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No to retirement for veteran journalist Mior Kamarul Shahid

Dato Mior Kamarul Shahid

By Rashid Yusof

CARTOONIST Lat enjoyed night walkabouts, from Kampung Baru to Chow Kit, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. This was in 1971-72.

“I went with Lat for the walks. We were renting a place in Kampung Baru. I suppose he was visualising his sketches.”

A quote this reporter extracted from Lat’s sahabat (a close friend), an individual who has rarely been in the news, and, whose story must now be properly told.

Dato Mior Kamarul Shahid turned 71 on Dec 2023.

The man has been busy.

“I thoroughly cherish doing interviews, at this stage. We are totally immersed ..” Mior Kamarul Shahid was particularly expressive, recounting this interview he did the other day.

He has been speaking to orphans.

The other day it was his turn to be interviewed. And, this reporter was taking down notes excitedly, at Bangsar’s Mahbub Restaurant whose headcount, for purposes of perspective, has risen progressively over the years.

Mior Kamarul Shahid left Pasir Puteh in Ipoh for Kuala Lumpur to launch a career at KTMB, in 1971. He was an apprentice, and Lat a crime reporter. Kota Baru in Perak is their ancestral place.

At the Mahbub interview, I found myself offering my views fairly extensively, failing to ask Lat’s companion his thoughts on his career pathways as he took those after-office walks.

That was a bad miss, for Mior Kamarul Shahid has had an exciting career.

A teaser – in 1981, he broke the story on Malaysia’s privatisation plan; he was once a journalist and a tutor while pursuing his Master’s degree. There was this sleepless assignment that Mior Kamarul Shahid covered in New York.

Once the stories are filed, he would be working on his thesis. “I brought all those books. Inflight reading was serious academic stuff.”

When Harian Metro was launched in 1991, our man was made news editor along with Ahmad Puad Onah.

Precisely the moment he started attending night classes in Shah Alam, pursuing a degree.

Much later, at age 62, Mior Kamarul Shahid was made a Fellow at UUM, a four-year tenure till 2017. Additionally he is an NGO activist.

AJS

Asal Jalan Sudah was Lat’s branding of his AJS motorcycle that would deliver him to Jalan Riong, his workplace and to those assignments, plus, to interludes such as the Federal Hotel where NST Crime Chief, the legendary Rudy Beltran played the piano. AJS (A.J. Stevens and Co.), a family entity, was founded in Wolverhampton back in 1909.

Journalism

As a KTM staffer, Mior Kamarul Shahid was going with Lat to Jalan Riong where he met the likes of Rudy Beltran in his journalism role and another prominent journalist, Ali Hamdan.

“I could see that journalism, in particular crime reporting was not Lat’s preferred career.” An early journalistic foresight since Mior Kamarul Shahid’s journalism didn’t take off until 1975. And, that was in Angkasapuri as a Radio reporter which effectively meant the KTM career was halted after four years. “I met Hardev Kaur at RTM.”

Hardev Kaur soon moved to Balai Berita. She was editor of Business Times and ultimately, the group editor of the New Straits Times.

Mior Kamarul Shahid treasures interviewing A Samad Ismail in 1981.

Back in 1975, there was this Muhammad Ali – Joe Bugner boxing match in Kuala Lumpur. Tun Razak Hussein, the Prime Minister, hosted a dinner at the Sri Taman residence and Mior Kamarul Shahid covered the event for Radio Malaysia.

This was no walk in the park, the nice setting of Lake Gardens not withstanding.

Journalists filing stories for radio stations must meet very tight deadlines. “You phone in your stories rightaway…your story is slotted for the next news bulletin. Period. Remember, Bernama was our main rival.”

The iconic public phones were the fastest means of phoning in those radio stories. Those menteris besar’s assignments, for instance. “I would walk into the MB’s office to file my stories.”

ApaKhabar readers may well be wondering precisely why the name Mior Kamarul Shahid is faithfully typed out every time; that is a nod to one’s byline that appears with your print stories. No bylines for radio journalists!

Mior Kamarul Shahid next appeared at Sri Taman to cover the funeral of Tun Razak, in January 1976. Tun Razak passed away in London on Jan 14.

Tanjung Kupang

“Stories written in the past tend to be comprehensive with backgrounders.” Fast forward to end-2023, Mior Kamarul Shahid has issues with the flattening of stories. He once told this reporter that it might make perfect sense to print newspapers later in the day, with print taking on a new brand as a daily news magazine.

By extension, a veteran journalist is now a misnomer. You are a journalist and must fight on. In fact, Mior Kamarul Shahid’s career that culminated in him heading Berita Harian as Group Editor, had a parallel track.

