Monday, November 16, 2009

The Class of '64

This is a continuation of my previous posting on reminiscence of my days in Royal Military College and this time I am writing on my sixth form years from 1963 to 1964. The photos above were taken during our class reunion, the top being taken in 2006 and the bottom taken several years before that.

There were nineteen of us in the class and their names are as follows:- 1. Abdul Rahman Hj Embong. 2. Abdullah Abdul Rahman. 3. Azzat Kamaluddin. 4. Amin Nordin Abdul Rahman. 5. Abdul Halim Shah. 6. Mohamad Akbar Baba. 7. Mohd. Shaharuddin Bahaudin. 8. Mazlan Hashim. 9. Lawrence Teoh. 10.Hamzah Pilus. 11. Mohd. Noor Harun. 12. Gnanalingam. 13. Gurdial Singh. 14. Chua Jui Leng. 15. Haron Siraj. 16. Khalidas ( Hamzah Abdullah). 17. Ong Ah Hing. 18. Ridzuan Md. Piah. 19. Zawawi Mahmuddin.

In the photo which was taken during the first reunion organised by Hamzah Pilus, Allahyarham Ridzuan Md Piah was still around. Lawrence Teoh was already deceased and Ong Ah Hing could not be traced. On both occasions there were those who could not attend the reunion, especially Abdullah Abdul Rahman or fondly known as Dolet. We are all indebted to Hamzah for making the effort to organise both reunions.

When we gathered for the 2006 reunion, Gnanalingam made a promise that he would like to have a gathering in 2010 on his ship which is berthed at Westport, and he would like to see all of us again, God willing.

I found that the Budak Boys of the Class of '64 were a noisy lot but fun. With classmates such as Gurdial Singh, Chua Jui Leng,Shaharuddin , Ridzuan and Haron Siraj there could never be a dull moment for they were full of mirth. The serious ones like Azzat, Dolet , Rahman Embong, Amin Nordin and Mazlan Hashim, they always made learning a pleasure.In one of the plays where Azzat acted as the Chinese Emperor, it was amusing whenever the dialogue which goes " Go and commit suicide " was uttered to the audience delight.He also acted in the Shakespearean play, "Julius Ceasar " and it was little wonder that he ended up going to Cambridge University. Dolet always took pride with his long essays which I commented that for every ten sentence that he wrote I could shorten it to just one sentence. Ong Ah Hing provided the comic relief though he looked tense. Ridzuan Md Piah always wore his pullover as he was asthmatic and nicknamed the " Polar Bear ". Sadly he passed away a few years ago after being in a coma for several days. Whenever he was hospitalised at the University Malaya Hospital, he would let me know and as far as I could remember I never failed to visit him in hospital. Mohd.Akbar Baba who now lives in Seremban, my hometown, made us laugh with his funny remarks.Hamzah Pilus gave me the impression as the class singer with him strumming the guitar.Gnanalingam made his presence felt by his towering figure and Ridzuan liked to call him " Anak Adam " for reasons only known to himself.Khalidas ( now known as Hamzah Abdullah ) was amongst those who always made himself heard despite his small stature. Lanky Lawrence Teoh who practised as a lawyer (now deceased)appeared preoccupied in his own world and it was a wonder how he could have presented himself before the bench as his daily uniform when in class looked somewhat unkempt. As for Amin Nordin he was immersed in reading Mohd. Iqbal's writings and today he has written many books on his favourite subject mostly inspired by his readings when he was in our class.

As for the teachers, I recalled that except for two Europeans, the rest were all Asians. They were Flt. Lt. Mc Connon, Capt. Underwood, OP Balakrishnan, Mr. Seow Bin Hak, Mr. Subramaniam, Mr. Lee Lye Hock, Mr. Lee Shau Kong and En. Idris Tain. It was surprising that it was the Asian teachers who left a lasting impression on me though the expatriates were no less dedicated and excellent teachers.

