Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pak Sako and Malay College

I have been having a mental/writer's block for the last assignment that I have to write before I am due to move on. I have been sitting in front of this PC for weeks thinking where to start. I have all the frameworks, data etc. gathered - I just can't seem to start. I will not miss this part of my job when I move on soon.

Anyway, I came across this on Pak Sako:

Ishak the son of Haji Muhammad was born in Kampung Sagantung, Temerloh, in Pahang, the largest state in the West Malaysian peninsula, in 1910. After an initial education in Malay, he proceeded to an English medium school in Bentong and finally to the elitist Malay College in Kuala Kangsar where he passed the Senior Cambridge exam in 1929. His heroes at school included the Knights of the Round Table, Richard the Lion Heart, William the Conqueror, Lord Nelson, King Canute, the Vikings, the Trojan Horse, Theseus, Perseus, Julius Caeser and so on. Somewhere in the background were, however, the more obscure Mat Gajah, Bahaman, Mat Kilau, Tok Janggut and Tuan Haji Abdul Rahman Limbong, heroes of the resistance in Pahang in the early part of the century to the imposition of British rule on that state (Ishak Haji Muhammad 1976: 23).

Malay College prepared gentlemen for the Malayan Administrative Service. Ishak was soon appointed as a Malay cadet to the District Office in Temerloh, becoming Assistant District Officer in Bentong, Pahang, in 1931. Following service in the state of Negeri Sembilan, he was appointed a Third Class Magistrate in Kuala Lumpur in 1932. Finding civil service life artificial, discriminatory and not in the interest of the Malay community whom the British claimed to be "protecting," Ishak resigned his post in 1934. After a period spent wandering through the Peninsula, he then turned to journalism, nationalist politics (for which he was imprisoned from 1948 to 1953 and again from 1965 to 1966), and the writing of novels and short stories. His first novel, Putera Gunung Tahan (The Prince of Mount Tahan), was published in 1937; his second, Anak Mat Lela Gila (The Son of Mad Mat), in 1941. Others followed throughout the fifties and early sixties, without attaining either the success or prestige of these initial works. Affectionately known as Pak Sako (from the Japanese Isako-san), Ishak Haji Muhammad passed away in November 1991 (biographical details: Li Chuan Siu 1966: 229-239).

Shit! Pak Sako was alive when we were in koleq and nobody ever bothered to tell us? Why didn't we have a Pak Sako Day back then? With a benefit of hindsight, I would have loved to meet him in person!

Talk to any MCKK old boys and he most probably will blurt out a long list of alumni that he so adored, beginning with Tun Razak. Most of them will undoubtedly begin with Tun Razak - natural I guess because he was the only Prime Minister to have been produced by MCKK.

I have always admired the OTHER two great names coming out of MCKK - Allahyarham Dato' Onn and Pak Sako. Maybe their stories were more romantic (and tragic to a large extent that made me sympathise with them more).

But no it's not so much of the romantic element - it's the bit where they stood up for what they thought was right (whether or not the rest agreed with them). And paid the price. Both could have achieved the pinnacle of their career; both could have become Prime Ministers after all they were there before others - but they abandoned the lure of worldly positions and material gains for reasons (well at least that's what I want to believe).

And it's a pity that although we have these two giants in our midst all this while, we paid little attention to them. Ask any of the present boys I am sure they don't know who is Pak Sako. I am sure they've never heard of Putera Gunung Tahan or Anak Mat Lela Gila.

And what a pity.

Is it not that the values upheld by them are the very values we believed we learnt from Malay College? If so, both Dato' Onn and Pak Sako should be at the lips of every MCKK boy - not for setting up UMNO, not for being a leftist nationalist; but for living the values of MCKK; of standing for what is right; of the responsibility we owed to the nation and the people; of the sacrifice required of a leadership.

But Pak Sako and Dato' Onn are not just forgotten by Malay College, to a large extent by the nation as a whole. And we are celebrating 50th anniversary of the so-called independence.

Dengan semangat yang berkobar-kobar, I am going to get the boys we look after to know and read about Pak Sako! Hah! That's the least we could do for Pak Sako and Dato' Onn.

So boys, if you are reading this - better get acquainted to Pak Sako and Dato' Onn.

ps: My writer's block is still there
pps: Sessi Itik Pulang Petang minggu ini in 2 hours' time
ppps: Please don't start a bet that this "Pak Sako" thing is "hot hot chicken shit"


  1. Noni,

    You mentioned the English titles of Pak Sako's works... Do you know if they are available for purchase anywhere?

  2. Dato Onn is a great contributor to UMNO's history.
    Pak Sako...
    actually we really should relive balik all the pengobanan these people have made, all the stands should be applied...

    Noni, it's up to you.

  3. mckk949812:09 PM

    good info, i'm linking this post to my batch's blog

  4. I actually met Pak Sako way before I entered koleq. Had a group photo with him. Will try to locate the pic.

    Sekolah rendah aku waktu tu buat lawatan ke KL melawat Utusan Malaysia.

    But my fascination with him then was not because he was a statesman, etc. The adoration was simply because I was a fan of his column in Gila-Gila circa 80's. The column was entitled "Pepatah-Petitih". Only through later readings did I discover how BIG Pak Sako was/is.

  5. pasal pak sako ..tak byk pulak comment ? hehehe
    Kat Malaysia ni biasalah...

    Asal langgar mainstream je....takde sapa nak highlight or appreciate 'idea' atau 'pemikiran' seseorang tu...

    Macam idea aku supaya kat rumah tv semua di buang. atau kanak2 tak boleh tengok tv (mulakan generasi yang tak memerlukan tv utk hidup)

    aku/kita (or is it aku je?) mmg la dah rosak..tgh baiki kerosakan lah ni..


  6. zaimyusoff11:36 AM

    abg raf!

    We had been taught in the history about those novels la! Even I used to read Putera Gunung Tahan!!!

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