Friday, 5 September 2008


Pak Samad's story as appeared in one of the Utusan weekly Jawi paper, Utusan Zaman in mid-1990's.

A book on Pak Samad by A. Karim Abdullah of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.


Obituary - Tan Sri A. Samad Ismail (1924-2008): The thinking man’s editor
By : Balan Moses

TAN Sri A. Samad Ismail, or Pak Samad to the many who knew him as journalist, nationalist, social historian and raconteur, was a man who lived his life the way he wanted to. No one could tell the man — nay, some would say legend — what he should do, say, or heaven forbid, write. Irrepressible to the point of being deemed insufferable by those who did not enjoy his wry sense of humour or colourful language that brought out the blushes in the uninitiated, he was his own man — and he never let anyone forget that.

There was many a time when the New Straits Times newsroom would resound to a loud guffaw that would reverberate within the walls for seconds, journalists there smiling knowingly to acknowledge that Pak Samad was in the house. There he was: wiry with a full head of hair above a wide forehead and a lean and hungry look perpetually on his face except when he joked and a huge but fleeting grin broke out.
The thick and wide glasses, which often hid a penetrating stare, gave him an academic air which quickly went up in smoke when the ribald jokes began.

As smoke trailed from the ubiquitous cigarette which he dragged on hard when charged, one knew that he was deep in thought. Of whether his rumination was about the affairs of the newsroom or the next colourful joke, no one knew.Despite the semblance of jocularity, he was dead serious when it came to journalism and he never let anyone, especially journalists, forget it.

It was just that journalism was ingrained in the man who attained iconic status over the years among journalists and media watchers nationwide and around the world. rguably the best bilingual journalist Malaysia ever produced and a Ramon Magsaysay awardwinner for journalism, he could charm the boots off readers with classy prose of such depth none could ever forget. Such was the style of the boy from Kampung Melayu, Singapore, who strode through different newsrooms from the 1940s to the early years of the 21st century, making his mark in every place.

The 1920s and 1930s left an indelible mark on his persona: there was a certain softness towards the underclass, the downtrodden and the underprivileged which refused to let him go. His affection for those sidelined to the periphery of society was part of the man, but the surface had to be scratched to see it. It certainly showed in his writing over the years. It was this love for the poor and neglected that would be used against him in later years by those in authority who did not want Pak Samad near the powers-that-be who had his ear.

It was also this singular element that took the Tokoh Wartawan Negara, an award he received in later years, to great heights in journalism. Starting 67 years ago as a 17-year-old in the Japanese Occupation-run Berita Malai, he never looked back as he became editor of the war-time newspaper as a 21-year-old, a senior Utusan Melayu staffer by 30, Berita Harian editor at 34 and finally managing editor and deputy editor-in-chief of the New Straits Times Group at 49. Even after retirement, there was no keeping him down.

He returned to the New Straits Times as editorial adviser in 1981, no less vitriolic. (Between 1976 and 1981, he was detained under the Internal Security Act for an alleged plot to garner Malay support for the Communist Party of Malaya.) He left in 1987, only to be re-appointed in 2000 as editorial adviser, with little having changed with the old man of journalism.

Few on the newsdesk can forget how he would come into the office a little after 7am daily and start work on his trusty old typewriter (he never learnt to use the computer). The first pages to leave his desk would be about followups to stories in the morning newspaper, ending with story ideas that reporters could work on. And that was the measure of the man: hard-working, a peoplewatcher and a journalist who was never satisfied with average writing from himself or others.

These were traits finely etched on his persona from his heady days as a cub reporter on the staff of the Utusan Melayu just before World War 2. The British after the war knew they had trouble on their hands in the form of the young Samad who already had a following, and jailed him briefly in 1946.But Samad was not to be restrained, the episode merely leading to closer ties with Malay nationalists and another dalliance with incarceration which saw him in jail for two years from 1951.

On his release in 1953, he returned to the Utusan Melayu but politics proved far too attractive for the nationalist who yearned for a nation without the manacles of colonialism.He became a founding father of the People’s Action Party along with Lee Kuan Yew who, in later years, would almost sever ties with his erstwhile friend and compatriot. Samad came back to Malaya where he worked with Berita Harian and was later to figure largely in the creation of the New Straits Times, out of the Singapore-based Straits Times.

But a part of his heart remained always in the southern island which contributed much to his worldview. Acerbic in English and Bahasa Malaysia, his critique of life and contemporary themes as Malaysians knew them drew as many bouquets as they did brickbats.In later years, time may have robbed him of many things but not the acuity that was second nature to Pak Samad. In hospital in his last days, he struggled to speak when visitors came but though his mouth may have been bound by illness they knew his spirit was free as it always had been. Admittedly, he was reduced to a shadow of the man that his family, friends and colleagues had known but to them, nothing had changed.

