu ‘harga naik’ atau ‘naik harga’, mungkin kita masih ­ingat apabila kerajaan me­ngambil langkah mengurangkan subsidi bahan bakar menyebabkan harga petrol RON95 dan diesel naik 20 sen seliter pada September 2013. Ketika itu kebimbangan banyak pihak ialah mengenai kenaikan harga barang dan perkhidmatan. Begitu juga apabila kerajaan mengumumkan pengurangan subsidi gula semasa pembentangan Bajet 2014. Harga gula naik 34 sen menjadikan sekilogram gula RM2.85. Sekali lagi timbul kebimbangan mengenai harga makanan dan minuman. Kenaikan tarif elektrik juga mendorong kenaikan harga barang.

Pendek kata, setiap kali harga petrol, tarif air dan elektrik naik, maka harga barang lain akan ‘tumpang semangkuk’. Begitulah tindak balas yang di­terima setiap kali kenaikan harga mi­nyak diumumkan. Peniaga di semua peringkat menaikkan harga barang sama ada peniaga barang-barang runcit atau peniaga makanan. Gula, tepung, minyak masak dan macam-macam lagi naik. Kenaikan harga petrol dikaitkan dengan kos atau caj pengangkutan yang dikenakan. Maka berlakulah kenaikan harga roti canai, teh tarik, kuih-muih dan pelbagai lagi. Ada juga yang mengurangkan saiz roti canai dan pada masa yang sama menaikkan harga.

Banyak pihak yang amat terasa kenaikan apabila mereka makan dan minum di kedai, gerai atau warung. Bagi peniaga, alasan yang sering digunakan bagi menaikkan harga ini biasanya tentulah di­sebabkan kenaikan harga barang yang dibeli sama ada secara runcit atau borong. Biasanya peniaga akan menyalahkan harga yang dikenakan oleh peruncit. Pihak peruncit pula menyalahkan pemborong. Akhir­nya pemborong menyalahkan pembekal. Pembekal pula tentulah akan menyenaraikan pelbagai kos yang menyebabkan mereka meletak harga yang tinggi termasuk kenaikan harga petrol, caj pengangkutan yang tinggi, kenaikan tarif elektrik, kos buruh (gaji minimum) dan pelbagai alasan lain.

Masing-masing mahu mempertahankan diri. Dalam erti kata lain menuding jari mencari silap pihak lain. Macam lagu Bangau oh bangau. Cuba ubah lirik kepada Harga oh harga, kenapa tidak turun... Peniaga, peruncit, pemborong dan pembekal akan menyalahkan satu sama lain. Pelbagai alasan yang akan digunakan untuk mewajarkan kenaikan harga itu ketika ‘saat-saat genting’ pengguna atau orang ramai bercakap mengenai kenapa harga barang tidak turun selepas harga petrol dikurangkan. Perca­yalah, selepas ini cukai barang dan perkhidmatan (GST) juga akan dijadikan ‘kambing hitam’ untuk mewajarkan pengekalan harga ini.

Bukan mudah untuk menurunkan harga. Ti­dak sama dengan langkah menaikkan harga. Hari ini harga petrol naik, esok harga barang akan terus naik. Siapakah yang harus dipersalahkan? Pengguna boleh mengguna­kan hak untuk mem­boikot tetapi selama mana? Apakah kesan akibat pemboikotan itu? Berapa hari atau berapa minggu pengguna sanggup boikot? Amat sukar untuk menurunkan harga barang yang sudah lama ‘di­terima’ oleh orang ramai. Kebiasaannya, bantahan, kri­tikan, kecaman dan pemboikotan tidak bertahan lama. Hangat-hangat tahi ayam. Sejauh manakah peniaga boleh terasa kesannya jika pengguna memboikot? Mampukah peniaga atau pemilik restoran menurunkan harga makanan, pengusaha bas ekspres menurunkan harga tiket, pemilik lori mengurangkan caj pengangkutan dan sebagainya?

