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M’sian flag helped forge 60-year friendship

KUALA LUMPUR: They came from opposite sides of the country but the Malaysian flag helped to forge a 60-year friendship between former Navy Chief Petty Officer Oliver Cuthbert Samuel, 84, and Lt Commander (Rtd) Mohd Sharif Kalam, 82.
Their friendship began when the two men spent three days together with the late yeoman Awang Salleh rehearsing for the historic moment when they hoisted the nation’s flag for the first time on Aug 31, 1957.
“We spent a lot of time together practising as we had to get ready for the big day.
“I remember that we were very happy when the flag was raised,” Samuel said, recalling the moment from 60 years ago.
Samuel, who is from Penang, said he was feeling anxious just before hoisting the flag.
Being a corporal at the time, he was tasked with heading the flag-raising team.
“It was the Emergency and the flagpole was in the middle of the field.
“I was worried that the flagpole or lanyard may have been sabotaged,” he said, adding that a tho­rough check was made before the ceremony to ensure the lanyard had not been cut or tampered with.
Mohd Sharif, who is from Johor Baru, said they had to practise rai­sing the flag under the cover of darkness at the Police Training Centre (Pulapol) in Jalan Semarak.
“With the centre being in an isolated area, we did it at night so that members of the public would not see the flag or hear the Negaraku being played.
“They had never seen the flag or heard the national anthem before Aug 31,” he said.
Mohd Sharif, who served the navy for 30 years, said Malaysians should take pride in the flag as it is a symbol of our sovereignty and freedom.
“It is shameful there are those who fly flags that are torn and weather-beaten.
“This should not be done, especially if it is a government building,” he said.
For the first time, Samuel and Mohd Sharif were invited to this year’s National Day celebration as guests of honour and were seated at the Royal box.
They chatted and posed for photographs with members of the public after the ceremony.
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