KUALA LUMPUR: Thirty minutes was all the time National Security Council Secretary Datuk Thajudeen Abdul Wahab (pic) had to evacuate villagers in Lahad Datu before security forces began bombing the group of armed intruders holed up in the area.
His job was especially tough as he was not allowed to tell the villagers why they needed to move for fear of alerting any informant or terrorist.
“Lahad Datu was the most challenging evacuation for me because how do you convince people to move when you can’t even tell them why?” Thajudeen said after being awarded the Pingat Kedaulatan Negara.
More than 2,000 villagers complied and for the next 10 days after the security operation was launched, Thajudeen and his officers were directly involved in organising shelter and food for the residents until local authorities took over.
Thajudeen, 55, was among 129 people who received the award from Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday for their part in protecting the country during the incursion.
The council, chaired by the Prime Minister, mostly worked to coordinate inter-agency responses to security threats and natural disasters.
Thajudeen said his job was to carry out the Prime Minister’s orders and to quickly solve problems.
Arriving in Lahad Datu with no cash or government warrants to pay for everything he would need to feed the evacuees, Thajudeen approached the manager of a major supermarket in Lahad Datu and convinced him to sell him supplies on credit.
“He not only agreed but also despatched his lorries to transport the food to the evacuees,” he said.
Thajudeen holds a Masters Degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from the University of New South Wales and joined the civil service in 1982.
He went on to serve then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as his Principal Private Secretary until 2009 when he was appointed the council secretary.
In the past five years, Thajudeen supervised several evacuations of Malaysians from global hotspots – Egypt, Syria and Libya.
He also helps to plan the annual year-end flood evacuations.