KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 (Bernama) — Datuk Idris Shaari Mat Aris recalled today how he was tickled when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak delivered his first speech as the member of parliament for Pekan in 1976.
The 66-year-old former bodyguard of Najib’s father and the country’s second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, said Najib “sounded so awkward” when speaking at an event of a parent-teacher association of a school in Kampung Almarhum in Pekan, Pahang.
“I could only bear listening to him speak a few sentences in Bahasa Malaysia before hiding in the car with the driver because he sounded so awkward,” an amused Idris Shaari told Bernama in an exclusive interview at his house in Jalan Eaton here recently.
“He (Najib) had only returned from England a little over a year earlier and could not speak Bahasa Malaysia very well,” he said.
Nevertheless, Idris Shaari is now very pleased with Najib as the latter had placed consistent effort to polish his oratory skills and is able to speak eloquently in Bahasa Malaysia and English.
Idris Shaari, who has been with Najib since the beginning of his political career, said Najib was sent to pursue his studies at the Malvern Boys’ College in Worcestershire, England, at the age of 12, which explains his lack of fluency in Bahasa Malaysia early in life.
He said Najib was only allowed to return to the country once a year and by the time he returned to his homeland for good after graduating with a honours degree in Industrial Economics from the University of Nottingham, England, it was 1974 and he was 21.
“But he was very determined to overcome the adversity. He employed the help of language professors who gave private lessons at his home and he learned until he is as good as we see him today. And in the bid to get closer to the people of his constituency and understand their ways, Najib also learned to read and write in Jawi,” he said.
Idris Shaari, who was formerly with the police force, retired in 1976 upon the death of Tun Razak, and was appointed as the private secretary to Najib’s mother, Tun Rahah Mohd Noah, and was made the family’s caretaker as well.
He was only 22 when he was first employed by Tun Razak in 1965, and had been with the family for 44 years.
Idris Shaari described Najib as a well-mannered child who studied hard and had a great relationship with his four brothers — Ahmad Johari, 54, Mohamad Nizam, 51, Mohamad Nazim, 47, and Mohamad Nazir, 42.
“In all my years with them, I have never heard any of them upsetting or bad-mouthing another. The younger ones are always respectful of Najib, not because he is a minister or is now going to be the next prime minister, but because he is their eldest brother,” he said.
He said the brothers are so close that they would make it a point to congregate at their mother’s home every Thursday for dinner.
“Although they deeply respect their mother, you can find them freely joking and laughing with her,” he said.
When asked if Tun Razak had ever groomed Najib to take over his place or to get involved in politics, Idris Shaari replied in the negative and said: “Tun (Razak) never encouraged any of his children to go into politics.
“However, a year before Tun died, when Najib was in Malaysia for the holidays, he (Tun Razak) had asked me to bring Najib down to visit the villages in Pahang,” he said.
He said it was possible that Tun Razak already knew that he had not much longer to live and wanted Najib to continue his legacy. Tun Razak died on Jan 14, 1976 of leukemia in London.
On the appointment of Najib as the sixth prime minister tomorrow, Idris Shaari said he hoped that Najib would pick his team from the most loyal of his supporters because a strong team was needed to steer the country through the economically tumultuous times and improve relations among the races.
“I also hope that he will keep an eye on those working for him to ensure that they are working to help him develop the country, and not accomplish their own personal agenda,” he said.
Source : Bernama