Berapa ramai peniaga yang akan gulung tikar jika pengguna boikot? Ramai yang tidak yakin harga pelbagai barangan atau perkhidmatan akan diturunkan. Secara sinis, mereka berkata, hanya hujan yang turun. Memang hujan tidak pernah naik. Peniaga, peruncit, pemborong dan pembekal akan memberi pelbagai alasan. Jika turun pun, akan mengambil masa. Alasannya, mereka masih menggunakan stok lama yang dibeli pada harga yang tinggi. Hakikatnya semasa menaikkan harga akibat harga petrol naik, tidak timbul pula stok lama yang dibeli pada harga yang lebih rendah.

Baru-baru ini, 20 pertubuhan bukan kerajaan (NGO) menganjurkan kempen selama tiga bulan mendesak pengeluar dan peniaga menurunkan harga air mineral 500 mililiter (ml) yang dijual pada harga melebihi RM1. Bukan air mineral sahaja tetapi air minuman pun dijual pada harga lebih tinggi. Memang di pasar raya besar, kita boleh membeli air mineral ini pada harga 45 sen atau 50 sen sahaja tetapi di luar mencecah RM1 atau lebih. Di mana silapnya? Harga sebegini bukanlah baharu. Sebelum ruangan Selak ini wujud pun, saya pernah menulis mengenai harga air mi­neral dan minuman yang tidak sepatutnya di majalah MASSA sekitar tahun 2000 dan selepas itu semasa mengendalikan Mingguan Malaysia kira-kira 10 tahun lalu. Kenapa sampai sekarang tidak selesai isu ini? Di manakah kekuatan pihak pengeluar dan penjual? Apa pula kekuatan dan kelemahan pengguna?

Setakat ini, pi­hak yang mampu menurunkan harga hanyalah pengusaha stesen minyak. Mereka sudah pun menurunkan harga petrol dan diesel seperti yang diumumkan. Ia bukan rahsia, tidak boleh disembunyikan. Itu pun ada pihak yang mendakwa pengusaha stesen minyak juga mengambil kesempatan dengan menggunakan kaedah tertentu bagi mengelakkan kerugian. Samalah kaedah yang digunakan oleh sesetengah peniaga yang mengubahsuai alat timbang untuk ‘mencuri’ timbangan atau pemandu teksi yang ‘mengganggu’ meter mereka untuk mendapatkan tambang lebih. Ketika pihak penguat kuasa menetapkan harga bagi barangan mengikut sukatan, masih ada yang berani ‘mencuri’ keuntungan secara salah, inikan pula apabila kerajaan tidak menetapkan harga.

Pengguna kita pula pelbagai. Ada yang tidak me­rungut apabila harga secawan teh tarik atau kopi bersama nasi lemak bungkus berlipat kali ganda harganya di kedai yang bertaraf ‘A1’ tetapi yang tidak mampu, harga di gerai, warung atau medan selera yang tidak turun harga akan menjadi rungutan yang tiada kesudahannya. Mungkin ramai yang sudah tidak kisah de­ngan harga itu jika mereka ini terdiri daripada kumpulan pengguna yang ‘hidup’ di restoran, cafe atau ­coffee house berjenama. Harga dua biji telur ayam kampung separuh masak dan satu set roti bakar di Hentian Rehat dan Rawat (R&R) hanya RM2.50 tetapi cuba tengok harga di coffee house atau restoran yang ada kelas ini. Boleh dapat RM2.50 untuk set itu? Begitu juga harga makanan dan minuman di kantin sekolah. Bagaimana nak turun, jika bahan yang dibeli masih mahal?

