Keegan MM

Walk down MMemory lane

THE Malay Mail sports desk was my life for close to 30 years.

I can only look back with fond memories at the foundation that was first part of me, then built me through the years.

I became New Straits Times (NST) librarian in April 1977 and started stringing with the Malay Mail sports desk two years later, before joining fulltime in 1981.

My final article for the paper — as Level Field columnist — came last year.

But the best years were the ones which groomed me as a sports journalist.

The first sports editor I worked under was the late Maurice Khoo.

But Tony Francis, who came on board in 1983 from NST, had the biggest impact on me and, arguably, the sports pages.

The next four years under him were definitely some of the toughest, but his demands and high work ethics saw us taking the sports pages to a different stratosphere.

Tony came from a family of journalists and having started as a rookie aged 20, he brought experience and new ideas that sprinkled magic on the pages.

Out went routines and mundane reporting, in came breaking stories, profile pieces, commentaries and columns from renowned personalities.

Simply put, it was “poetry” — the glory days of sports coverage.

Along with the legendary late Francis Emmanuel, it was learning and learning all the way for me and other reporters on the desk — Ooi Kok Chuen, Rajan Etickan, Joe Carlos, Johnny Yew and Leon Lim.

It is little wonder Tony was inspired by sportswriting great Norman Siebel.

“I read his columns as schoolboy and was mesmerised by the way he wrote,” said Tony of Siebel.

“Imagine my joy when I was asked to join the desk when Norman was the sports editor.

“I was going to work under every person I had admired and hero-worshipped,” added Tony, who joined the late Mansoor Rahman and Ian Pereira at the NST sports desk in 1967.

With that kind of background, naturally Tony aimed to set standards high.

We benefitted immensely.

Quoting Tony, he aptly summed what sports meant to us.

He said: “Sports took me on a high like a drug. You get involved emotionally when the country wins or loses.

“You get so much joy in telling a happy story to your readers or sad when you have to tell them what happened in defeat.”

Among our popular features included the Kevin Keegan letter and answer column.

The famous former Liverpool and England footballer was involved when playing for Harimau Malaysia at the 1982 Merdeka Tournament.

Indonesian badminton star Rudy Hartono also wrote for the paper in the run-up to the Thomas Cup. Tony, a close friend of Rudy, ghost wrote the column.

John Toshack, Dr Jozef Venglos and Soh Chin Aun were just some of the other personalities whose writings graced the Malay Mail sports pages.

One man who can tell exciting tales of the changing print media phases is sports journalist extraordinaire Ian Pereira.

Ian joined NST with Tony in 1967 — later moving to Malay Mail as sub-editor — and remains an elder statesman of sports journalism.

Frankie D’Cruz, the former Malay Mail Editor Emeritus who grew up reading Ian’s reports had this to say: “He could easily amaze you with the sharpness of his journalistic insight.

“He’s the definite professional, someone blessed as he inevitably will be with a lifetime spent totally immersed in journalism.”

Working with Ian was a gift, an inspiration, a special thrill.

He still tells young sportswriters: “Make history, or lose and be history.”

My first lesson in sports journalism as a stringer was given by Ian.

I clearly remember how much interest he took in me and went through each article I wrote with a fine tooth comb.

Not every encounter was pleasant.

He would tear me apart for mistakes on tables and taught me how to perfect it.

Till today, whenever I tabulate a table, his face appears before me.

The likes of Francis, Tony and Ian laid the foundation for the Malay Mail sports desk.

Just why the product was outstanding and turned heads; everyone looked forward to the sports stories churned out in the 1980s and 1990s.

TONY joined Malay Mail in 1979 and left as Sports Editor in 2006. He also served as Consulting Sports Editor, Specialist Writer and columnist at different times from 2013 to last year.


It’s so hard to say goodbye

FOR many people in the entertainment industry back in the 1980s, Malay Mail was a paper that was hard to put down.

And after today, many of them said it will be difficult to let go.

Francissca Peter, a singer famous in the 1980s and 1990s, said reading the paper was very much a family affair.

Her father, Lucian Peter, was a writer and journalist who had worked with news agencies like Reuters and Bernama.

“My father worked with Reuters before Merdeka. Some of his proud moments back then was reading the articles he had written that were printed by newspapers.

“Now with the online media, we tend to get news faster but there are so many websites that carry news and some of them do not fact-check.

“Nowadays, people are glued to their handphones, laptops and tablets and that is where they get their news.

“There are so many changes in the world today and we have to move with the times,” she said.

While Francissca was sad to see the paper close down, she believed the battle will be carried on through the online version.

“Printed articles are like old photographs, lots of sentimental thoughts, feelings and expressions there.

“They should be treasured and kept for as long as we can because one day these may all be non-existent and considered antiques.

“Speaking for myself as an artiste, these articles are to be treasured as they feature all of us artistes, composers, producers, dancers, actors and all those from the creative arts from way back when who helped mould the music industry today.

“Thank you so very much dear Malay Mail and the team of writers, photographers, proof readers, editors and the entire Malay Mail family who brought the world of print onto a newspaper with interesting stories and truths to all of us for years,” she said.

