Monday, June 13, 2016

Farewell, DKL

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.

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Thank you, sir ...


  1. xnakdedak8:47 pm

    Excellent writer, and a great treasure trove of wisdom.

    If you read Tun Dr M's foreword to TS Abdullah's recent book on Tunku, he encourages him to write a similar book on Tun Razak.

    It is a great shame that now we will not see that book written, although we have to hope that one day, someone will try and collect whatever drafts and fragments he may have attempted. It would be worth reading, for sure.


  2. Mustapha Ong1:33 pm

    It's never easy to predict the momentum of this selfless political adviser, journalist, writer and a cool diplomat. Fondly known as Dollah Kok Lanas or DKL, he was always very sharp in his thinking on any issues that crosses his mind. I have known DKL for quite a long time and I was privilege to have dealt with him when I was working as an aide to the late Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, when he was our Minister of Information and UMNO Secretary General. Dollah would always drop by often in the Angkasapuri canteen to enjoy his mee rebus or nasi lemak, but most of the time he will insist on footing the bills. This brings me to another of the many encounters with Dollah when I was a resident diplomat in Washington DC and DKL was our Special Envoy to the United Nations (Malaysia) in the mid 1990s. DkL was appointed by Pak Lah was the prime minister. DKL was a cool diplomat for whatever he was doing on behalf of the government. We did many things together as he was also doing intelligence work. DKL loves good Western food and I believe his times in London has stimulated his appetite. He loves seafood and Washington have the best and it's also extremely fresh from the sea.

    I have other fond memories of DKL and he gave me an impression that though he talks a lot, a good credential for a politician and diplomat, but he certainly was very discreet and keeps a lot of secrets. It's never easy to have his confidence as a friend, because DKL will call spade a spade as he doesn't hide his feelings. DKL has a lot of things to share in his book, one that he wrote when he was down in his exotic life as a controversy politician. He was also a columnist in Sinar Harian, a Kelantanese publishing house in Shah Alam.

    A lot of young and up and coming politicians, especially in UMNO fears him as who would not hide his feelings about you and tell you straight in your face that, "you are useless and not fit to be an aide to a Minister". I cherished my time and knowing Dollah Kok Lanas was a privilege. I recalled that Tun Mahathir was not too fond of DKL but yet Tun came to pay his last respect in his house @Lorong U-Thant when Dollah passed away on 12 Jun 2016 in the ICU Pantai Cancer Istitute. PM Najib, a Rosmah and also Pak Lah also paid their last respect to Dollah. RIP Dollah and I lost a good friend in you. To Puan Sri and her three children, may Allah continue to bless you although Dollah has gone first ahead of you. Al-Fatihah.

  3. Dear Datuk, condolences to his family and may his soul rest in everlasting peace by the grace of the Almighty.