Kita mengalu-ngalukan langkah Kementerian Pertanian dan Industri Asas Tani menawarkan harga lebih murah di pasar tani di seluruh negara. Walaupun tidak semua pengguna berkesempatan mengunjungi pasar tani dan tidak semua barang boleh diperoleh di sana tetapi sekurang-kurangnya penurunan harga 5 hingga 20 peratus bara­ngan industri asas tani segar, kering dan diproses dapat mengurangkan bebanan. Tahniah kepada menterinya, Ismail Sabri Yaakob yang ‘berani bercakap dan berani bertindak’. Ismail Sabri bukan sekadar bercakap supaya pengguna memboikot peniaga yang tamak tetapi mengambil langkah untuk membantu mengurangkan beban pengguna. Begitu juga langkah-langkah penguatkuasaan oleh Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan yang di­pimpin oleh Hasan Malek.

Diharapkan, kementerian dapat meningkat dan memperkasakan Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KRIM) atau Kedai Harga Patut. Begitu juga dengan Kedai Bergerak KRIM. Kita tidak mahu ada pihak yang hanya menangguk di air keruh atas ke­nyataan yang disalah tafsir. Jika termakan cili, rasailah pedasnya. Bantulah pihak kerajaan. Janganlah sekadar bercakap dan mengkritik tetapi tidak berbuat apa-apa untuk mempengaruhi pihak yang bertanggungjawab memainkan pe­ranan mengenai kedudukan harga barangan ini. Dekati pihak yang memonopoli perniagaan. Selepas ini, mungkin ada dakwaan ‘bekalan kurang’ yang memaksa harga sekarang kekal atau naik.Diharapkan isu harga barang ini tidak dijadikan pula modal politik oleh pihak tertentu yang akhirnya menyebabkan rakyat menyalahkan kerajaan Barisan Nasional (BN). Mungkin ada pihak yang sengaja mengatur pakatan dalam kala­ngan persatuan/kumpulan pen­jual, pembekal atau pengeluar untuk tidak menurunkan harga dengan mencari alasan lain terma­suk GST. Se­perti yang pernah diselak sebelum ini, bukanlah mustahil ada pihak yang sengaja melakukan tindakan itu semata-mata mahu menjatuhkan imej kerajaan BN. Kerajaan perlu bertindak sebelum persepsi buruk ini menjadi ‘barah’ sehingga menjadi bahan kempen menjelang pilihan raya umum akan datang.

- Hasan Mohd NoorUtusan Malaysia Rencana 9 Februari 2015

Antara label 
dan realiti

DUNIA sekarang semakin obses dan ghairah dengan memberi dan meletakkan label kepada apa jua yang boleh diberi label.

Pengeluar-pengeluar melabelkan produk-produk mereka dengan pelbagai cara dan bentuk, sehingga produk-produk tersebut seakan-akan ajaib dan jauh daripada realiti. Ada yang memutihkan, hampir segera, apa yang hitam dan kelam. Ada yang mencantikkan, juga secepat mungkin, apa yang semula jadi tidak begitu menarik. Dan ada pula yang begitu ajaib mujarabnya, sehingga merubah segala-galanya seperti impian menjadi realiti. Walhal realitinya adalah label-label tersebut memesongkan .

Begitu juga halnya dengan masyarakat dunia. Sudah menjadi kelaziman mengenakan label-label untuk menandakan kumpulan-kumpulan tertentu yang pada realitinya juga tidak betul, tidak tepat dan memesongkan.

Sekarang label-label telah mengasing-asingkan antara puak-puak contohnya:-

* Muslim ‘moderate’ atau sederhana

* Muslim ekstremis

* Muslim pengganas atau terrorist

* Muslim ‘fundamentalis’

Juga, wujud pula antara kita sendiri di Malaysia label-label seperti Melayu moderate, warga Malaysia moderate, Melayu ekstremis, kaum Cina ektremis dan sebagainya.

Di peringkat global, umat Islam perlu khuatir terhadap label-label yang memberi gambaran negatif terhadap mereka, dan yang mentafsirkan ajaran Islam dalam pelbagai bentuk, yang terpesong dari apa yang sebenarnya.

Sebenarnya tidak timbul soal label-label ber­asingan untuk umat Islam. Jika seseorang itu meng­anuti agama Islam maka asas segalanya ialah ke­sederhanaan dan pegangan hidup di dunia ialah Rukun Islam yang jelas maksud-maksudnya.

Mentafsirkan apa jua yang sahih mengikut pandangan-pandangan dan fahaman subjektif pihak-pihak tertentu yang mungkin mempunyai agenda dan muslihat tersendiri adalah memesongkan pe­ngertian tuntutan agama Islam. Apatah lagi mereka yang jelas me­lakukan tindakan-tindakan kejam serta penganiayaan dengan menyalahgunakan Islam atau bertindak kononnya demi Islam adalah mencemar imej suci agama Islam dan memberi gambaran negatif tentang umat Islam kepada orang lain.

Padahal majoriti besar umat Islam di dunia ialah orang yang berpegang teguh kepada ajaran-ajaran Islam. Tanpa perlu apa-apa label, umat Islam yang ramai ini, faham bahawa Islam sememangnya menuntut kesederhanaan, kesabaran, menerima perbezaan antara makhluk Allah SWT dan menghormati pihak lain.

Mereka yang telah jauh lari daripada ajaran-ajaran sebenar agama Islam sehingga bertindak sebagai pengganas dan ekstremis tidak lagi mencerminkan umat Islam. Mereka ha­nyalah semata-mata ekstremis atau pengganas. Agama tidak merupakan faktor penghitung.

Begitu juga label yang menandakan sebahagian daripada ekstremis-ekstremis tersebut sebagai kononnya ‘Muslim fundamental’. Sebenarnya jika mereka yang sudah terpesong dan sudah menjadi ekstremis dilabelkan sebagai orang Muslim asli/ fundamental, apakah kita yang majoriti ini dianggap bukan Muslim asli, dan cuma pengikut cabang-cabang dan ranting-ranting agama Islam? Dan bahawa kita yang majoriti ini juga dianggap bukan umat Islam yang sebenarnya mengikuti ajaran-ajaran asas dan pokok atau fundamental agama Islam? Kita tidak sewajarnya membenarkan ini berterusan.

Sekian lama dibiarkan label ini digunakan secara tidak betul. Pengganas-pengganas yang membunuh atas nama agama Islam, bukan orang yang memahami asas-asas atau fundamental agama Islam. Mereka menyalahgunakan atau tersalah faham, ajaran-ajaran asas Islam. Kita yang ramai inilah umat Islam fundamentalis kerana kita berpandu dan berpegang kepada ajaran-ajaran dan rukun-rukun fundamental atau asas agama Islam.

Maka di Malaysia, seorang yang berstatus Melayu mesti pada asasnya beragama Islam. Tidak timbul soal sama ada seseorang Melayu itu sederhana atau ekstremis. Sebagai seorang yang beragama Islam, seorang yang berstatus Melayu mesti menjadikan kesederhanaan sebagai panduan tindakan dan kelakuan.

Apatah lagi di Malaysia, tidak ada faedahnya kita memberi label-label sesama sendiri sehingga wujud belah bahagi antara kita. Lagipun siapakah yang menentukan apa ciri-ciri kesederhanaan bagi kaum-kaum Melayu, Cina, India, Iban dan seterusnya? Tanda aras atau benchmark siapakah yang diterima pakai? Adakah sesiapa yang tidak menerima mana-mana aspek tanda aras itu akan dianggap pelampau atau ekstremis?

Sebenarnya, kita tidak perlu melabelkan sesama sendiri. Jika kita warganegara Malaysia, maka panduan-panduan Rukun Negara memberi petunjuk-petunjuk jelas. Perlembagaan Negara menjelaskan peruntukan undang-undang yang asas. Dan keinginan untuk hidup dengan damai dan tente­ram secara berterusan dari generasi ke generasi wajar mendorong kita semua menerima kepelbagaian dan perbezaan-perbezaan di antara kita.

Dengan sendirinya kita akan mengamalkan hidup bersama yang akrab, dengan menghormati antara satu dengan lain. Dan dengan sendirinya akan sukar untuk adanya ruang, bagi sesiapa jua yang berfikiran dan bertindak melampau atau ekstremis kerana majoriti terbesar rakyat Malaysia tanpa diberikan label sememangnya warganegara yang bertangg­ungjawab dan bersikap sederhana.

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz Utusan Malaysia Rencana 09 Februari 2015 12:58 AM - pernah berkhidmat sebagai Ahli Parlimen selama 35 tahun, menteri selama 28 tahun dan Ahli Majlis Tertinggi UMNO selama 38 tahun. Beliau kini ialah Profesor Adjung di Kolej Perniagaan Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) selain menjadi Pengerusi AirAsiaX, Megasteel dan Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studio.

An interview with Sufiah, the child prodigy

LONDON: The producer of Nona, a women’s programme on TV3, has been asking me to look for Sufiah Yusof for the past few years. That led me to enquire about her from friends and contacts. I knew she was lying low and I did not blame her.

We got in touch last month and, after a few emails, agreed to meet at Albert Dock in Liverpool, the United Kingdom.

Sufiah Yusof is now srudying engineering

It was a very cold afternoon. Sufiah was late but she arrived with a big smile and greeted me like an old chum. Her friendliness was contagious.

Sufiah, 30, was a lot taller now, with a cute cropped hairstyle, wore no make-up and had an incredibly positive attitude to life. We chatted about families, university degrees and Malaysian food.

For someone who had been hiding from the media, she was surprisingly relaxed and easy going. She laughed as I kept changing my camera angle, but was patient enough to wait.

Ignoring the camera, she sat upright, hands in her lap, ready for my questions.

Her mannerism was a sign of a person used to television interviews. But this was her first media interview after seven years.

Although I have reported about Sufiah several times over the years, the last time I saw her in person was 17 years ago at her family home in Coventry, and once more a few years later at an event here.

I remembered going to her house.

I recalled the blackboards in the living and dining rooms. Workbooks laid out on the tables and shelves.

Sufiah, shy and smiling, sat quietly with her siblings while her father, Farooq Khan from Pakistan and mother, Halimahton Yusof from Muar, Johor, spoke.

Sufiah (2nd from left) with her family

Sufiah was one of five gifted children who had all been taught at home by their academics parents.

Back in 1997, Sufiah was just 12 when she made headlines around the world as she passed her A-levels and was accepted into Oxford University to do a degree in Mathematics.

“Child Prodigy”, “Malaysian Maths Genius” and “Britain’s Youngest University Student”, screamed the headlines.

We had filmed Sufiah on her first day at the women-only St Hilda’s College as she posed with a mortar board and robes.

The college requested that Sufiah be allowed to study without intrusion.

Sufiah Yusof speaks top the reporter in London. Pix by Nurul Shafina Jemenon.

Q: How was your time at Oxford and what was it like being a genius?

Sufiah: It wasn’t the easiest thing, emotionally. But everyone has emotional difficulties and battles to fight. That was just one particular thing about my upbringing. No different from other young people’s challenges. Oxford is an interesting place with lots of interesting people. It was an experience I had.

(In July 2000, Sufiah hit the headlines again when she ran away from the university after sitting for the last exam paper in her third year. She sparked a vast police hunt in Britain. Her father claimed she was kidnapped and brainwashed by an organisation seeking the key to her intelligence. Her mother said: “It was a mystery and not Sufiah’s behaviour that we know.” A few days later, Sufiah sent an email to her parents, saying: “I’ve had enough of 15 years of physical and emotional abuse.”

That email cast blame over her father.

She accused him of having controlled her life through intensive tutoring. The media had a field day, with front pages blaring “Missing Maths Prodigy Vowed Never To Return Home”. It turned out that the 15-year-old Sufiah had travelled 155km to Bournemouth, south of England, stayed at a backpacker’s hostel and worked as a waitress for a week.

She then obtained a court order allowing her to be placed with a foster family under Social Services until she reached 18. She did not complete her Mathematics degree.