President of Yayasan Kebajikan Artis Tanahair (YKAT) Datuk DJ Dave always remembered Malay Mail as the only English paper that carried news about local entertainers back then.

“Whenever an artiste does a show, there will always be coverage on it.

“As a reader of English papers, I would be one of them who would always have a copy with me.

“Apart from entertainment and sports news, I would also read up on the latest corporate news and that made Malay Mail an interesting paper to read.

“I personally feel sad that Malay Mail will not be in circulation anymore but I understand that the digital medium has taken over.

Malay Mail will still be relevant in the digital world,” he said.

Karyawan president Datuk Freddie Fernandez echoed the same sentiments and added he is sad to see the print version lose its place in the modern world.

“The paper takes me back to my youth where we used to follow sports.

“Since it was an afternoon paper, we used to get the latest news regarding foreign sports like football and golf.

“Those days, not many matches were shown live so we had to rely on Malay Mail for the latest scores.

“It is sad to know that we won’t be able to hold the paper in our hands anymore.

“It has done a great job but unfortunately the paper has lost its battle to the more popular online media,” he said.

Freddie, who used to be vocalist and keyboardist for 80s band The Revolvers, said Malay Mail helped in promoting them extensively.

“The music industry was well supported by the paper back then.

“The Revolvers’ first album received a lot of coverage and Malay Mail helped us to promote it.

“The paper was widely read those days so it helped us tremendously for the sale as well as our shows.

“We were a much sought after band due to the publicity we received. Malay Mail contributed a lot to the success of The Revolvers,” he said.

The band released its first album Perpisahan in 1980 and Freddie said Malay Mail helped The Revolvers to make a name for themselves.

“Throughout the 80s, Malay Mail was a paper that really followed the music industry.”

Another singer who owed a lot to Malay Mail was Fredo. Born Villenguez Alfredo Valentino, the singer started with Flybaits and then he formed Fredo and The Flintstones in 1984.

“I used to appear on RTM’s Hiburan Minggu Ini and Malay Mail used to highlight those shows and helped made my new band popular.

“I just left Flybaits and was trying to make a name for The Flintstones.

Malay Mail helped to give the band a good write-up,” he said.

Fredo added Malay Mail has always been his favourite English newspaper.

“Due to the size, it was easier to carry than the broadsheet newspapers and it’s very convenient.

“I especially liked Sunday Mail where the news was much more easy reading,” he added.

Apart from highlighting artistes about their work, Malay Mail also helped the industry in other ways aside from promotion.

Freddie, who became the president of the Musicians’ Union of Peninsular Malaysia in 1985, also said Malay Mail had helped in tackling piracy issues.

“The paper was the champion of the people especially the entertainment industry.

“It was a champion for all of our causes.

Apart from helping artistes with their music, Malay Mail was also instrumental in getting one of them off the streets.

On Feb 1, 2017, Malay Mail found singer Ben Nathan having tea at a restaurant in Brickfields, just 12 hours after Malay Mail highlighted his plight.

Malay Mail highlighted the plight of the singer, best known for his hits Stanza Sepi Sekeping Hati and Ilusi Satu Penantian, who was captured in video that went viral of him dressed as a vagabond the day before.

Dave was called in to help and Ben has been under YKAT’s care ever since.

Malay Mail will always be ‘the paper that cares’ to me.

“It helped us in getting Ben off the streets and it has always been there for artistes in trouble,” he said.


Below the radar no more

WHEN my former colleague Joe Lee called me up to ask me to write something about how the paper played an important part in putting local independent and fringe music into the spotlight for the masses, the first thing I did was to dive into my archive of newspaper cuttings.

Yes, I still have cuttings of every single story I’ve written that was published in the pages of the paper.

I’m a hoarder like that.

As I sifted through them, rereading what my partner-in-crime Terrina Hussein and I wrote in our weekly column, Below The Radar, the further I was taken away from what I was supposed to write about.

I did try to write something about it, such as on on the history of how the column first started on Dec 31, 2003.

Or of the many unknown acts we introduced who went on have successful careers such as Ahli Fiqir, Estranged, Couple, Pesawat and Bunkface.

How about the middle finger we gave to detractors when over 400 kids who attended This Year’s Final Threat, a 2016 New Year’s Eve gig at Paul’s Place in Jalan Klang Lama, were detained – but I couldn’t get past the first 300 words.

No, it wasn’t writer’s block.

I just didn’t feel the need to glorify what we both did and how important it was (of course in our opinion).

I just didn’t feel like being nostalgic.

If there’s anything I want people to remember, or know about that side of Malay Mail, (the only national daily that dedicated a weekly column to a subject very few really cared about for five years!) is the fact that rock and roll journalism exists.

While other entertainment stories were written like how they were supposed to be, Terrina and I were busy flexing our rock criticism muscles, and got away with it, freely and credibly.

I mean who else could slide in a three-page story on Kapal Selam, a totally unknown band, who only had a demo cassette out, into the cover of the Malay Mail entertainment pullout, Buzz?

How about a full page, 750-word review of Too Phat’s third studio album, Rebirth Into Reality?

Or dedicate two pages strictly to Malaysian backpacker rap led by a group called The Rebel Scum?

