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January 01, 2010

Tok Mat A Loyal Nationalist

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 (Bernama) -- 'Tok Mat', 'Mat Setia', 'Mat Umno' and 'Mat Bulat' are among the nicknames given to reflect the personality and character of Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, a former information minister who had left a significant mark on the country's political scene and entertainment industry.

As the information minister on two occasions, from 1978 to 1982 and from 1987 to 1999, Mohamed, or better known as "Tok Mat", had his own style as the government's information agent to ensure that all government policies reached the grassroots.

Tok Mat was instrumental in the "Setia Bersama Rakyat" or "Semarak" campaigns, which became a two-pronged programme to instill the feeling of love for the country and regain the people's trust in Umno which was then going through a leadership crisis.

He had also come up with the patriotic song 'Setia' which had become so important that it was played every time after the national anthem 'Negaraku' was played.

His loyalty to the party was also proven when he was prepared to shoulder a heavy responsibility as the Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) secretary-general from 1988 to 2004.

As Umno secretary-general, he was responsible for regaining the party's integrity and injecting life back into Umno after the Malay party was deregistered due to a leadership crisis in 1988.

In fact, he was often given the trust to draw up a strategy whether to regain the people's support for the party or leadership.

"To me, it was most shameful. A black patch in the history of Umno when the party was banned," said Mohamed whose membership number in Umno was 00000003.

Born in Pulai, Johor on Jan 4, 1938, Mohamed had his secondary education at Maktab Abu Bakar, Johor Baharu in 1956 before pursuing his Bachelor of Letters at Universiti Indonesia, Jakarta in 1961. However, he did not have time to complete his studies at the master's level due the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Beginning his career as a teacher at the King Edward VII School, Taiping, Perak in 1963, Mohamed later ventured into script writing at Filem Negara Malaysia for one year in 1964.

However, the Propaganda Minister died on Friday at the age of 71, leaving a legacy and his propaganda strategies for reference.

Mohamed, who was to celebrate his 72nd birthday on Monday, died in his sleep at his residence in Bukit Damansara, here, this morning.

His eldest son, Datuk Nur Jazlan, who is also the Member of Parliament for Pulai, said his father was found dead at about 8am when his mother, Puan Sri Salbiah Abdul Hamid, went to wake him up from sleep.

He said his father had been suffering from kidney ailment for the past 10 years and had to undergo dialysis treatment every day.

Recounting his father's involvement in politics, he said it began since his father joined Umno in 1963 and being elected as the Member of Parliament for Johor Baru Barat (which was renamed Pulai in 1974) in the general election in 1969.

Mohamed remained as the Pulai Member of Parliament for six terms or 30 years until 1999.

In the cabinet, Mohamed was appointed as Information Minister (1978-1982) and in his capacity as Information Minister, he was also appointed Umno secretary-general and Barisan Nasional (BN) secretary-general from 1994 to 2004.

Mohamed had also served as Malaysia's Ambassador to Jakarta, Indonesia with a ministerial status in 1982.

Among the memorable incidents when he was Information Minister was resolving the disciplinary issue that arose in 1990 when he insisted that rock singers appearing on television cropped their hair. Among those who became victims were singers Awie and Search.

After retiring from the government and Umno, Tok Mat had written a book entitled "Umno: Akhir Sebuah Impian" (Umno: The End Of A Dream) which delved on political manipulation by past Umno leaders to hold on to power.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin also expressed his condolence to Mohamed's family.

"It is with a great sense of loss when we heard of Tan Sri Datuk Mohamed Rahmat's demise earlier today.

"I wish to convey our greatest sympathy to Puan Sri Salbiah Abdul Hamid and her family on their loss," he said in a statement.

He said Mohamed was more than a minister and ambassador of Malaysia for he had not only contributed to the nation's development but also played a role as a statesman through his commitment and dedication in realising the country's objectives.

"Tok Mat, as he was fondly called, had seen the country through many obstacles and played his part as a committed, dedicated and humble government official which was clearly reflected in the many campaigns he led during his reign as the Information Minister and Secretary-General of Barisan Nasional.

"And, we know that his passing will not only leave a void in our lives, but in the hearts of all those who knew him.

"Tok Mat will always remain within our hearts," he added.

-- BERNAMA