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The difference my dad made ...

Industry figures share about the lasting impressions their fathers left on their lives

30 May 2019 / 11:36 H.

This Father’s Day, theSun features a couple of prominent heads of industries who tell us about the impact their dads had on their lives and some of the traits they inherited. May their recollections of past and present evoke memories of special moments shared with our own fathers.

TAN SRI TONY FERNANDES

Group Chief Executive Officer, AirAsia

My dad’s love for music has had such a huge influence on me. He bought my first record: the Supremes’ "Supremes A’ Go-Go". I remember, during the holidays, if I dusted and organised his records, I was allowed to play them on our stereo system. He adored the classics – Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr – all the singers from that golden era.

I was also sports mad, like my dad, and we went to just about every sporting event we could in Malaysia; and together we would watch matches on the television. He followed teams and events with intensity and was a tireless supporter of the underdogs – whenever there was an uneven contest, he always sided with the least-fancied team or player.

Alongside his great love for sport and music, my dad was studious - reserved, disciplined and highly principled. As a doctor, he was dedicated to the World Health Organization (WHO) programme on eradicating malaria and dengue fever. His political ideas have influenced me in a big way. He was devoted to the idea of public health for the public good and wouldn’t go anywhere near private medicine. He was naturally curious, always wanting to know how things worked, and wanting to understand the world. I think that’s where my curiosity stems from.

Both my father and mother were loving and inspiring parents who taught me compassion and instilled in me a zest for life. To my late dad, thank you for introducing me to the jazz greats, showing me the potential of supporting the underdog, and through your dedication to public health, planting in me the desire to envision a world where equality is possible.

ROLAND BALA

Managing Director, Heineken Malaysia Berhad

My dad came from a small and remote village in the highlands of Borneo called Long Lellang. We are descendants of a small indigenous tribe from Sarawak called the Kelabits. Dad was the third child in a family of six siblings.

He was a giant of a man, literally, standing at around 6 feet 3 inches in height. Due to the rough and tough environment he grew up in, coupled with his naturally well-built body, he was renowned for his strength, courage and adventurous spirit. For example, he could lift a fully-filled 209-litre drum with his bare hands and has taken on and slaughtered full-grown wild boars without the use of any weapons.

He used to travel and navigate the treacherous Baram rapids for weeks, sometimes months, to sell products from the ‘wilderness’ at nearby towns such as Marudi and Miri to earn some money. Despite his lack of knowledge about other big cities during the post-colonial era, my dad led a group of village natives on a journey, travelling all the way from our remote village in Long Lellang to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, just to sell indigenous products from the jungle and various handicrafts.

Although I did not inherit my dad’s physical built or strength, I believe I have, in my blood, his courage and adventurous spirit, which has led me to launch my career beyond the borders of Sarawak. I’ve lived abroad for most parts of my career with two great companies - British Petroleum and the Heineken Group. My dad must be smiling in disbelief from heaven seeing his son running the leading brewery in the country because I know he loved his beers and stouts, especially Guinness, back in those days when he was still with us!

Sadly, my dad passed on in 2006 at the age of 80. Unfortunately my two young children did not have the chance to meet their grandfather. I now try to spend every possible time with my mum, now 93-years old. Treasure every moment you have with your parents as they will not be here forever.

ROY QUEK

Executive Director and Group CEO, Thomson Medical Group

My late father was a quiet, gentle man who found pleasure in artistic and sporting pursuits, even though he was a businessman. He was a talented musician who played music by ear. He was also very good with his hands; he could draw and craft creations from all sorts of simple materials.

I remember spending time with him where he would teach me how to fold paper aeroplanes and boats, and make simple toys from wood. He would do this whenever he had time, usually over the weekends; and I would be fascinated by his artistic eye and great handiwork. With my dad around, we never really needed handymen!

My father was also an avid sports fan. I recall the many times we would head to the National Stadium to watch football games. He even gave me his pair of football boots – real relic from his younger days. I remember my father and mother accompanying me to buy my very first pair of junior football boots when I was in primary school. That was an amazing milestone, in my then fledgling attempt to become a sportsman.