We did.

We were blessed to have an editor like Zainal Alam Kadir who encouraged critical story-telling.

We were lucky because the Malay Mail entertainment desk, during my time, was a collective of disruptors who were really good in their respective fields.


Terrina and I were journalists who had opinions on a lot of things, especially the ones that we felt strongly about, in this case, Malaysian’s independent/fringe music scene.

We truly believed in it and we felt that we had a responsibility to use our position to first bring to attention and hopefully educate and convert our readers about a subject that was so pertinent to shaping our music culture, yet so often overlooked.

These opinions and responsibilities would have not gotten anywhere beyond our minds if not for Malay Mail.

As much as we would openly deny it, we do feel proud to see what we wrote, make it to the pages of the paper.

Every published story felt like a certificate of achievement, we believe the subjects of our writing felt the same too.

Well, that was then.

Times have changed, and everyone has either migrated or will be migrating to the digital space.

But there’s a huge difference between reading a copy of what you wrote in your hands, and just clicking and scrolling to read it on a screen.

Adly Syairi Ramly partied with the Malay Mail from 2003 to 2008. He’s still partying today with Thinker Studios.


Pop culture and us

IN June 2003, a television programme that would end up changing the face of Malaysian entertainment quietly premiered to zero fanfare.

Arguably the first of its kind, the full force of the craze for homegrown reality television arrived on our shores in the form of Akademi Fantasia, a tweaked version of Mexico’s La Academia.

Malay Mail covered and reviewed the weekly concerts broadcast “live” from the UPM Experimental Theatre.

The thin crowds in the early weeks was apparent with Astro production staff filling seats to ensure cameras did not just pan to empty spaces.

While Malaysians had their fill of talent shows with Bintang RTM being the first to hit the air in 1964, after morphing from radio’s Bintang Radio which was established in 1959, nothing could have prepared them for the Akademi Fantasia phenomenon with its daily voyeuristic shows and weekly concerts, SMS-based public voting and strains of its theme song, Menuju Puncak, before the show finally ended its run
last year.

Thirteen seasons, an all-star finale, and 172 contestants later, Malaysians were transformed into a nation of couch critics and debated techniques of performances as “pitching”, “bubbling”, “hissing” and more became buzzwords as everyone turned into a vocal and performance expert.

Malay Mail monitored the trend meticulously as it was fascinating, to say the least, to see how a single TV programme could arguably have the biggest cultural impact on a nation in such a short period.

By the second season, the show had taken the nation by storm with AF2’s collective and the “tsuMawi” of Season Three which followed, with the nation obsessed with a young man from Johor named Asmawi Ani – the spillover dominated more than
just ratings.

Bona fide musical artistes desperately jostled with overnight superstars who most times commanded much more than more quality acts that had been around longer, and earned more radio airplay with their releases effortlessly.

Corporate folks moved in for a piece of the action for endorsements, and national dailies were giving more attention with the obsession over the TV show and its

Every single aspect of the show, and its contestants grabbed headlines, from Mawi’s break-up with his fiancée, and the scandal of a contestant’s topless pics becoming the front page fodder in to the choice of the academy’s principals and locations.

How does this merit a mention in the final print edition of Malay Mail?

Even with the commitment of the paper then to highlight local talents and productions, the buzz generated by the programme pushed Malay Mail into hands of many, to the point that other English publications realised there was no way they could ignore the growing interest in the show, despite previously only focusing on select English-medium talents and products.

The circus that it became was eventually viewed as a degradation of the quality of talents and on a bigger scale, the industry itself, and to some extent, the culture of celebrity that was born did negatively impact the industry.

The term “artis mee segera” or instant noodle artistes, alluding to the quick production of talents that did not satiate the appetite for long was born as a result, and it soon became a negative to admit your career birthed from a reality TV show.

Still, there was no denying that the programme had given birth to many talents who have excelled as award-winning acts – not just as singers and performers, but also songwriters, and actors.

And more importantly, the far-reaching impact transformed the entertainment industry into a more dynamic, competitive field.

Akademi Fantasia was not just a TV show.

It was the turning point of evolution for Malaysia’s entertainment industry, and Malay Mail took notice despite the brickbats levelled at the programme.

Until 1963, radio was the only broadcasting medium in Malaysia and it was not until 1984 that we had our first privately owned television station in TV3.

Malaysians are today spoilt for choice, not just with half a dozen terrestrial, free-to air TV stations, pay TV and dozens of radio offerings, we are also inundated with the countless offerings on the digital platform.

The pop phenomenon that was Akademi Fantasia, was revered, then reviled but as the curtains came down on the show at the end of the all-star showdown in AF Megastar late last year, many quietly rued the end of an era, given that reality TV no longer had the impact to introduce new talents.

Instead, in the digital age, the next viral sensation will be the most sought-after.

Likewise, for the Malay Mail, after today, it’s the dawn of a new era.

Every generation looks back at the past, through rose-coloured lenses to reminisce, but change is inevitable and while some might fear the sweeping changes of the digital takeover, it is important to note that nothing remains stagnant and change
is constant.