During one of the College term holidays Cikgu Idris Tain led a large group of Budak Boys to the so-called " East Coast Expedition ". For me it was my first experience visiting Kelantan and Trengganu.Mazlan Hashim was kind enough to invite some members of the group with Cikgu Idris to his house in Ledang for a makan and later we were taken to see the " Rodat " which is a special cultural presentation in Trengganu.It was not surprising therefore when the PAS State Government chose him to be the State Secretary even though he was on the verge of retirement. Mohd. Noor Harun and I went to venture into that famous Biaritz Park in Kota Bharu and managed to avoid Cikgu Idris Tain who left the place just as we were about to enter.I wrote a "Sajak " based on the experience and Mohd. Noor's " Sajak " too came out as a response and it appeared in our Malay magazine published by the Persatuan Kebudayaan Kebangsaan which flourished under the leadership of Abdul Rahman Embong ( also known by his nickname as Aji )

When I had to revise for the Higher School Certificate Examination, I was fortunate to do it with Zawawi in the latter part of the weekdays when there were no field activities. We went for discussions at the block which housed the classrooms on the first floor and that helped me a lot in the final preparations. Our class was the first to sit for Malay paper at principal level for the HSC and though not many opted for it( as we were divided into those taking History & Government at principal level and Malay as a principal subject )all who took Malay attained a principal "A" and Mr.Wallwork the Director of Studies was quite impressed. Of course we owed a lot to Cikgu Idris Tain who gave his heart and soul to ensure that we scored.

So when he was critically ill and hospitalised at Ampang Puteri Hospital I went with Mohd. Noor Harun to pay him a visit. It was rather sad that I learned of his passing away some time later and I could not attend to pay my last respects. When I served the Ministry of Education he became the Director of Schools and he was a Dato' by then. Typical of his style he gave me a lot of encouragement and advice when the chips were down to which I am still grateful to this day. May ALLAH Bless his Soul and place him amongst the pious.

To all my ex-classmates, I offer my sincere apologies if I offend any of them with my statements of which I have no intention of doing so, as I regard our friendship to be the most satisfying and hope they are everlasting.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Reminiscence of an Old Putera

This is the College's Crest whose Motto is " Serve to Lead"

The recent postings and e-mails from OP Shuhud , OP Shaharudin as well as comments on my blog from OP Hamzah et al, had triggered my yearning to write about some past memories as a Putera ( previously known as Budak Boy ) in the Royal Military College ( formerly known as Federation Military College ).

What motivated me to apply for entry into the Military College was the publicity given in the newspapers about the achievements of the FMC in the field of sports and also scholastically as evident from the number of first graders in the Overseas Cambridge School Certificate Exams also published in the press. I used to watch their teams playing against the KGV on the school padang in Seremban and they seemed to have lots of stamina and I guessed it must have been the training they received on the field as well as the parade ground.

Though I was not much of a sportsman but I somehow liked to follow the news of sprinters like Shaharuddin Ali who was a record holder in the sprints at National meets. Furthermore Port Dickson, the first home of the College was just about less than an hour from Seremban and I used to pass the College whenever I go to Teluk Kemang. In fact I was only successful on my second interview after the LCE.

What made my life different from KGV School was of course the military discipline. The moment you wake up until bedtime, life is governed by the clock and the famous phrase which still sticks to my mind is " Punctuality is essential ". On looking back, not many who upon leaving the College to join civilian life continued the good habits of time keeping and being disciplined in everything they do.

I owed a lot to many friends in College for the wonderful lessons in life which prepared me for the world. It would be too many to name them and I hope they do not feel offended if I forget to mention them. The people who are the closest to you are normally your dormitory mates and those who are in the same " Company " or " Coy" for short. The " Budak Boys " who were in the same " Coy " with me included my cousin OP Mohd Basri Hamzah and OP Habibur Rahman who once served as President of the Old Putera Association.

Even when I attend recent functions at the OPA Penthouse I come across OP Hashim Hj Abu and OP Sheikh Taufik from "D" Coy. Both of them joined the Cadet Wing and graduated as Officers, the latter went on to Sandhurst, that prestigious Military Academy in the UK. OP Sheik Taufik despite having a "transplanted kidney" which he had it done in China is still his "funnybone" self whenever I meet him.What made that strong bonds of comradeship or esprit de corps amongst us was the common experience that shaped our life beginning from the "drawers" that were issued as part of our uniform and the barracks to the food in the Dining Hall right up to bashing up the Parade Square on every Saturday. Military training which followed the Drill on Saturdays and in the evening was the film show. Prep hours from Sunday to Friday started about 8.00 pm till 9.30 pm and lights out 10.00 pm.

