Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pak Non's writings captured my heart

********************** In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. ********************** Reflection ********************** "Anyone who obeys the Messenger has obeyed God..." (Nisaa 4:80) *********************** The demise of the Sun’s consultant and political editor, Zainon Ahmad, 70, fondly known as Pak Non or Cikgu Non on Wednesday 27th March, reminds me of my brief or perhaps 'loose' relation with him. Well, perhaps too it was a 'one sided affair' - he was a doyen in the field of journalism whereas I was only a 'cabuk' (not so efficient) reporter. ******************* When I joined the New Straits Times Press Group as a cadet reporter in 1986, he was already a towering figure there. Pak Non journalism career began when he joined the New Straits Times in 1978, and rose up the ranks to become its assistant group editor in 1997, and editorial consultant in 2001. *********************** Pak Non who was a teacher before entering the journalism world, joined the the Sun as its editor-in-chief in 2002. He was named Journalist of the Year by the Malaysian Press Institute for his coverage of the insurgency in southern Philippines in 1986, and received the Media Personality Award at the annual Kancil Awards in 2010, ************************* Zainon held a degree in History and a Masters' degree in international Relations from Universiti Malaya. He had also studied newspaper management at the Thomson Foundation, London and was a fellow of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tuft University, Boston, US. He also represented Malaysia in many regional conferences, raising media-related issues. *********************** Despite his wealth of experience and eminence, having interviewed world leaders and covered high-profile events in modern history, Zainon was gracious and down-to-earth. ******************************* Since Pak Non and I worked for different flags of the company (he was with NST, I was with BH), I remember that only once did I entered his office room for some offical work). The other time I was with him was when both of us were assigned to cover an Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Iran in 1997. ************************* Perhaps as individuals we were not close; but one thing that made my heart close to him was his writings. I like his style; in recent years when reading the Sun, I made sure not to miss his 'What They Say' column which featured lively conversations on current affairs. He was also good in his political commentaries especially on Parliament sessions. ************************ Years before that, when he was serving NST, I loved reading his travelouge series of the many countries he had visited especially remote parts of the world such as in North Africa. Yes, he was my 'guru' in writing; the irony of it was I had not even once attended his class or was coached by him; I have high respect for his writing, I am not shy to say at times I 'copied' his style. ************************* I followed his writings until his death, the last time I had the chance to speak to him and hear his thoughts was when he was invited as a panel during a journalism seminar organised by Harakah in July 2008. During a question and answer session of the seminar; I posed a very provocative question to him. ************************* I told Pak Non that as a regular and avid reader of the Sun, I was uneasy when reading the paper as it had prominient displays of advertisements on alcoholic drinks. *********************** This is what Pak Non have to answer: "Saya sudah utarakan pendapat saya kepada mereka (The Sun) tetapi nak buat macam mana. Saya pun tak tahu nak jawab dah. Ramai juga yang komplen dan hubungi saya. Saya harap suatu hari nanti ianya berubah. (I have passed the message to the top people in the Sun, but what to do. I too don't know how to answer. Many people have complained and called me. I hope one day, the situation would change)." ************************ As a person who have more than 30 years' experince in journalism, Pak Non in his talk, advised Harakah's staffs to produce a paper that would be read by all sectors of the people and not not just be thrown into the 'longkang' (drain) or be used to 'bungkus' (wrap) 'nasi lemak'. ********************* He said newspaper content must be of the best quality to satisty the needs of readers who are always thirsty for information and up-to-date news. **************************** "Every inch of the newspaper is of high value so there is no room for unworthy news and stories that do no cater the needs of the majority of people," said the much respected editor. ***************************** "What we want is a respected newspaper that is read by the people and being used to the maximum, not to be thrown into the drain," said Pak Non. ************************ "In the Sun, we have various columns to cater to the needs of different sections of people. Other than politics, we too have mothers' and teenagers' columns so that when the father had read the Sun, the paper would not be thrown away but would be brought home so that his family would benefit it." ********************* He also advised reporters to stretch to the maximum in their work with the time and money allocated to them. "All work must be done systematically and with proper plan," he said. ************************* Meanwhile the Sun reported that while receiving the Media Personality Award at the annual Kancil Awards in 2010, Pak Non had thanked the paper for giving him the space to write articles critical of the government's efforts to unite the nation. "Every year I become a little more serious in my pursuit of the truth, and bolder and braver in expressing it in my articles especially in my column," he said, emphasising his wish for a Malaysia for all regardless of their place of origin. ************************ In an interview given to theSun's former assistant news editor Jacqueline Ann Surin for The Nut Graph web portal last year, Zainon had recounted how growing up in the estates, where he acquired fluency in Tamil, had shaped his outlook and personality. *********************** "I believe in Malaysia. I believe in multi-racial Malaysia and I think that there is a place for everybody here. If, for instance, all the Indians or the Chinese suddenly decide to leave Malaysia, I think it won't be Malaysia," he said in the interview. ********************* Farewell Pak Non who was a true Malaysian; O Allah, forgive him, have mercy on him, give him peace and absolve him. Receive him with honor (in Paradise) and make his grave spacious. Cleanse him from faults as You would cleanse a white garment from impurity...Al-Fatihah, Ameen

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