And while today marks the final curtain call for the print edition of Malay Mail, bringing along with it the mixed emotions – note that the grand lady, 122 years young will continue to thrive and innovate as we continue to look for the next big thing you should know about.


Malay Mail + Yasmin Ahmad = Creative magic

MALAY MAIL was different things to different people.

One thing many will agree upon though, despite the hard news reporting, is the paper’s quirky sense of humour.

Through the years, many creative minds have contributed to the paper… lending it a unique personality that easily stands out from other publications in the country.

Even its in-house ads reflected the character of the paper as evident in two particular ads which came out circa 90s (go check them out in the other pages of this final edition of the newspaper in print!).

Unbeknown to many, the creative force that was behind those ads was none other than the late storyteller extraordinare, Yasmin Ahmad.

Yasmin would go on in the next decade to stamp her mark on Malaysia’s collective psyche; not just for her advertising artistry that included those tear-jerking Petronas ads Malaysians looked forward to every single major celebration, but also for her films that were deceptively simple but infinitely relatable.

From her debut in 2003 with Rabun to the breakthrough hit that was Sepet the following year, Yasmin amassed not just a following, before her final effort in her fifth full-length feature film in 2009’s Talentime, but also the respect of an entire industry.

From sitting down with Yasmin and dissecting Sepet to being stunned on the set of the controversial Muallaf in 2008 where lead actress Sharifah Amani shaved her head to Yasmin’s gentle shrug at the reaction of her established peers walking out of her Gubra premiere in 2006, I was fortunate to have been able to write about her work.

The final print edition of Malay Mail would be incomplete without featuring Yasmin and it was by sheer coincidence that the two ads featured in these pages were found.

The discovery came in the form of a chance discovery of a special collectible — a limited shoebox edition of Yasmin I Lup Chew.

Nine long years after her passing, Yasmin’s legacy is kept alive through reproductions of her raw works that ended up captivating the hearts, minds and imagination of Malaysia.

Launched in tandem with the book, Yasmin I Lup Chew, titled after the lovingly cheeky phrase she became known for, it is a must-have offered for sale only online.

An exploration of its contents reveals a treasure trove offering an insight into the eccentricities that made Yasmin Ahmad special.

Neatly packed in the shoebox is a painstakingly reproduced collection of her works a book could not house.

Handwritten poetry, ideas, miscellaneous jottings, scripts and photos, apart from the book itself are in reproductions of a notebook, the occasional doodle, a sketch, an old-fashioned photo album from the Nineties and a ‘newspaper’ with articles and press ads dreamt up by Yasmin herself.

And in the pages of the I Lup Chew Daily, sandwiched inside are these two rib-tickling funny full page ads about the Malay Mail.

While it is aesthetically awe-inspiring to see the attention to details in the recreations with the yellowed and aged pages, and little blotches of correction fluid (today’s generation will never fully appreciate the use of Liquid Paper), the magic here is the insight into Yasmin’s musings.

The box is akin to finding a little time capsule. Sister Datin Orked Ahmad would probably know best, as much of the material was sourced from an actual shoebox, that held most of the items.

“When I saw it, I cried. It was exactly as she left it,” she sighed.

“We kept it as a limited edition item, because we wanted to keep it special for those who appreciated, missed and treasured her.”

Through the beauty of technology, former colleagues and a new generation of creatives have managed to put together the package that is a work of art on its own.

One of those mainly responsible for the limited edition shoebox is Virgil, who worked with Yasmin as a copywriter from the late 80s at Ogilvy & Mather to her last agency Leo Burnett.

“Yasmin kept her handwritten notes and photos in various shoeboxes, just like how she depicted it in her movie Gubra (where Alan Yun shows Sharifah Amani his late brother’s shoebox hidden under his bed).

“In the Ogilvy & Mather office, whenever Yasmin noticed struggling fellow copywriters, she would show us her… shoebox. And tell us stories.

“She was never lokek or kedekut when it came to helping others improve. She never hoarded knowledge.

“Her library in the office was open to all. She would even insist we read her books on Zen koans, the Tao Te Ching, Rumi’s Sufi poems, even Wislawa Szymborska’s Polish poetry.”

At Leo Burnett, Yasmin organised classes every Friday night to teach whatever she knew, which by the third week, attendance had dwindled to Virgil alone.

“She didn’t give up teaching the one person who turned up.”

Bringing the project to life was Fictionist Studio founder and creative director Joanne Chew, along with art director Jona Lim and intern Kimberly Yap.

“We were given quite a lot of disparate materials to work with, and the freedom to suggest how they could be showcased.”

The small team worked with paper sponsor Antalis as well as printers, Percetakan Image Vest, to ensure that all items were faithful reproductions of Yasmin’s stuff.

“I had received a call from Hyrul Anuar, a friend who was part of the team at Leo Burnett who was tasked to get the project off the ground. He asked if I was interested to take on the project.”

Despite budget restrictions and swamped with work, Chew however agreed.

While she knew of Yasmin, she never had the opportunity to meet her – and working on Yasmin I Lup Chew was an eye-opener.

“I think most of us Malaysians identify Yasmin as a creative genius. That was what I knew of her, and her witty sense of humour.