From my father, I inherited his keen eye and ear for the aesthetics, and the ability to use my hands – be it for art and craft or for carpentry and DIY at home; and my love for sports is something that I shared with him. From a young age, we enjoyed games of table-tennis, badminton and football. I took an interest in all manner of sporting pursuits and he was always my biggest supporter. When I eventually became good enough to be a class, then school, and eventually a national athlete, he was there with me throughout.

Through my father, I learnt that success in life is not merely measured by academic attainment or financial achievement. It is about enjoying and sharing each phase of our lives with our family and loved ones as such moments may not always be with us. My father passed on suddenly when I was just 28. We made many wonderful memories during those 28 years but I often wonder too, about the years that we had not managed to share. So, to
all fathers out there – enjoy the real fruits of your labour – the children and family that you
have; and for everything else you achieve in life, let it always be secondary.

KEVIN TAN

Chief Operating Officer, Sunway Malls

I've certainly inherited his looks and silver hair! My late father used to work for the National Electricity Board, currently known as Tenaga Nasional Berhad. He supervised many an electrical tower erection across Malaysia and was one who has widely travelled, even into remote jungles. The nature of his job required relocation, so our family moved quite a bit. Our nomadic life ended when I started school; upon which, I only got to see him four days a month.

Rain or shine, my father would be out in rough terrain putting up towers. His hardworking nature and wanting to make a difference were some of the values he had which I admired. His determination was another; it groomed him to handle tough situations. These challenging situations also made him very resourceful, as he had to make do with whatever there was in the jungle. In these I learned that being adaptive and resourceful are important traits in becoming successful.

My father was also highly respected by his employees. They always spoke well of him and his willingness to share his knowledge and experience with them. I inherited this trait of his and learned not to be selfish with knowledge in order to bring the best out of people.

Dad was also a loving and doting husband. When my mother was suffering from Alzheimers, he cared for her until stroke rendered him incapable. He fed, bathed and took my mum with him wherever he went. His siblings jokingly gave him the title "The Best Husband of The Century". People in his hometown have fond memories of him as the “loving silver-haired old man who was always with his wheelchair-bound wife”. From this, I learned to honour, love and care for my loved ones and in return, took good care of both my parents until they passed on; I still feel it was not enough though.

Dad had a major stroke and was bedridden for three years before he left this world. He had to be tube-fed. Still, he suffered without any complaint even though deprived of the things he enjoyed most, like good food and travel. I have learned the importance of perseverance and the joy of true devotion and altruism from he who treated my mother with so much love. He also taught me that placing others before oneself is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and humanity.

TAN SRI LIM HOCK SAN

Group Managing Director, LBS Bina Group Berhad

Strict parents hope their children perform well and become better people; and so my father, Dato' Seri Lim Bok Seng, was very strict with my siblings and I, especially in our studies. We were punished if we failed to do well. He was also strict and made sure we chose the right friends. I’m quite similar as I’m very strict with my children.

Dad also felt that education was the key to success. Although he only studied up to primary school, he was aware of the importance of education; he believed that education was power.

Then again, my father also said that one should give back to society. And although I was raised in a poor family with 10 siblings, my father did his best to make money for us to study abroad.

A man with foresight; he started his business venturing in transportation and construction, and eventually went into the construction and development sector. After I graduated in 1982, I returned to Malaysia to assist him in expanding the family business.

“If faced with any problem, just solve it. Don't evade it,” these were his words. It reminds me when LBS bought a piece of land during the 1990’s, to develop apartments, which were in high demand then. The targeted market was medium to high segment During the 1997 financial crisis, we were faced with a lot of challenges eg. interest rate hike, coupled with poor market sentiments. We promptly changed our focus to the medium market segment as dad felt a lower profit margin was fine; our priority was to get through the hard times, not worry too much on making profits but to get cash flow. Hence, I learnt from him to face the challenge, solve the problems, and turn a crisis into an opportunity.

Like father, like son

Ruth E. Renkel once said, “Sometimes the poorest father leaves his children with the richest inheritance,” which relates to these stories, of dads who have influenced their sons and made an impact on their lives.

This Father’s Day, may we learn to appreciate our own fathers and honour them for the little and big ways they have impacted our lives. To all dads, Happy Father’s Day!

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