Sufiah was diplomatic when answering questions about that episode. “It was a difficult situation with my family. I dealt with it the best way I knew how. From outsiders point of view, there was a huge amount of family drama, but a lot of people have difficult situation with their family.”)

Q: How is your relationship with the family?

Sufiah: We are not in touch. I wish them peace. I wish them all the best in the world. I imagine they feel pretty much the same about me. In the modern world, people go off indifferent directions, sometimes, it’s emotionally healthy. Not bearing ill will towards each other, we move on and move forward. We realise certain family connection aren’t healthy.

(Before she went to Oxford, I remember watching and filming Sufiah playing tennis near her home. Her father was her coach. Back then, Sufiah was No. 8 in the country for under-21s.

After the game, as we walked back to the house, I commented on the size of her trainers.

“You have big feet.” She grinned and shook her head. “Not these big. Dad bought me these shoes. It’s a size or two bigger. He said I will grow into them.”

Her father most certainly ruled. Farooq had said he kept the house cold rather than warm so that the children could concentrate on their studies. Other rules included prayers, stretching and breathing exercises. They were allowed to watch television, but mainly educational programmes. After the runaway, Sufiah saw little of her family, except her mother and sister.

Relations with her father worsened in March 2001, when she appeared in a pre-recorded interview on Tonight with Trevor McDonald, on UK’s independent television channel ITV. She said she never wanted to see her father again. In August 2003, I met the family again, this time to write about Sufiah’s younger sister, Zuleika, as she celebrated her own A-Level results— Grade A in Pure Maths. Zuleika was 9. She was hoping to do three more Science and Maths A-Levels when she was 10, and was set to break the Yusof family’s genius record.

Sufiah’s siblings are fiercely intelligent — sister Noraisha and brother Iskander studied at Warwick University in their teenage years. Her older brother, Isaac, who also excelled in tennis, was working with her father. Farooq had perfected his famous method of “accelerated learning techniques” on his children.)

Q: When you ran away from Oxford, how angry were you with your father?

Sufiah: I did detach from my family. I was 15 and a different creature then. We didn’t have the same values or aspirations. We probably didn’t have anything in common. But it doesn’t keep me or them up at night.

(Sufiah claimed she was in touch with her family. She said maybe her family was “eccentric” and “difficult” at times. “All of us had instances when we were temperamental and dramatic, but we moved on.” She said she had mellowed a lot and 99 per cent of her life now was being “boring”, dull and content.)

Q: Did you not want to get in touch with them because you didn’t want any more drama?

Sufiah: Possibly, yes. It’s a case of emotional health and if the relationship isn’t productive, it will only cause stress.

Q: Do you miss them?

Sufiah: I am not a big fan of overemotional statements. We just get on with life.

(By July 2004, I wrote another story on Sufiah. It was on a happier note. Sufiah, then 19, married Jonathan Marshall, a trainee lawyer four years her senior. I bumped into them a few months later at a talk here. They looked happy. They separated after two years. At that time, I thought it was probably time to leave her alone. But four years later, the British tabloids exposed Sufiah as a sex worker. There were photos of her taken secretly by a reporter posing as a client. Using the name Shilpa Lee, Sufiah, 23, advertised her services on the Internet at £130-a-time. Pictures of her in skimpy attire and sexy poses were also published. “Don’t glorify my daughter. She’s an adult. She knows what’s good and what’s bad,” said Halimahton.)

Q: Can I ask about your time in Salford, Manchester?

Sufiah: It was an “experimental period”. I was a little wild. I was an experimenting, risk-taking person. You can experiment without committing. A lot of people do in their late teens and twenties. Looking back, there is nothing I would change at all.

(She said while she understood many would not approve of her “job” then, the media harassment and the horror of press intrusion were the worst experience she had to endure. Some even secretly filmed and blackmailed her. Sufiah said the aggression of the British media and their unethical approach were unbearable.

“There was a time when the media interest in me was ridiculous. I was getting a lot of emails a day saying they were going to make a documentary about me whether I consented or not. They were going to track me down, film me and reveal my address.”)

Q: Did you regret that period?

