Malaysians who have met Queen Elizabeth remember her with fondness and respect


  • People
  • Friday, 09 Sep 2022

Dr James Nayagam (right) with Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 when she visited Shelter Home in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Photo: Dr James Nayagam

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II may have passed on but she remains in the hearts of millions of people all over the world, Malaysians included.

One of them is social worker Dr James Nayagam, who set up Shelter Home, a centre for abandoned, abused and neglected children, in 1981.

He remembers clearly the grand motorcade that came to the home that day in 1998.

"I was supposed to welcome her to Shelter Home and they said they would like the visit to be very ordinary. So she actually came in through the kitchen! I chatted with her for about 20 minutes – imagine chatting with the Queen of England.

"Then she gave English tuition to our girls for about 15-20 minutes before the girls did a song and dance presentation," recalled Nayagam, when contacted on the phone.

"It was a pleasant evening, and all in all, to spend that 45 minutes to an hour with a person like her was such a memorable occasion," said Nayagam, who is also the founder and chairman of Suriana Welfare Society.

When he heard about the Queen's demise today (Sept 9), he was instantly brought back to the time she came to visit the home.

"She was a very pleasant lady and, as I recall that time, it's such a precious memory now.

"She will be remembered as a monarch who was committed to her work and who has served the Commonwealth well. She has brought about unity and harmony among nations.

"And I believe her legacy and tradition will continue with the new king," said Nayagam, 67, who will be meeting up with some friends for breakfast tomorrow to reminisce about their time with the Queen.

And of course, he will be following the Queen's funeral procession closely on television.

Ambigapathy (right) has met the Queen on a number of occasions and describes Her Majesty as a truly inspiring figure. Photo: Dr Kishva AmbigapathyAmbigapathy (right) has met the Queen on a number of occasions and describes Her Majesty as a truly inspiring figure. Photo: Dr Kishva Ambigapathy

Loss of a leader

In his capacity as the former chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council and Advisory Member to Her Majesty The Queen for Youth, Dr Kishva Ambigapathy has met the Queen on many occasions.

Like many others, he is saddened by her demise.

"Today, the big Commonwealth family is in mourning. In this moment of sorrow at the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we recall her 70 years of stewardship of the Commonwealth of Nations. She represents the great spirit of our Commonwealth and will be forever loved the world over," said Ambigapathy, 31.

"I think we've all been through transformative world events, but there are few who have been through as many as Queen Elizabeth II. Through it all, she was a monarch who let her humanity show, performing her duty with fidelity, integrity and humour.

"Her Majesty’s devotion to the welfare of her people and the kind of leadership she displayed for our communities and the Commonwealth inspires greater admiration. I am humbled and indeed honoured to have had the great privilege to be at Her Majesty’s service and to experience this firsthand.

"For us, as young people of the Commonwealth, her inimitable legacy as a friend and youth champion will forever be etched in our hearts and indelibly marked on the pages of our history, a history she positively shaped in more ways than we can put into words. Also Her Majesty’s genuine interest to empower and recognise the important role young people play, especially grassroots activists, in shaping our societies is indeed heartening.

"We shall miss her inspiring presence, her calm, her steadiness, and, above all, her great love and belief in the higher purpose of the Commonwealth of Nations.

"I convey my deepest condolences to His Majesty King Charles III and members of the royal family, the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and the countless people around the world whose lives she has touched," he shared.Ang Lai Soon (left) meeting Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur when Her Majesty was in Malaysia with Prince Philip for the Commonwealth Games. The Queen was hosted by the late Tuanku Jaafar Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Tuanku Najihah Almarhum Tunku Besar Burhanuddin. Photo: Ang Lai SoonAng Lai Soon (left) meeting Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur when Her Majesty was in Malaysia with Prince Philip for the Commonwealth Games. The Queen was hosted by the late Tuanku Jaafar Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Tuanku Najihah Almarhum Tunku Besar Burhanuddin. Photo: Ang Lai Soon

Touched by charity work

One thing that amazed Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon about the Queen was her great memory. Ang first met her back in 1972 when she came to Sarawak on the Royal Yacht Britannia with Prince Philip.

When he was granted an audience with her again in 1998 – when the monarch was in Kuala Lumpur for the Commonwealth Games – the Queen said, "Yes, we have met before", as Ang was being introduced to her.

"What inspires me as a non-politician, whose only business is charity and voluntary work, the most about the Queen is the impeccable integrity and the unique way she performs her role as a constitutional monarch, providing invaluable wisdom, guidance and advice.

"The British Queen had no equal. She was an amazing woman and I don't think there will be another monarch who could rule for 70 years and do what she did," said the St John's Ambulance Sarawak founder.

"The Queen was a very independent person. Even at the recent swearing-in of the new British Prime Minister, you could see she was quite frail yet she still carried out her duties.

"And she always acted very calmly in every situation. She was a great role model."

From the time she ascended the throne until now, he said, things have changed so tremendously.

"She was a good leader who managed to glue the Commonwealth together.

"She was very humble, talked and listened to you, made sensible comments, and I was very impressed with her and the royal family, especially the role they play in charity work.

"Even from my school days, I have always been drawn towards charity endeavours. I was much taken in by the seriousness with which Britons take to such endeavours when I later was in the country for further studies. And nobody, I dare say, took them with greater seriousness than the British royal family led by the Queen.

"Together with the royal family, the Queen knows well enough that their exalted position in the eyes of the general public means the power of royal patronage carries not just prestige but true effectiveness in furthering whatever causes she lends her name to.

"The Queen therefore has this talent for making the monarchy almost uniquely relevant in a modern world that has vastly changed from the time she first ascended the throne.

"It provides not just a useful constitutional check but a priceless moral guidepost for Britain and the Commonwealth that are undergoing profound changes today. And I believe that King Charles III and Prince William will carry on that great legacy.

"No matter what, many people all over the world admire her. Even the British who have not met her speak well of her.

"We have lost a monumental model of proper conduct for a head of state in a turbulent and sometimes self-centred world," he said.

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