Sunday, April 23, 2006Malaysia lost one of the Old Guards today, Tun Ghaffar Baba.
You can read (or probably have already) all about him in the media. I am writing what I know about him to honour him as a Malaysian.
I distinctly remember that throughout Tun Ghaffar's tenure in public office beginning as the Chief Minister of Melaka and ending as the Deputy Prime Minister, he was simply known as Encik Ghaffar Baba. No Dato', No Tan Sri, nothing until he was conferred the Tunship after his retirement. My guess is he declined all these honours while he was in office.
I first met Tun Ghaffar during my early years in radio. I was producing a documentary on the cooperative movement in schools and I had to interview the minister in charge of Cooperatives then. Tun Ghaffar was fasting that day but he gave me the interview.
Much later, when he was the Deputy Prime Minister, I met him again. This time it was at Microfest at the PJ Civic Center. He declared the Microfest open and visited the booths. CUE (Commodore Users Exchange) had a booth with nothing much inside. I told that to Tun Ghaffar when he stopped by the booth. He appeared to be taken aback, shook my hand, said thank you and moved on. On hindsight, I should have at least let him come inside.
After he gave up the post of Deputy Prime Minister, I saw him driving a small car along Jalan Pantai Baru. I overtook him somewhere in front of the TNB HQ and waved to him never expecting him to respond. He appeared taken aback and a bit mystified and I moved on. You do not dilly dally on Jalan Pantai Baru, not even then. A few minutes later, Tun Ghaffar overtook me and waved back. It was my turn to be taken aback.
A few months back, I missed the chance of meeting Tun Ghaffar. I was visiting Rahman Bujang at Hospital Universiti and he told me of seeing Tun Ghaffar being wheeled in looking sad and sick. He wasn't allowed visitors then. Tun Ghaffar went to several more hospitals before Gleneagles.
As I am writing this, there are live broadcasts on his funeral. I join all Malaysians in conveying my deepest condolence to Tun Ghaffar's family. Al-Fatihah.