I have known Abang Lah from the time he married Endon. Endon’s father and my mother are brother and sister. In all the time that I have known him I know him to be a decent, unassuming, calm and a man much guided by his religious beliefs as a Muslim. Kamal and Nori were well-behaved and polite children and Endon of course was the rock that held the family together. I remembered going to his house somewhere in Jalan Selangor when he was still with the Minister of Youth and the times we have sat down and talked on God knows what when we met during weddings and kenduris. Always Abang Lah was a man who was unfailingly respectful of others.
Then he was appointed DPM. There was a request I wanted to ask of Abang Lah. I was manager of the Yayasan Bekas Perajurit Wilayah Persekutuan and we wanted to hold a dinner to build up our cash reserves. He was our patron. I call Endon and asked if she could arrange for me to talk to Abang Lah on this. Endon did better. She arranged for me to come to lunch at Jalan Bellamy and she said Abang Lah will be there. We did had lunch and Abang Lah did join us and he did agree to attend the dinner.
One time a friend (who is now one of Pakatan Rakyat’s leaders!) had an Indonesian gardener – who had overstayed. He was very ill and wanted his family to come over to be with him. My friend asked if I could ask Abang Lah (who was then the Home Minister) to see a way of resolving the matter. I did go and see him early one morning to ask. I remember the look he gave when I mention “overstay and Indonesian” in the same breath. He glared at me and said “I am the Minister…I do not want to know about this”…or words to that effect. I left without going any further and apologized to him for thinking that he would do anything about it.
That was the Abang Lah that I knew.
Then he became Prime Minister. I remember the day he was to take his oath of office. I was one of those outside the Jalan Bellamey house hoping to see him or Endon to convey my best wishes. I could not get into the front gate. But others could. There was also a time when I wanted to see him at his office on a matter I can no longer recall. I did not even get through the guardhouse. If your name is not on the list - you will not get past the guard. On Hari Raya (the last Hari Raya that Endon was present at PWTC) I lined up with thousand of others with my Family so that we could wish Abang Lah and Endon ‘Selamat Hari Raya’.
People tell me that Abang Lah now belonged to the Nation. His time was not his to give to anybody. The country came first. National matters over rides all other considerations. That was when I knew that things were different…not with Abang Lah or Endon but being PM and the First Lady did make things different.
I did not see Endon alive again after that Hari Raya. Abang Lah I only see at weddings and funerals – especially funerals because things are more quite and less crowded. I last saw Abang Lah at Endon’s funeral – again I had to be with the thousands and thousand of people who loved her and wanted to wish her goodbye. I did give Abang Lah a hug when I saw him…but I did not get to say goodbye to Endon. The closest I got was within a few yards of her…there were too many VIP’s around to allow me to get any closer.
Since that day I have only watched Abang Lah from afar. I have seen him become a man that I know he himself will loath in the days to come. He will ask himself why he was not able to overcome the greed and arrogance of UMNO, why he believed the sycophants and the people who took advantaged of their friendship with him, why he was not able to understand that people will let him down, people will lie to him and that greed overcomes all other considerations. And most of all he will ask himself how is it that people whom he trusted had betrayed him for their own vested interest…and then he will ask himself if being Prime Minister was worth the price he had to pay in becoming the man he is today. If I know Abang Lah his answer will be “NO”. Now if Politics at that level have made a decent, unassuming and good man like Abang Lah into something that he is not – just think what it would do to Najib and Mahyuddin – people who could not hold a candle to what Abang Lah was before he became Prime Minster of this country of ours? God help us all.