Why father knows best

Audrey Edwards
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu speaks during a press conference at Wisma Pertahanan in Kuala Lumpur June 4, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PETALING JAYA, June 17 — Malay Mail spoke to three men about what Father’s Day means to them.

Mohamad Sabu

Defence minister

To many, Mohamad Sabu is known for his fight for a better nation, detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and being part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition that defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) in the general election.

But the Parti Amanah Negara president, who is married to Normah Alwi, is also a father of four.

“Of course, Father’s Day is significant. I want to wish all fathers a Happy Father’s Day. But what is more important for me is the need to always do better as a father,” he said.

“You always feel that what you do is not enough and you think of what you can do better to improve yourself.”

The affable defence minister, when asked about what advice he had for his children said: “Nowadays, it is ‘do not use the fact your father is a minister to obtain things’. Some youngsters may use this to get ahead and it will spoil them. They start to not make an effort.

“They need to have self-determination.

“I would prefer people didn’t know that they are Mat Sabu’s children.”

Asked how he felt being away from his family when he was detained, he said it was a situation where nothing could be done as it was something that was forced upon him.

Mohamad, who is well-known for his ceramah skills, said that so far, it was his eldest child, a lawyer, who showed signs of following in his footsteps.

Dia debat dalam rumah (Debates at home) and shows some potential,” he added. 

Ong Beng Hee with his family, (from left) Joelle, Winnie and Janelle. — Picture courtesy of Ong

Ong Beng Hee

Qatar Squash Federation director of coaching

The former world number seven from Penang, said his father, KH Ong, has played a major role in his life, not only as a dad but as his coach as well.

“He sacrificed a lot of time and money as in those days, we did not have much support financially,” said Ong.

“He would always tell me to work hard and be persistent if I wanted to make it to the top. It is this advice that I have valued and carried into my new phase of career.”

Ong, who is now based in Doha, Qatar ever since taking up the head coach position there, added that his father always travelled with him in his junior days.

“Winning the world juniors in Princeton was icing on the cake. For everything he has done for me to win, that win was mainly for him,” he said.

Ong, 38 is now a father to two girls, Janelle and Joelle.

As for life in Doha with his kids and wife, Winnie, Ong said they normally get together with friends and do the “Malaysian thing”, which is eat.

“House gatherings are pretty common these days here but I try to spend my time with family and leave the decision to the ‘home ministry’ (Winnie, my wife) to decide,” he added.

He added that he enjoyed being a dad, calling it an “amazing” experience.

“My girls keep me young and fit as they refuse to let me sleep. They pester me to play with toys or watch TV with them so I am sleep deprived and awake 18 hours a day. But all is great!” Ong said.

“I am proud to have two beautiful girls and I am sure all dads agree that no words can describe how amazing it is to be a dad.”

As a father, Ong said he would never force any sport on his children, citing a game like squash as being one of the most brutal sports around.

“So, I doubt I want to encourage that. Of course, it would be great if they chose to play squash but it will totally be their choice,” he insisted.

On whether he saw himself as a father figure to his students, Ong said he realised that it was sometimes necessary to play that role even if training was for only a few hours a day.

“It is the role we have to play as players need to understand that being disciplined is not just an hour or two, but about taking care of their mind and body to perform to their best it is a 24/7 job,” he said.

He added that he had learnt from many great coaches during his playing days and he now passed on the advice that he received then to his players.

“I think besides being all the hard work and dedicated, it is so important to make sure the players love the sport they have chosen and making sure they have a laugh sometimes,” he said.

“I see many coaches and players without any humour and that in the long term, is not something healthy in my opinion.”

Ramkarpal described his father, the late Karpal Singh, as a very quiet man at home. — Picture by KE Ooi

Ramkarpal Singh Deo

Bukit Gelugor MP

The late Karpal Singh’s family is synonymous with Malaysian politics with Karpal spending decades as a prominent lawyer and Opposition politician.

His son, Ramkarpal, said Karpal would have been very happy about PH forming the new government.

“It was something that he worked towards,” he said, adding that his father wanted to establish a just and equitable country, which ultimately could only be done by defeating BN.

“At the end of the day, I feel what I have done pales in comparison to what he did all his life. All his sacrifices made this victory possible,” he said.

Karpal died in a car accident on the North-South Expressway near Gua Tempurung, Perak in 2014.

Ramkarpal described his father as a very quiet man at home.

“He was a man of few words but he was always a fun person to be with. He was always there even though he wasn’t always physically present,” he added.

“He was good company, someone you liked to hang out with. My mum is the disciplinarian but you wouldn’t want to get close to him when he got angry, which was very rare.”

He added that he became aware of the fact his father was an “important person” when he was about 10 years old.

“It was the first time when he was detained. The whole thing made me realise what an important person he was and a political inclination was instilled in me from then on,” he recalled.

“It was different in his heyday. There were very few people (in the Opposition) and it wasn’t glamorous. There was persecution.

“But it was a privilege to be his son. He gave me life lessons.”

Ramkarpal, who also runs Karpal’s law firms in Penang and Kuala Lumpur with his sister Sangeet Kaur, added when he faced a problem, he would sometimes think of how Karpal would approach it and try to find a solution.

He said one lesson that he learnt from his father was work ethic where Karpal was “very old school”.

Adding that Father’s Day would normally be celebrated with family meals, he said the whole family still missed him.

“There was always a feeling of security and comfort with him. Sometimes, I think we took it for granted because no one saw his demise coming,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you wouldn’t know how much you appreciate a person until he’s gone.”