KUALA LUMPUR: They drank from the same cup even though they were from different races, religions and backgrounds. Such is the camaraderie among Lasallians, which continues until today.
That brotherly bond will be on full display soon when Lasallians renew their acquaintances at the “170 Years of La Salle in Malaysia — Building New Paths, Transforming Lives” gala dinner on Nov 12 at a hotel here.
The educational institution has produced its fair share of luminaries, one of whom is former Thomas Cup badminton great Datuk James Selvaraj, who studied at St John’s Institution in Bukit Nanas.
He said during extra-curricular activities and sports, students at the school, regardless of race, often shared a single cup as they patiently lined up at the cooler to quench their thirst.
“We did not differentiate between racial, religious or social-status backgrounds as we mingled as one entity — as Malaysians.
“Such was the spirit and togetherness that we continue to share until today,” he said.
He said the morning prayer sessions were attended by all students and teachers, irrespective of their creed.
“We learnt a lot from a Catholic school and were taught by Christian brothers who moulded us into better people through sound education and discipline.
“In all, it made me a stronger person,” he said at the unveiling of the gala dinner logo at the La Salle Hall in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday.
Present were Malaysian Federation of Lasallian Alumni Associations (MFOLSA) president Michael Simon, its honorary secretary James Sia, honorary treasurer Paramjothy Kandiah, dinner organising chairman V. Nantha Kumar and De La Salle Mission in Malaysia director Brother Andrew Loke.
The event also saw the attendance of other La Salle alumni, including former Defence Ministry secretary-general and former Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Kamaruzzaman Sharif, former national hockey captain Steven van Huizen, and former MFOLSA president and lawyer Ho Chee Kit.
Kamaruzzaman, 80, who studied at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang from 1948 to 1960, said he was among a handful of Muslims who attended a Catholic school.
He said Muslim students used to join the Bible classes and he even scored an “A” in Religious Knowledge.
“I am still a Muslim till today and accepted the lessons there with an open mind,” said Kamaruzzaman, who is also a De La Salle Foundation director.
He commended the Lasallian brothers for their dedication in providing a holistic and quality education for all Malaysians.
“We are what we are today, thanks to them. The brothers gave us a good foundation towards a graceful life and imparted the strength and spirit of togetherness, comradeship and leadership.
“They embedded in us ethics, integrity and morality to do right and avoid wrong. They taught us to be respectful of others, especially the elderly,” Kamaruzzaman said.
He expressed his gratitude to the brothers for offering him a scholarship to complete his Form Six studies.
Meanwhile, van Huizen, an alumnus of St Paul’s Institution in Seremban, praised the brothers for shaping them into a credible and disciplined character.
“I praise God almighty for having attended school taught by the brothers whom I am very grateful for.
“In sports, they stressed on determination to succeed, so much so that my school produced 11 Olympic hockey players,” said van Huizen, who represented the country in four Olympics, six Asian Games, three World Cups, two Commonwealth Games and four Sea Games as a player and coach.
The other 10 Olympians were van Huizen’s father Lawrence and his uncle Peter, Datuk Ho Koh Chye, Franco D’Cruz, Brian Santa Maria, Colin Santa Maria, Kevin Nunis, Gary Fidelis, Suriaghandi Suppiah and Keevan Raj. Another ex-Paulian, Sabapathy Sinnayah, was part of the 4x400m relay team at the 1972 Munich Olympics in Germany.
Renowned Lasallian teacher David Fernandez said what he learnt as a student had put him in good stead later when he taught in the school.
“I gave back what I received – to impart knowledge and experience to my charges. The brothers guided me to be a handyman as a student, which I found to be very useful later on as an adult,” said Fernandez.
Ho, meanwhile, initially studied at Convent Light Street in Penang before attending St Xavier’s.
“I vividly remember being punished by the brothers for being late to school. They reminded me that punctuality was a very important aspect in life and I carry that discipline till today,” said Ho, who is also a De La Salle Foundation director.
Loke, who studied at St Michael’s Institution in Ipoh, before moving to St Xavier’s, said he was subjected to the same strict discipline.
“The brothers knew that I was being groomed for brotherhood, yet did not make an exception and exercised fairness across the board.
“There were many ups and downs as I struggled through school, but it made me a better, honest and disciplined person,” said Loke, who clocked 48 years as a brother.
He added that life as a brother taught him to be independent by being able to fend for himself.
“We cleaned our own toilets, made our own beds and learned to prepare simple meals. What we learnt, we gave back to our students whom we saw as children of God.
“Ours is a life of service for the future generation and we hope they, too, will come forward to serve society,” said Loke.
For the gala dinner, MFOLSA has invited Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah as the guest of honour, along with the Lasallian East Asia District’s Brother Visitor Patrick Tierney and Kuala Lumpur Catholic Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim.