Fair Winds and Following Seas, Captain

By Malaysian Heart

We belong to God, and to God we will return.

The Ancient Mariner, Capt. Muhammad Yusof b. Haji Ahmad, passed away peacefully on 19 June 2009. He was 62, and leaves behind his beloved wife and four children.

Capt. Yusof started blogging as the Ancient Mariner on 14 November 2006, with a post entitled "Well, steady as she goes and full speed ahead …", making an interesting observation that the word "blog" had nautical associations too. Ever since that first entry, he sure went "full speed ahead" with his blog, steadily posting up to 25 entries every month. He claimed to blog strictly for his own pleasure, but that did not stop him from informing, educating and certainly entertaining us. Although his modesty prevented him from claiming it, his writing most definitely made us think as well.

His blog entries came with interesting vignettes and anecdotes from his life at sea and on land, including warm descriptions of the people he had known, the places he had been to, and the books and poetry he had read. They attest to his gentleness and quiet erudition, and evoke memories of a time long since gone, when civility and courtesy was the mark of an Officer and a Gentleman.

That never prevented him from speaking his mind and rocking the boat, though. Far from it, he made many very sharp and accurate observations of life in Malaysia and possessed an equally sharp wit, which he kindly tempered with his good nature and humour that pervaded his blog.

He was very socially conscious. He frequently posted entries that touched on justice, democracy, civic duty and fairplay for all Malaysians (and even Singaporeans). He was never the chauvinistic partisan in his politics; even-handedness and noble principles was the cynosure by which he charted his course.

In an entry early in his blogging career, he wrote:

"I believe most of my blogging contemporaries (read: my age group) indulge in political commentaries. However, at this stage of my life or in the September of my years, to quote Sinatra, I no longer weigh the world's problems heavily on my shoulders nor do I share everyone's enthusiasm for a daily dreary fare of bellyaching and nit picking a la Naipaul* and his ilk. I honestly believe that we truly deserve the government that we have got. Period."

However, when corruption and injustice reared its ugly head, Capt. Yusof embraced his civic duty with determination and vigour. Soon after news of the PKFZ scandal broke he wrote this:

"…if you see something which needs to be done, something which affects you, your family, and even your country, you are not going to think, ah, what will the neighbours or your friends think. You are just going to do it."

Our problem, "the fire" as he called it, is this:

"Of late we are seeing the country going to the dogs with greedy politicians, corrupt police and judiciary, racial disintegration, religious bigotry and worse, an apathetic and a very gullible citizenry. Our founding fathers must surely be turning in their graves right now."

He ended by sounding this clarion call for us Malaysians to act:

"So all hands on deck for we cannot remain on the sidelines forever, on the outside looking in, nor can we just engage in ad hoc fire fighting. The proverbial ball, as they say, is in our court. The time and the place, my friends, is here and now … "

Ever the consummate operations man who walks the talk, Capt. Yusof dedicated himself to exposing the PKFZ scandal, making it his personal mission. In a series of hard hitting blog entries (including a compelling letter to the PAC) starting from 25 July 2007 right up to 7 July 2009 (just 12 days before his passing), he laid bare the hanky-panky and shady dealing that went on, calling the perpetrators "modern day pirates now robbing this country blind". He acted without fear or favour; "old friend" Datin Paduka O.C. Phang (PKA GM & PKFZ Chairman) and schoolmate, Datuk Shahrir Samad (PAC chairman) were not spared questions & criticism.

Capt. Yusof used his extensive network of contacts and knowledge of Port Klang to organize, analyse, share and interpret the relevant data and news reports, greatly helping us to make sense of what was going on. He regularly posted updates, sometimes "scooping" the mainstream media and breaking the news before anyone else.

A powerful tool he used was to frame series of sharp pointed questions regarding the scandal, many of which remain unanswered by the authorities. His credibility and authoritativeness even led opposition leader YB Lim Kit Siang to consult him before tabling a motion in Parliament to debate the PKFZ scandal.

With his passing, the Malaysian blogosphere has lost a steadfast, principled and dedicated voice for justice, rule of law and good governance. He will be fondly remembered and deeply missed. May Malaysia be blessed with citizens as worthy as Capt. Yusof.

Read more at: Fair Winds and Following Seas, Captain