Friday, April 17, 2009

Pak Said - His Story

To those who know him, the mere mention of the name Said Zahari would remind them of a humble, bubbly and friendly person. At the age of 80, Said Zahari, fondly known as Pak Said, is still the force to be reckoned with. Despite his old age, Pak Said who was born and bred in Singapore, is very much active in writings and is currently in working on his third volume of his trilogy memoirs. His first was ‘Meniti Lautan Gelora’, depicting his involvement in journalism and politics, followed by ‘The Long Nightmare - 17 Years in Lee Kuan Yew's Prison’.

Although he was not able to pursue higher education because of the outbreak of World War II, Pak Said became fluent in Malay, English, and later on, Chinese, became a journalist renowned for defending press freedom, and led the then largest and most influential newspaper in Malaya and Singapore. Although born into a Malay family and subsequently editor of a Malay press, he built bridges to other ethnic groups, all of whom respected and accepted him.

Recently, I met Pak Said at his home in USJ, Subang Jaya and spent more than two hours talking about Journalism in Malaysia. So passionate his was when talking about the subject, which is so close to his heart.
Said Zahari was a one time editor-in-chief of anti-colonial Utusan Melayu (now Utusan Malaysia), which was the one and only Jawi-written Malay newspaper before the Independence. An advocate of unbiased press freedom, Pak Said, who was at a young age of 28 during that time, was transferred to Malaya from Singapore to helm the newspaper, replacing co-founder Yusuf Ishak

“Utusan Melayu was the only newspaper that strongly support the struggle for Independence. The paper reflected the thinking of the Malays at that time and subsequently help create political conscious among the Malays.”

Utusan Melayu, he said, strongly support UMNO in the fight of independence, even though the party ‘bukan apa sangat’ (nothing to shout about).

“UMNO’s motto at that time was ‘Hidup Melayu’. I told UMNO that we will support UMNO as long as the party fought for independence to rid Malaya of British.”

“UMNO was nothing. They only shouted ‘Hidup Melayu’ but we instigated them that Melayu would always live. Nothing could touch Melayu. The most vital issue to fight for was for Merdeka not ‘Hidup Melayu’.”

Both journalists and editors at that time gave their full support in the fight for independence.

“In those years, journalists were also active in politics although they were non-partisan. But, they were very political conscious and had a strong political principal,” he said recalling his colleagues passion in upholding the independence’s struggle through journalism.

It was not about money at all for them. They were not only journalists, but political activists, too. Journalism and politics were inseparable at that time.

In 1952, after much instigation, UMNO changed its’ motto ‘Merdeka’. Pak Said recalled, after the independence, Utusan Melayu was willing to continue supporting UMNO as long as it stuck to the struggle of Merdeka.

“It means, to rid Malaya of the British in total. Unfortunately, once the country achieved Merdeka, the leadership of UMNO became power hungry.

“Not everybody in UMNO but the hunger for more power among some of them had led them to believe that they should take over Utusan Melayu.”

.... to be continued.

Nota kecik-kenot:
Artikel ini sudah disiarkan di majalah Forward keluaran bulan Mac lalu.


Pa'chik said...

hidup melayu... mana satu ketua mereka yang melayu jati???

izinni said...

errrr zahid hamidi? shafie apdal? errrr najib? rosmah? ekekekkeke