He was still a giant who had always been larger than life. (NST Online, 5 September 2008)

My mentor in journalism has finally made his last journey, today 5 September 2008. I had the privelege of working under him in late 1971 and early 1972, after being successfully recruited as a cadet reporter with Berita Harian. He was the Editor then, with A.Samad Said the chief-sub.
Innalilah iwainna ilaii raji'un. Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat ke atas rohnya.Amin!

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"A.F.Yassin dalam cerpenya "Dendam" berjaya menghidupkan ceritanya dalam bahasa yang berjiwa; sesuai dengan pertentangan-pertentangan yang dialami oleh Salim atau oleh Yanti sendiri. "Plotnya bersifat sorot pergi sebagai satu gaya untuk mengembangkan kisah pada satu detik tetapi menghimbau kisah itu kepada kisah lampau dan juga kisah akan datang. Latarnya di Indonesia. Cerpen ini hidup kerana tidak dibiar berkisar di luar persoalan. Olahan cerpen bepusar keseluruhannya pada watak Yanti..." (Dato' Shahnon Ahmad, Mingguan Malaysia, 14 November 1976.)

" The former editor of a publishing house, A.F.Yassin, recently put out Sembang Sastera: Bersama Orang Persuratan (Fajar Bakti, 1998,310 pages), in which he talks to 64 Malay writers and literary activists of varying stature, who muse on their lives and what they have been up to. Chatty. Frank, nostalgic, irreverent, these conversations are light, in response to A.F.Yassin’s equally casual probing. His target is largely a small and shrinking group of people aged around 60 and above, loyal supporters of the Jawi-scripted Utusan Zaman, in which most of these Sembang-Sembang first appeared.

"Now that these Sembang-Sembang have been romanised, and packed in a handsome hardcover book, more readers , especially literary researchers, local and foreign, can be expected to benefit from them. Of course, the information ranges from the revealing to the trivial, but the book is pertinent as it provides insight on what went on in the world of Malay letters.

"…Sembang Satera is invaluable, especially to students of contemporary Malay literature, because it provides a cauldron of tidbits, with which to spice up the perennially long-overdue assignment.” - (Zakaria Ali, "Notes on Local Literature, fortnightly with Zakaria Ali, New Straits Times, 27 January, 1999."

"Yassin merupakan penulis yang berilmu dalam dua bidang dan seterusnya melibatkan diri dalam tiga dimensi. Bidang-bidang keilmuan dan keahliannya ialah komunikasi dan sastera, sementara kegiatannya dalam bidang penulisan kreatif dan deskriptif dan serentak dengan itu, turut kreatif dalam penghasilan dan penerbitan buku sesuai dengan profesion terkininya." (Asri Affandi, Mingguan Malaysia, 27 Disember 1987.)

"A.F.Yassin dalam bukunya Etika dan Wartawan berpendapat, pemberitaan akhbar di negara ini boleh dikatakan hanya berpandu kepada etika sejagat dan norma serta kebiasaan hidup masyarakat majmuk. Ketiadaan kod etika kewartawanan juga seperti yang ditekan oleh A. Samad Said telah menjadikan akhbar mengamalkan dasar swaying with the wind, bukan merupakan agent of change, serta cenderung menyuarakan dasar dan strategi pihak penerbit suratkabar itu sendiri." (Harakah, 31 Mei 1993.)

Tidak tahu kenapa dia meninggalkan lapangan guru dalam tahun 1962 kemudian sanggup pula menjadi seorang Juruteknik di sebuah kilang tekstil di Johor Bahru. Apakah dia memikirkan kurangnya anak Bumiputra berminat dalam lapangan teknikal atau kerana mula nampak bintangnya lebih mengerdip jika dia meninggalkan lapangan guru?

Yang ternyata sewaktu berada di Textile Corporation of Malaya Berhad Johor Bahru, dia telah dapat mengikuti latihan teknikal di Nagoya, Jepun selama enam bulan dalam tahun 1969. Di Jepun dia baru dapat melihat perbezaan zikap dan tingkah laku manusia pekerja Jepun dengan bangsanya sendiri. Setelah menimba pengalaman di Jepun, tercetus pula keinginannya untuk menulis rencana bersirinya di Utusan Malaysia, Utusan Zaman dan Mingguan Malaysia. Semuanya menceritakan pengalamannya di Jepun.

Kemampuan menulis telah meransangnya menapak ke bidang kerja yang lain. Dia menjadi Penyunting Berita Harian dalam tahun 1971. Semasa di New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd., dia banyak pula menghasilkan cerpen. Dia terus melanjutkan penulisan fiksyen apabila dilantik menjadi Penolong Editor dan kemudiannya meningkat sebagai Editor majalah Dewan Masyarakat.

Melihat kemampuannya menulis artikel dan cerpen di tengah-tengah kesibukannya sebagi seorang Editor, jelaslah kepada kita bahawa seorang editor yang sibuk tidak semestinya tidak boleh menulis. Pokoknya dia tidak mengenal erti kelelahan dan kesibukan bila dia diransang untuk menulis. ("Karyawan Bulan Ini", Dewan Sastera, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Mac 1983).