“But working on Yasmin I Lup Chew shed so much more light on what a kindred spirit she was, how quintessentially Malaysian she was, in the movies she made and her outlook on life. She loved her family and country so steadfastly, it was beyond inspiring. And not to mention her humility.”

And that was the creative direction from the get-go.

For Virgil it was years in the making, and for Chew, endless hours spanning five months.

“It was a labour of love and our way of paying tribute to her — by trying our best to design a damn bloody beautiful book which matches a damn bloody beautiful soul,” said Chew.

“Having received positive reactions has been very rewarding for us but more importantly, we hope that this project can inspire other Malaysians to be more compassionate, live life with a greater purpose and the realisation that something can always be made from nothing, just as how Yasmin did.”

Yasmin Ahmad never wanted to be idolised nor was she perfect, and that is one of the messages the team hopes to get across.

“Everyone, herself included, started from nowhere, and took years to improve as you can see from her notes, poetry and ideas.”

Malay Mail would like to thank Joanne Chew and Fictionist Studio as well as Leo Burnett for providing reproductions of the two advertisements reproduced in this final print edition.

‘Yasmin I Lup Chew’ the limited shoebox edition is available exclusively via or Yasmin at Kong Heng on Facebook for RM299 ; profits from the sale of the book will be channelled to Yasmin’s favourite charities, Mercy Malaysia and Persatuan Yasmin Ahmad.


Keeping in tune with the times

MALAY MAIL’s move to go fully digital was inevitable and one artist who can understand and relate to this move is none other than rapper Joe Flizzow.

He grew up in a house with parents working in media.

His father Ishak Nengah was a television personality while his mother Aishah Ali was a Sunday Mail – Malay Mail’s Sunday edition – editor.

Joe, whose real name is Johan Ishak, 39, related the move to how the music industry has evolved over the years, stating that no one took his words seriously in the early 2000s when he told them discs and cassettes would be a thing of the past.

“No one could grasp the idea when I told them it (albums through cassettes and discs) would come to an end.

“It’s the same thing for Malay Mail I guess, but really nothing beats reading a good book or newspaper… holding it in your hands,” he explained.

Unlike others, he knew how the media industry worked from a very young age; he was in the New Straits Times’ young journalist programme called the Writers Bloc and got his first byline when he was only 16.

He practically grew up in Balai Berita during most of his teenage years.

“Not many know but I was a reporter back in NST for a short time. It was through this programme that I got a better understanding of the media world, how to write a story, give a press conference and what are the ways to attract the media as an artist,” he explained.

Local hip-hop garnered a very niche number of fans during its early days but through Too Phat and Joe, it progressively rose to where it is today.

When he was making his way to the top, it was hard to get exposure and having a newspaper editor mum did not make it any easier.

“My mum was an editor and that made it harder for me. I remember a few entertainment reporters told me that Malay Mail won’t carry my story because it did not have enough credit.

“To me it really didn’t matter but when I did get coverage, it was when my album received positive reviews.

“Online presence was lacking back then, but today it is the way forward. Congratulations to Malay Mail, I guess its an end of an era with a hope of a new start,” the KL-born artist said.

The Kartel Records founder said readers must embrace technology and it is all about being at the top of your game.

“We must embrace technology because if you don’t, you’re going to be on the back foot. I could be 100 years old, but if I’m hungry I could succeed, rather than a 50-year-old who’s great but cannot accept change.”

Inaugural Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn Victor said that Malay Mail has continuously supported her from her pre-Malaysian Idol days to the present.

“I’ve done a lot of interviews with the publication and in fact it was Errol de Cruz was the first to give me some coverage while I was still performing in the pubs.

“He used to watch my band JJEDS every week and fell in love with our style and wanted to know more about how we formed the outfit,” the 39-year-old said.

She added that she has always been a fan of the print and admitted the announcement was sad news to her.

“It’s quite sad that we’ve now turned into a society who looks at other means to get news updates, but I believe Malay Mail going fully digital is the way forward. It is the right move during this era,” she said.

Jaclyn said it is important to make a change when necessary and that was how she allowed her brand to bloom into what it is today.

“If something is no longer of use, we have to find another initiative. I’ve been interviewed several times by the lifestyle reporters from Malay Mail and I guess now the copies will have a more sentimental value.

“I’d like to say thank you to the editors and reporters for every kind word that was said about me. And for keeping it going… 122 years is a long time to sustain.”

Echoing a same sentiment was singer, actress and master of ceremonies
Adibah Noor.

“Thank you to everyone at Malay Mail for everything that you have done, especially to the entertainment team who has done their part to support the music and entertainment industry,” the 48-year-old said.

Adibah rose to fame in a similar fashion as Jaclyn, winning a nationwide talent contest called Nescafe Suara 90an in 1994.

The Kuala Lumpur-born talent was an English teacher but wanted to expand her work scope, eventually leaving the industry to work as a copywriter and translator, something she said she could relate to Malay Mail’s move to go fully digital.

“I’m still the old school type who prefers to read a newspaper. It is rather sad that all these will be obsolete one day.

“But we have to move with the tide, if not we lose out and become extinct,” she said.

