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Today, the 9th of May is the birth date of my late father, Papak. I had wanted to write a short and simple tribute to him, and at the same time post some pictures of some of his personal mementoes he had left behind. I had promised my sisters that I'd do this, so that they can pick and choose from here, whatever they'd like as a keepsake.    

However, because of the recent developments in the wake of pre and post elections , I decided to reveal a little more about my father and his service to the country. It may not seem too significant to some people and true, there are many, many other government servants who had and are working very hard, honestly, sincerely with utmost loyalty, and to their very best of their ability. Some of the kind of work that they do, many others are not willing to do, and definitely not for the salary being paid. 

For instance, many, if not most people cannot and will not join the security forces. They have to undergo hard training, work under strict orders, be disciplined and most important of all, sacrifice their lives to provide us with security. Many are not willing to sacrifice this much, if only to be ridiculed, mocked and scorned by those who aren't even willing to do the job.     

Papak came from a small village called Kadok, which is in between Kota Bharu and Ketereh, Kelantan. He left his kampung at 18 years of age and got himself through school, after which he became a temporary teacher. He had wanted to pursue his education, but just didn't have the opportunity at that time. He settled for a job as an Assistant District Officer, but he aspired to have something much better for his family. 

He decided to leave Kelantan to work in Kuala Lumpur, and in 1963, with four children in tow, made the move to the big city. 

"Bila malas membaca buku-buku pelajaran samalah dgn tak mau pakai topi ni".
This is the flip side of the picture above. I'm not quite sure to whom he had directed this message to, but it reflects two things: his sometimes caustic ways, and the importance he put in possessing paper qualifications. It is also very possible, and very likely too that he had actually written it to motivate himself.

Papak had always been a civil servant.  On the darkest day Malaysia ever had, the May 13 1969 riots, Papak happened to be attached to the Ministry of Defence. I didn't really understand what was going on during that time but I remember hearing the word "curfew" being constantly repeated, especially by Mama. 

Despite the gravity of the situation I was feeling quite excited because the whole family, with the exception of Papak, was huddled together in front of the black and white television to listen to the news updates. It was read in four languages; first in Bahasa Malaysia, then in English, Mandarin and Tamil.

I remember clearly the superfluous supply of hard, dry, army issue biscuits in big green tins. It turned out that our family was provided with army food supplies because Papak was assigned to some duties which exposed him to danger. Apparently at one point, he encountered the antagonists head-on, but because he could converse in Hokkien and could pass off as a Chinese, he escaped from harm, and possibly even death. For many years after that, he would never allow us to unnecessarily leave the house on May 13.  

The casing which Abang Mat Cendana believes housed a Walter pistol. He never told us when and why he got to keep this but I believe it was during the insurgence. He was given permission to keep it as long as he renewed his licence but Papak surrendered it to the Police soon after he retired. Papak had access to a lot of highly confidential matters but he was so loyal to his Government he never revealed them, not even to us.

When Anwar Ibrahim was sacked smack in the middle of CHOGM in 1998, I was one of those who disagreed and protested, and even rallied with Keadilan Rakyat during the following elections. Papak was dead set against my decision, saying that I didn't know the real reasons why Tun Mahathir took drastic action against such a promising candidate for the next Prime Minister of Malaysia. I begged him to tell me, but he refused, saying that it was a matter of national security.  

I never got to know the truth; he had held it to his death bed. That was how loyal he was to the country. I trust my father and his judgement. More so now that I am more matured and able to see things more rationally. For all the government is worth, I know it is the safest for this moment. 

Maybe it's not the best, but it is up to me to do my part to make it better. I will not just simply forsake what the Government and it's servants like my father have worked so hard for,  just because I am unhappy, disagree and dissatisfied with a few things. 

The freedom and abundance of opportunities I have now weigh far more than the shortcomings. And these are the result of the opportunities my parents had. I am so syukur for that to Allah.  And besides, how am I to be sure that a different Government will make things better than it already is? 

It's true that developing the nation is the responsibility of the Government, but what if the Government isn't responsible? Is there absolutely no bribery, no cronyism, no discrimination, no racism and no sinners in the opposing parties, or could it be worse if they were in power? 

Papak was very strict at home and I believe at work he played it not only by the book but by the sentence and the word too. I dare say that he never condoned bribery and never accepted any form of kickbacks. I was around eight or nine years old when one day, just before the Eid celebration, a huge hamper of foodstuff was delivered to our home. I was watching from a distance away (takut!), and could barely hear his conversation with the sender. Suddenly I could hear his raised voice. He had told the man to take back the hamper immediately. 

During this time, Papak was in the Ministry of Home Affairs, and he was in charge of approving applications for  PR status, a very compromising position indeed. Some of those applying were very desperate, some even managed to find the house address and tried to see him at home, much to his annoyance. 

I remember in particular, a holiday in Australia for two was offered to him. He had turned it down flat. Of course at that time I was furious and disappointed that Papak threw away such a wonderful opportunity and an attractive "gift". Only later did I realise that it was a form of a kickback and as Papa was a man of integrity, he refused to accept it. He was also a man of strong principles and was God-fearing. 

Papa received the AMN medal (picture below) for his service with the Government. Not exactly a big deal as many civil servants are given this award, but I'm so proud of him anyway. Mama used to tell us that Papak would diligently draft reports and such, and  the final copy would always carry someone else's name. Due to the deep-seeded humility in him, he couldn't allow himself to take credit for the work he did. He was one who didn't revel in recognition and attention, and didn't even want or expect it. Someone in the family has inherited this characteristic. You know who you are. :-)  

Epaulettes (above) and buttons (below) from his service uniform.

His collection of cuff links. Papak was very particular with
his clothes and his dressing.

I had thought that Papak only started reading translations of the Quran later in his life, perhaps just before he retired. But apparently not - this copy of a translation dates back to 1953.

A birthday card he had sent to Mama  when she was in the United States studying for her degree at the age of 50. Giving of cards like this may seem pretty normal for many married couples but it is very unusual of  Papak. He normally wouldn't, or couldn't express his affections physically, verbally or even in writing. In this case he must have been extremely happy that Mama was pursuing a degree, despite having to be separated  from her for more than a year. 

Papak never had the opportunity to work in Putrajaya but he  admired Tun Mahathir's foresight and achievements. He made sure he visited the place, and with the help of a brother-in-law he was very fond of, managed to enter the PM's office and stand right beneath the dome. Coincidentally I had a little knowledge on domes and why many mosques have it, so it became a very significant and memorable moment standing beneath it, next to him. 
Papak was very IT-savvy so he appreciated Cyberjaya too, even when it was in the very initial stages. He even expressed interest in buying a smart house  there but he doubted that he would survive the completion of one. 
He was right, yet again.

May Allah SWT shower His rahmah on your soul Papak, and may you forever rest in peace in the highest of Jannah among the righteous, with the woman you so loved right beside you. 

Ameen, ameen Ya Rabbal a'lameen.

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