( As Published in Chinesse Newspaper)
The newly appointed deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid had in many occasions revealed that he has a Chinese foster father.However, not many people knew about the relationship of the two of them began from the peddling of ice cream.The small ice cream became the origin of connection between the two generations of different ethnicity, even many years after Ahmad Zahid had come to the fore in political arena, and he could still recall the past story with deep emotion.Although there was no ritual ceremony being held, he had respectfully called the Chinese ice cream seller “bapa angkat”; even after his foster father passed away, he still provides assistance to the family of his foster father whenever they are in need.
This is the story between Ahmad Zahid and his “foster father” Chen Jin Ting (translated name).
More than half a century ago, in his twenties and thirties, Chen Jin Ting who was not highly educated, would have to leave home to make a living every day at noon.
At the rear seat of his bicycle was a large iron bucket containing ice cubes and ice cream, he would cycle from his house at Simpang Tiga, Hilir Perak to about three kilometers away selling ice cream.
Along the road there were a few national primary schools, the students would rush to him excitedly to buy ice cream; suddenly there was a Malay boy yelling: “Mari-mari, mari sini beli aiskrim!”, and more school children were being attracted by the voice and bought ice cream from Chen Jin Ting.
Being helper for six years
Sometimes there would be a naughty child who took away the ice cream without paying money, the Malay boy would act as a “little boss” to get back money for Chen Jin Ting.
After a hard day’s work, Chen Jin Ting would reward the Malay boy who had a sense of justice with an ice cream; the boy was so happy and would returned with a smile on his face.
Since then, whenever Chen Jin Ting peddled for ice cream, the kid would come forward to help after school.
The small boy was Ahmad Zahid who was then studying in standard one. In his six years’ education in primary school, he had cultivated deep feelings with Chen Jin Ting.
Ahmad Zahid’s hometown was in Sungai Nipah Darat, Bagan Datoh, Teluk Intan, he left his home town after his primary education to study in secondary school in Ipoh and thus putting an end to the little story.
Thinking about Chen Jin Ting when talking about Zahid’s foster father
Chen Yong Zhong said the life was hard during his late father’s time. Chen Jin Ting used to work as an odd job labourer and ice cream peddler; he bought the whole Ais Potong and cut them into small pieces and put them in iron bucket, and then rode on a bicycle to peddle the ice cream from morning for miles and miles of road.
“Subsequently my father changed his job to sell biscuits, I used to help him in selling biscuits when I was small, life was difficult then,” he said.
When Chen Jin Ting was selling ice cream, there were also many ice cream peddlers, the competition was fierce.
When asked about how Ahmad Zahid called his father “bapa angkat”, Cheng Yong Zhong said he was not sure about this, but he believed that Ahmad Zahid called his father “Ah Ting”, but when talking to outsiders he would address him as foster father, and his father had never rejected the title.
Even though the story happened half a century ago, and his father had passed away, Chen Yong Zhong felt that it was a warm and interesting memory, at least now that the residents around Simpang Tiga would remember Chen Jin Ting when someone mentioned about Ahmad Zahid’s foster father.
Takes initiative to mention about foster father
After he became a minister, Ahmad Zahid had openly announced that Chen Jin Ting was his “Bapa Angkat”, even during the interview with the media he had also mentioned that he had got a foster father.
Chen Yong Zhong recalled that at one time during the general election Ahmad Zahid went back to his home town quite frequently, every time when he held political talk at the Simpang Tiga public hall, he would invite Chen Jin Ting to attend the talk, and during the session he would ask Chen Jin Ting to rise and introduce him to the public that Chen Jin Ting was his foster father.
At the beginning of his political career, Ahmad Zahid had seen his meteoric rise on the top, Chen Jin Ting had then predicted that he would have a successful political career, Chen Yong Zhong said, “Probably this is the reason Ahmad Zahid was grateful to my father.”
Still remembers foster mother even though foster father passed away
He remembered his father passed away in 1999, it was also the year where general election was held, at that time his father was not feeling well, Ahmad Zahid had specially asked someone to fetch his father to polling station for voting. More than ten days later, his father had passed away.
During the general election in 2008, Ahmad Zahid came back to Teluk Intan for campaigning; he had specially visited the late Chen Jin Ting’s wife Guo Jin Luan.
“On that day I was sitting at the coffee shop, Ahmad Zahid came in and asked me ‘Is your mother in?’ After which he straight away entered the house, holding my mother’s hand and talked to her fondly,” he added.
Chen Yong Zhong said as he was not well versed in Malay, he only had a brief conversation with Ahmad Zahid. He was five years younger than Ahmad Zahid, hence most of the incidents happened in childhood were related by his father.
Helping to settle the medical bill
In 2011, Chen Jin Ting’s son-in-law was sent to the National Heart Institute (IJN) for treatment, he stayed in the hospital for more than ten days, the medical bill came up to more than RM40,000, the whole family was worried about how to settle for the payment.
