PETALING JAYA: Diplomat extraordinaire and former Foreign Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar’s friendliness, excellence and knack for jokes are what his friends will miss most about him.
While the nation remembers Ahmad Kamil as Malaysia’s top diplomat known for his role in peace efforts friends knew him as someone who was jovial, humble and liked to “pull other people’s legs”.
Former diplomat Datuk Tan Koon San said his close friend’s life tenet was Aut Coepisse Noli Aut Confice (Latin for “Accomplish or Do Not Begin”), which was also the motto of their alma mater Bukit Mertajam High School in Penang.
“I will miss him greatly. We knew each other since childhood and worked together on missions abroad. I am also close to both his children, ” said Tan when contacted after Ahmad Kamil’s burial yesterday.
Tan said poet William Shakespeare’s quote: “Some are great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them” aptly described his good friend.
“He was humble and at heart, a simple man. He was a loyal friend.
“He was not only a towering figure but also a giant diplomat, ” said Tan, breaking into a light-hearted laugh.
Ahmad Kamil, who, according to friends, had battled cancer and suffered a fall at home on Friday evening, passed away early yesterday at the age of 83.
His remains were laid to rest at Jalan Ampang Muslim Cemetery.
Among those who extended their condolences to Ahmad Kamil’s family were Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.
According to a statement posted on Istana Negara’s Facebook page, their Majesties also expressed sadness over Ahmad Kamil’s passing, and hoped that his family would remain patient and strong in this time of grief.
“Their Majesties deeply appreciate the services and contributions of the late Ahmad Kamil, and have described his passing as a great loss to the country.
“The King and Queen also pray for his soul to be blessed by Allah and placed among the righteous, ” said the statement.
Ahmad Kamil, a founding member of the G25 group of eminent Malays, was kind and jovial but extremely serious when it came to work, said another longtime friend and G25 colleague Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim.
“He was my senior at Universiti Malaya when we were students and I got to know him quite well in the civil service, where he played important roles in several external crises.
“Among the key highlights of his foreign service career were the peace efforts in Africa, Bosnia and Kosovo.
“He also helped to strengthen the country’s relationship with Japan during former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Look East Policy initiative.
“He was always smiling, joking, friendly and liked to pull other people’s legs but when it came to work, he was all serious.
“He was a really good example to his staff, ” said Mohd Sheriff, himself a former Treasury secretary-general.
Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, also one of G25 representatives, said Ahmad Kamil was certainly an accomplished diplomat and one of the best secretaries-general that Wisma Putra has had.
“He was also a dedicated member of G25 and was absolutely committed to our vision and mission, ” she said.
Born in Kulim, Kedah, on Aug 27,1937, Ahmad Kamil joined the External Affairs Ministry, then led by Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie, after graduating from Universiti Malaya in 1962.
His career in administrative and diplomatic service included embassy appointments in Thailand, Germany, Singapore and the United Nations in New York in the 1960s and 1970s as well as terms as the Malaysian ambassador to Vietnam, Switzerland, China and Japan until the late 1980s.
Ahmad Kamil then returned to serve as Wisma Putra secretary-general from 1989 until 1996 and upon his retirement, was appointed Special Envoy to the Prime Minister in 1996.
Before retiring in 2013, he was Special Envoy of Dr Mahathir, and subsequently to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak.