A mere two weeks after sending a last-minute invitation to Raja Datuk Malik Saripulazan asking whether or not he would be interested in giving a Friday lecture at Atlantic College, I found myself staring at the man himself in person. Raja Malik, as he prefers to be called, was a seafarer by profession and rose through the ranks to be the Director-General of the Marine Department of Malaysia. After his retirement, he was chosen to be Malaysia’s representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2005 and was elected into the council. He was re-elected again in 2007 and remains there to this day, while also holding the position of Maritime Attache in the Malaysian High Commission in London. As I walked Raja Malik and his wife Datin Sharina up to the castle, he remarked, “I had never heard of Atlantic College before you contacted me, until I asked around and found out that it is a college that aims to foster peace and global citizenship.” “I thought those are good ideals for a college to live by, and I tried my best to incorporate those themes in my talk. It was difficult for me to prepare a talk as I didn’t know what would suit the student body the best; I also tried my best to leave out the boring technical bits!” He added with a laugh. Owing to the Bradenstoke Hall being used for the SAT examinations the following day, the lecture was moved to the Old Staff Common Room. By 6.30 pm it was filled with students and staff members alike who were there to attend the first Friday lecture of the year. Smiling as he began his talk, Raja Malik confessed that he had trouble choosing exactly what title to focus on. “Let’s just say that I will focus on maritime transport and the environmental concerns surrounding the issue” Raja Malik’s lecture covered the importance of the shipping industry, the concerns on keeping ships safe and the environmental impact shipping has. One of the first things he mentioned was how probably everything we own is in some way related to shipping. Products from China, one of the world’s largest exporters would have to be shipped here. Everything from raw materials to clothes to electronics: they need to be transported and the cheapest and best way is shipping. Hence, there is a need to reduce the number of accidents ships have. Raja Malik specifically said “when accidents happen”, insisting that it is not an “if”. One student, Carl Solberg brought up the case of the Prestige which met with an accident in Spain some years back: how could that have happened despite the ship having all the qualifications? Again, Raja Malik insisted that the IMO is responsible for making sure that ships do have all the certification at the point of time they are at the port, but beyond that anything could happen. According to statistics, oil tanker accidents have been increasing relative to the number of oil tankers at sea. Stephen Stich put forth another interesting question: why then is there such a huge public outcry whenever there is an oil tanker accident? The simple answer Raja Malik gave was: the media. Not blaming the media, Raja Malik explained that people often take these much-publicised isolated cases to be the norm. The lecture moved onto another stage when Raja Malik entered the environmental impact shipping has, in particular the biological and economic havoc harmful organisms transported in ballast water by ships have caused. Examples include the North American comb jelly, which has been transported to the Caspian Sea, altering the food web and ecosystem function. It even contributed significantly to the collapse of fisheries in the Black and Azov Seas in the 1990s. Another example is toxic algae, which form harmful algae blooms and can case massive destruction of marine life through oxygen depletion and the release of toxins. The IMO film, Invaders from the Sea was highly recommended to be very informative and also won the top award in the United Nations Documentary Film Festival which took place in New York last year. Unfortunately, there were the usual time constraints and Raja Malik had to draw his lecture to a close just before 8 pm in time for the Japanese horror movie which was part of the Asian Focus Week. Neil, the headmaster, was happy to present to Raja Malik the school’s calendar and a book on St Donat’s Castle before proceeding for a late supper along with other staff members. Bearing in mind his busy schedule and the effort it took for Raja Malik and his wife to come to Atlantic College, we were certainly very grateful to have had him here that evening. Before he and his wife left for London, Yun Ni and I took him on the customary tour of the castle, facilities and student houses. “Enough of boats please!” he replied instantly when asked whether he would prefer a full ILB station tour instead, although he did take a special interest in the slipway. “A Malik House, perhaps?” I joked just before he drove off. “Maybe when I win the National Lottery!” he chuckled as we said our goodbyes. We certainly hope Raja Malik will be coming back to AC one day!
Elaine Li-Jing Leong (Malaysia, AC 07-09)
– United World College Student Magazine –