Sufiah: I have no regrets. There was a lot of interest from the media and public in Malaysia. I am grateful for the people who had shown compassion and support. It was a personal choice.

Q: What was the turning point?

Sufiah: There’s no big turning point. I was impulsive. I tried stuff out and then said I didn’t fancy that. I am childless but if I have a daughter, I would be worried if she is a risk taker like me.

(She said she was hiding and on the move because of media harassment and the fact that she could not afford to live anywhere permanently.

“They assumed they had the right to rummage through my life. I was on my own. It was stressful and scary, but it was a part of life. I am pleased with the way I handled and came out of it.”)

Q: What is your proudest achievement?

Sufiah : I have no money. I am room hunting, searching for a temporary job, unemployed and have no degree. I am content as a person, peaceful, so that’s my achievement.

Q: Is going to Oxford University at 12 not an achievement?

Sufiah: It was an interesting thing that happened to me. Oxford is an interesting place but I am not connected to it at all.

(I mentioned the “prodigy” title. She admitted education was important but said she wanted to study because she was passionate about the subject and not about what people think of her.

“I have dropped out of two degrees. My first degree in Mathematics was under pressure — more of a suggestion — my parents’ idea. “The second degree was in Economics, which I studied when I was married because my husband did not allow me to work. “Now, I am back studying a third time. I am a mature student, not a prodigy or a genius. I love it. Let’s see how this goes.”

Sufiah said she did not regret the way she was brought up, such as not going to school like other children. “My experiences, good and bad, have made me who I am. I am studying Engineering, which is related to Mathematics, and it’s nice that my brain still has that training and can do it semi-automatically.” She said she enjoyed a good challenge but reiterated: “I don’t think I was ever a genius. I got to Oxford very early. I might have a small talent for Mathematics and might be good at it at some stage. I hope I can contribute to a research project that leaves a good legacy someday. I must put my head down and get back into studying.”)

Q: Do you feel connected to Malaysia?

Sufiah: Genetically I am 50 per cent Malaysian. I feel an emotional connection to Malaysian culture. I’d like to explore that connection more. In 2008, when the British press were being aggressive, some Malaysians were full of compassion, which I respected. But I am also quite British in a lot of ways. So I am a bit of both worlds.

(I showed her the newspaper cuttings on her that I kept over the years. She smiled and shook her head as she looked through them. “It just shows how dramatic and out of control some media behaved. These were manipulative, staged stories. It is interesting to blog about the British media, but beyond that it’s not relevant to me.” Pointing at the names of British journalists who wrote articles on her, Sufiah said: “This reporter hates women. He is a horrible, horrible man. And this other reporter is a very unhappy man. He ended up being obsessed with attacking Muslims, or girls, and making dramatic stories about other people’s families.” Sufiah revealed enough during our meeting, but kept some details to herself. She said she had no partner but would go on dates, was living with friends but not giving away the name of the town and was doing an Engineering degree but did not mention the name of the university.

Sufiah seemed happy. She was working in a shop temporarily and said it was good fun.

I asked about her blog entitled “Inquiring Feminist”, particularly about a paragraph that read: “I was very unhappy as a child, love being a woman: I have no idea what the future holds but would not exchange my life for anyone else’s.” She mentioned Oxford University and “fathers”. She attacked the British tabloid journalists, who had harassed and condemned her. “These people are irrelevant. If they are male, no woman wants them. If they are female, no woman wants to be them. Their words and opinions are trash,” she wrote. “I spent some years living off the grid. I was forced into a fairly peripheral existence.” Profound words from a troubled past. The past she claimed she did not think about much. Yes, she said she was a content adult. She looked calm and happy. But I sensed some anger and a strong will. Sufiah, that brave 15- year-old ‘runaway girl’, is always there. Otherwise, she would not have survived mentally.)

Sufiah Yusof married Jonathan Marshall in 2004 at the age of 19.

Haliza Hashim Doyle is a correspondent for TV3 Malaysia and a freelance writer based in London.