In Memoriam

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

The saying, “desperate times call for desperate measures” is not without substance. People in desperation would react differently to overcome their problems. The problems are myriad and differ with people. Loss of pride may also force some to do the unthinkable.

In times of economic uncertainty, when day-to-day living becomes difficult, a seemingly simple problem may send some over the edge. And if it means taking one’s life as a way out, so be it.

This was what happened to Mohd Shukri Saad (pic left), 38, a petty trader from Tasek Gelugor, Butterworth who was caught selling contraband cigarettes. He was charged and was supposed to appear at the Seberang Perai court on Wednesday, October 26 for sentencing. Fearing imprisonment and a loss of face, Shukri skipped the trial and ended his life by jumping from the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Bridge, Penang’s second bridge. His body was recovered the following day, Thursday, October 27.

What was most disturbing was the message he left on his Facebook account written in Malay. It is a sad reflection of life in the country following the introduction of GST and the recent hike in petrol and cooking oil prices. This was what he wrote:

“Ya, aku mengaku perkara ini salah….tapi hukumannya tak setimpal dengan pengarah yang mencuri jutaan ringgit tetapi kemudiannya dibebaskan dengan jaminan”.  (I admit that my act is deplorable but it’s nothing compared to the director who stole millions but was freed on bail).

He went on to say: “Celaka punya pimpinan kerajaan sekarang…berniaga kedai runcit kampong je bukan untung besar margin cukup nipis dibebani dengan cukai GST lagi. Memang kerajaan sekarang zalim”. (Our current leaders are demons. I am just a small-time trader my profit margin is small and is burdened by taxes such as GST. The government is cruel).

The object of Shukri’s displeasure was obvious. The “pengarah” he referred to was Gen (Rtd) Tan Sri Aziz Zainal, chairman of Bank Rakyat who is being indicted for CBT (criminal breach of trust) amounting to RM15 million (Ipoh Echo editorial Issue 243).

Islam forbids its followers to commit suicide. It is considered sinful. But Shukri felt otherwise. He deemed it fit to end his miserable life by throwing himself off the longest bridge in South East Asia. Does it sound ironic? Or perhaps the fate of the working class has become irrelevant to our leaders.

The high cost of living has impacted Malaysians in no small way. Roti canai, nasi lemak, mee rebus, kway teow goreng, kopi and teh tarik, staple foods of most Malaysians, cost much more today than a year ago. A family treat for four at “Hollywood” or “Vegas”, two popular food courts in Ipoh can be an expensive affair, as prices have gone up by almost 20 per cent following the recent hike in cooking oil price.

A More Peaceful Passing

On Deepavali Day, Saturday, October 29 I received a rather distressing call from Ipoh Club saying that my good friend, Rajeindram Suppiah, had passed away. Rajeindram or Raj was the nephew of lawyer cum hotelier, G. Sivapragasam, co-founder of Ipoh Echo. This rather unassuming but affable gentleman volunteered to distribute Ipoh Echo and provide counselling, pro bono. That was in 2005 when we just got started while based at Syeun Hotel, Ipoh.

Raj was prepared to walk the extra mile to help his friends. Ipoh Club members can attest to that. His forte was in human resources management for he had been a pukka consultant. His fee was minimal, and at times was dispensed free in exchange for food and drinks. We were rather close that some in the club thought we were classmates. Incidentally, Raj was a Michaelean like many other Ipohites.

Rajeidram, 71, passed away peacefully while watching TV in his mother’s house in Ipoh Garden on the morning of Deepavali. I had called him earlier to extend my greetings but received no answer. His body was cremated on Monday, October 31 at the Bercham crematorium. Raj is survived by his Melbourne-based daughter and two grandkids.

Rest in peace, my dear friend. We will miss you.

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