Rashid’s unyielding passion for community service was an inspiration

Mohammed Rashid Abdul Ajij

Benedict Lopez pays tribute to a neighbour whose community spirit transcended ethnic barriers and inspired others.

Just slightly more than a month ago, my neighbour and friend, Mohammed Rashid Abdul Ajij, enquired about my age. When I told him my age, he spontaneously replied he was much younger than me.

I jokingly told Rashid, in that case, he would have to see me off first before he retires from this world. He just smiled at my response.

So, it was with a sense of profound shock and sadness that while relaxing on the morning of 6 December, I was informed that Rashid had succumbed to a massive cardiac arrest while he was in his hometown of Taiping. Rashid was only 56.

Looking at the way Rashid, an ex-army officer, used to walk, I always thought that he was the embodiment of physical fitness.

I had known Rashid since my return from Stockholm in July 2014, but my family and I knew his wife Khadijah and her family ever since we moved to Bangsar Park in 1973.

Rashid belonged to a rare breed of Malaysians. In an era when there is so much racial polarisation in our country, Rashid towered above others and crossed the ethnic and religious divide by being a friend to all residents, irrespective of their race and religion. How I wish there were more people like Rashid in Malaysia, especially among our politicians!

An old boy of the Royal Military College in Sungai Besi, Rashid, a mechanical engineer by profession, held the rank of captain in the Royal Signal Corps.

By any measure, Rashid defied all the odds stacked against him and bucked the trend. He did not come from a privileged background and had to borrow a pair of shoes to attend his college interview. His relatives even told him he was too thin to join the Royal Military College. But being a man of steely determination, he proved all the sceptics wrong when the college accepted him.

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Rashid was determined to serve the country and be part of the army. His famous motto, which he always mentioned, was “duty, honour and country”.

He took full pride in the deeds of his fellow engineers in all their endeavours.

A week before his passing, I told him that I had just returned from Brickfields, where I had gone to lend moral support to an unemployed engineering graduate who sells masala tea for a living.

Rashid responded immediately: “I am proud of my fellow engineer earning a living honourably.”

I once told Rashid that if there was a post of mayor of Bangsar Park, he would win hands down. He always had a perpetual smile on his face for anyone he met and frequently chatted with them, even if it was a brief encounter.

I noticed Rashid’s public relations skills when we did work for the Bangsar Park Residents Association, going from house to house, coaxing residents and collecting their no-objection signatures for our gated and guarded community. Rashid always had a few minutes to spare to talk to our residents. Even when encountering unfriendly residents, Rashid, maintaining his composure, would still flash his usual affable smile.

He once told me that, as an ex-army officer, he was always passionate about the security of Bangsar Park. It was this fervidness that motivated him to work tirelessly towards attaining this goal, despite the hurdles we still encounter.

Unlike many who seek glory and attention and have an agenda, Rashid was always in the background, enthusiastically working for the residents’ association, not once in any way seeking any form of recognition.

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In his own quiet way, Rashid would also help a less fortunate resident living along the same road. I only came to know about this act of kindness recently.

Rashid, you have left an indelible mark on the residents of Bangsar Park and its residents’ association. You will always be remembered for your selfless service and passionate commitment to make Bangsar Park a better place to live for all our residents.

Farewell, my friend. I will miss conversing with you.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime