valentine tawie

Strongly believe in Scouting. … It’s a source of great strength to us.

– John F. Kennedy, American politician who served as the 35th president of the United State

The demise of a dear and close friend of 41 years left me with a profound sense of loss and devastation.

Even though the late Mohd Said Bolhassan, fondly known as Pak Said, was 78 and considered “old” in a sense, his passing on the eve of the Chinese New Year (CNY), was seemingly unreal; after all I saw him at his office at the State Scout Headquarters just a few days before – and he looked fit and as handsome as ever.

So when another dear scouting friend Zasran Abdullah sent a WhatsApp message to me on CNY eve around 2pm about the passing of our mutual friend, it was almost unbelievable.

I have known both Pak Said and Zasran since 1979. That was when a scout leadership course (Woodbadge Course Stage 1) was held at Rajang Teachers College (MPR) in Bintangor.

I was the Assistant Group Commissioner for KLM 27 (MPR). It was from that moment that scouting introduced me to a good number of state scout leaders such Pak Said, Zasran, James Jamai, Joseph Chong, Thang Meng Kee and Ng Boon Huat. Later through the other scouting activities and courses throughout the state of Sarawak I came to know many more scouters such as Datuk Safri Awang Zaidell (now Tan Sri), Thian Hiong Boon, Geoffrey Teo, Peter Lim and Simon Lee.

The list of scouting friends is interminable. But it was the late Pak Said that was always in contact with me since our first meeting. I even bought his old Fiat Saloon 124 (KE 6270) from him in 1982 (the car green card is still with me though the car runs no more). 

This was because he was the executive secretary at the Scout HQ soon after his retirement from civil service in 1997; his last post being private secretary to TYT Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin. 

He took over from another scouting friend Thian Hiong Boon soon after his (Said’s) retirement in 1997 at the age of 55.

Part of the reasons why we were always in contact with each other was due to my appointment as a scouting commissioner, especially as Assistant State Chief Commissioner since the early 2000 and due to personal matters as dear friends.

We hand many meals and rendezvouses together. As a jolly good fellow he used to laugh heartily as the various jokes we jointly cracked.

For example our common item of laughter was imitating another scouter’s intonation with a shout: “Eh brada, got wata in the riba kah? (which he tried to mean ‘brother, got water in the river kah?’) a recall of our camping at a jungle edge in Serian circa 1987.

Our most memorable moment together was a three-day course in Simanggang in 1989 where we lodged at a primary school near the Simanggang town, also known as Sri Aman.

After the course was over and prior to a return journey we dropped by the Tamu site in the town with the aim of buying some local items. I whispered to Pak Said that we would call him “Datuk” (he did look like one) to impress some of the maidens and old ladies selling items at the Tamu. 

So I said loudly, “This one is good for you to bring back to Kuching Datuk. Datin would be impressed.” Few heads did turn but Pak Said had to belanja a few of us scouters at a Roti Bakar shop nearby.

The others in the group included Joseph Chong and Thang Meng Khee. We all had a good laugh. Such incident was dear to Pak Said. Even in our last meeting we still laughed about it.

When I told my dear friend Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom who is currently Sarawak Scout Council president about, he also had a good laugh (Mawan and I have been friends since 1975).

Scouting has been an item that introduces me to a good number of friends. As with Mawan, it helps to seal our friendship, now that I am State Publicity Commissioner.

It goes the same with the present State Chief Commissioner Capt. Zainuddin Tan Sri Datuk Amar Hamdan, whom I have known long before him helming the state scouting fraternity.

So apart from Pak Said, there are scores of other scout leaders who have become an integral part of my life in the last 40 years. Some have also departed from this world, the earliest being my very close friend, the late Sebastian Legak who brought me to join him as a scout leader in 1979. He was the KLM 27 Group Commissioner.

Together we came to know Richard Riot who headed the Youth and Sports Department in Sarikei. He was the Regional Scout Commissioner. When I met him again in 2015, he was addressed as Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem and was a federal minister.

It is a wonder that scouting makes friendship an everlasting union. Once a scout you are always a scout.

To me this means scouting friendship is forever. It helps to seal friendships, especially in my case with Mawan and Captain Zainuddin, whom I knew outside scouting.

As with the late Pak Said, perhaps Sarawak’s most decorated scouter, and others, scouting keeps our friendship intact.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.