‘Emergency Cabinet meeting was held in our living room’

KUALA LUMPUR: Mohamed Tarmizi Ismail was just 13 years old in 1973 when he saw his father and Malaysia’s Second Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman collapsed at her home in Jalan Tun Ismail.

Tarmizi said he was startled by screams that his father had suffered a heart attack.

“I did not know, what I should do. We got a doctor and they rushed to the house to revive him upstairs. I was sitting on the stairs and the next thing I knew the closet was being assembled in our living room. It was a critical moment because three people knew that (then Prime Minister) Tun Abdul Razak Hussein had leukaemia,” he said.

“Every time the prime minister trembled, he handed the instrument of power to my father, who was then prime minister. The crisis at that point was that we could not have a prime minister or deputy prime minister.

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“It was interesting. I sat on the steps and watched a couple of cabinet members argue over who should take the reins as they awaited Tun Razak’s return from Canada, where he was attending a Commonwealth meeting.

“That was my first look at politics at the highest level. It was a state of crisis. My father wasn’t dead yet, but they needed someone to run the land. When something happened to Tun Razak, there was no one to direct it,” he added.

Tarmizi, now 62, also recounted a time when his father, despite his anger, had been brought back into politics to restore stability after the May 13 race riots
poor health and desire to return to medicine.

“As a child, I saw a national crisis in my living room. I saw what would happen if a wrong decision was made. My dad was the kind of person who just wanted everyone to be well taken care of.”

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Tarmizi, who now runs an employment agency as chief executive, said his father’s need to care for people sparked a keen interest in him providing strategic human capital as a continuation of his father’s legacy of nation-building.

“My job is to face the decision makers and say, ‘Why don’t you deploy or optimize our talent?’

“A lot of us go around saying we want to help build a nation. We have to shake the big tree and say, ‘Look, we have to do something’.”

Tarmizi also said there was a need to optimize talent in Malaysia and create a potential employer and employee marketplace.

“A talent serves a purpose and should be put to good use,” he said The sunadding that it is incumbent on the government to act quickly and reconsider human resource policies to ensure the gaps in tapping local talent are filled.

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His wish on Malaysia Day is that it be recognized that something is wrong because the country is not making progress in skills and high-end manufacturing despite the government’s efforts.

“Neighboring countries are overtaking us. We’re becoming less and less relevant on a global scale, and if we don’t think and act quickly, we’ll become irrelevant. The country may only have two or more years to get this right,” he said, adding that in the meantime, talent needs to step up and create their opportunity as entrepreneurs.

“In the communication age there is always a market. Talent must find and create this opportunity. The days of waiting for opportunities are quickly disappearing.

“You have to create your opportunities. The corporate sector is not moving fast enough to accommodate everyone.”

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