This was the world of academia. His pursuit of the PhD was abandoned only when he assumed greater responsibilities at Berita Harian. He once had a full-time career at Majlis Professor Negara, as media advisor.

Now, journalism students and even lecturers should speak to Mior Kamarul Shahid, an icon whose first major journalism assignment landed in Dec 1977.

A radio reporter then, he had been assigned to Johor Baru to relieve the sole JB Radio reporter who was on leave. Our man decided to enter Singapore on arrival in JB. That is a journalism trait, admittedly. You are endlessly seeking to travel.

Angkasapuri was frantically tracking him as their sole radio reporter in JB. Coinciding with his lightning visit to Singapore, the MH653 flight from Penang to Subang was hijacked.

It crashed in Tanjung Kupang killing all 100 passengers and crew members on board. A Cabinet Minister Ali Haji Ahmad was among those who died in the plane crash. The then Cuban Ambassador to Japan, Mario Garcia- Inchaustegui and wife Gladys Delgado were also on board.

Garcia-Inchaustegui was the Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations during the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis, from Oct 16, 1962 to Oct 29 1962.

Garcia-Inchaustegui’s letter to the UN, dated Oct 27, 1962 is available online. Just who were the hijackers? “Home Minister King Ghaz did offer some perspectives,” recalled Mior Shahid.

This journalist’s prominent-minister relationship was central to his coverage of a subsequent plane crash, in Janda Baik.

As for the Dec 1977 story, the instance he cleared the Causeway, our radio reporter rushed to the site of the plane-crash at dawn. Our man was the only radio reporter on duty. “I was at the hospital, covered the burial, attended the press conference by King Ghaz and yes did the voice casting.” King Ghaz refers to, for the benefit of younger readers, (Tun) Ghazali Shafie, the then home minister.

Step by decisive strides, this narrative is evolving into a historical piece.

The trajectory of Mior Kamarul Shahid’s long career featured key episodes, substantive content and an impressive cast of personalities.

In 1980, Mior Kamarul Shahid decided to take a leap from Angkasapuri to Balai Berita in Bangsar. The panel of interviewers who assessed his competency deserve a separate story. Adibah Amin was writing her column As I Was Passing by Sri Delima (Adibah Amin’s nom de plume). Salim Kajai was the editor of Berita Harian.

It was Hamid Bendahara who handed Mior Kamarul Shahid his first major assignment. The 29-year-old rode his Honda Cup to Section 16, Petaling Jaya to interview A Samad Ismail. An unnerving exercise. That was 1981. Before his arrest under the Internal Security Act in 1976, A Samad Ismail handed Lat his liberation, pathway to more creativity and success.

Lat was accorded the role of a full-time cartoonist. Mior Kamarul Shahid knew exactly what this meant for Lat.

And, the A. Samad Ismail interview wasn’t a disaster. As it happens, A Samad Ismail called the Berita Harian reporter the following day. A good piece, came the verdict. Although you did leave out something! Mior Kamarul Shahid was elated, justifiably so.

“In his retirement, I conveyed to Samad Ismail that his pointer on the Darah Daging DNA for journalists is central to the profession.” Darah Daging relates to one’s convictions, virtues that must reside with truth, accuracy and objectivity.

Another Plane Crash followed by Daily Rides to Bentong

It was a jarring takeoff for 1982. On Jan 10, a six-seater Cessna plane piloted by Ghazali Shafie, the Foreign Minister, crashed at Kampung Janda Baik. For the first 30 hours the Foreign Minister went missing.

The New York Times featured this story the next day. By Jan 12, the Washington Post reported that King Ghaz survived the plane crash.

Soon Mior Kamarul Shahid launched an ambush on King Ghaz at his Ampang residence.

Our reporter’s Berita Harian career featured a fair number of exclusive content. He is not the sort who preferred those Press conferences.

The following year our man rode his Honda Cub to Bentong to cover an inquest into the Janda Baik tragedy. The danger of piloting an aircraft through a gap of terrifyingly low cloud-base was highlighted by the Coroner Abdullah Sidek.

His verdict delivered on June 22 1983 – that Ghazali Shafie was “directly responsible” for the Cessna 206 crash that killed co-pilot Vergis Chacko and ASP Charon Daam, the Minister’s ADC.

2024

The likes of Mior Kamarul Shahid should gain some visibility by way of promoting journalism as a career of choice. Malaysian journalism should even go international.

The man, for one, is not about to contemplate retirement.

It is true that close to 50 years after he did his first interview, the former Radio reporter, KTM staffer, Berita Harian top editor, an NGO activist and a member of the academia, treasures most every new interview. “You tend to relate better…you are totally immersed in their stories.”
Editor: This article had appeared in the Apakhabartv.

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