During that time, Ahmad Zahid had engaged a MCA secretary to help him in handling some political affairs, Chen Jin Ting’s family members informed the MCA secretary that they wished to meet up with Ahmad Zahid if he happened to come back to Simpang Tiga Umno division.
Chen Yong Zhong said his mother Guo Jin Luan and younger sister was able to meet with Ahmad Zahid. After reading IJN’s letter which had requested for the payment for medical expenses, Ahmad Zahid promised to help to solve the problem. Subsequently the medical bill was settled.
“The incident had impressed upon the whole family, we are grateful to him for his help,” he said.
Relationships strengthened when foster father joined MCA
When Ahmad Zahid joined Umno, Chen Jin Ting was also being appointed as MCA branch chairman, the relationship between them became closer as they shared the same political ideology.
Chen Yong Zhong said more than 30 years ago, there was no MCA branch in Simpang Tiga, his father’s friends suggested that he rent a shop house to set up the MCA branch upstairs, and to open up a coffee shop at the ground floor, his father could also become the branch chairman.
“Subsequently, my father used his savings to rent the shop house, besides running a business, he also became the first Simpang Tiga MCA branch chairman, at that time there were more than 100 members,” he said.
Zahid’s nickname–“38 car number plate”
Chen Yong Zhong admitted that he hoped Ahmad Zahid would bring more development to Simpang Tiga area such as building more factories to increase the population, so that business in the area would be more flourished.
“Apart from this, a few years ago the Perak state government had mulled to build a bridge across the Perak River linking Bagan Datoh and Kayan, Manjung, we hope it could be implemented as soon as possible in order to stir up the economic activities in the surrounding areas,” he said.
The “38” number plate is also Ahmad Zahid’s nickname!
Chen Yong Fu (55), the second son of Chen Jin Ting said, when Ahmad Zahid first contested the Bagan Datoh parliamentary constituency in 1995, his father was still alive. His father told him about the story that Ahmad Zahid had used to help him in selling ice cream.
“My father told me that the ‘number 38 boy’ might contest in the general election,” he recalled.
“38” was actually the number of Ahmad Zahid’s car plate, and it was also the favorite number of the Chinese, that was also one of the reasons his father was impressed by Ahmad Zahid.
The kind little boy had become DPM
In the heart of the family members of Chen Jin Ting, what kind of person Ahmad Zahid is?
Although they had never really got together, whenever they mentioned about Ahmad Zahid, the family members of the late Chen Jin Ting would talk non-stop with fervor and assurance. “From the story relating to his childhood, we knew that he was a little child with kind hearted and simplicity, and also at that time he must be extremely active!”
Like friend and also like father and son
Chen Yong Guo (49), the youngest son of Chen Jin Ting told reporters that the relationship between Ahmad Zahid and his late father was like friends and also like father and son. They were like friend because they helped each other; and they were like father and son because of their age gap.
“My mom said occasionally Ahmad Zahid will come and visit them, he will also tell the people around him that she is his foster mother, but my mother is not well versed in Malay language, there was not much conversation,” he said.
He related his mother’s words saying that in those years when his father was selling ice cream, he had talked about the little Ahmad Zahid, a kind hearted Malay boy who used to help him selling ice cream.
Chen Yong Guo said his mother did not put these things in her mind; she and her family members did not expect the Malay boy would one day become the present deputy Prime Minister.
He pointed out that his mother could remember very well that she and her daughter had sought Ahmad Zahid’s assistance to settle the hospital bill of her son-in-law, she was grateful with Ahmad Zahid’s help, and felt that he was a good person.
Did not go through ritual ceremony
After many efforts in asking the way, Nanyang Siang Pau reporters had finally arrive at the coffee shop in Simpang Tiga, unfortunately Chen Jin Ting had passed away.
They managed to interview Chen Yong Zhong (57), the eldest son of Chen Jin Ting.
Touching on the issue of which his father was addressed by Ahmad Zahid as foster father, Chen Yong Zhong said with a smile: “That’s what he mention about!”
He told reporter that he was informed about the story regarding ice cream peddling by his late father, it seemed that the story had inscribed on his father’s memory.
Chen Yong Zhong said his father passed away 16 years ago at the age of 65 because of cancer. If his father were still alive, he would be 81 by now. He learned from his father’s mouth about the story of his father and Ahmad Zahid when he grew up.
“In the 70s, Ahmad Zahid was twenty or thirty years old and was working, he would come back to visit his parents in home town once in a while and would incidentally came to the sundry shop to buy newspapers, at that time my father had already operating the coffee shop, he would come to have a chit chat with my father. I was wondering who this guy was? Why did he come to our place from time to time? Subsequently, I came to know about the story after being told by my father.
“I remembered my father told me when he was peddling ice cream, this particular Malay boy had often helped him to attract customers; I felt that he and my father was just like what the Chinese said ‘It must be fated’, both of them were like friends,” he added.
He said with a smile, Ahmad Zahid told people that his father was his foster father but actually they did not hold any ritual ceremony on that, Ahmad Zahid was just too polite.