We look at some dads who gave their all to their beloved homeland
THERE are a lot of famous Malaysian fathers. And then, there are some not-so-famous dads. Fathers who gave their time, energy and love to this country, in their own way.
We asked members of the Malaysian Heritage & History Club, a facebook group, how they saw their own dads (or forefathers) in our history. Clearly, there’s nothing ordinary about Malaysian fathers.
The Malaysian Heritage & History Club is a facebook group founded in October 2012 by Bert Tan from Malacca for families and friends interested in the history of the people by the people. The group grew to some 4,000 members and is still growing.
Last year, the club began monthly Heritage Talks at the Riverine Coffeehouse in Malacca.
Speakers are sourced from club members according to their field of expertise, all done voluntarily. Most of the talks were recorded and can been watched on YouTube. The club believes history and heritage are for the masses, and not exclusive to academics and elites.
DATUK Ismail Mustapha
MY dad Datuk Ismail Mustapha, a graduate of RMC, went on to serve in Wisma Putra for 30-plus years, starting as a junior secretary before rising the ranks to become ambassador of Malaysia to Kuwait, Switzerland and Brazil.He represented Malaysia at the UN General Assembly in 2003 where he called for the arrest of the “Butchers of Bosnia” Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. “They must be apprehended and brought to justice. The consequences of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity must be repaired through justice ...such heinous crimes must not be tolerated and must never be allowed to happen again. Without justice, there would be no genuine peace.”
Thanks to his job, I was born in Spain and experienced the deserts of Kuwait, the mountains of Switzerland and the beauty (and havoc!) of Brazil. He retired in 2010 and enjoys his days relaxing. Azlan Ismail, business manager, Kuala Lumpur
Tan Ah Chai
My dad, Tan Ah Chai @ Tan Guan Swee, (1930-2006) served in the Jungle Police Company. He was wounded in the hand in a skirmish with bandits in Jasin in the early 1950s, and was reassigned as a detective after he recovered. He was always seen at Chinese functions around Malacca. During the May 13, 1969 period, he didn’t come home for several days. No one knew about his work. He was a strict disciplinarian and a loving father of 10 kids. We still miss him. Bert Tan, Malacca
Mohd Derus Shariff
My father Mohd Derus Shariff was a good son, loving husband, father and generous granddad. A dedicated teacher, passionate farmer, ingenious carpenter, fisherman, hunter, handyman, amateur barber and musician. A committed community man and politician. All packed into 86 years.
“A man without principle is worthless,” he said. He quit politics to be an educationist. “A teacher can do more than a politician to mould children,” he reasoned. He declined a datukship upon his retirement.
“Umno isn’t the same party. Pre-Merdeka, it fought for things we didn’t have. Now it fights over things we have in abundance.” His disappointment was conspicuous, abstaining from all comment on Malaysian politics. He stood proud and resolute, anchored by his humility. I miss him dearly. This picture with some of his children was taken several weeks before he died.
Hamin Derus, Writer, Auckland
MY father M. Rajagopal (1936-2003) was a Japanese Occupation survivor. In his heart, he was an artist, in his head, he knew he had to support a family.
He would tell me stories about the Occupation years: How his own mum died when he was just two, growing up with only his Dad. He grew up in very hard conditions, and that and post-war stress would later take a toll on his heart.
He taught at St George’s Girls School and at Convent Pulau Tikus. He was loved and respected because of his dedication to his pupils, so much so that his second heart attack happened when he was marking Art papers for SPM.
He went back to being an artist when he retired. I have all his artbooks, sketches and lino cuts.
Mohan Das, producer/audio engineer, Berlin
MY dad Ajis Salimin really enjoyed his life. He attended the all-boys boarding school Sekolah Datuk Abdul Razak (SDAR) in Tanjung Malim, Perak (1958-1963) on government scholarship. There, he was involved in the literature club, rugby, football, and was a sprinter too. He held many posts: Prefect, deputy head boy, Sultan sport house captain and football captain.
He represented the Perak junior soccer team. He was the only one in his SDAR batch selected for training at the Outward Bound School, Lumut. Then, he was selected for Form Six at Malay College Kuala Kangsar. Unfortunately, because he came from a poor family, he declined and went to work. A great sacrifice.
He joined the police force in 1964 during the era of Royal Federation Police and finished his police inspector admission training. During his service in the force, he met his lovely wife and built a family. He served in every police branch — Field Force, UPP, traffic, narcotics, marine etc — and finally retired in 1999 as superintendent.
In retirement, he spent all his time with his family. He has contributed a lot to his beloved motherland.
In addition, he always reminded me to appreciate what we have and to always think about what we can do for our country, and not what the country can do for you. Mohd Faiz Ajis, veterinary enforcement officer, Selangor
MY father Zain Mahmood was a scriptwriter, playwright, TV producer, broadcaster and filmmaker, one of the early pioneers of Malaysian television and later breaking new ground in Malay film history. He was Director of Broadcasting for TV Singapura and Director-General of Broadcasting for RTM until he retired in 1987.