One of the characters whom I remembered very well was Allahyarham Zakaria Aziz, whose father was Minister of Agriculture, YB Dato' Aziz Ishak. His bed was just next to mine in RMC in Sungei Besi and he always depended on my Kiwi polish every friday evening when we would be busy preparing for the Saturday Drill. The " Chaplis " or sandals which we had to wear everyday to the classroom had to be polished too, and my kiwi would last at the most was just a few weeks.

Normally in the first year as a new boy, we had to take up boxing. Somehow I had to continue boxing even to the second year. In Sg.Besi I had the late Thomas Mathews as my trainer and he was a good boxer. During the sparring sessions which I had, Habibur Rahman and the late Aloysius Choong had a bloody nose from me. But I could not win any championship even though I reached the finals for my weight and my opponent then was Raja Aman Shah ( who became the CEO of Affin Bank ).

One of the annual camps that I attended was in Kamunting, near Taiping. At a night march we lost our way and had to spend a night near a cowshed. The next morning many of us were furiously scratching our bodies and found that many had the cow ticks. Finally we came out far away from what it should have been and the leader was scolded by the others for the poor map reading.

I have to stop now and continue later since the Azan for Asar prayer is already heard on my laptop.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Reward System in the Works

I came across the by-line in an English daily today after my good friend Nik Mahmood who had also retired as Director of the Mechanical Engineering Division with the JKR many years ago mentioned to me this morning about what the PM said in the monthly gathering of all the departments under his charge in Putrajaya. The report in the daily said that the Government is considering a reward system to encourage performance in public administration which will be different from the "vertical and horizontal" system which is not working. He is quoted by the daily, " It will be a system that is effective and will motivate civil servants not only to perform but to perform excellently."

The PM must be to all intent and purpose referring to the Sistem Saraan Malaysia or SSM which had been introduced to replace the SSB which was the remuneration system for the public service of the federal government and the respective public service of the State Governments in Malaysia. CUEPACS which is the umbrella organisation of the various unions of government employees had been calling for its abolition many years ago because of the exam-oriented evaluation of efficiency apart from the annual assessments made on each individual employees for the movement in salaries and also promotions which was supposed to be performance driven.

Since it is only at the thinking stage, therefore it would be interesting what would be the new reward system that will motivate public servants to perform with excellence.

In my view, whatever system that would replace the SSM, it should not be a carry over of the present one which is claimed by the unions as being stultifying to many in the lower categories due to the many impediments such as competency level examinations and the unfair evaluations given by Departmental Committees in giving the salary increments whether "diagonal", "Vertical" or " Horizontal" in accordance to the scores which are of course highly subjective.

In reality many in the public service such as those in the teaching profession and other closed schemes of service in areas such as medical and health, public works, agriculture, security, customs and a host of revenue generating schemes of service had expressed their long dissatisfaction over the reward system which they claimed as being lopsided.

To be fair to all sides it is high time for another Royal Commission on Remuneration for the Public Service to be established to look into the critical areas of dissatisfaction and the proposal to fix the problem once and for all. The last Royal Commission appointed to look into the remuneration of the public service of the Federation was the Ibrahim Ali Commission whose recommendations were rejected by the Government. The present remuneration system is mostly devised by the Public Services Department with no wider inputs although the Cabinet Committee on Salaries deliberated and approved it.

Furthermore whatever system that is going to be adopted by the government, the key to excellence is on the leadership at all levels of the organisation at the Federal, State and Local Authorities. There must be a clear line of responsibility as who should be accountable on performance or non-performance. The boundary between what is administrative and what is politics must be made as clear as daylight and there should not be any overlapping of functions and role between politicians and public servants. The rules and procedures which had been in place to ensure proper checks and balance must be reinforced and maintained without any compromise. If the top echelons in the public service are unable to perform their duties and responsibilities without fear or favour and putting personal interests above the public interests, than no matter which system is applied to enhance performance to the highest level will just be an exercise in futility.