Monday, November 29, 2010

Delving into poetry

My fellow blogger, Hank said I should try going into poetry. Though I am not so confident as him, but I shall try my hand. So here goes;

My First Try

Full of trepidation

To find the right words

For the right expression

Lo and behold !

I am no Shakespeare or Byron

But a meek try for a reason.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Further Reminiscence of Angkasapuri

This is a continuation of the previous write-up on my stint at Angkasapuri which was one of the most enjoyable posting I had in my career as a civil servant.

On the first day of my reporting for duty as the Deputy Secretary-General, I received a call from someone who claimed to be a reporter, but he did not say from which newspaper. As someone who had been well grounded in Chapter D of the General Orders, I was wary of talking to the Press, not because I was unfriendly but more for the fear of being being misquoted and when the damage was done the repair would be superfluous. This guy asked me what I intended to do as the new Deputy and I politely replied that I needed to appraise first what priorities are awaiting for me before I could start anything to mend the "Labu". Hearing that he just put down the phone and I suspected it could have been an insider testing the waters.

As what Akhi Norzah wrote in his comments on my earlier posting, Angkasapuri was noted for its scandals involving top personalities with opposite sex , I was very much aware of this and as such my first priority was to erase that image by educating those who worked there that Angkasapuri was not the " Hollywood" which everyone thought it to be. Being hands on, I often practised MBWA, " Management by Walking About" and that surprised many people who were used to be left to their own devices. I recalled a few times when I walked around with Tok Mat and taking down notes as what he wanted to be done. Another person who was fond of jotting down what Tok Mat said during the Post-Cabinet Meetings was Dato' Jaafar Kamin, the DG of Broadcasting and was always teased by Tok Mat in his familiar phrase " Engkau tulislah je Ja'afar tapi satu pun tak buat". It dawned upon me that Angkasapuri was Tok Mat and Tok Mat was Angkasapuri, as most of the people whom I came across, including the Technical staff would not dare to do anything around the compound without the expressed permission from him.

One day I told En. Abdullah, an engineer in charge of the decorative lighting why some of the decorative lights were not functioning and still not removed and the reply was he had to wait for a directive from Tok Mat. I retorted back by saying that why he must wait for a directive on purely housekeeping matters and he just had no reply for that. I just instructed him to remove some of the 'junk' lights and told him that I would answer to Tok Mat, and of course nothing happened. But it proved the hold that Tok Mat had on everyone in Angkasapuri and I agree with Norzah that he was one of the most difficult Minister to understand, but once you gained his trust, it was just plain sailing.

One day Tok Mat asked me why some of the things he wanted done was still delayed and I explained to him that before we could start incurring any expenditure which was not voted for in the year must await the approval from the Treasury. I had asked the Treasury's approval for the work which he asked for and the reply I received was those items had been asked and approved before my assumption of duty and wanted to know what had happened to the funds that had been approved. That put paid to any further query from Tok Mat and he knew from then on that I was just doing my job as expected from a civil servant.

Another interesting discovery I made was how ridiculous was the thinking at the top levels of the Ministry that they had no strategic direction of an organisation and allowed almost everything to be decided by the Minister. As such I organised a course on OD (Organisational Development) by bringing in a consultant from outside with Treasury's approval of course. One senior officer from the Broadcasting Department just gave up and requested me to exempt him from the course when he saw the number of books he had to read for the three-day's course and the participants had to stay-in the training centre Bangi. But it was only an eye-opener and for the first time Dato' Jaafar Kamin dared to ask Tok Mat to let him complete the course when he was immediately summoned for something which was not tantamount to a life and death situation. To me that was a breakthrough, whereby he would not hesitate to drop anything whenever he was called by the Minister. After the course was over, Encik Din, the person responsible in conducting the course gave me a favourable feedback and said in order to make the change it was a good start but there must be a follow-up and unfortunately I was not there to see the change being sustained. It had been always the drawback for any reform in the public service organisations to be sustained due to frequent transfers of officers and the initiative just went away with the person. Nevertheless I had contributed to an incremental change no matter how short-lived it was.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My Recollection of Angkasapuri

Last Tuesday, 02 November 2010 I was at the Neuro ward of KL General Hospital visiting a long time friend and an ex-colleague during my stint at Angkasapuri. Dato' Yahya Yacob called me in the afternoon to ask me whether I was free to go with him and I replied in the affirmative. Encik Khalili Naam had been in hospital for a couple of months due to a stroke and this is my second visit together with Dato' Yahya who was then the Secretary-General of the Information Ministry when I served as his deputy.

Khalili is an affable and jovial person and I sometimes come across him at the Village Park restaurant in Uptown, Damansara Utama when I go for breakfast there at weekends. He was heading the administration of the Ministry when I was posted as the deputy secretary in 1991 and I was indebted to him for being a trustworthy and efficient subordinate, especially in giving me the tips on how to deal with the moods of Tok Mat who was then the Minister. I had an easy time with Dato' Yahya Yacob being an Old Putra and also with the DG of Broadcasting, Dato' Jaafar Kamin who was my contemporary when we were students in University of Malaya.

On recollection of my stint at Angkasapuri, it was one of the most enjoyable posting I ever had in my career as a public servant not because of its glamour but what I could do to improve the place,especially in housekeeping matters. I suppose many of the people who worked in Angkasapuri were under the illusions of being a celebrity centre because that is where many of the great names of the entertainment industry were born. But I had a different perception altogether. As I was in charge of Security, I had to make sure nothing untoward happened during my term, and as such instituted immediate measures to improve the security image of the place.For the efforts which I took, Tok Mat nicknamed me IGP and some ex-RTM staff still remembered me for that.

But what is most satisfying was that I was able to meet the announcers whose names were household words during my schooldays when TV was not introduced yet. In fact I was toying with the idea of becoming a producer with RTM upon my graduation, but gave it up when I consulted my late Uncle who was then in TV Malaysia, Hashim Amir Hamzah. One day we went around wishing the staff at the Radio House, Selamat Hari Raya as Syawal was nearing and when I met Nurlidar Saidi she was so delighted when I told her that I was a radio fan during my schooldays and she was one of those whom I liked to hear. She immediately asked me whether I heard about that episode in Manila when she had to fly back because the late Tunku was worried that Soekarno had take a fancy on her. She was laughing it off as if it was a joke and said if she married Soekarno, there would be no "Konfrontasi" between Malaysia and Indonesia.

When I left Angkasapuri, by then the Fire-Safety Comittee was revived and I appointed the Chief Engineer, Alimusa who later became the DG as the Chairperson. By a sheer stroke of luck, fire broke out on one of the floor of Angkasapuri but since the sprinklers had been installed and activated, the damage was not so severe. But it was a lesson learnt that safety could not be taken for granted.