On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

We could be heroes

Everyday people do everyday things for the greater good, especially when a blind eye is cast on race and religion.

A SIMPLE story can sometimes be heart-warming and uplifting, especially when it ends happily. More so when it’s real and not a fictional video, such as those created by advertising agencies for the festive season.

Just recently, my friend Vivienne Wong and her parents, including her 87-year-old father, went shopping at Suria KLCC.

She ushered him to a seat in the Isetan department store, and reminded him not to stray, as they wanted to browse around for a bit. They were merely 9m away, and he was well within their watchful sight.

But all it took was five minutes, and he disappeared. It was the beginning of an unending, agonising day in the sprawling Suria KLCC, amid its sizable crowd.

At 4.40pm, her heart sank when she took in the empty seat where her father had been sitting. She made frantic calls to the security team, the sales assistants and friends to no avail, but fortunately, she had the presence of mind to turn to social media to seek help.

She urged the sales assistants to post the picture of her dad she had supplied, to share it with other outlets in the shopping complex. The odds were stacked against them given that her dad doesn’t use a mobile phone and is developing memory loss.

I was in Sibu when her call for help came in. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to make a missing person’s report at the police station since it was less than 24 hours.

As the hours passed, the security supervisor, Masjelan Halim, took over the situation to support the team. He helped comb the entire KLCC, the nearby Mandarin Oriental and KL Convention Centre – all done while time had elapsed into the buka puasa hour.

He decided to forgo breaking his fast to spend the next three hours looking for my friend’s dad. For him, as the hours ticked away, and with no sign of the elderly man, the situation was becoming progressively critical.

Then, there was Andy Goh Leng Poo from Isetan’s task force department, whose duty officially ended at 7.30pm but didn’t walk away from his job.

He searched every inch of the department store – his area of jurisdiction – as well as the KLCC perimeter, including every male toilet.

Likewise, there was Annie Tee from Ecesis, a range under the Isetan Ladies brand, who made every effort to search for him, and who finally found him at the nearby six-storey Avenue K shopping mall.

It was already 9.15pm when the distressed man was spotted, and as expected, he had no recollection of why he walked away, and neither could he explain why he veered off so far.

Vivienne couldn’t have been more thankful for the good deed and sense of responsibility displayed by these three people. Likewise, her gratitude goes out to the other security guards and sales promoters who didn’t give up till the elderly man was reunited with his wife and daughter.

In the aftermath, Masjelan only managed to have a proper meal at 9.30pm, Goh found himself working past his shift and Tee had gone as far as the opposite building to look for the elderly man.

Perhaps there was nothing dramatic or even heroic in their acts, and some may even say it’s their responsibility. However, it’s still a good story to share, especially at a time when many of us prefer to talk negatively about race and religion. Surely, the onus is on us to provide a positive narrative.

There are plenty of such do-good and feel-good real-life stories involving true-blood Malaysians. These are the unsung heroes who never think their good deeds deserve mention and would be embarrassed if told.

Without politicians spewing toxic racist and religious remarks, ordinary Malaysians coexist and display great respect for each other, although we still need to work at promoting moderation and better understanding.

For the past few years, I have made it a point to host a buka puasa dinner to bring my friends and colleagues together.

Every year, my guests, Muslims and non-Muslims, look forward to this special Ramadan get-together, where we break fast and enjoy each other’s company and friendship.

My good friend, veteran journalist Datuk Kadir Jasin, also hosts a Chinese New Year open house at his residence. In a way, we’re all attempting to start new trends in making Malaysia more open, so that all ethnic festivals are truly Malaysian ones.

For the past four years, The Star Media Group, along with its partner, Yayasan Gamuda, have held The Star Golden Hearts Award (SGHA), and 2019 marks the fifth year running in honouring unsung Malaysian heroes.

The award is aimed at selecting more Malaysians who make positive contributions to the nation, particularly, helping the poor and underprivileged, though what’s more important is the fostering of unity.

The awards are handed out irrespective of colour or creed, bringing recipients together and recognising Malaysians from all walks of life for their dedication in helping those in need.

Having sat in the committee as a judge for the past four years, I have heard so many wonderful stories of how Malaysians help each other.

The Star began handing out these awards to honour those who acted heroically and/or selflessly, building bridges between different communities along the way and in doing so, promoting racial harmony and unity.

Previous winners include Sabahan Marie Christie Robert, a Kadazan who donated her liver to her former teacher, Cikgu Cheong, and Rishiwant Singh Randhawa, who sent food to orang asli affected by floods in remote areas. He also never thought twice about going off to help Syrian refugees.

Then there was Dr Rusaslina Idrus, who provided clothes and toiletries to the homeless and urban poor in the capital through Kedai Jalanan. She aided everyone regardless of their race or religion. But more importantly, she helped people in a dignified way.

Another was Kong Lan Lee, who was actively involved in helping special needs children through Persatuan Kanak-Kanak Istimewa Kajang.

Equally touching is the tale of boilerman Mohd Yusuf Rohani, who cared for his childhood Indian friend for 15 years, sending him to hospital and simply helping him out, even when he himself was not financially secure.

Fishermen Saari Mohd Nor and Low Kock Seong, who rescued eight Royal Malaysian Air Force men from a plane crash, were two other recipients of the award.

And these are merely some of the identified, and as we went through the nominations, there were just too many wonderful Malaysians from every ethnic group and religious persuasion.

I’d like to sign off this week’s column by wishing my favourite aunty, Sharah, her son Abu, my wonderful relatives in Tawau, Sabah – Fauziah and Nizam – especially, and all Muslim readers, Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf, Zahir dan Batin.