Angkatan Zaman Mansang Sarawak (AZAM Sarawak), a non-governmental organisation that promotes development communication in Sarawak, will hold its 40th anniversary dinner on Nov 12 this year at Imperial Hotel in Kuching..

Did you know that the formation of AZAM was mooted in the early 1980s by none other than our current Governor, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud?

Yes, after the civic organisation was born in 1983 following a discussion by a group of civil servants and some members of the media, Taib, who was Sarawak’s Chief Minister then, personally named it Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) which means “Movement for Progress.”

Taib addressing an AZAM function in 1986.

Taib subsequently became the founding patron of the organisation which aimed to complement the roles of the public and private sector in bringing about development in Sarawak.

On Nov 12, Taib is scheduled to grace the AZAM’s 40th anniversary dinner. Sarawak’s Premier, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg will also be present.

Meanwhile, commenting on the choice of name chosen by Taib so long ago, AZAM’s founding chairman, Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Haji Safri Awang Zaidell said, “The name was catchy and meaningful.

“Angkatan means organisation or movement. Zaman means era. Mansang is moving forward for change and progress. And the acronym AZAM means aspiration.”

He said the name was appropriate for a movement that wanted to develop a common aspiration and vision among the people to move forward towards a new era of change and progress.

Besides Safri, other members of the first AZAM committee were: deputy chairman – Zainal Ismail, a federal officer who was then heading the State Development Office; vice chairman – Aloysius Dris from the Information Department; secretary general — Affendie Tahir from RTM; assistant secretary general – Ashari Manis from the Information Department; treasurer – K.C. Jong from the Chinese press; assistant treasurer – Maimunah Daud from the Information Department; other office-bearers – Stephen Jussem from the Administration; B.R. Adai from the Sarawak Tribune; Jameson Ahip from the Information Department; Hamid Bugo from LCDA, a government corporation; Siti Zahrah from the Chief Minister’s Office; Tazuddin Junaidi, Julaihi Ismail and Boom Johari from the Agriculture Department; Effendi Ariffin from Bernama; Anthony Ramanair and Andrew Bareng from RTM and Philip Ghani.

See also Are hornbills trying to tell us something?

“We were a good mix from both the public and the private sectors,” added Safri.

Initially, AZAM did not have any full-time worker or a proper office.

So Safri’s house in Kuching was used as its first registered office and his meeting room in the Secretariat served as its temporary workplace.

Two years later, AZAM recruited a young female graduate, Sim Ah Hua, as AZAM’s full -time secretary.

Today, Sim is still with the organisation, serving now as its chief executive officer.

Safri said AZAM then went on to form a business wing, Faradale Enterprise, to develop its funding as well as three other companies, namely, Faradale Media, Faradale Enterprises and Faradale Development Sdn Bhd. Faradale Holding Sdn Bhd was subsequently formed to serve as the parent body of these companies.

Safri said for the past 40 years, AZAM had been focusing on education and training of grassroots leaders as well as its civic dialogues with the student population as part of its development communication efforts.

It had also actively associated itself with many NGOs, within and outside the country, which shared its interest. Among its core activities from 1983 to 1990 were seminars, workshops, dialogues, school lectures and radio programmes.

AZAM’s first general manager, then later, CEO, Haji Busrah Haji Bujang said, “It was very satisfying to experience AZAM’s ability to bridge the aspirations of our leaders to the expectations of our people.”

From 1991 -2000, milestones achieved by AZAM were the launching of the AZAM Toastmasters Club, (1994) and the launching of Sarawak Development Institute (SDI), an autonomous non-profit research institute entrusted to undertake inter-disciplinary research on important development issues related to the state (1995).

During these years, besides pioneering rural IT awareness programmes in Sarawak, AZAM also expanded its international networking with Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAF) of Germany (now known as Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS)), the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur and the Commonwealth Journalists Association, (CJA).

The organisation also began releasing development publications in the form of journals, seminar proceedings and newsletters.

Milestones achieved by AZAM between 2000-2010 included co-hosting a Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) Delegates Conference in Kuching (2008), promoting civic education – good governance (with KAF, Germany); becoming a local partner for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Paris and Bangkok in promoting Education For Sustainable Development (ESD); co-organising UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) community sustainability programmes – alternative livelihoods; promoting development consciousness through public and students’ writing competitions and promoting development journalism through training and Best Writers Awards. AZAM’s core activities during these years were seminars, workshops, public talks, publications, radio programmes and writing contests.

See also Vietnamese fishing boat and crew detained for encroachment

From 2011-2020, the organisation focused on youth engagement activities involving volunteerism, rural youth outreach, creativity and talents showcase, social unity and environmental awareness. It also promoted digital inclusivity.

Its biggest achievement during this period of time was to emerge as the Malaysia winner of the 2nd ASEAN Leadership Award on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (2015).

From 2020 until now, AZAM has been busy promoting digital inclusivity (awareness & buy-in and adoption & immersion), focusing mainly on community digitalisation and rural technopreneurship, as well as promoting sustainability with special focus on the youth.

Commenting on AZAM’s growth for the past 40 years, Safri said, “Since its establishment, AZAM has done well. It must, however, strengthen itself further by acquiring greater skills and competency in various fields if it wants to be more effective in meeting the demands and needs of the future.”

AZAM’s 2nd past chairman, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Abdul Aziz Haji Husain, said, ”Through the years, we have seen AZAM growing from strength to strength. Due to the hard work and commitment of the members and staff under the able guidance of the Board of Directors, the organisation has matured tremendously.

“AZAM has not only increased its activities and staff but also consolidated itself by expanding its horizons and spreading its wings to reach the wider sections of its target groups throughout, mainly the grassroots communities in the rural areas.”

Aziz pointed out that the role of AZAM as a catalyst of development was even more relevant today in view of the rising expectations and demands of the people.

He said the move to extend the scope of AZAM’s programmes over the years had enabled it to position itself in meeting the ever-demanding need to provide wide platforms for discussions and dissemination of development information.

See also Man cheated over RM40k in investment scam

AZAM, he added, had responded positively to the challenges posed by sweeping changes taking place today. Its board of directors had strategically ensured that the organisation would continue to contribute meaningfully to the process of humanising development in Sarawak.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Mohd. Morshidi Abdul Ghani, AZAM’s immediate past chairman, said,” The contributions of pioneer and loyal members were among the factors that enabled AZAM to achieve laudable achievements such as winning the 2nd ASEAN NGO Leadership Award for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication in 2015.”

He pointed out that AZAM’s increased engagement with the youth helped to keep the younger generations well informed of the state’s development efforts.

“The programmes are aimed at not only channelling and communicating information, ideas and knowledge to the youth but also providing platforms for them to network with each other, with the state leaders, key development decision makers and project implementers,” Morshidi said.

“Regularly organising a number of seminars and workshops for the community leaders in the state is one of AZAM’s main efforts to help the Sarawak government provide knowledgeable and far-sighted community leaders who practise positive values such as trust, honesty and sincerity as the core of effective leadership in line with their role to promote unity and development to improve the standard of living of the people.”

AZAM, he said, had important roles to play to complement the development programmes and activities with the current changes and adjustments in the state’s priorities and approaches in the development of Sarawak.

Meanwhile, AZAM’s CEO, Sim Ah Hua, had this to say about the organisation’s growth,” With 40 years of experience in communicating development policies and information to the grassroots via different communication channels, AZAM has risen to the challenges imposed by social media and other online media platforms today to convey the information more sophisticatedly, for greater reach, awareness, adoption and adaptation to changes brought about by new trends in development.”