Another tribute to Tahir Majid

I dedicate today’s posting to a great Malay professional, Prof. Hj Mohamad Tahir Abdul Majid. A chartered surveyor, chartered builder and arbitrator by training and profession, Tahir was called to be with Allah s.w.t. today, sixteen years ago.


Tahir and then a little pup still, circa 1968

Tahir was a kampung boy from Seri Menanti, Negeri Sembilan who made it to England and came back as a trained professional at the times where a typical Malay youth would not even complete secondary education. He worked with Public Works Department (Now known as JKR) and later a partner of  a private practice, Juruukur Bahan Berakan.  He left private practice to join MARA was formed in 1965. When MARA Institute of Technology (then ITM, now UiTM) was formed in 1966 under MARA, then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein who is also Minister for Rural Development asked him to form the Arhictecture School in ITM. He sacrificed his own potential prosperous professional career (there were so few QS then, let alone Malays) and gladly accepted and took the challenge.

It was his effort that the Architecture School (now known as Fakulti Senibina, Perancang dan Ukur – FSPU) grew and earned its prominence. Personalities like Ezrin Arbi (from Indonesia who later became a QS professor at UTM) and Hijjaz Kasturi (from Singapore and became the principal of the highly acclaimed architecture firm bearing his name) were invited to beef up the technical teaching staff at the times where there were so few technical professionals in the country, especially amongst the Malays. Many Malay boys and girls, predominantly from the rural areas and under developed Malay heartland, who were unable to make it to even sixth form then (in the sixties and early seventies), were given opportunities to technical training at diploma level. This was as a preparatory for further studies, mostly in technical universities in the UK, Australia and USA. As such, the gap of professional Malays in the technical field against the Non Malays were narrowed. In the sixties, so few Malays made it to Universiti Malaya, the only university then.

Tahir later was promoted to Dean of Academic Affairs (now UiTM Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs). With his network and hardwork, ITM graduates were accepted to more universities abroad at the time where UM would not even consider ITM graduates. This could be explained as many of the teaching staff in UM then were Non Malays, predominantly Chinese. In fact, the Engineering Faculty in UM in the late sixties and early seventies were known as ‘Butcher House’ to Malay technical students. So few made it through.

As the Dean of Academic Affairs and later Deputy Director, his focus on developing ITM went onwards to other courses like mass communications, accountancy, business studies and banking, law and public administration, statistics and computer science, hotel and catering, estate management and valuation, plantation management, applied sciences, library and information sciences and even fine arts and graphic design. The growth of ITM and the welfare of the students was his passion. I clearly remembered he took me to visit the fine arts department in ITM Dungun in 1977. It was my first trip to the East Coast. ITM students then were like his much younger brothers and sisters.

It was true blue towering Malays like Tahir and the ITM technical teaching staffs who strategically proven that the Malays could equally earn technical competency if given the opportunity, at the times where there was no New Economic Policy (NEP) and quota system to the universities. After the formation of NEP, Tahir worked closely with agencies like MARA and shipped more ITM graduates  abroad. As a result, the gap between Malay and Non Malay technical professionals has been narrowed significantly.

Tahir went on to serve the nation. When he left ITM as a long serving Deputy Director in late 1982, he was invited as the visiting examiner to Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC). Being an external examiner helped the credibility of the technical diplomas awarded by the MCA sponsored technical college, meant for the Chinese. He also promoted the growth of the profession to all Malaysians, when he was the Institut of Surveyor Malaysia President. He was also appointed visiting professor of quantity surveyor to UTM. He was selfless to see the profession grew, despite he could personally benefitted immensely with his qualifications and experience. Till present, so few Malaysians have his qualifications.

Tahir would have been 79 today, had he still been with us. I am not sure on how he will think of me as a SOPO blogger, considering his late father was a renowned political writer and printer, since the 1930s. in Negeri Sembilan However, he would have been very proud to see where UiTM and his former students have been. Of course, the number of Malay professionals in architecture, engineering, survey and building science, especially those who had their early tertiary education and training in ITM would really struck his emotions. The fact that the FSPU is named after him, Kompleks Tahir Majid (the only other building in UiTM is named after a person. The first was the library, Perpustakaan Tun Abdul Razak) is an illustration of his immense contribution is recognised.

Even after sixteen years, he is sorely missed. May Allah s.w.t. bless you, Pak Long.

Published in: on July 18, 2009 at 18:38  Comments (11)