During the FT@60 Grand Dinner on 5th July 2019, there was a video segment at the very end to give tribute to 16 FT (First Thoroughbreds) that has passed away. This video montage to the mournful strains of ‘Di Mana Kan ku cari ganti (Where can I find your replacement)’ by Sheila Majid was shown on screen and it bought a tearful and poignant moment to the audience. A friend who dies, it’s something of you who dies. Those we love and lose are always connected by heartstrings into infinity.
From the 16 FT personalities, one struck me the most was Arwah Azlan Othman aka Lae Samae, the Deputy Head Boy of MCKK 1978, a close friend and confidant. I searched through the past eulogies that I have written and found one as follows:
I was in Abu Dhabi, UAE on 28 May 2009 when I received the SMS from the missus about the demise of Lae Samae, I was lost for words. I was then on the company bus going back from work on a hot evening in Abu Dhabi. I recited a quiet Al-Fatihah for my dear departed friend whilst my mind was reflecting like a film reel recollecting things about Lae. This is the second demise of FT batch mates in over a year that I have been in the U.A.E, and Lae Samae make in No. 8 and the 1st from Sulaiman house out of the original 120 FTs. It makes you ponder of how life is so precarious. One day Lae was celebrating his 50th Birthday, and 12 days later, he was called up by the Maker.
I still remember his postings on the e-group thanking all for the birthday wishes 2 weeks ago and his last message was answering or deciphing his cryptic message about Man. Utd. being tear gassed by Kelantan during the Man. U–Liverpool debacle. He also hoped to head a Spy Academy before retirement. Yes, Lae was in the Government’s espionage service or in Bolehland, they go by an unassuming name as Bahagian Penyelidikan, JPM or BTN, JPM, sort of like his Majesty Secret Service, an equivalent of MI5, the British Secret Service or the equivalent CIA. We all knew that but never indulge too much on what he did, as never to compromise his mission and position.
Maybe he was the proverbial Spy Leman, as we used to labelled those that at the eyes and ears of the Prefects Board back then in Koleq. Lae was always on some Government mission somewhere to lands like Turkey, China, Eygpt, Katmandu, Timbuktu and remained an enigma to many of us. He does occasionally join the other FTs for activities or “Teh-Tariks” session when’s he was in town, still ever cheerful but never disclosing many things. Maybe his training taught him to listen and observe without divulging much. A Man of mystery .
Even his diabetes that led to his pancreatic and liver failure that resulted to his death was not known to much of us. To me, I shall always treasure a photo shot of Lae, Shakas and me at the door to Dorm 5, Big School which shows a gawky Lae smiling and it was always been a thought that I could remake that photo shot of the BEFORE and AFTER somewhat at the same spot someday, maybe during some OBW. But Lae never when back for OBWs due to work commitments, displacements and untimely missions. But then again, the 3 three of us now might not even fit that doorway now with maybe a combined tonnage of 0.5 tonnes! Maybe, might even captioned it as “it ain’t heavy, they are my brothers!”
The last time I met Lae was in late 2008, when Wak Mat and me called him for lunch, as his office was nearby in the same JPM complex (not the one on the hill), when we went to see Dato’ Latt Shariman (Class of ’85) who was then political secretary to the then Economic Minister Effendi Nawawi at JPM. However, we did not make lunch but managed to have a short encounter with Lae at the lobby of his office, promising to do lunch at a later date.
On another occasion, in 2005 during the time Mr Jak Li aka Ulrich was doing his 100 years MCKK exhibition at that shopping Mall, Alamanda in Putrajaya, I called him over (his office was nearby) to come and see the exhibition. He came in full Government regali with name tag and he was glad that some of the pictures he contributed made it to the exhibition. Earlier, Lae has given me a cache of scanned photos of his days in Koleq, which I shall treasure to this day. We even had lunch at the Alamanda’s Food Court and he called over his Pengarah Boss (Dato’ Fauzi, Class of ’67) and another PTD Old Boy Yusof Bakar (Class of ’72) over to join us. The echoing words that I remember him saying “You pay-lah, you private sector, we only Gomen servant.”
What do I or we really know about Lae Samae, or his alter ego Azlan bin Othman. A Bangsa Johor Bahru, Form 1 to 3 D, Commerce Class after LCE, Sulaiman house, Dhoby Number 100, gawky fellow in College, a Deputy Head Boy 1978, maybe Sulaiman House Captain 1978, one of the six remaining FT’s in Upper Six, went to UM, did BSc Malay Studies with a Masters in Strategy & Diplomacy (UKM), joined the elite PTD (Pegawai Tadbir & Diplomatik) service, was in Taiwan and Beijing for about 10 years, before settling in USJ2, Subang Jaya. And have been with Bahagian Penyelidikan, Jabatan Perdana Menteri ever since start of his career.
