Sunday, 23 September 2012

Ismail bin Abu Sittee

I was browsing the USM collection of videos hosted by the Engineering Campus and saw this Hari Raya 2012 video. I decided to give it a try to see if the video runs on my laptop. It does run in HTML mode. It doesn't seem to work in the FLV mode (wonder why).

Anyway, half-way through the video, I saw my former schoolmate/classmate(?) from Std 1 at Sultanah Asma Primary School in Alor Star, Kedah - that was 1965. She is Asma bt Ismail, now Prof Asma Ismail.

I managed to write to her just before my book went to print. I was hoping to fix a passage for her in my book but maybe because I was hurrying through the last stages of editing, I totally omitted her info about her father. Who was he?

Asma's father, Encik Ismail, as he was known, was an educated man who served in Jitra, together with Tan Sri Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin (arwah). Tan Sri had requested me to find out about one man who appeared twice in 2 of his photos. At the time, it was a difficult request to fulfill and I thought it would be next to impossible to locate a man from 1965 today. His features would change and he may not look like he did in the photos that Tan Sri gave me. I was worried but I promised myself I would search for the man and made a photographic imprint of him so I could spot him if I saw him (a very big hope).

One day, I was going through a list of my schoolfriends from childhood; there were a few I remembered from 1965, in Std 1. One was Fauzaih Fakaruddin. Another who I knew much later at Tunku Kurshiah College (TKC) in 1974 and right through Form 6 at Methodist Boys' School in 1976, was Asma Ismail.

Asma's mother worked for my maternal grandfather, Dr Che Lah bin Md Joonos, a Penangite from Jelutong. I met the mother on a trip to the community clinic (Klinik Desa) at Sungai Dua. She worked there. When I met her she asked if I was Dr Che Lah's granddaughter and I replied yes. I had never met her before.

I later visited Asma and her family at home. I met her mother again, her 2 brothers and herself (eldest). Her father was not at home when I was there but for a brief time. Then her father returned and that was the first time I met him. He looked a bit like Tunku Abdul Rahman and I got confused. Why would Tunku appear in Asma's house? Then I was told that he was the father. In case you haven't noticed, the men in those days, they all wore their pants up high on the waist - I think it was a trend at the time.

Mr Ismail, as I remember him, was a quiet man of few words. He didn't say much. I probably told him who I was and he knew. Then I left. Her 2 brothers were my brothers' friends.

When Tan Sri Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin requested for me to search for a 'Mr Ismail', I hadn't the faintest idea that he was Asma's father. Time was a factor and he had changed. I couldn't figure out that this Mr Ismail, father of Asma, was the same man that had worked with Tan Sri Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin at the RHTC in Jitra, Kedah. It was only when I emailed Asma to ask about her father that we both discovered the missing link! That was after 9 email exchanges. It was great news for me but I could not get the new info in time into my books on The Early Malay Doctors. Asma's father died in 1992.

This is Asma's description of her father:

My father was Ismail bin Abu Sittee. He was the chief public health inspector of Penang. While in the Health Centre in Jitra Kedah he served as phi and health trainer under Raja Nordin and then under Siti Hasmah. My father was at Jitra till we transferred to Penang in 1969 when I was in Std 3. not in 1964. He was transferred to pg to take up the post of chief phi. He was a health trainer, a very good one at that. My public speaking ability in all probability followed his footsteps. I cannot make out the pictures sent. Pls resend. I have his pictures at home but would not be able to find the old pictures. My father was at Trengganu but never in Kelantan. He was big in malaria eradication but am not aware of yaws. He hardly spoke of yaws. I am privy to work done by my father in malaria since he brought home the gurus in the field from WHO. I met them all. I hope have shed some light on my father. Thank you for re living nostalgic memories. Pls ensure that the facts are right difficult as it is to dig up the past. Raja Nordin punya son Norman may shed more light. We played as kids in the Health Centre at Jitra. Don't think he remembers me. wassalam. 

Asma's father had also worked with Tun Dr Siti Hasmah in Kedah. I guess he would be in some of her earlier pictures taken in Kedah, before 1969. I have to ask Arkib Negara Malaysia if it can search for Encik Ismail, formerly at RHTC, and later as Chief Public Health Inspector in Penang. I will also need to search my grandfather's old photos for Encik Ismail.

Asma's father, Encik Ismail bin Abu Sittee (left) and Norman's father, Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin, at the RHTC in Jitra, circa early 1960s.

Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin is seated at the table edge. Encik Ismail bin Abu Sittee is standing at left, helping out with filming of the Malayan Yaws Campaign in Kelantan, in early 1960s.
Portrait of (Tan Sri) Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin bin Raja Shahbuddin, in 1965 when he went to UC Berkeley to  complete his MSc in Public Health. His Academic Supervisor was Prof Beryl Josephine Roberts.

Asma's mother, Hjh Aminah bt Yusoff, is linked to the first Malay doctor, Dr Abdul Latiff bin Abdul Razak.

Hjh Aminah Yusoff (photo was obtained from an A4 collage of female descendants of the Bugis Daeng warriors contributed by Zainuddin Dato Yahya). Dr Abdul Latiff was Hjh Aminah's granduncle.
Prof Asma Ismail (photo frame created from USM Aidilfitri 2012 video made by Zamri et al, UKAST). Her great-granduncle was Dr Abdul Latiff.