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Friday September 5, 2008

Pak Samad dies at 84

PETALING JAYA: Media icon Tan Sri A. Samad Ismail, more affectionately known as Pak Samad, died yesterday at the Pantai Medical Centre here from lung infection and kidney failure.

Samad, 84, had been warded at the intensive care unit since Aug 24 after experiencing breathing difficulty.

His youngest daughter, Nur Azrina, 38, said he died just after she and his wife Puan Sri Habibah Hamid finished reciting prayers by his side at 5.58pm.

Samad: Wanted his family to keep his collection of books

“His last wishes were for us to keep his belongings and prized possessions, especially his huge collection of books. He said his books must never be taken out of the house,” she said.

Another daughter, Nuraina, 52, a former journalist and blogger, said she would miss their conversations.

“He liked to discuss current political happenings. He was very aware of what was going on,” she said at the family home in Section 16 here where Samad’s body was brought from the hospital.

The body will be taken to the UIA Matriculation Centre mosque before Friday prayers today and then for burial at the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery.

Samad had 10 children, two of whom are dead. His first wife Hamidah Hassan died in 1990.

Born and educated in Singapore, Samad started his career in journalism in 1940 after finishing his Senior Cambridge certificate as a cub reporter in the newly established Malay daily, Utusan Melayu.

During the Japanese occupation, he worked with the Japanese-sponsored Berita Malai and became the editor when he was 21.

After the war when the British returned to Malaya, they jailed Samad briefly, in 1946. Later, he returned to Utusan Melayu as an assistant editor.

Samad fought for independence from the British through his writings and met with anti-colonialists of all races, including Indonesian revolutionaries fighting for their own independence against the Dutch.

This led to his second arrest in 1951. When he was released two years later, he rejoined Utusan Melayu and with Lee Kuan Yew, founded the People's Action Party.

However, disagreements with both Lee and Utusan resulted in Samad moving to Kuala Lumpur, where he headed Berita Harian and later, The New Straits Times Press (NSTP) group as its managing editor.

In his writings, he promoted the standardisation of the national language, drew attention to embarrassing social inequalities, and explored the intricacies of race and politics in the country.

His writings were hugely popular but caused some uneasiness among the authorities.

Samad was arrested again in 1976, under the Internal Security Act. He was released in 1981, after which he re-joined the NSTP group as its editorial adviser. He retired from journalism in 1988 and was honoured by the King in 1992.

He was also awarded the title Pejuang Sastera (Literature Champion) for his literary and journalistic accomplishments.

In 1994, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communications Arts in recognition of his role in championing national independence, cultural revival and democratic nation building.


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