With lallang on our minds...

Malaysian Business, April 1978

Strictly a man of action. Champion of the consumers' cause… a man given to improving the living standards of' the public. An apt description of none other than Encik Anwar Fazal, regional director of the International Organisation of Consumers' Unions `(IOCU).

Soft-spoken and articulate, he is the very epitome of zealousness. 'Encik-'Anwar is: an authority. On all matters concerned with consumerist movements, and-not-limited to the immediate region – Asia and the Pacific – under his charge.

His profound interest in this field stems from university days where he majored in business economics. Even in his undergraduate days, he was obviously outstanding. In 1962, he was awarded the senior university scholarship.

The followinq year saw a repeat performance when he won the "best all-round student medal" for meritorious academic record and extra-mural activities. A keen and very enthusiastic sportsman, he represented the university in athletics, rugby, cricket and hockey. He was also a president of the Student Union

Even though he is every inch a man of the world now, he is still very much a country boy at heart. Coming from the small village of Sunqei Bayor in upper Perak and later Taiping, Anwar grew up in, for want of comparison, sort of Huckleberry Finn's own backyard.

Life in the so-called ulus was so uncomplicated. No hustling. no pollution only the closeness of nature. The greater part of his childhood was spent in that sleepy little nook of Taiping. He vividly recalls the days when he used to hike up Maxwell Hill with his school chums, swim in clear and freezing mountain streams, camp out in the wilds and cycle all over the neighborhood.

Those were the good old care-free days! But responsibilities were already there Being the eldest in a family of seven, he had to set an example for the rest to follow. And this he did both in the classroom and on the playing field. His initiation into the game of hockey was quite accidental, recalls Encik Anwar.

He was standing on the sidelines watching a practice when the teacher asked him to stand-in as goal keeper. And from then on, he found himself on the school team. "To own a hockey stick in those days was something else. And I couldn't afford one. I used to hang around the esplanade watching the bigger boys at play when someone threw away his cracked stick."

Opportunity knocks but rarely… and the enterprising young budding sportsman picked it up, took that precious bit of property home and "doctored" it. He was the proud possessor of his very first hockey stick.

Educated at the King Edward VII School in Taiping up to Form Three, he then went on to Penang Free School to continue his secondary education. It was plain sailing all the way.

In 1961, Anwar Fazal was accepted as an Arts student at the University of Malaya where his potential as a leader, apart from his all-round record, was realised. A Diploma in Education followed his Bachelor degree. He tried his hand at teaching and his first appointment was the Royal Military College where he taught economics Unable to satisfy his interest in public and welfare services, he looked for greener and more challenging pastures.

An opening in City Council Penang was the answer to his search. In 1966 he left teaching to take up the post of assistant secretary. Besides his fulltime job, he found time away from work to counsel out-of-school youths and help them find their footing in society. He was instrumental in founding the City Training Centre for school leavers.

The next year found him serving as president of the Comets Athletics Club. Today, he is still actively involved in the club's activities. He is never too busy to spend a few hours on any day to share his experiences with his "community".

During his three-year stint with the City Council he was being molded into taking over as private secretary to the Chief Minister of Penang, Dr Lim Chong Eu. A highly responsible and influential post indeed for such a young man.

He had time, however, for other things too. Thus, he was one of the founders of the Consumers' Association of Penang. His interest and concern never waned. What was once an after work occupation has in fact evolved into a full-time profession.

"Consumerism is part of daily life and everyone should be aware of his rights as a consumer," says Encik Anwar

He notes that consumer exploitation is present in every part of the globe, the only difference being the degree and type of hassling that the public is subjected to. "There is a need for sharpening our civic responsibility and a desired move towards a better society essentially a role of volunteer activism."

By 1974, his appointment as director of the Penang Development Corporation came about. But his extra-curricular activities did not lessen. In that year, these included chairing the Information and Library Services, the Family Planning Association and heading the Tourist, Industry and Investment Promotion Division of the PDC.

And it was during those days in Penang when he was honored with the Eisenhower Fellowship which took him to the United States. He was certainly one of the youngest if not the youngest recipient of this highly esteemed award.

After a one-year period with PDC, Anwar was offered the post of regional director to IOCU which he accepted in 1975. He describes his appointment as a challenging opportunity to make a real and constructive step towards eliminating injustice in the international market-place for food.

In his present job, he is constantly on the move and is away from his wife, Mahmuda and their two children, some four months of the year. "I thoroughly enjoy my work though I miss my family when they are not with me on my travels".

Being part of an international organisation is an experience – travelling to different parts of the world for seminars and conferences, seeing a different pace of life pass by. It is unreal at times – a projection into the future," says Encik Anwar.

He has undertaken several postings to Hong Kong and Mauritius as consultant to the respective consumer bodies. In 1977 he was assigned to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome for two months.

At home, he is the doting father and enjoys the simple pleasure of watching his two children at play. Aslam is three while Seleena is almost eleven months old. Anwar admits that he is quitte domesticated and lends a helping hand with the children. He takes charge of the night-feeds.

His wife, Mahmuda, is a teacher and is very active in the Penang Historical Society. She too hails from Sungai Bayor and shares many of her husband's interests.

Apart from his work, family and youth activities, he still manages to find time to add to his collection of things Malaysian – all part of his heritage. From old books and journals to maps browsing through the secondhand book-shops along Chulia Street and side-lanes.

He is proud of his roots, his strict upbringing from a traditional Muslim home and the disciplines instilled in him when he was young. He is refreshingly natural and humble. In this age of sophistication, he has no airs about him.

He firmly believes in a person to person relationship where or more people are able to relate to one another to share a common ideal… to fight a united cause. to come to terms with one's weaknesses and overcome them.

With Lallang On Our Minds a paper on consumerist imperatives for Malaysia in the year 2001, he looks into the different areas of civic deficiency and recommends a few remedial suggestions to counteract this weakness.

In it he writes: "Lallang is deceptively attractive from afar – a symbol of ecological decadence – with a kind of growth that overwhelms and kills other activities. We must therefore foster an environment in which our young can find answers to their questions. In short, a more responsible lifestyle."