Sunday, February 25, 2007
Tok Mat - the longest serving Information Minister
Pix 1: Group photo (1980s) after Tok Mat's visit to the news agency. Seated on the left Rejal Arbee (Datuk and ex-KP), seated second from right Ahmad Mustapha (ex-GM), standing fourth from left Maria Samad while third from right is yours truly. Others in the pix (if u can recognise them) - Hashim Makaruddin (Tan Sri and ex-KP), Azman Ujang (Datuk now KP), Syed Jamil (Datuk ex-GM), Nizamuddin Mohamad, Jaafar Husein (ex-KP), Rahman Sulaiman (ex-KP) Affendi Ariffin, Mahrus Ibrahim, Hoo Ban Khee, Ratna Melan, Zulkifli Salleh, Syed Yahya and the list goes on ....
Pix 2: I was honoured to receive Bernama's long service certificate from Tok Mat, then Information Minister.
Pix 3: Tok Mat, now (February 2007), at 69.
He is still popularly referred to as Tok Mat, Malaysia's longest serving Information Minister until he retired in 1999.
It was a pleasure to meet Tan Sri Mohamad Rahmat at my brother's house in Bukit Damansara. Unfortunately, I could not seek his views on current political development since so many people wanted to say hello and have a short chat with him.
Tok Mat, 69, started his political career in 1965 when he was appointed Political Secretary to the then Transport Minister, the late Tun Sardon Zubir, the guru or sifu of Tun Musa Hitam. In 1969 Tok Mat was elected MP for Johor Bahru Barat and appointed Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health where Tun Sardon served as Minister. In Sept 1970, he served in the same capacity at the Education Ministry and on Jan 1, 1972 he was promoted as Deputy Finance Minister. In Sept 1974 Tok Mat served as Deputy Minister of Coordination of Public Corporations.
In 1974, he was elected MP for Pulai and appointed as Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry and in July 1978 he was promoted to head the Information Ministry.
Tok Mat served as Information Minister until April 1982 when he was posted to Jakarta as Malaysia's Ambassador with ministerial rank, by the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. However, in May 1987 he was recalled to once again head the Information Ministry until May 1999 when he retired.
Tok Mat is the most successful and most colourful Information Minister. He was so popular and "down to earth" that he was given various "nick names" such as Mat Bulat, Mat Besar, Mat Setia, Mat Jawa and Mat Re-cond. Sorry Tok Mat, facts are facts but rest assured, your name cannot be separated from many things and the most obvious is the KL Tower or Menara Kuala Lumpur, your brainchild, and as Information Minister, you implemented highly successful campaigns namely Gerakan Setia and Gerakan Semarak. I wonder why such successful campaigns were stopped by his successors?
If only the Malaysia Book of Records existed during your ministerial days, a dozen of things could be easily recorded such as the biggest Malaysian flag, the biggest ketupat and many other "big" things you introduced thus the nick name Mat Besar.
Many of the younger generation are familiar with the "Jom Heboh" programme of TV3 but how many of them are aware that Tok Mat had much earlier organised a similar programme under the K3P project. Of course it was not so "heboh" and lack the glamorous appearance of Akademi Fantasia finalists.
After Tok Mat retired, the Information Ministry is not the same. Now, under journalist-turned-politician, Zainuddin Maidin, what is there to be proud of?