|Abdullah Ahmad 4 July 1937-12 June 2016
Bangsar, 13 June: If the Wiki articles on the life and times of Abdullah Ahmad aka Dollah Kok Lanas didn't do justice to the man, it's probably because those people who wrote them didn't quite know how to define him. DKL took on many vocations during his rich and colourful life, often several things at one time. He was journalist, politician, ISA detainee, diplomat, political commentator, gossip columnist, corporate leader, editor, and author, among other things. He was also a Communist and a KGB agent, or so his political enemies said when they incarcerated him during the Seventies, as soon as his boss PM Tun Abdul Razak died. More than two decades later, in the new millennium, his sacking as New Straits Times Press group editor-in-chief by no less than the newly-minted Prime Minister himself would prove how influential he still was. Or, rather, how threatened the people around the new PM were of that perceived influence! (Wiki said DKL was sacked because of an article critical of Saudi Arabia; in actual fact, that was an excuse used by the PM's men to get rid of a major obstacle to their own rise, which turned out to be short-lived and ended even more tragically, as things turned out. Karma is a bitch, indeed!).We became friends one chilly day 1992, when I was based in London as the NST Correspondent. DKL was trying to meet up with a visiting senior Malaysian Cabinet Minister who was trying, at the same time, to avoid meeting him. As last resort, he had asked me if I could please inform to her that he had been waiting for hours outside the conference room to meet her. She reluctantly agreed to meet the man. We stayed in touch after that. Five years after that encounter, I was the editor of Business Times, the only financial daily in the country then. I offered DKL a weekly column in the newspaper. DKL had been writing occasionally for BT under my predecessor Hardev Kaur. When I told him about starting a weekly column, DKL put his hand on my arm and sniggered. "And you think Kadir will allow me to have a column?" [BT was a sister paper of the great New Straits Times and A. Kadir Jasin was the GEIC of the whole of NSTP]."I'm the Editor of the newspaper, not him. He's just my boss," I sniggered back. Oh, lots of bravado back then but I was young and the young couldn't die back then.Over teh tarik a few days later, AKJ told me he had heard that I was planning to engage DKL as a columnist. I said yes. He merely nodded. It was neither approval nor disapproval. And so DKL got his weekly column. There would be several more columns of his over the next five years or so in the various newspaper under the NSTP stable. He wrote some of the most readable columns ever published by the NST and BT.Dollah Kok Lanas was always "stimulating company", in Nuraina Samad's Instagram words (and she knew him longer than I did: her dad A. Samad Ismail was detained under the ISA by the same people who put DKL away). We drifted apart a little after his exit in 2003 and my own departure in 2006 but whenever we did bump into each other, he was always alive in the let's-fix-someone-or-something way. The flicker in his eyes.As Chief Editor, DKL believed in giving the Editors the freedom to "publish and be damned". As long as there's "no malice", that is. And as long as we, the Editors, understand that if anything goes awry as a result, "it would be your neck". DKL was also a very effective shield against meddling politicians, just as AKJ had been. If any politician was unhappy with my newspaper, I didn't have to deal with them. They would have to deal with DKL. Except for that one time when DKL was away in London and I was summoned to meet Dr Mahathir Mohamad over a series of front page articles in the Malay Mail that irked him. But that is another story altogether.
Rest in peace, DKL. Thank you for your good advice. Alfateha.
|Thank you, sir ...