PETALING JAYA: The passing of Zailah Tun Dr Ismail has left a vacuum in the G25 group of eminent Malays.
Fellow G25 member Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin said the late Zailah was not only a colleague, but also a good friend and confidante.
“She believed passionately in the democratic ideals of good governance, strengthening of our public institutions and upholding of our secular constitution.
“Our friendship went back a long way, from the time we shared a house in Penang together with her sister Badariah when they were both students at USM (Universiti Sains Malaysia) and I was working as the senior assistant registrar at the Penang High Court in the early ‘70s,” recalled Noor Farida.
“I invited her to join G25 after the group was formed in December 2014 to express our concerns, among other things, about the encroachment of the syariah criminal laws on the jurisdiction of the civil courts,” she said after attending Zailah’s funeral.
Zailah was the second of the six children of Malaysia’s second deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.
She passed away from cancer at the Damansara Specialist Hospital at 4.30am yesterday at the age of 64.
She was later laid to rest at the Mont Kiara Muslim cemetery.
Noor Farida added that Zailah did not hesitate to accept her invitation to join G25.
“Before her illness last year, she was an enthusiastic contributor to the group’s work.
“She helped create our website and draft G25 statements on various issues of concern to the group,” she said.
Zailah’s brother Mohamed Tarmizi, 56, described his sister as a carbon copy of their father and a diligent government servant throughout her tenure as public affairs adviser to the Bank Negara Governor.
“At the time, it was natural for the deputy governor and governor to lean on her for advice.
“Her work was discreet but no less important, and it contributed to the tone and perception that the rakyat had of the institution.
“In many ways, she worked under similar circumstances experienced by our father,” Mohamed Tarmizi said.
He added that his sister never sought publicity or rewards when she was privileged to serve her country.
Zailah’s four children – Tariq Ismail Mustafa, M. Yassif Nagim, Kamariah Shakir Shakirin and Ismail Iskandar Wildan – were present at the cemetery to witness the last rites before their mother was buried.