August 4, 2004, Wednesday - At 77, when most people his age are taking it easy or are too frail to do anything, it’s still work as usual for Haji Abu Bakar Maidin.
For his outstanding and unstinting contribution to community service, the President of Jamiyah for more than 30 years, is the winner of this year’s Achiever of the Year Award announced today by Berita Harian and McDonalds.
The award is in recognition of his passionate involvement in many social and educational projects, which have contributed immensely towards uplifting the Malay/ Muslim community.
He will receive the award from Dr Ng Eng Hen, Acting Minister for Manpower and Minister of State for Education, at 9.15pm tonight at the Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore.
The annual award, now into its sixth year, is given to a Malay/ Muslim individual for his achievements in the fields of education, business, arts and culture, sports, the professions or social work. The recipient must show perseverance, determination and a willingness to overcome odds in his or her respective field, and possess an outstanding integrity and be a role model for the Malay/ Muslim community in Singapore.
The winner is picked by a panel of six judges drawn from the Malay/ Muslim community, and headed by Mr Ridzwan Dzafir, a consultant with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr Guntor Sadali, Editor of Berita Harian, a judge in the selection committee, said: "Haji Abu Bakar has given almost his entire life to serve the community, and continues to do so. And his services extend beyond Jamiyah. He has also made significant contributions in promoting inter-racial and inter-religious harmony which is crucial in Singapore."
A key leader in the Malay/Muslim community, Haji Abu Bakar, an ex-financial director who became the first Malay to become a director in an MNC, also holds many appointments, both locally and overseas.
But his most outstanding contribution is to Jamiyah, one of the largest Muslim welfare organisations in Singapore. His achievement is synonymous with the success of the organisation, which had only $5.60 in its coffers when he first took over as President in 1973.
Since then, Jamiyah has grown into an organisation with assets worth more than $25 million, including a seven-storey building in its name. With more than 35,000 members, Jamiyah provides a wide range of social services for people of all ages, from children to the elderly and destitute. Some of its services include a children’s home, a halfway house for ex-drug addicts, an elderly nursing home and a home for the aged.
Jamiyah also provides free legal and medical clinics, and food rations for the poor and needy. A firm champion of education, Jamiyah runs four educational centres - a childcare centre, an education centre, a pre-school centre and a business school.
In its efforts to be self-sustaining, Jamiyah has also ventured into business and runs a freshmart, a deli cafe, a restaurant and catering service, as well as a training centre, all under the umbrella of Jeewa Ltd.
To some extent, Jamiyah’s success is due to Haji Abu Bakar’s ability to form an extensive network of supporters and well-wishers, which goes beyond the Malay/Muslim community. One of Jamiyah’s strongest supporters is the Singapore Buddhist Lodge Foundation, which has helped in co-organising some of Jamiyah’s fund-raising and social activities. Even during the economic downturn, Jamiyah was able to raise millions of dollars through various fund-raising events.
Haji Abu Bakar’s ability to work together with other communities has drawn praise from many leaders, including Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, and turned Jamiyah into a role model for the promotion of inter-religious harmony, which is increasingly important in the post-9/11 world, where misunderstandings about the Muslim community could arise.
Haji Abu Bakar himself has become an icon symbolising efforts to promote inter-religious harmony and understanding. It is therefore befitting that he was appointed President of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) early this year. IRO, which represents nine religious groups in Singapore, is responsible for promoting harmony and understanding among different faiths.
Haji Abu Bakar is also chairman of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) working committee. ETF is a fund-raising initiative which was mooted by Minister in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, two years ago.
Under Haji Abu Bakar’s leadership, ETF, which aims to collect $10 million by 2005 to fund pre-school education of needy children, has now reached the $7.5 million mark.
Past years´ Achiever of the Year winners include Dr Mansoor Abdul Jalil, lecturer with the Department of Electrical Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS); Professor Aziz Nather, director at the Tissue Bank and consultant with the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NUS; Madam Halimah Yacob , Assistant Secretary General of NTUC; Master potter Mr Iskandar Jalil; and Veteran Composer Mr Iskandar Mirza Ismail.