Malay Mail played a part in her rise from the mid 90s to the early 2000s, but as Adibah puts in she never chased fame.

Simply allowing the reporters to discover her and think whether she was worth a story or not.

“I never sat down and thought to myself whether I was ever good enough for a story. If I had wanted to always appear in the papers, I would have gone hobnobbing with reporters.

“Thankfully the reporters at Malay Mail always felt I was worth a story. When Jad Mahidin interviewed me about being in Chang & Eng the musical, it was like catching up between two friends because she was my school mate.

“Besides her, Joe Lee and Che’ Az always kept in touch with me and we’ve become closer friends now.”

Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza also shared a similar opinion, saying she looked on the positive side whether a story in Malay Mail was to highlight an achievement or to criticise her.

“My career begun in 1996 and the publication has always given me a platform to share my story. As an artist, every comment and criticism to me is normal and I will never deny it.

“If a comment is aimed at me to explore my talent, I will take it as advice and will strive to give my best,” the 39-year-old said.

Siti Nurhaliza said that the paper has played an important role in the entertainment industry and believes that the paper will succeed even more when it goes fully digital.

“Just like the other newspapers, Malay Mail has always played an important role in the industry and especially my career.”

Faridah and Joe

Beacon of hope for the arts

FOR many big names in the Malaysian performing arts scene, the Malay Mail will always be remembered as a constant presence that always supported the arts from its budding years.

Just ask theatre stalwart Datuk Faridah Merican, who would wholeheartedly agree.

“From its very early days, the Malay Mail was a staunch supporter of the arts.

“It made performing a pleasure as the papers did not complain much about space for the arts. Exactly what the arts needed.

“The arts have suffered from decisions made to not pay as much attention to Malaysian performing arts. Of course, we cannot improve our skills and get awareness from the general public if the media does not play its part,” The Actors Studio co-founder and executive producer said.

The 79-year-old First Lady of Malaysian theatre said she will fondly look back on the good old days when she would keep a scrapbook of her articles, a habit which continues until today, a little slowed down nonetheless.

Her husband and theatre partner-in-crime Joe Hasham entered the scene in 1989, in an industry dominated by heavyweights such as Krishen Jit, Syed Alwi, Usman Awang, Marion D’Cruz and Faridah herself.

He recalls a vibrancy which he said is missing today.

“Those early years were tough but there was great joy throughout the performing arts industry, a joy that has now been partly replaced by some bitterness and occasional jealousies,” said Joe.

For the Australian-Lebanese actor, the Malay Mail stood out from the crowd as an ardent and genuine supporter of the arts which played a vital role in the early development of theatre companies like the Five Arts Centre, The Instant Café Theatre Company, The Actors Studio and more recently Penangac and KLPac.

“I remember the Malay Mail as a paper that was not afraid to push the boundaries, unafraid to critique openly and honestly, and was not interested in sucking up to anybody.

“It told it the way it was, dirt and all. I can only assume that this was because of the quality of the writers on staff.

“It is with a heavy heart that I must accept the fact that this gloriously historic newspaper will now only be available digitally,” the KLPac and Penangpac artistic director said.

Painting a picture of the arts scene in the 90s, singer-actor Sean Ghazi said there were no proper ticketing agencies – organisers had to manually print tickets and partner up with restaurants and bookshops to sell tickets.

Sean will never forget how everyone would hang on to the Malay Mail when it was an afternoon paper.

“It was hard getting information out there that you were putting on a show, we used the Malay Mail as a conduit to getting information out there, to get reviewed. — the Malay Mail was a friend we could count on and the reviews were always fair,” he said.

“While I’ll miss telling my friends to get copies of the paper if I’m promoting a show, I’m all for the immediacy of online journalism as production runs here are quite short.”

From theatre to dance, former dean of Aswara’s (National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage) dance faculty Professor Joseph Gonzales has always been at the forefront of preserving traditional Malay dance forms through bold interpretations.

“The emergence of what we see today has been post-independence efforts to develop and nurture the arts, as well as to make it more professional,” said Gonzales, who currently serves as Head of Academic and Contextual Studies at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

“The Malay Mail has contributed hugely to the performing arts by assisting to raise its profile. The dissemination of information about the arts has been vital for its growth.”

He recalled journalists who went beyond the expected coverage of a show’s basic details such as venue, time and price by providing earnest feedback of what they have watched and were also able to contextualise the academy’s various productions.

Here’s a fun fact: Way before Gonzales made headlines for his dance productions, he first appeared in the Malay Mail in 1979 after winning a small academic scholarship when he was in Form Six.

In 1999, Istana Budaya opened its doors as the primary venue for all forms of theatre.

Although the national theatre was under the purview of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, it needed a push to acquaint people with the newly-minted creative space.

“When Istana Budaya first started, we were faced with a major challenge of introducing it to the public and that’s where the media played a part,” its director-general Datuk Mohamed Juhari Shaarani recalled.

“The Malay Mail helped Istana Budaya a lot from the beginning. At the start, we leaned towards Malay theatre and found it difficult to get non-Malay publications to promote our shows.”

Juhari added he will forever be grateful for the generous support that the paper lent to musical productions such as Puteri Gunung Ledang and P. Ramlee The Musical.

