Tok Non: A life of accomplishment

Audrey Dermawan

GEORGE TOWN: Former deputy Rural and Regional Development minister and ex-state Umno chief Datuk Seri Zainal Abidin Osman, 58, died today after a four-month battle with multiple myeloma – a type of blood cancer in the plasma cells.

He leaves behind wife Datin Seri Siti Nur Syafiqa Amirol Melvin and six children, four of whom are from his first marriage to Datin Shazarina Shamsuddin, who also died from cancer in 2010.

Zainal, who discovered he had the illness in March this year, began treatment at the Ampang Hospital in Kuala Lumpur. He was pronounced dead there at 2.07am today after his blood pressure suddenly dipped.

Throughout his illness, Zainal was optimistic he would beat the disease, even when his condition deteriorated in recent weeks.


Former deputy Rural and Regional Development minister and ex-state Umno chief Datuk Seri Zainal Abidin Osman, 58, died today after a four-month battle with multiple myeloma – a type of blood cancer in the plasma cells. Pic by NSTP/RAMDZAN MASIAM

Affectionately known as ‘Tok Non,’ Zainal was highly-esteemed by both his friends and (political) foes for his gentle demeanour and openness.

Born here, he attended primary school at SK Sungai Setar, Nibong Tebal before furthering his studies at Sekolah Tunku Abdul Rahman (Star) Ipoh.

In 1981, he graduated with a diploma in valuation from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and three years later, a Bachelor of Science in Land Administration (CNAA) from the North East London University, London.

He enjoyed a long and illustrious career in the government sector; and also held director, chairman and executive chairman posts in various private companies.

Zainal was also active in Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) until he relinquished all his positions prior to the 14th general election.

He was an Umno Supreme Council member from 2009 to 2011 and was the Nibong Tebal Member of Parliament from 2004 to 2008.

He was also previously the Foreign Ministry’s parliamentary secretary from 2004 to 2006, and the adviser to the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.

Zainal was also chairman of the Penang Federal Action Council, where he was recognised even by his political foes for his role as the go-between between the then-BN federal government and the Pakatan Rakyat state government, when the opposition managed to wrestle the state in the 12th general election.

He was also the Penang Bumiputera Development Council chairman and JKP Sdn Bhd chairman.

Penangites, particularly those in Nibong Tebal, will never forget Zainal’s various accomplishments in his numerous capacities. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd