‘Uncle Umar’ reconnects with boy he saved 19 years ago


Priceless record: Umar showing the thank you card he received from the Kweks nearly 20 years ago. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: “Uncle Umar” finally got to connect with Desmond Kwek Bo Yang, the boy he saved from drowning 19 years ago.

This was made possible following a news report by Bernama that went viral about 67-year-old Umar Kamarudin’s hope to meet the boy.

Umar, a retired police superintendent, said he had made several attempts, including using social media, to locate the child, but failed.

Speaking to Bernama, Kwek, now 26 years old and residing in Tokyo, said he had never thought that he would finally be able to reconnect with Umar, whom he referred to as “Uncle Umar”, after nearly two decades.

Kwek was surprised when he received several phone calls from acquaintances informing him about the Bernama news report.

“I was doing my thing and my phone kept ringing ... got calls from multiple people, asking me what is going on as my name is in the news. They even shared the Facebook post. I thought it was a scam at first.

“I then called my mum and told her about the news ... as I kept reading the comment section, many users tagged my name ... I was so excited.

“One particular user wrote: ‘That is my father.’ We got in touch via Facebook and exchanged phone numbers,” he told Bernama.

Soon after that, Kwek was able to contact Umar through WhatsApp and talk to his saviour.

He said he was excited to be able to connect with Umar again and during their telephone conversation, they promised to meet when he returns to Malaysia.

“I just got back from Malaysia last March and will be back again maybe next year. Uncle Umar said when I am back in Malaysia again, we will go lepak at mamak,” said Kwek, who currently works in the cinema field in Tokyo.

Kwek, the eldest of three siblings, is from Kuala Lumpur. His interest in the Japanese language led him to the Land of the Rising Sun where he pursued studies in film and drama production in Osaka in 2022.

Recalling the fateful incident, Kwek said it happened on May 8, 2005, when he fell into a swimming pool at the KL Plaza Suites, now known as Fahrenheit Suites.

“I don’t remember much, but I remember playing near the pool. My parents were about to leave and told me they wanted to go to the shower with my sister.

“I couldn’t swim then. After falling into the pool, I tried to keep afloat, but I failed. After that, I lost consciousness,” he said.

Following the incident, Kwek said his family sent a thank you card and a hamper as a token of appreciation to Umar.

When he was about 14, Kwek said he wanted to get in touch with Umar but was unable to do so because all the information about the police officer, which was in his mother’s phone was lost.

“All we knew then was that uncle was working in Bukit Aman,” he said, adding that he was traumatised by the incident and felt afraid to be near a swimming pool for some time.

Meanwhile, Umar, when contacted, expressed his gratitude and joy to be able to connect with Kwek again.

“I was overwhelmed with happiness to be able to speak and hear the young man’s voice. He has not forgotten me. I’m happy he is now a successful man and working in Japan,” he said.

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