As if fate would have it, in 1978 I was posted to Kuching as an education officer in charge of the Educational Mass Media Service's arm of Radio and Television Production. It was due to my regular meetings at RTM ( Radio Television Malaysia) mainly on Mondays , that I met a gentleman who initiated me to become an interpreter at the Dewan Negeri ( previously "Council Negeri") . He was Mr. Annuar Ahmad , a one time popular sports commentator on radio RTM Kuching especially well-known for his coverage of football matches in Kuching for the benefit of fans throughout the length and breadth of Sarawak.
The 'job' of an interpreter was on temporary basis depending on when the Dewan held its sessions or meetings. What the legal fraternity calls " as and when basis".
While seated in the interpreter's booth with headphones and mike already setup, I would perform simulatneous oral translation of the proceedings whenever a Dewan member rose to speak. In most instances , I would share the interpretation hours with Mr. Annuar .
If any of the Dewan members, (the Dewan protocol required each one to call another member as " the honourable member" ) spoke in English I would translate his or her utterances in Bahasa Malaysia for the convenience of those non-English speaking members. Alternatively, if they spoke in Bahasa Malaysia, I would tranlate his or her words and sentences to English on the spot, online or virtual as we may prefer to call in today.It was a really challenging job as you could imagine we had to change our mode of thinking and linguistic codes according to the whims and fancies of the speakers. For the job I was paid a translator's allowance. A very important supplement back then as living in Kuching for a young family man was not cheap compared with Bintluu.
But the 'mega bonus" of doing this job was the chance to mix around with the YB's and Ministers, political secretaries, permanent secretaries and heads of department when they gather for morning, lunch and afternoon breaks at the Dewan canteen. Here you can talk to anyone you bump into including the VVIP's. Everyone seemed willing to talk casually and leisurely in a relaxed ambience. Unlike when they have to sit long hours inside the august house.
Longest Dewan Session in History
That day was eventful. I arrived home around 4.30 am. The reason being on that day the Dewan had no budget to hold its meeting for another day. By hook or by crook, the Dewan must adjourn that same day. Thus I became witness to the longest Dewan sesson in Malaysian history , I think. ( Though I have not really checked this fact with other dewan sessions in other states in Malaysia). Anyway, what was amazing that day was the fact that I had to do the translation alone ( i.e. from 9.00 am to 4.00 am the following day) . On that fateful day my friend Annuar didn't turn up at the translator's booth. That I think put me a place in the Malaysia Book of World Records as the longest time an interpreter had to do interpretation in a single seating.!!
I have yet to recall the exact date of this meeting. But If I were to go through the Dewan's Archives of hansards I would be able to give you the exact date. If only the hansards are still there.
However, for the sake of posterity, the Speaker of the Dewan then was Tuan Speaker Datuk Abang Abu Bakar and the Chief Minister was Datuk Haji Abdul Rahman Ya'akub ( now Tun).