Monday, January 25, 2010

King Ghaz

In its news article No-nonsense Ghazali feared, respected The Malaysian Insider states:

Former Home Minister Tun Muhammad Ghazali Shafie who died at his home in Subang Jaya yesterday was known to be so strict in his work that it earned him the nickname, 'King Ghaz'.

Malaysiakini in its news article
Former home minister Ghazali Shafie dies also states:

He was called 'King Ghaz' as he was very stern in carrying out his tasks.

While it’s true that Tan Sri had been very impatient with reporters who didn't do their homework before interviewing him, or asked silly/stupid question, it’s nonsense to aver that he was called 'King Ghaz' because he suffered no fools.

If Tan Sri was alive he would have lambasted the reporters of both the above online news portal (or could it be the same person?) for not doing their research properly.

Ironically, the much disregarded Star Online, which has been in the doldrums for the last number of years because of its meekness in reporting, carried more accurate information about the late Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie.

How do I know this wakakaka because my uncle who actually knows Tan Sri told me.

In its
King Ghaz, 88, dies in his sleep the Star reporter Ng Cheng Yee wrote very correctly:

Ghazali, nicknamed ‘King Ghaz’ for his commanding personality, will be laid to rest at Masjid Negara after Zohor prayers today.

That’s right, he was called 'King Ghaz' because of his commanding personality and not because he was stern with reporters. In fact, it was an affectionate nickname, and according to my Unc, Tan Sri just loved being called 'King Ghaz'. He would beam benevolently from ear to ear when he heard that.

'King Ghaz' was a play on the name of 'King Guz' of the kingdom of Moo, a character in the comic strip of 'Alley Oop' which was very popular years ago.

In another Star Online news article
The long and illustrious road of a no-nonsense minister reporter Paul Gabriel wrote, again very correctly:

He was an expert in international affairs, known for his flamboyance and dashing style. “Ghazali had style, verve, intellect and confidence verging on arrogance,” wrote one observer way back when Ghazali was at the peak of his life.

My Unc said that would be the correct descriptions of Tan Sri – flamboyance, dashing style, verve, intellect, confidence – but he said the observer was too kind with the phrase “… confidence verging on arrogance …” because the Tan Sri was actually very arrogant. but it was an arrogance that wasn’t in a sombong (haughty) sort of way. He was arrogant only because he knew he was damn bloody good, and he was right too ;-)

As for fashion style, Tan Sri and his wife, even when he was still in the Civil Service, set the trend with their dressing. Unc said one could be forgiven if one had mistaken the pair for models wearing the latest fashion right out of a Parisian modelling show.

This was the man that the late Tun Razak had plucked from the civil service to groom for higher political office. Tan Sri was selected by no less than the 2nd PM to be his successor.

But fate and his two faults prevented that from happening.

The fate was the sudden and early demise of Tun Razak.

His first fault was that he was too much an intellectual and too westernised for the conservatives in UMNO, which didn’t surprise political observers when, after the death of Tun Razak, he was bypassed by the new kids on the block, Dr Mahathir, Ku Li and Musa Hitam, who were more acceptable to UMNO conservatives.

His vision, ideas and style were too futuristic for the Malays to accept or tolerate.

His second fault came immediately after his plane crash. Probably because of his pride and no doubt arrogance, he overdid his survival story a wee too excessively (I won’t say anything more because my Unc doesn't want me to) but in doing so he alienated a large number of people, including many supporters.

But there’s no doubt he was truly a giant in foreign affairs with a powerful grasp of both the essence and subtle nuances of international relations. A truly Towering Melayu.

If Tun Razak didn’t die so early, and subsequently handed the reins over to 'King Ghaz', I wonder what sort of Malaysia we would have?

Memang gaya betul lah - stylish for sure ;-)

May Tan Sri rest in peace. Al Fatihah!


  1. I have the privilege of working under him when he was our Permanent Rep in the UN in New York City and also Permanent secretary in Wisma Putra.
    The world acknowleged him as one of Malaysia's best brain.
    He is a thinker, a visionary, a learned man.
    Every policy is shaped by him. No one can deny that.
    Back then, when you say you are from Malaysia. they will say oh King Ghaz country.
    He gave birth to world-class diplomats like Zain Azraai and Razali Ismail and many, many more.
    Under his tutelage, we learned how to think and act fast on our feet.
    Never selfish in his knoweldge.
    He reprimands you when you are not up to mark. Later he will pat you on the back.
    But he was never vindictive nor mean. He never hates anyone.
    All he wants is to have an intellectual discourse with him. He loves to challenge us on his thoughts. If you do it intelligently, he will praise you.
    He know everything and anything be it books, films or songs including pop songs.
    You should have seen his library - the collection is huge and myriad with many rare books.
    Foreign coresspondents and us diplomats will visit him and borrow his books.
    Yep he is flamboyant. Introduced the Nehru collar as a fashion for our leaders.
    Even his late mother is westernised.
    I remember going for tea at her house in Kuala Lipis in the 60s.
    She served eclairs, petit fours and cucumber sandwiches and such. They don't drink read-made tea like us normal Malays.
    It's separate jars for milk, cream and sugar.The tea is oolong, lapchong etc.
    I saw on the mantel-piece the photos of the mother with the Mem-Sahibs like the British Resident's wife when Lipis was the state capital during colonial days.
    Back then when you say Tun, it is Tun Razak and Tan Sri is Ghazali Shafie.
    Nowadays even koochy rats are Tan Sris.

  2. King Ghaz has not always been seen in the same light as his staff, friends, etc. Reporters found him overbearing and unhelpful. He also tried to show off using words his staff could not spell. The there was rush to correct his press releases.

    In the West his boorish ways did not endear him to many. Indeed in one book written by a former head of state, he is described as an 'oaf'.

    But he did serve his country (and serve well,accordingly to his supporters.) That must be recognised. RIP.

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