By YIP YOKE TENG
LARGE banners of outgoing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi looking resplendent in full Scouts uniform adorn the walls of Rumah BP, the headquarters of the National Scouts Association of Malaysia, in Jalan Hang Jebat, Kuala Lumpur.
The photo was taken after Abdullah, the association’s honorary president, received the highest award of the movement, the Semangat Padi Award First Class (Gold), during its centenary celebration in 2006.
In the picture, Abdullah is seen standing tall next to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who also heads the scout movement in Indonesia called Pramuka.
“Once a scout always a scout, Pak Lah always reminds us of that, and he practises what he preaches. Not only that, he has always been a sincere follower of all scout rules and principles,” national chief scout Datuk Seri Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh told StarMetro.
According to Shafie, Abdullah had shown his leadership abilities during his school days, when he joined the scout movement in his primary school days and later became a troop leader at the Bukit Mertajam High School.
“In fact, the humble prime minister always said the training he had during his scouting days made him what he is, and a scout will always become a successful person as discipline has been inculcated in him since young,” Shafie said.
Renewing their commitment: Shafie (middle) with chief executive secretary Mohd Zaki Nurud-Din (right) and national training commissioner Abdul Shukor Mohsin taking an oath.
Abdullah’s scoutmaster Ng Soo Chye has recalled in the scouts circular that he was someone who thought creatively, liked to mix with friends of different ethnic backgrounds, was a disciplined person and had innate leadership ability.
“Datuk Seri was also a selfless scout who was ever ready to help others, therefore he was always a crowd favourite. He was polite but firm, he could shoulder responsibilities and he was good at delegating tasks. He was an epitome of the scout spirit,” Ng was quoted as saying.
Shafie said it was quite a challenge to list out Abdullah’s contributions to the movement as there were just too many.
One of his first efforts, which is still much appreciated after several decades, was his decision to make uniform group participation a compulsory co-curricular activity in schools in 1984 when he was the education minister and the patron of the association.
He also directed the formation of the Training Scout Council of Malaysia under the Education Ministry to facilitate the movement’s development.
Shafie said Abdullah was also the first to take the initiative to bring scouts in Asean closer together, fostering closer bilateral ties among the countries and promoting better understanding between the people at all levels.
Leaders in the region welcomed the initiative with enthusiasm, and the Asean Scout was formed after a meeting between Abdullah and Susilo.
“When the Indonesian president came with his delegates for the centenary celebration, we were treated to a heartening scene where everyone scrambled to see their old scout uniforms. That simply demonstrated the spirit, Scout Never Alone and Always Like Young,” Shafie said.
He said Abdullah, as a caring leader, heeded the needs of poor people closely.
Shafie said among the various measures, Abdullah offered free uniforms to schoolgoing members whose household income was less than RM1,000 a month.
He recalled that the opening ceremony of the International Union of Muslim Scouts international jamboree in Malacca in 2006 coincided with a cabinet meeting but Abdullah made it to the function.
“Though it was difficult, Pak Lah did not disappoint the participants from all around the world. Such dedication and understanding really touched me,” he said.
Shafie said Abdullah’s efforts were appreciated by the international scouting fraternity, with the Indonesian Scout Movement honouring him with the Tunas Kencana award in Jakarta in 2007.
The scount movement’s centurial celebration will climax on April 25 when the commemorative medal and shilling will be unveiled. The association will present the medal to Abdullah and invite him to continue leading the local movement, which now has 250,000 members.