The death of the former ambassador in the Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Dato’ Abdullah Zawawi, 79 marks the closing of another chapter in the lives of distinguished Malaysian diplomats from the old school.
Dato’ Abdullah, 79, belonged to a rare breed of Malaysians who could blend decorum and civility with intellectual dexterity. Few have earned the distinction in more than 35 years in public service notably as a Malaysian representative in foreign lands.
With notable career in the foreign service, where he served as ambassador to Egypt (1982-1986), Indonesia (1989-1993) and Canada (1993-1997), Dato’ Abdullah Zawawi returned to Wisma Putra before retirement and became an active member of MCOBA being elected into the Jawatankuasa Pengurusan MCOBA (JPM) from 1998-2012. Since his ‘retirement’ from MCOBA, he was sending occasional updates in the 100yrs ExCom Soc Network Whatsapp Group.
Born in Kota Lama Kiri, Kuala Kangsar, the son of Hj. Muhamad and Hjh. Arba’ayah, Dato’ Abdullah was educated at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar being from the Class of ’57 (the Merdeka Boyz), Ahmad House. He entered MCKK in 1949 and left In 1959. The 8th of 10 siblings, amongst which was one Dato’ Zulkifli bin Muhammad, a founder of PAS (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) together with Dr. Baharuddin Helmy.
Dato’ Abdullah Zawawi leaves behind a widow, Datin Jamilah Jamil and two daughters, Adila and Nadia. Dato’ Abdullah Zawawi was the son-in-law of Tan Sri Jamil Rais, another renowned Malaysia administrator, Selangor Menteri Besar and also a diplomat of the old school.
Word of his health predicament was made known to the virtual world of MCOBs through a posting from his batchmate, Dato’ Mir Shariman as follows:
“…It’s with a heavy heart we have to inform MCOBs that Dato’ Abdullah Zawawi (Zam) of Merdeka Boyz (C’57) has been admitted to HKL. His daughters Adila n Nadia posted us this message. May Allah make all things easy for him. Tolong doakan..”
From Nadia, his daughter;
“…Assalamualaikum. Papa has finished dialysis. The vascular consultants have decided that Papa’s condition is not improving enough as the infection is affecting him. Papa has made the decision, having talked with Mama and Adila and I, that there will be another operation, an emergency operation tomorrow, Saturday, morning. It has been slotted in as the first case at 8.00am. The right foot especially the toes are very bad. Papa is not very strong after the last operation. Please do’a for our Papa…”
On Saturday, Dato’ Abdullah went to OT at 10.15am and Nadia posted the following after the operation “…Alhamdulillah Papa is out of surgery and now in Recovery before being placed in PACU in the OT area for 24 hrs. They saved his leg and the toes were amputated. We just need to find out whether it was definitely 4/5… and if all the infection has gone… syukur alhamdulillah.” followed by another update, “Papa is in Ward 13 Katil 19. Alhamdulillah he is alright. The front of the foot and all 5 toes have been amputated. Normal HKL Visiting hours…”
Everyone in the MCOB virtual world gave a sigh of relief and resonated with “Alhamdullilah” (praise be to God) upon hearing of the news.
However, at 1.48am, Monday, Nadia posted “…Innalillahi wainnailaihi rojiun. My beloved father passed away at 10.30pm kat HKL today (Sunday, 28th July 2019). Kebumian will be after waktu Zohor tomorrow Bukit Kiara after sembahyang jenazah at Masjid Bukit Damansara. We brought home my father just 15 mins ago.
Al-Fatihah for my Papa…”
What a tragic loss to his family, to the MCOB community and the Nation for the loss of a good man, a distinguished Malay College Old Boy and an eminent diplomat.
Dato’ Abdullah Zawawi or Zam was indeed a good man, soft spoken but firm and very diplomatic in character. An ambassador like him is someone who thinks twice before he says nothing. In many JPM meetings, he says his mind out diplomatically of course. He was always active in the activities of MCOBS notably during the time when MCOBA was doing and arranging a lot of things during the run-up towards the 100 years celebration of MCKK.
He was also one of those chosen to ride one of the 7 elephants through Kuala Kangsar town to the Big Field, MCKK during the Grand MCKK Centenary Celebrations in 26th March 2005. His wisdom and advice facilitated the smooth running of the whole event. A die- hard MCOB, he was responsible in persuading his batchmate, the Merdeka Boyz (Class of ’57), to donate the NJ Ryan Trophy to the MCKK’s Annual P7’s Rugby Tournament that started in 2011.
Dato’ Abdullah Zawawi came to first tournament with the Merdeka Boyz to present the trophy themselves. However, Dato’ Abdullah was in crutches as he had a great fall beforehand. Persuasion and getting things done were the qualities of Dato’ Abdullah Zawawi.
These, then, are the qualities of an ideal diplomatist. Truth, accuracy, calm, patience, good temper, modesty and loyalty. They are also the qualities of an ideal diplomacy. But, in build with that is the intelligence, wily, knowledge, discernment, prudence, hospitality, charm, courage and even tact. He was trained well in the the old school Art of Diplomacy. I have not forgotten him for that. I have taken him for granted.
He once told me:
“A diplomat who says ‘yes’ means ‘maybe’, a diplomat who says ‘maybe’ means ‘no’, and a diplomat who says ‘no’ is ‘no’ diplomat.”
An ambassador from any country is always conscious of the fact that he has a tremendous responsibility because he is the representative by whom his country is going to be judged. And to him is given the privilege and responsibility of being the representatives of the Malaysia in this world.
May you return well, dear brother Dato’ Hj. Abdullah Zawawi Hj. Muhamed (Merdeka Boyz, C’57), and be accepted in Allah’s Rahmah and be placed amongst the Righteous.
إِنَّا للهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
اَللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لَهُ وَارْحَمْهُ وَعَافِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنْهُ، وَأَكْرِمْ نُزُلَهُ، وَوَسِّعْ مَدْخَلَهُ، وَاغْسِلْهُ بِالْمَاءِ وَالثَّلْجِ وَالْبَرَدِ، وَنَقِّهِ مِنَ الْخَطَايَا كَمَا نَقَّيْتَ الثَّوْبَ اْلأَبْيَضَ مِنَ الدَّنَسِ، وَأَبْدِلْهُ دَارًا خَيْرًا مِنْ دَارِهِ، وَأَهْلاً خَيْرًا مِنْ أَهْلِهِ، وَزَوْجًا خَيْرًا مِنْ زَوْجِهِ، وَأَدْخِلْهُ الْجَنَّةَ، وَأَعِذْهُ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ وَعَذَابِ النَّارِ
Our deepest condolences to his family. He was a good friend to me and everybody else. He shall be missed.
He shall be remembered for the service to the nation as a representative in foreign lands, his diplomacy and more pertinently, the toil and selfless volunteerism he had given to MCOBA. He shall always be remembered well, as the elderly and friendly ever smiling Dato’ Dollah, a respected beloved ‘family’ member. We bid you farewell and May you rest well in eternal peace.