28 February 1999
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After four years in the scout movement, I left with Ariffin Muda, Nik Mahmud
Fakhruddin Kamil, Syed Zainal Wafa, Megat Ahmad and Salleh Nordin among others for
the College Cadet Corps.
Ariffin, Fakhruddin and Salleh eventually joined the army - the first two have since
At the time of their death Ariffin was a colonel while Fakhruddin was a lieutenant-general.
Salleh is still alive and retired as a non-commissioned officer.
Ariffin and Fakhruddin, like many old collegians before them, had gone to the British
Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England.
I, too, tried to join Askar Melayu di-Raja (Royal Malay Regiment). Ariffin, Fakhruddin,
Salleh and I made a pact to realise our military career. Only Ariffin joined the
army with ease.
He obviously reached sufficient academic standard and passed the physical test at
the pre-officers' training school in Port Dickson after a week's intelligence and
grueling endurance tests.
Fakhruddin succeeded after two attempts and followed Ariffin to Sandhurst in 1956.
Because he loved the army too much, Salleh decided to join the army as a recruit.
I never tried again after the humiliating failure in Port Dickson: thrown out in
the 1st round!
We celebrated Ariffin's success at the Bukit Bintang cabaret in Kuala Lumpur. In
a sense, whatever the background, those who successfully survive MCKK and move on
into the real world through further studies whether at Cambridge, London School of
Economics, Inns of Court, universities in the US, Australia or at Sandhurst, became
an elite in their own right.
It is like a stamp of Malaysian recognition. Tun Razak and Tuanku Jaafar were the
embodiment of everything which MCKK strives to achieve.
The sixth form was established in 1948 to cater for 18 Malay students destined for
From Kelantan came Ezanee Merican (now a doctor); and from Negri Sembilan were Yusof
Zainal (the head boy now a retired ambassador residing in Australia), Abdul Rahim
Jalal (retired ambassador living in Kuala Lumpur).
Azizul Rahman bin Aziz from Perak was for a long time secretary of parliament.
Those who are alive have all retired. Ali Abdullah, a former diplomat from Perlis,
In 1949, Zaharah Mokhtar and in 1950, I think Zainab or Kak Nab joined tie sixth
form, making history as the only girls to ever attend MCKK.
The birth of the Federation of Malaya on Feb 1, 1948 was celebrated with great enthusiasm
at the college as it was deemed a restoration of "Malay power".
The Malayan Communist Party which opposed the restoration of the Anglo-Malay government,
started a revolt in June in Sungai Siput when the communists brutally killed three
In response, the British colonial government declared a state of emergency in July
which was to last until three years after Merdeka.
Howell temporarily left MCKK to become a supplementary police officer to help organise
special constables to fight the communists which the British colonial government
Howell said he was proud of the thousands of Malay young men and women who came forward
so readily to defend their country side by side the British, the Gurkhas, Malay troops
and anti Communist Malayan Chinese and others.
Despite the emergency, the progress of prep school and the Big School towards rehabilitation
(following WWII) was little affected.
For students from Kelantan, the emergency was a blessing in disguise.
Before the emergency, I had to travel to Kuala Kangsar by train via southern Thailand.
It was cheaper, the journey was shorter though not as safe.
The war against the communists made travel very dangerous whether through Thailand
or the long journey via Gemas in the south and up to the north via Kuala Lumpur to
The Kelantan government, not wanting to risk the lives of 18 of its scholars including
four girls from Malay Girls' College (now Tunku Khursiah), decided to fly us to Penang
and then by train to Kuala Kangsar and the girls onto Kuala Lumpur.
Flying then, let alone for students, was expensive and a novelty for most Malayans.
Hundreds of relatives came to Pengkalan Chepa Aerodrome Sultan Ismail (Petra Airport)
to send us of many were seeing the Dakota plane for the first time.
Many more had come to say prayers for safe flight. We exchanged forgiveness in case
the flight might be our last.
I recall little about the flight except that I felt as if my ear drums had exploded
and the attention lavished by what I thought was a very beautiful and well-mannered
I had a window seat and remember seeing the Kelantan river, the kampungs,
the padi fields in particular looked like postcard pictures - beautiful and clean
from a few thousand feet above the ground.
Distance is always deceptive I would soon learn.
After more than an hour of flying the captain announced we were approaching Bayan
Lepas, Penang and to fasten our seat belts and prepare for the landing. It was a
It was just before noon when we landed. My first historic and uneventful plane ride
was over. A hour before sunset that evening we left Penang for our final destination
(Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad is our Special Envoy to the United States.)
(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )