Sunday, October 21, 2007

In memory of Mustaffa Dapat

Allahyarham Mustaffa b. Dapat (b. 21 October 1964, d. 28 August 2004).

Mustaffa Dapat was born to a former British Army employee, Dapat b. Selamat. He was initially intended to be named as 'Ahmad Suhardi b. Dapat'. However, his aunt changed his name to 'Mustaffa' instead when the registration of birth was made. He grew up in Kampung Stulang Baru, Johor Bahru, Johor and attended Larkin School. His father by then became a Postman at Bukit Panjang Post Office, Bukit Panjang, Singapore while his mother run an eatery stall in Larkin.

Later he attended MARA Junior Science College, Kuantan, Pahang (1977-1981). He went to Oklahoma to study engineering but later transferred to Ohio University in Columbus, Ohio and earned a bachelor in aeronautical engineering in 1986.

He came back to Malaysia during the first economic recession. After his mother passed away in 1987 to stomach ulcer, Mustaffa enrolled in the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) KD Pelanduk as Cadet Officer. He graduated in 1989 as the best cadet officer and earned the golden sabre from HM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong, beating more than a dozen ex RMC cadet officers in his intake.

He was initially destined to be trained as the engineer for the RMN’s Air Wing KD Rajawali. However, still as a Sub. Lt., he was sent to Royal Australian Navy submarine school near Sydney in 1992 instead. He earned his ‘dolphins’ in 1993, the first RMN officer to be certified as submariner, along with Lt. Abdul Rahman Ayob and Senior Petty Officer Suhaimi after the training in an RAN Oberon Class submarine.

His track record was so impressive that the RAN, through Australian MINDEF, requested their Foreign Office to ask MINDEF, through Wisma Putra for Lt. Mustaffa to come and serve for another tour of duty, in the RAN submarine squadron. During this time, he participated in a submarine exercise with the US Navy.

(Left photo) An article in an RAN Bulletin, with Group Captain Australian Submarine squadron, HMAS Platypus. Mustaffa Dapat is second on the left. Centre is Kept. Abdul Rahman Ayob.

(Right photo) From left, Lt. Cdr. Zulhelmi Isnin, Cdr. Abdullah Sani Ismail, Mustaffa Dapat and Kept. Abdul Rahman Ayob. This photo was shot in TLDM Lumut, 1997.

After serving ten years short commission service, Mustaffa left the RMN in 1997 due to economic reasons. He joined ATSC Sdn. Bhd. (then under Airod) and served as the Project Manager for the MiG 29N maintenance program, based in TUDM Kuantan, under former RMAF Brig. Gen. Richard Robless Sr. He later joined Rajawali Aerospace Sdn. Bhd. as a General Manager, also following Robless.

In 2001 when Perimekar Sdn. Bhd. put up the bid for the submarine project, Mustaffa was employed as a consultant to the project. He later joined Perimekar as a Project Manager and facilitated the project management during the lengthy technical negotiations between DCNi, Thales (now Armaris), Perimekar and the RMN. The contract was signed in June 2002 for the acquisition of two Scorpene Class SSK submarines. By then, LTAT through Boustead Bhd. was a 51% shareholder of Perimekar.

Mustaffa was sent to Cherbourg, France in December 2002, to facilitate for the Perkimekar’s contract to ensure the RMN Submarine Project Team’s work supervising and monitoring the construction, testing and commissioning of the two submarines are fully completed, according to the contract.

In late July, Mustaffa fell ill due to viral fever and was admitted to the Louis Pasteur Hospital, Cherbourg in early August. Five days later he was transferred to another hospital in Caen where he remained for the next two and half weeks. Within that time, it was diagnosed that Mustaffa suffered a rare penicillin allergy called ‘Steven Johnson syndrome’. He went into a coma and eventually just before six a.m. on Saturday, 28 August 2004, Mustaffa Dapat died never regained consciousness.

His body was bathe and kapan (wrapped with burial shroud) at the Caen mosque and taken to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport on the afternoon of Monday 30 August 2007 and was flown back to Kuala Lumpur onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH 021 at noon, the national day of 2004. His remains arrived in KLIA at 5.30 am 1 September 2004, accompanied by his widow Masniza Mansor, his 8 year old son Muhammad Faza Aiman, his three month old baby Misha Elyssa, Puan NorAishah Mohd. Nasri (wife of Deputy Leader, Submarine Project Team in Cherbourg; Capt. Rosland Omar), his best friend and fellow submariner (who also represented the RMN), Cdr. Abdul Rahman Ayob and Perimekar manager based in Cartagena, Spain, Anuar. Lt. Cdr. Zulhelmi Isnin, his wife (who is a TLDM officer as well) and Lt. Cdr. Baharuddin Md. Nor were at KLIA for the reception of Mustaffa's remains and the party that accompany it back home.

His remains was taken to Masjid Kampung Chempaka, Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya and later was interned at Kampung Tunku Cemetery that noon. Relatives, former colleagues from the RMN and the Defense Attache’ of the French Embassy of Kuala Lumpur were there to pay their respect. So was representative of DCNi and Armaris.

His last summer, his wife was expecting their second child. However, he insisted I came for a visit in June of 2004, the 60th celebration of D-Day landings. We arrived in Paris Charles De Gaulle on 3 June 2004, rented a Picasso Xsara from Europecar and drove directly to Cherbourg, Normandy. (After we came back home, he also insisted that his father, Pak Dapat to also come for visit. It was his last wish to see people close to him before he died three months later).

For the longest time since school, we promised ourselves that we should one day step foot in Utah and Omaha Beaches, St. Mere De Eglise and Point Du Hoc and witness for ourselves the largest military landing which changed world history. We also wanted to go to Bastogne, Belgium and Arnhem, Netherlands.

The last time I was Mustaffa was on 9 June 2004 at the Cite La Mer maritime museum in Cherbourg. We hugged and promised to meet again here, for
the 70th D-Day celebrations.

During my stay in Cherbourg, since summer was just starting, Mustaffa held a private barbeque party at his home. We were also invited for dinner at Kept. Rahman Ayob's (then, Cdr.) home, as a reciprocity.

I became closer to Kept. Rahman since then. When Mustaffa fell ill and hospitalised, I was communicating with Kept. Rahman almost every other day. The moment I learnt about Mustaffa's passing, we spent the next three days trying to arrange for his burial here in Klang Valley. Former Chief of Navy Laksmana (B) Tan Sri Abu Bakar Abdul Jamal played an important part in the RMN's role for the funeral. He was on regular communications with then Deputy Chief of Navy Laksmana Madya Dato' Ilyas Md. Din.

This last photo with Mustaffa was shot at during dinner at Kept. Rahman's home, West Cherbourg.

Mustaffa Dapat would have been forty three today if he was still with us. His passing was missed by the entire submariner community in this country, especially the RMN. I remembered specifically in LIMA '01, during breakfast at Awana Porto Malai, former Chief of Navy Laksamana Tan Sri Ilyas Md. Din (then Fleet Operation Commander Laksda Dato' Ilyas Md. Din) said to me "Mustaffa's departure from the Navy was a great loss to us but later proven to be a great service to the nation. He would one day made Chief of Navy had he stayed on and served". So did former RMN Inspector General Laksmana Pertama Danyal Balagopal confirm the same point "Mustaffa is definitely 'CN' material", separately.

That was how much respect his superiors had for my best friend. Adieu, mon kapitan......................


Mat Salo said...

Al Fatihah to your friend, bro'. It truly is a wonderful and deserving eulogy. Hope his friends and family get to read it too...

BTW, my cousin (ex-RMC) was the first M'sian to be accepted at UASF Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs (past alumni Chuck Yeager). But it so tough to be in a military college whilst purisuing an engineering degree at the same time. He's now a flight instructor with RMAF.

I read a few months back, in S'pore's Straits Times actually, that in USAF's Class of '07 the top graduate was the Singaporean Squadron Leader! Interestingly he had an Indonesian name.. ah, a 'naturalized Singaporean'...

Zakhir's Zoo said...

Thanks Mat.

His widow and the three month old baby girl (now three and half years old) was at my place on Sunday morning. She was here for holidays.

I really miss my buddy so much and till this moment, I am unable to get thru his passing.

Anonymous said...

I miss my brother in law so much..


Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Zakhir. My regards to Masniza, Faza Aiman (kalau tak salah lah) and her daughter too. Ada waktunya bila hak kita di ambil, tentu perasaan sedih dan duka. Tapi itulah ketentuan Allah swt.. Semuga tabah menghadapi kehidupan bersama suami baru..

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum,I've been trying to get in touch with Arwah Mus's wife, Mas and it so happen i come across your blog.I am her old long lost friend, Ida from UKM ( i think she will remember me if you mention UKM). I don't know how else to contact her, perhaps if you can help by passing my hp number to her ( which i will pass to you if you can e-mail me at ). Thanks so much En. Zakhir.

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