3 Years In Penang

If my memory serves me right, the first time I ever went to Penang was when I followed my parents on their first tour of the north after my father took the helm of the Royal Malaysian Police Force after his predecessor was assassinated by communist terrorists (whose leader some quarters in this country are trying to bring back and portray as a Patriot). That was in 1974. And we stayed at what was the Merlin Hotel on Farquhar Street (now the City Bayview Hotel on Jalan Farquhar). My parents left early for some reason, so I had to stay at the house of someone who became my batchmate at the Malay College 5 years later (Dr Suhaimi Osman, now a cardiologist at the National Heart Institute) until we left Penang some days later, by virtue that I had to follow the late Datuk Ahmad Maulana SM Babjee (former head of CID, and also an uncle of Dr Suhaimi).

After that I never visited Penang again until 1980, when I followed my family on holiday there. Then, again in 1981 and 1982, when Dato Zaman Khan was the CPO of Penang, 1983 when I was a Cadet Sergeant, taking the Company out on an excursion. My next visit after that was in 1986 after my return from England (I went on an ad-hoc camping trip with my schoolmate, Hafiz a.k.a Jawa).

In 1989, I was stationed at the RMAF Air Training Command HQ, located at the former RAAF School, Jalan Azyze, Tanjung Bungah (Hillside), initially as the Staff Officer (3) Programming, then as the HQ Adjutant a year later until I left in early 1992.

I would say Penang was one of the best places I was ever stationed at when I was still serving. A typical day would have been like this:

0700 – breakfast at the Officers’ Mess
0745 – morning parade
0800 – work commences
1245 – lunch at the Officers’ Mess
1400 – work re-commence
1600 – ‘O’ Group to plan activities for the evening
1615 – work ends: back to the Officers’ Mess to change
1700 – off to Teluk Bahang or at the breakwater of what is now the Copthorne Orchid for fishing
2359 – back at the Officers’ Mess

My fishing kakis included Corporal Hashim (later Warrant Officer Hashim who was with me at the Air Force Legal Department, now retired and living in Sentul), Corporal Karim (who was with me later at Songhkla, now retired as a Warrant Officer and is now living in Pengkalan Hulu), Corporal Budin (passed away in 1993), Warrant Officer Rahman Said (passed away in 1995, he retired at the age of 42 in 1992 and got married the following year), Sivalingam (our civilian clerk who has now retired and residing in Taiping), Sergeant Aziz Din (the guy who coined the famous term Thursday night Friday, now retired and living in Kodiang), Corporal Lim Boon Cheng (passed away in 1994), army Captain Ustaz Razali (KAGAT) who got transferred out in 1990 (I used to make him watch porn movies as part of his mess initiation), Flight Sergeant Zakaria Din (retired as a Warrant Officer, now living in Bangi), Flight Sergeant Misran Sueib (retired in 1995 and went back to Trong, Perak), Corporal Ustaz Shahrul (from KAGAT) and Aircraftman Nizam (the Kelantanese Iban who reported for duty to me saying, “Saya orang IBAE tuae!”).

We were like so into fishing that even our General Officer Commanding (GOC or Panglima), Brigadier General Dato’ Fauzi bin Hussain (retired as a Major General, as Deputy Chief of Air Force) used to join us fishing during weekends.

General Fauzi was my Panglima when I joined the Air Force as an Officer Cadet. He remained the Command HQ’s Panglima until he was succeeded in 1990 by Brigadier General Dato’ Nawi Alias (retired as a Major General, he was also the Inspector-General of the Air Force, and also the Chief of Staff, Malaysian Armed Forces), followed by Brigadier General Abdullah Omar (retired as the GOC 1st Air Division).

We had two Chief of Staffs when I was there: first it was Lieutenant Colonel Chong Keng Lay, an Air Force hero, a disciplinarian but cared for his subordinates, until 1990 (he was posted to RMAF Station Kuala Lumpur a.k.a known as TUDM Sungai Besi), followed by Colonel Nagaratnam Ampalam, a quiet but stern disciplinarian, who jogs 10km every evening without fail. Definitely not an apple polisher as he never played golf to please superiors. He earned the nickname Mango Dragon from us (Mango because of the Tamil word for Mango is Maam Palam, that’s where the word Mempelam originated from, and Dragon from his name Naga).

The building itself used to be the Royal Australian Air Force school, for children of the members of the RAAF stationed at the Butterworth AFB (they now have Dalat School along Jalan Tanjung Bungah). It was opened on 9th May 1962, and the last school year was in 1988, before it was taken over by the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

The Air Training Command (Markas Pemerintahan Pendidikan Udara) ceased to exist in 1993, and the premise was taken over by the Institut Latihan Ikhtisas TUDM (ILIT), and was later renamed Sekolah Ikhtisas Tentera Udara (SITU).

Sometimes, after office, we would go to Murad‘s along Jalan Tanjong Tokong (it was seafront then before they reclaimed the seafront) to eat Cucur Bawang with Teh Tarik, or Mee Hoon Soup Utara; and at night we would have Char Kuey Teow at Tanjung Bungah itself.

The area was initially a gangsters’ hideout, and gangsters were notoriously killing people and dumping the bodies at the ravine along Jalan Lembah Permai, and the chinese cemetery located at Mount Erskine (we nicknamed this place Mount Foreskin). These two locations were linked via Fettes Park (we pronounced it as Fatties).

The area became peaceful after we were deployed there, for reasons I shall not disclose here.

Anyway, I’ve lost all the pics of my tour in Penang. I only have three albums left of my childhood and teenage days. I have no picture of me prior to the age of 13. I blame that on my divorce.

Below are pictures of our Command HQ from various sources:

Google Maps Satellite view
Google Maps satellite view of Tanjung Tokong on the right, and Tanjung Bungah on the left. Right most is the reclaimed area that was once one of my fishing areas (Courtesy of Google Maps)

When it was still the RAAF School
When it was still the RAAF School (Picture courtesy of RAAF School Penang)

This was the Air Training Command HQ a year after I left in 1992
The Air Training Command HQ in 1992, a year after I was posted out (Picture courtesy of RAAF School Penang)

The yard
The basketball yard under RAAF School – on the left was the Junior Ranks’ Barracks, now replaced by a 3-storey block, while on the right was the Cookhouse and Junior Ranks’ Mess. This block is no longer there. (Picture courtesy of RAAF School Penang)

The yard in 1988
The basketball yard after the RAAF handed over the complex to the RMAF in 1988 (Picture courtesy of RAAF School Penang)

SITU in 2003
SITU in 2003. This was the Administration Block where my office was located (Picture courtesy of RAAF School Penang)

SITU in 2007
SITU in 2007. The Administration Block is the one on the right (where my office was located). The center block housed the Logistics, Engineering and Operations Squadrons. The left-most block was the Officers’ Mess (Picture courtesy of RAAF School Penang)