As a young woman trying to launch a career in showbusiness, Kakiseni president Low Ngai Yuen used to comb through the paper looking for auditions and listings of shows she could afford to attend as well as reading reviews.

“I remember being featured for The Actors Studio’s Stories for Amah in Malay Mail. I had just started hosting 3R on TV3 and was super honoured and elated,” she said.

Low added she knew the article had made an impact when random strangers would come up to her to talk about the feature.


Sweet memories of ‘Typewriter MP’ Lee with afternoon tabloid

KUALA LUMPUR — The country’s oldest English daily Malay Mail was the paper to read for Kuala Lumpur news and still brings back “sweet memories” for social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

Lee, 72, spent his 21-year political career keeping in close contact with the media, including Malay Mail, after he was elected an assemblyman in 1969.

The relationship with Malay Mail became even closer in 1972 when Lee was elected to Parliament.

“I was so close to them to the extent that I used to bring my typewriter into the Malay Mail office, and I started to prepare my press statements (there) and give it to Malay Mail.

“One day, Philip Mathews said, ‘It looks as if we have a new reporter who has joined us’,” he said, referring to the former news editor from the 1970s.

Typewriter MP is born

Lee would continue to bring his typewriter to the offices of news agencies until around 1980 when he started using fax machines.

As the Bukit Nanas assemblyman and MP of various seats, including the now-defunct Kuala Lumpur Bandar and Bukit Bintang, Lee said his public service included highlighting issues linked to the then numerous squatter areas and pothole-ridden roads, as well as helping hawkers and petty traders.

“I used to make statements every time these hawkers came and complained to me that they could not get a licence. I would take up their case, I would go to Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur, I would fight for them. Every time I took up an issue, I would issue a statement to the media to let the people know what I have done,” he said.

“I still remember the ’70s. Malay Mail was the paper in KL. In my constituency everybody wanted to buy Malay Mail. When people asked me what I had done, I told them read Malay Mail. ‘You want to know what I have done, what I have said, please buy Malay Mail. My views are all inside’.

“I am indeed indebted to Malay Mail because it gave me very prominent coverage, and as a result I was known among the people of Kuala Lumpur. Every time there was a problem they would look for Lee Lam Thye.”

Lee went on to garner several nicknames before retiring from politics in 1990, such as the “Father of Hawkers”, “The People’s MP”, and “The MP with the Typewriter”.

But even after retiring from politics, Lee continued to be a regular contributor of the “Letters to Editors” section in the paper, where he touched on non-political issues such as national unity, safety and health at work, mental health, social ills such as drug addiction, and problems faced by youths.

News at noon

Remembering Malay Mail as being a newspaper for urbanites in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, Lee recalled the paper’s noon edition in the Klang Valley that carried all the latest news.

“I still remember during lunch hour, even before I had my lunch, the first thing I did was get a copy of Malay Mail. And all my friends went out and bought the paper, too.

“The favourite of Malay Mail were the local authorities. They wrote a lot about hawkers’ problems, flash floods, fires … we had big fires, squatter houses got burnt. Malay Mail also focused on social problems about drug addicts, and sometimes about crime,” he said, adding that the newspaper’s circulation then was an impressive 40,000 to 50,000 copies.

Lee recalled the popular columns by former editors such as the late Tan Siong Hoon, or S.H. Tan as he was better known, noting that readers would buy Malay Mail to read Tan’s columns which could include “juicy stories” and topics of human interest.

“He was a great writer. People looked forward to his column. Malay Mail was very popular. Everywhere you went, people talked about Malay Mail, especially S.H. Tan’s columns.

“He wrote about things which were very interesting; he wrote about life, anything that came to the mind and they were a wide range of subjects … talking about how to pick the right person to be your wife,” Lee said, adding that the editor was a committed man who worked long hours.

Lee also recalled working closely with former Malay Mail staffers such as the late Sri K. Nayagam and M.A. Razman, better known as Ratan Singh.

Digital reality

Lee, who confessed to be of the “old school” generation, still prefers touching and flipping through physical copies of newspapers.

He said he continued to keep up his practice of the past 38 years of cutting out newspaper clippings and sorting them according to topics as his own personal research archive.

“I would very much like to see the print edition of Malay Mail continue, but of course I also know the reality. We have to be realistic about what’s happening.

“News in print is no longer on the wishlist of many. Now all people are interested in is news they can get instantly with just a touch of the finger on all the gadgets,” he said, observing that the trend of immediate access to news online had caused newspaper sales to fall.

“This is something which is irreversible. Now people talk about the new era, the digital age. It’s something that is global, the whole world is living in the digital age. Malaysia cannot be left out from the mainstream. We have to move with the times.

“I still feel sad that I will no longer have a print copy of Malay Mail.

Lee said he did not know how long newspapers would be around, adding that “there may come a time when all these newspaper companies may have to see whether it is still worthwhile doing print”.

Congratulating Malay Mail over its print run just barely shy of its 122th anniversary, Lee said: “All these, to me, will remain sweet memories. Very nostalgic, as it takes me back to my early days when I had so many friends around and when I used to bring a typewriter to the newspaper offices. Brings me back to those years … It was fun for me, it was great.”