Maybe, we would like to know more about you after Koleq, but then again, we couldn’t as we are more pre-occupied with our own lives and not wanting to compromise your astute position. Lae was a good guy by far, and he could have become Head Boy, as he was assumed to be one of the two goody two shoes of the FT’s that did Upper Six. But since Coupe aka Kupeng was the “favourite” protege of Mr Gupta who firmly believed that “it take a crook to catch a crook”, Lae had to settle as the Deputy Head Boy, playing second fiddle to Kupeng (Sharifuddin Jasiman) as part of the good guy of the Good and Bad cop routine.
Lae had ‘having fun’ written on his gawky bearing. I remember, when a few of us was back from UK for the summer holiday in MCKK 1978 and whilst we were squatting at Lae’s cubicle in the Pavilion, one night Lae remarked “…Lu Orang nak rokok, tak? Hey, who doesn’t need ‘rokoks’ those days. “Ok, nanti masa dia orang pergi Prep, gua buat raid kat dormitory at Big School” and true enough, he brought cartons of boxes of ciggies, enough to make his cubicle a smoking house. That’s Lae for you. He gets a mission done in the service of others.
Come to thing of it, Lae was really a smart and witty guy. I was told that only the top brains during the PTD training at chosen and given the option of being either in the Foreign Service or the Secret Service. Lae chose the Secret Service cum Research Division JPM. All the other scums of the PTD training will be assigned as DO’s, Penolong Setiausaha Bahagian, or other appropriate PTD positions of administration, who eventually would become KSN, KSU’s, TKSU’s, SUB’s. Our Lae chose a closed service, meaning a life-long service with the same department all throughout his career.
Lae could have chosen to be in the Foreign Service and might ever end up as a Duta (Ambassador) to some Malaysian foreign embassy. Maybe even, as Ketua Setiausaha Negara, the top administrator of Malaysia. Lae made his choice because he was smart or maybe, his past experience as his post Deputy Head boy, would auger well in as a Deputy Director the Bahagian Penyelidikan. The Bahagian Penyelidikan is the eyes, ears and nose of the Government and it takes a smart guy to do research on sublime subject, clandestine activities and all those espionage things that only a Secret Service man keeps secrets.
But, somehow I can’t hardly imaging or place Lae to be in the image of Bond 007 or not even as Austin Powers, the International Man of Mystery. Lae was gentle, humble, non-assuming kind of fellow. A hard working Spy Leman in the service of his Country but alas, his untimely death has created a shock and a void in all of us, kinda here but not here, but will always be here. His untimely death remains a mystery and a weird thought comes to mind is that he actually feigned his death and assuming a different identity or living in a monastery high up in the Himalayas like those Hollywood action thriller movies.
My imagination is running wild here or maybe the hot 45 degrees heat or work stress is playing tricks on my mind again. Maybe it’s the distress of not being able to say farewell in person to my dear departed brother for life.
The nation will miss you. We, your FT brothers will always miss you Lae. I shall forever miss you, brother. Only when one is gone, that we have memories and anecdotes of them. So, morale of this eulogy is that let’s try be nice to one other. Life is short and maybe to us, much shorter @ 50s. Luckily, Lae was not whacked nor he had whacked anyone. We might regret it afterwards and only recite their names during ‘tahlils’. Be more sensitive to them, learn more about them and their environment as they are now, not what they were 30 years ago.
But come to think of it, Lae was just that kind of unassuming guy, just keeping quiet, analysing, never antagonising anyone for whatever trivial matters. He was always diplomatic about things and that made him an overall nice guy. From Allah we came, to Allah we shall return. May Allah place Our brother, Azlan Othman amongst the “ambias”.
He was only 50 years old when he passed away and survived by a widow, Siti Sariah Mohd Ali and 2 daughters, Aziyan and Azita. His last words in the FT@ almost 30 years after Koleq commemorative book was “..Thank you Koleq. Semoga Allah Panjang kan umur mike..Amin”. The Malay College lives on but sadly Lae did not. Farewell to good man and buddy. He would have been 60 and be with us at the FT@60 Grand Dinner as a retired Chief Malaysian Spy.
P.S: Lae, sorry, for not making the lunch date back in 2008, but we can still do lunch hey, maybe not now, maybe in the hereafter. Maybe we could also get the hereafter photos that I always dream of, after-all. May Allah bless your soul. InnaLillahi wa inna Ilahi rajiuunm, Al-Fatihah.
Lae, I know you are now in a better place. On the death of a good friend like you, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfil the promise of your life also, in our own, to the world.