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Sunday February 25, 2007

Brought up with a sense of service

TUN Fatimah Hashim would often bring along three of her children while on the road delivering speeches on what Merdeka meant and later when she was on the campaign trail. 

One of the siblings is Prof Datuk Dr Khalid Abdul Kadir who recalls that on weekends, they and their father, the late Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Yusof, would accompany her when she visited villages such as Parit Buntar and Tanjung Malim. 

When he was nine years old, he followed his parents and siblings to Kuala Lumpur for the Merdeka celebrations. Admittedly, he was not “mature enough” at that time to fully grasp the meaning of being independent. 

“I remember preparations that were done at our house before Tunku (Abdul Rahman) came to Ipoh to announce that Merdeka was coming soon. My mother and her friends were getting ready to garland him,” said Dr Khalid, 59, professor of medicine at Monash University Malaysia. 

He said his mother always made it a point to explain the meaning of independence to her children. 

However, he began to feel the spirit of nationhood a few years later during the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation in the early 1960s and when in Australia pursuing a medical degree. 

“There was a threat from Indonesia. People were landing on our shores. I was imbibed with the nationalistic spirit. 

“In Australia, I was a scholar from Malaysia and had colleagues from Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore,” he said. “Listening to the stories about Vietnam, I realised we were much better off.” 

His parents' spirit of serving the country was the reason he decided to return from Australia 14 years later. 

“They played a role in trying to modernise Malaysia after independence. They were open-minded. My father came from humble beginnings and this made us realise how different life could have been for our family. My parents were always very helpful to the downtrodden,” he added. 

“I try my best to do the same. For me, the best way to build up a nation is to serve as a doctor and teacher. 

“People, especially the poor, need to get treatment and I want to teach others to be doctors so they can be like me and serve the nation.” 

His eldest sister, Datin Mariam Abdul Kadir, 61, remembers her mother telling her during Merdeka that “orang putih dah habis, orang putih dah tak ada lagi di negeri kita” (the white people have left our country). 

“I was 12 at the time. I did not get what she meant. But I remembered riding in a big black car when we arrived in KL and the beautiful fireworks we saw from a hill near the Lake Gardens,” she reminisced. 

“Today, the word Merdeka means freedom to me, that we should be free from the clutches of colonisers regardless of whether they are economic or political in nature.” 

The retired National Library director-general said she would never hesitate to fight anyone who “ran down” her country or Prime Minister. 

“We have always had that sense of justice. My parents were always fair and square. Everyone should be equal,” said Mariam. 

“They taught us to defend our name and country, and that we have a right to our freedom.”  

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