A paper that truly cares, says MCA’s Michael Chong

KUALA LUMPUR — MCA’s public complaints go-to-guy Datuk Seri Michael Chong’s 38-year ties with Malay Mail started in 1980 when he became the secretary of the party’s then youth leader, Tan Sri Lee Kim Sai.

Chong, who was tasked with inviting the media to cover Lee’s press conferences and who learned about community service from the latter, continued to tap on these connections when he worked full-time in MCA’s Public Services & Complaints Department in 1987 to this day.

Malay Mail always liked to carry community service news,” he said, adding the newspaper covered news that helped the public and exposed scams.

“You must not forget that Malay Mail at that time also did a lot of humanitarian work; we saved lives, we raised money to save lives, and that’s why I’ll never forget Malay Mail,” he said.

Active fundraiser

For Chong, publicity through the media is crucial for his public services and the cases he handles, noting that Malay Mail had worked with him to seek public donations for those who needed financial assistance.

“Whenever I wanted help, Malay Mail would carry the story and help me,” he said, adding the fundraising efforts with the paper for the less fortunate and those who were sick and needed funds for medical treatment such as children were always “very successful”.

Chong also went on multiple humanitarian trips abroad to help Malaysians, adding Malay Mail journalists who went along with him would go all out to provide news coverage.

“[Journalist] Badrolhisham Bidin and I went to Taiwan in the early 1990s. We went there and tried to save a Malaysian from facing the firing squad,” he recalled.

“I cannot also forget guys like Freddie Ng, who is now editor-in-chief of The Sun, in the early 1990s. He and I went to Tokyo to rescue stranded Malaysians. That’s how Malay Mail helped me,” he said, referring to Malaysians who were working illegally in Japan and could not return.

Even when Malay Mail had no funds for its reporters to go with Chong, he said well-wishers would help to support those missions.

Angering prostitutes

But most unforgettable for Chong was an incident in the late 1980s, which came about after Malay Mail published stories about illegal prostitution dens and massage parlours in Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Bintang and Jalan Hicks area.

He said he did not think the prostitutes would dare call a press conference to protest against the authorities’ raids on them in Jalan Hicks as they affected their livelihood.

“Because Malay Mail was bringing up all these stories about prostitutes and all the vice in Kuala Lumpur, and because of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the authorities had to show a good image to the foreigners that Kuala Lumpur is very clean,” he said, referring to the time when Malaysia playedd host to the international meet.

“The prostitutes were so angry, they called me for a press conference and I remember they wanted to look for Eddie Chua and Badrulhisham. They said if they ever caught these two reporters, they vowed to take off their panties and put them on the reporters’ heads.

“So I had to call up [then news editor] Lee Boon Siew and we alerted Badrulhisham and Eddie Chua not to go to that area, because they had angered all the prostitutes. That is the biggest Malay Mail news I can never forget,” he said.

He also remembered The Edge Media Group’s Datuk Ho Kay Tat and New Straits Times’ Datuk Yushaimi Maulud Yahaya as young reporters with Malay Mail covering his press conferences.

Ads for everything

Chong recalled that Malay Mail was, in its heyday, the paper that one turned to when it came to placing advertisements.

“At that time, when you thought of Malay Mail, you thought of advertisements. Even when you wanted to rent a simple room, you thought of Malay Mail; you wanted to sell a car, you thought of Malay Mail,” he said, adding that was how well the newspaper performed then.

When Malay Mail later faced difficulties when the economy was not doing well and almost shuttered amid a decline in advertisements, Chong recalled discussing with Malay Mail reporters on how to keep the paper going, and he agreed to pass every good story he had exclusively to the paper.

“We kept Malay Mail alive. Because of my good relationship with all these reporters who had helped me, I gave a lot of exclusive stories to Malay Mail. They got it all the time, they hit the front page,” he said, noting the paper did continue to survive.

Keep the legacy going

With Malay Mail going fully digital tomorrow after a print run of close to 122 years, Chong said he was “very, very sad” as the paper “has been with me for so long and has been helping me from day one.”

“I owe a lot to Malay Mail. I want to thank all the reporters. Some have passed away. They are really wonderful people, we really strived together. So it’s coming to an end. From my heart, I want to thank them,” he said, adding Malay Mail was a paper which published news “without fear or favour”.

“I salute all the management, from the editor-in-chief to the reporters, photographers, everyone in Malay Mail. I salute them because they really have fought so hard for Malay Mail and brought this newspaper up.

“The legacy of Malay Mail must continue with better ideas, I would not like to see a 120-over year-old [paper] to go and just fade away. It should continue,” he said.


Spread of beauties

Apart from its investigative pieces and the knack to present stories differently, Malay Mail was also known for its bevy of beauties that were showcased on either page 3 or the front page of the newspaper.

Many have graced the pages and it was a section that a segment of readers looked forward to seeing.

Here are some samples — including the ones that were featured when breaking stories like the Highland Towers tragedy and the hunt for notorious gangster Bentong Kali — and when convicted murderer Mona Fandey made it to the cover of Malay Mail.

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