He then launched into filmmaking and released his first movie in 1988, Fenomena — the first Malay movie to gross over RM1.7 million in ticket sales.
In 1990, his second film, Fantasia, also broke the record — it became the first time in the nation’s history that a Malaysian film was banned, apparently because it was deemed to contain “unIslamic elements”. It was finally allowed to be released in March 1994.
Abah did not live to see it on the widescreen — he died in his sleep one month before it was released. All that Abah was — creative, eloquent and unafraid — has inspired me to be the man I am today.
Sabri Zain, Policy Director, Writer and Rebel, Cambridge.
MY grandfather Alfonso Soliano, or Nonong to family and friends, was instrumental in single-handedly revolutionising the music industry, having infused western music elements in Malay Asli songs, re-arranging them to be played by a full scale orchestra as opposed to traditional instrumentation (like gendang and rebana) in the early 1950s.
Alfonso also notated Malay Asli songs (a first), at the request of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman so that they could be played at all Malaysian embassies around the world. Apart from leading Orkes Radio Malaya (1951-1965), composing, arranging and re-arranging Malay music to fit our country’s first orchestra, he was also a mean jazz pianist.
Introducing be-bop to Malaysian audiences in 1948 at the tender age of 23, he was, 50 years ahead of his time! The list goes on in terms of his many contributions to our nation. His influence is still rippling 24 years on after his demise and will continue so for many more generations to come.
Rachel Guerzo, Jazz Pianist-Singer, Kuala Lumpur
Chang Ta Kang
MY father, Chang Ta Kang (1910-1965) was educated in English and a pioneer among Foochow boys to study in American mission colleges in China, including Yenching University, Beijing, graduating in journalism. He started the first English newspaper, Sarawak Times, in Kuching in 1939 which was bombed by the Japanese.
During the war he was beaten, imprisoned and put to hard labour like many men in Sibu. But he was not willing to serve the Japanese. In the colonial period, he was often asked to be interpreter, and examiner for the Colonial government. At various times, he was a local town councillor, a Council Negri Member, a founding father of the SUPP and the first general manager of Sarawak’s Foochow bank, the Hock Hua Bank.
Because of the beatings during the Japanese Occupation, he suffered heart problems which brought about his premature death. He was a brilliant bilingual scholar and a believer in non-violence. He practised Confucian ethics.
Chang Yi, Retired English Lecturer, Miri. Now a freelance photo-journalist.
Lim Keng Watt
MY father Lim Keng Watt (1909-1996) was a teacher but like many Chinese Malaccans, he joined the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force. As Sergeant 80047, he volunteered to evacuate families from Malacca to Singapore on Jan 11, 1942, accompanying Capt Cho Sow Lin. He saw action in Singapore as the supposedly impregnable city fell to the Japanese in February 1942.
He escaped slaughter during the fierce battle which killed many volunteers, probably due to survival techniques he learnt as a pioneer King’s Scout in Malacca and his sharp shooting skills. Another highlight of my father’s soldiering career was being chosen to represent the B (Chinese) Company in the Victory Parade in London on June 8, 1946. Audrey Lim Swee Peck, Malacca
IN 1938, my father Mustapha Hussain (1910-1987) was the founding vice-president of Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) or Young Malay Union. As a result of the KMM President’s collusion with Japanese Intelligence before WW2 broke out in Malaya, my father had to “move” with the Japanese troops.
But he used his situation to save the lives of police officers, soldiers, volunteers and civilians. He also prevented hundreds of soldiers from being detained as Prisoners of War.
He is on record as the first Malay to ask for independence for his homeland. The Japanese reply: “Let the Japanese be the father. Malay, Chinese and Indian be the children. However, if the Malay child is thin, we will give him more milk.”
His life and his vivid narrative of Malay involvement in the war are documented in The Memoirs Of Mustapha Hussain: Malay Nationalism Before Umno (Malay, English). Insun Sony Mustapha, Taiping
Koay Ban Chuan
MY dad Koay Ban Chuan, born in Penang on April 23, 1933, was a former national football player having played for Malaya/ Malaysia from 1956-1964. He won the prestigious Merdeka Cup held in Kuala Lumpur in 1958 together with greats such as Ghani Minhat, M. Kuppan, Ng Boon Bee, S. Lourdes, Pang Siang Teik, Mok Wai Hong and Aziz Ahmad. The enigmatic Choo Seng Quee was coaching our Malaysia team then. My father represented Penang for more than a decade making him among the most capped Penang player of all time. In the tribute video to Tan Sri Ghani Minhat, you can see my dad at 1:40 front left,http://youtu.be/FtuVKGMFjx8. Mencius Koay, Penang
NST Online Learning Curve 15 June 2014