Monday, 6 July 2015
Mamat Karim : 1963 : Government Servant.
Mohamad Abdul Karim
Government Servant: 1962
When I was in Form 5, I knew not what I was supposed to do after the final exams. All I knew was, if I made the grade, I would be going to Lower Six. Any other options were simply blanks. Amongst my class mates and close friends, we talked about attending evening Lower Six classes. My parents did not offer any advice nor guidance. In late 1961, there were already openings for Malays to apply for scholarships and other incentives. I think, RISDA or was it MARA that was established by then. But students were not exposed to the opportunities. If my parents had the connections, (which they had), and taken advantage and pointed me in the right direction, probably I could have continued my higher education. But instead, I only managed a Grade 2 and attended evening Lower 6 classes. When I got the Temporary Clerk’s job, I quit studying.
Did I do the right thing? In hindsight, of course not. But I should not blame others for missed opportunities. I did not have the acumen to think out of the box but instead, took the narrow and safe path. There were others who ventured forward on their own steam and grabbed the bumiputra lifeline. But at the end of the day, I too moved out of the shadows of self-doubt and insecurity to seek self-satisfaction and faced my own demons. That will be another episode.
So, at 18, I was clerking around. I never wanted to be a clerk. In the years, prior to Merdeka, for a Malay to be a clerk in a government department meant one had it made. You would be the most eligible bachelor in the kampong. Steadylah Pak, I am referring to those days. Today, I wonder whether there are still such positions. The status has gone up, one is being referred to as an Administrative Assistant. It sounds more sophisticated, but still a Clerk.
My duty was to record in long hand (computers were still in outer space), in the Record of Service register, salary, promotion, balance of leave, etc of Government staffs. I remember updating the record of one Ahmad Sarji (Tun), who was just an MCS officer then.
With a basic salary of RM107, I could afford to give my mother RM40 and still be rich.
My father passed away two months after I started working.
When the opportunity came, I applied to be a Laboratory Assistant in the Ministry of Agriculture in early 1963. I was accepted and posted to the Chemistry Department. The work involved determining the fibre content, acidity, nutrients content of various produces. This was in Jalan Swettenham. Upon confirmation, I was posted to the Department of Food Technology, within the same complex. The Director of Agriculture at the time was Haji Basir (Tan Sri), later CEO of Johor State Corporation and then, Head of Petronas.
The late Tan Sri Haji Basir was quite a character. He once said, “I managed SDC Johor with only two officers” during a seminar. When he was the Director of Agriculture, we had an UNESCO officer, an Egyptian gentleman attached to the Department of Food Technology. I and two others, together with him, went to Kelantan to do a study on the fishing community and the production of budu. On the way back to KL, we came across an orange farm. The orange plants were in full glory with their fruits. Some stalks bore more than 10 large oranges. Dr. Sedky was ecstatic at the sight. “I must show Mr. Basir these fruits,” he told us. So he bought quite a number of stalks to take to KL. Now, we were riding in a Land Rover, with three of us sitting on the back benches, together with a big jar of budu. With the hot weather and bouncing around on uneven roads, what did you supposed happened? We started plucking the oranges, one by one, until instead of 10 or more oranges in one stalk, there remained 2 or 3. On reaching KL, Dr Sedky excitedly ran off to call Haji Basir. The three of us culprits, looked at each other and awaited our fate. Along came the two bosses. When Dr. Sedky saw the remnants of his fruits, he shouted at us, “What happened”?? Haji Basir was cool. He stood by with a grin on his face while we were lambasted by the angry Doctor. Probably he could see the funny side of the moment and walked off. I am just a Laboratory Assistant and he is the Director of Agriculture. Our worlds don’t meet. But we crossed each other’s path once in a while. But he remembers. Once, when he was Head of Petronas, we happened to pass each other. I pretended not to notice, but he stopped me. “Mat kan?” he gestured, and those walking with him had to stop. “Apa khabar Tan Sri”? I responded. “Kamu buat apa sekarang”, he continued. So I told him where I was and what I was doing. “Anak dah berapa”, he asked, I told him, three. “Kamu ni takde lain kerja” he laughed and we continued on our way. That was the last I ever saw of him.
Monday, July 06, 2015
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