Friday, June 20, 2008
Death of A Patriot
[This article is written for my children, who never had the privilege of knowing what a wonderful, kind person their Grandfather was].
Thirty-four years ago this month, the country woke up to a most shocking news, an event unprecedented in peacetime Malaysia, and one that touched my life in ways I could never have imagined.
It was 8.15 am on Friday, June 7, 1974 when 50 year-old Tan Sri Hj Abdul Rahman Hashim, then Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police (IGP), bade his wife goodbye and climbed into his government-issue blue Mercedes Benz to go to work. At the wheels was the quiet and affable Sgt. Omar Yunus, 45, his driver for many years.
Fifteen minutes later the IGP was dead, assassinated in cold blood in a hail of communist bullets, in a daring two-man ambush at the narrow Lorong Raja Chulan - Jalan Tun Perak junction in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
The two assassins fired at least 11 shots at the IGP before escaping on foot in full view of several terrified eye-witnesses. Seven of those shots hit the intended victim directly, one fatally. His driver, however, was only slightly injured.
I passed by the scene barely minutes after it happened. I was on my way to nearby Court Hill (where the Maybank headquarters now stands) to begin my day as a reporter assigned to cover cases at the Lower Courts there.
With me was the IGP's eldest son, a fellow scribe and also my fiance, who gave me a lift to work that morning. Upon seeing many police cars and personnel converging at the junction, we stopped to find out why.
We chanced upon fellow reporter Kristal Krall who shakily told us a police officer had been shot. She didn't elaborate. Being a crime reporter, my fiance drove up to Court Hill to park his car before coming down the cobbled steps leading to the junction to investigate.
I caught sight of the Mercedes Benz with its shattered windows. "That looks like Bapak's car," I wondered aloud. And then all hell broke loose. My fiance came flying down the steps and into the arms of Asst Supt S. Kulasingam who confirmed the terrible news. He then bundled us into a patrol car and sped headlong towards Kuala Lumpur General Hospital with the siren wailing.
We arrived just as Bapak was being wheeled in on a gurney. All I could see was the soles of his polished black shoes. He was already gone; he died enroute, without regaining consciousness.
His wife, Puan Sri Hj Halimah, was already there; she received news of the killing moments after it happened and wasted no time in rushing to the hospital. Calm and collected, she told us to return to the family's official residence at 22, Jalan Kia Peng, and help with the preparations to receive the body.
There were a million things to do that we hardly had time to grieve. Three of the seven children were in London and arrangements were made to bring them home. As it were, they did not make it in time for the burial.
Bapak was accorded a state funeral, his body laid to rest the following day at the Jalan Ampang Muslim Cemetery, to an outpouring of grief and condolences from all over the world.
Some 4,000 people lined the streets to bid him goodbye as the procession inched its way along Jalan Ampang to the burial site. It was an occasion of great sorrow.
In his obituary, (then) New Straits Times crime editor Rudy Beltran wrote: "Tan Sri Rahman was a dedicated and gentleman officer. His junior officers described him as a stern but reasonable man. When off-duty he was a jovial man."
How true. The Tan Sri Rahman I knew was indulgent, kind-hearted and happy-go-lucky. He was not beyond childish pranks played on his children. He loved good food and was himself a wonderful host and great company.
Had God granted him long life, Bapak would have been 84 today, with some 30 grandchildren and a dozen great grandchildren to keep him on his toes.
Because of one dastardly act of cowardice, Bapak never got to know them all except one, grandson Kamarudin Huesen, the eldest child of his daughter Sofwanah, who was three when his Wan died.
[PS: Lately the infamous ex-communist leader Chin Peng, now living in exile in southern Thailand, has started making overtures to return to Malaysia, saying he is already old and wants to die in the land of his birth. For all the atrocities committed against his fellow citizens, Chin Peng doesn't deserve to touch Malaysian soil ever again. And I would be the first to fight against his return].