Monday, September 28, 2009

Pemergian Datuk Rahim Ditangisi..






Pada beberapa bulan yang lepas saya dan dua orang sahabat telah merancang untuk bertemu Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakar di Masjid di Jalan U Thant untuk solat Maghrib dan Isyak berjemaaah dan selepas itu membincangkan beberapa perkara.

Saya sendiri yang telah menelefon Datuk untuk membuat temujanji tersebut. Namun saat-saat akhir, tidak menjadi kenyataan kerana Datuk ketika itu terdapat beberapa hal yang penting untuk diuruskan.

Semoga roh Allahyarham Datuk bersemadi dengan aman dan mendapat lindungan Allah selalu.

By Johan Jaafar, NST

WE were the "crazy farmers" of Sungai Lembing and Gambang, Pahang; two gentlemen venturing into big- time farming with hardly any knowledge and expertise back in 2002.

He was trying his luck cultivating padi with his own money and I was growing Cavendish (pisang montel) for Singapore investors. He dug huge ponds and planted padi; I nurtured bananas from tissue culture. When it rained, his padi was submerged.

When it flooded, the whole area was a sea of water. In my case, growing bananas in an area where the soil was unsuitable and the land largely sandy was like attempting to grow rubber trees in a desert. But to us, farming was fun.

We soldiered on, most of the time losing money, but we learnt precious lessons along the way. He gave up planting padi eventually and grew oil palm on the land. I did remarkably well, but gave up when we couldn't find the right acreage to be economical.
Datuk Abdul Rahim Abu Bakar or Rahim Bakar (or known in his village, Beserah near Kuantan as Yusof) loved to be a contrarian. Why plant padi when he could have tried something else? He wanted to prove that padi growing could be a successful venture even without government help and subsidy. Prior to that he lost money in bamboo cultivation. It was too late to realise that the kind of bamboo planted successfully in Taiwan did not have the desired qualities to be made into chopsticks when grown in Janda Baik. A few years ago, he took goat-rearing seriously. He built goat houses from good quality logs (among them cengal and keruing) found in his farm. We joked about his goats being more fortunate than most humans.

Rahim made his name as a man of principle. He was a menteri besar who said no to his ruler. He was the MB of Pahang for hardly three years (1978 to 1981) but he made his mark as a no-nonsense leader. When things worsened with the palace, he was told to leave in November 1981.

Rahim was later appointed deputy energy, telecommunications and posts minister after his "sabbatical" to the United States. Later, he was involved in the tussle within Umno. He supported Team B, but never left Umno like many of his friends. His "rehabilitation" took a long time. He never fully recovered politically from the aftermath of 1987. Yet, Umno members did not really forget him. Even as an outsider and without any position in the government, he won a supreme council seat for two terms in the 1990s.

Rahim was appointed chairman of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) in November 1986. When he left in 2002, he made history as the longest-serving chairman of the institution: 16 years. I was a junior officer with DBP when he came in. He "discovered" me and gave me a chance to prove my worth.

When I was head of the magazine division and also its chief editor, Rahim was my pillar of support. When we launched the expensive investigative reporting into the Nadrah (Maria Hertogh) series, Rahim was instrumental in green-lighting the project.

The Nadrah stories we ran from February to May 1989 made Dewan Masyarakat, a magazine published by DBP, a massive hit among the Malay populace. When the Nadrah issue was brought up in one of the supreme council meetings ("reopening old wounds" was the reason), he defended us ferociously.

When I was promoted to head of general publishing shortly after, Rahim wanted me to publish great and memorable titles. When he heard that a fellow Pahangian, who was one of the last surviving members of the 1930s generation of writers, was ill, he made us drive to Kuala Lipis to extend financial help.

Ahmad Kotot, a little-known writer, was a pioneer of the modern Malay novel. His Hikayat Percintaan Kasih Kemudaan published in 1927 helped redefine the genre.

He was more than a chairman to us. He was a father, mentor and protector. He came to the office like the staff, at 8am sharp. His signature car, a Mercedes Benz SLC280 bearing the number plate CQ55, was parked at the entrance. He called it Old Faithful. He loved the car and its engine is in good condition to this day.

I left DBP to join the Utusan Melayu group in 1992. He was still chairman of DBP when I left six years later (1998). We lost contact with each other when I was in the "wilderness". We met again in 2002. He was starting his padi farm and I had my misadventures growing bananas in Lenga, Muar, and was venturing into vegetable horticulture near Segamat.
He made himself useful in many ways. It was Rahim who came out with the idea to modernise the collection of zakat (tithe). He founded Pusat Pungutan Zakat (PPZ) for Wilayah Persekutuan in 1990. Zakat collection had been in disarray. PPZ was the first computerised, integrated zakat collection centre in the world.

Before PPZ, the collection was hardly RM5 million, PPZ now handles RM150 million in zakat a year. Together with his capable sidekick, Datuk Mohd Dahan Abdul Latiff, who was the general manager until 2003, PPZ was the pride of Muslims in Kuala Lumpur.

PPZ's success was replicated in many states. We teased him for being so honest. Had he taken a stake in PPZ, he would have been a very rich man. He was its chairman until 2005. "I do it for God," he told us. That was typical of Rahim.

He became chairman of the ailing Shamelin Holdings in 1991. He nurtured it to good health. He was chairman of Angkasa, a post he would not have contested had Royal Professor Ungku Aziz decided to contest. He had a lot of respect for the man. But he reserved his unkind remarks for the corrupt, the unprincipled and the unscrupulous. Rahim died last Thursday while waiting to break his fast.

He will be remembered as an indefatigable crusader against corruption and bad governance. In fact, integrity was his middle name.
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