Sunday, January 27, 2013

Founders Of United Kingdom Eire Council for Malaysian Students (UKEC)

I met Fez, the current Chairman of UKEC a few weeks ago and as with previous chairmen and leaders of the organisation before him in its current incarnation, there was much curiosity over how and why it was founded at an AGM in Leicester University on the spring of 1995.

Actually, UKEC was conceptualised much earlier, being the brainchild of 3 individuals from the London School of Economics (LSE), Hirmiadi Don Rahim and Omar Siddiq Amin Noer Rashid who were also founders of Malaysia Club at the LSE and Abdul Rahman Redza, one of the two founders of Project Kalsom (more of this much later).

An abortive attempt at forming UKEC happened in the spring of 1994. However, despite attracting 17 representatives from some 10 universities, the attempt faltered and the 3 decided to re-formulate the founding membership to improve UKEC's chance of success. Rahman withdrew to focus on Kalsom, and Adlan Benan Omar from Cambridge, Munir Majid from Oxford and myself, Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi of Imperial College, were recruited to the cause in the summer of 1994.

We five were then more generally known as the five founders of UKEC. Our notable successes during the time was securing the then politically retired Tun Daim Zainuddin as Patron, expanding the pro-tem committee across the many Universities of the UK, gaining the trust and support of the Malaysian Students' Department who was then led by Dato' (then Encik) Abdul Rahman Kasbon. A couple of unsung heroes of UKEC's founding were actually (the late) En Aris and En Hamid of MSD who helped us figure out what UKEC was meant to be.

However, it would be too selfish of us to not also acknowledge a few others as founders of UKEC. Badlisyah Ghani and Flora Romeo joined the team in the winter at the end of 1994. Badlisyah was a fierce critic of UKEC at first, but once he understood and bought into our cause became a key contributor, as he and Flora drafted UKEC's constitution based on their reading the UN Charter (both were law students). The two of them also brought UKEC into the sphere of Universities grouped under the Northern Consortium (NCUK), with Badlisyah being from Leeds University and Flora from University of Middlesex.

Lim Chong Han also joined the cause at about the same time via an earlier friendship with Ben. Chong Han brought us a more legitimate Malaysian feel to the whole endeavour, being our first non-Malay founding member, and also a strong enough relationship with the administration of the University of Leicester to offer up its facilities to host our inaugural AGM in the spring of 1995.

There are 3 other notable players whom cannot be missed, Mohd Irman 'Bun' Nawawi who by the time of the AGM was Kalsom's principle driver, Nazrin Hassan, who rose from being Ben's close confidant to later building the cadre system that recruited future UKEC executive committee leaders and eventually becoming a trustee of UKEC's Capital Fund, and Eqhwan Mokhzanee, who played the odd yet challenging role as the youngest member of the committee, all mentioned here were born in 1973 except for him(!), as well as being the incoming first Chairman of UKEC.

There were of course many others who contributed in their own way to UKEC's founding, but those mentioned here are the only ones I and each of us would probably acknowledge unequivocally as founders of UKEC. Our contributions did not end at UKEC's founding though. Ben, Don, Nazrin and I for instance, whilst we walked away from UKEC, battered but satisfied with our work being left in the good hands of Eqhwan, Badlisyah, Flora and Chong Han as the lynchpin of the first committee, could not help but return to assist as part of UKEC's second exco. In fact, the name change from UK Executive Council to UK Eire Council was suggested by Badlisyah just a few years ago!

But the journey to UKEC's foundation has a sweetness to it all of its own. We began the journey as undergraduates in our very early twenties and walked away with lessons of a lifetime. And we can now stand tall and proud to see UKEC continuing to find relevance for Malaysian Students of the current generation.
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