Ahmad Talib: A man of many colours

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 27 May 2020

THE day after I landed at KL International Airport after a two-week Java tour, I was with him and another colleague Zuraidah Omar, conducting a workshop at the Foreign Ministry. The three-day programme from Feb 18 was very much Datuk Ahmad A. Talib’s show.

He was full of energy, demonstrating his professional self. He was unselfish in sharing his experiences as a journalist.

For more than four decades he was in the newspaper business, from a rookie reporter to becoming the executive director of news for Media Prima Bhd (MPB) during my tenure there as the chairman.

I have known him a long time despite the different routes in journalism we waded into. When I joined the Utusan Melayu group as chief editor in 1992, we got even closer.

There were many times we were on assignments abroad together.

I left Utusan Melayu in July 1998, two months before the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

I was in limboland for many years. During those dark years, even the newspaper that I once edited dared not publish my article.

Ahmad had always been encouraging me to write for the New Straits Times (NST). Sometime in March 2001, I met the late Tan Sri A. Samad Ismail. He asked me what I was doing after I left Utusan Melayu. I told him I was doing farming in Gambang, Pahang.

“You are not writing?” he inquired. He was at NSTP then as an adviser.

I got a phone call from Datin Rose Ismail, a senior editor, inviting me to write for NST. My first piece, published on June 16,2001, was a review of Meniti Lautan Gelora, the book by former Utusan Melayu editor Said Zahari, who was incarcerated under ISA for 17 years.

Eventually, I was offered to write in a newly established “Weekend Guest” column for a few months, then given a permanent column under the banner “Point Blank” for NST, which I started on Nov 30,2002. I was a columnist for the NST for 13 years until October 2015.

When I joined MPB, I convinced the management to appoint Ahmad to oversee the news operation for both MPB’s TV networks and NSTP.

Ahmad was a real asset for MPB. He was always hands-on, moving effortlessly within the ranks.

He helped us tremendously to ensure we upheld professionalism and integrity. When he left in 2014, his absence was sorely felt.

Ahmad was still in the thick of things prior to his hospitalisation. He was in fact the chairman of the organising committee for the seminar on Eradicating Urban Poverty in December last year, which was organised by the Federal Territories Ministry.

He was also appointed by the then minister, Khalid Samad, to lead the team to showcase Kuala Lumpur as Unesco’s World Book Capital 2020.

I have not met him since February this year but we were on WhatsApp always. I noticed in late April and early May there were fewer messages from him.

Then on May 8, I got a call from him. He told me he was at a private hospital and the doctors had diagnosed him with liver cancer, which was already at an advanced stage.

I was shocked. We spoke about the good old days. He asked me about the weekly teh tarik session at Masjid India in KL. It was a tradition started by the late Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin some 25 years ago for former Utusan Melayu reporters.

Ahmad, who had never worked for Utusan Melayu, did join us from time to time. The last time he was there was about a month before the MCO.

On May 19, he sent me this text when I asked him about his condition: “Hanging and fighting.”

He also mentioned something about looking for “old landscape book and resorts Asian or Dusun style. A dream still to pursue”.

It was to be his last message. His health deteriorated from then on.

It was through his daughter Sofia that I made contact. She updated me about his condition.

Ahmad, who left us yesterday, was a man of many colours.

He had his ups and downs and had gone through trials and tribulations. He was a true-blue journalist and lived a life in journalism as he had always wanted it to be.

He was fearless in facing adversity, both professionally and personally.

I am going to miss a dear friend.

Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar was a journalist, former chief editor of Utusan Melayu and former chairman of Media Prima Bhd. He is currently a columnist for The Star. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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