Sunday Vibes

Septuagenarian fights to keep legendary police officer father's legacy alive

UNDER the intense afternoon sun, the Royal Malaysian Police Museum in Jalan Perdana, Kuala Lumpur, stands quietly, almost eerily empty. Banners flutter in the slight breeze, depicting the smiling men and women of the force, and hinting at the rich history and stories of dedication waiting to be discovered within its walls.

Nearby, the grand Dataran Merdeka monument, adorned with the striking keris and tengkolok, stands proudly against the vivid blue sky, serving as a poignant tribute to the valiant warriors of the Royal Malaysian Police, honouring their dedication and sacrifice.

Nestled within the museum's grounds is a profound narrative of our courageous sentinels, steadfast in their dedication to safeguarding our nation's stability. From its humble beginnings to its remarkable evolution, the museum meticulously chronicles the journey of the police. In this place, some of the most amazing stories of these unassuming heroes come to life.

As I walk up the stairs to the entrance, a lively scene unfolds before me, piercing the silence with chatter and laughter. Rambunctious children giggle as they strike playful poses beside a police motorcycle exhibit.

"Vroom! Vroom!" exclaims one child, his enthusiasm infectious. But my eyes soon clap upon a solitary figure seated on a nearby bench, his hands folded and a paper bag propped next to him.

I've not met Rafique Sher Mohamed before, but something tells me that this elderly man seated patiently, wearing a pair of black sunglasses and an imposing songkok, is the man I'm looking for.

I'm right, of course. He immediately turns to look at me and lifts his hand in a wave. As I reach him, Rafique gets up and offers the paper bag containing a box of chocolates to me.

"Thanks for coming," he says, eyes unreadable beneath the dark opaque glasses.

"Shall we proceed?" I inquire, and he simply nods in response. While I long to delve into the museum's exhibits at leisure, our purpose today is singular: to seek out an exhibit dedicated to Rafique's father, Sher Mohamed Allah Barksh.

Rafique, drawing inspiration from his late father's extraordinary life, has recently introduced a graphic novel titled Kismet, a narrative woven from his dad's exploits. This novel also serves as a sequel to the 2007 pictorial biography of his father, which shares the same title.


The uniformed woman at the counter greets us with a smile, and we step eagerly into the first gallery. The musty air carries a sense of anticipation as we navigate the winding path, immersing ourselves in the history of policing from its earliest days during the Malay Sultanate, through the Portuguese and Dutch colonial periods, until we reach the British era, which marks the origins of today's police force.

"My father had always dreamt of being a police officer," murmurs Rafique in a low voice, as we walk together. Time moves differently in this place. Suddenly, the noise of the outside world fades away, replaced by profound silence.

The family that was once here has departed, leaving us alone in this moment. Right now, it feels as though it's just the two of us remaining in this place, enveloped by the weight of history and memories.

Rafique is steadfast in his determination to uphold his father's enduring legacy. "His story deserves to be told," he asserts with conviction.

Sher Mohamed had dedicated 35 years of his life to the noble service of the police force. Following his successful completion of the Senior Cambridge examination, this former student of Victoria Institution embarked on his dream career, joining the ranks of the Federated Malay States (FMS) Police as a recruit.

"My father dreamt of becoming an inspector," Rafique reiterates, adding: "He was disappointed when he was only accepted as a recruit and almost gave up. However, encouraged by his peers, he persevered."

From the outset, Sher Mohamed's athleticism distinguished him from others.

An exceptional sportsman since his school days, he went on to showcase his prowess in athletics while serving in the force. In 1936, he achieved the remarkable feat of winning the "Best Rifle Shot" award, earning a substantial prize of 25 British pounds.

Furthermore, at the 1938 Federal Sports, he clinched victory in both the Quarter Mile event and the long jump. His athletic achievements culminated in him becoming the champion athlete and holder of the prestigious Morris Cup.

Throughout the years from 1936 to 1940, Sher Mohamed maintained his position as the "FMS Police Champion", solidifying his reputation as a formidable athlete within the force.

"My father was proud of his accomplishments. In fact, my mother did say that he used to personally polish all his cups at least once a year!" reveals Rafique with a smile.

With his exceptional record and athletic prowess, Sher Mohamed was on track for promotion to inspector. "But the outbreak of World War 2 and the subsequent Japanese occupation of Malaya disrupted those plans," he shares.

Exiting the first gallery, we step onto the veranda and are met with a blast of hot air. The relentless blaze of the sun beats down upon us, but undeterred, the 75-year-old leads the way towards to the next gallery. "The exhibit is in this gallery," he announces, his pace quickening as he retraces the familiar steps leading to his father's display.


During World War 2, Sher Mohamed served as a keibu-ho (sub-inspector in Japanese) and port officer at Port Swettenham, now known as Port Klang. The graphic novel Kismet begins with the Japanese surrender to the British.

During this turbulent period, his life was threatened by the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), who were targeting individuals they suspected of collaborating with the Japanese.

After narrowly escaping an attempt on his life by an MPAJA assassin, Sher Mohamed rejoined the police force and was finally promoted to inspector — an advancement long delayed by the war. He'd waited 13 years for this promotion.

In 1946, he was transferred to the Kampar police station, a town notorious for the bloody Battle of Kampar during the Malayan Campaign of World War 2.

This four-day battle, from Dec 30, 1941 to Jan 2, 1942, saw British and Indian troops from the 11th Indian Infantry Division confront the Japanese 5th Division. Despite heavy casualties, the allied forces held their ground before withdrawing, successfully slowing the Japanese advance.

By the time Inspector Sher Mohamed arrived, Kampar had turned into a hotbed of gangsterism, prostitution, gambling and other criminal activities.

"His boss, MYN Graham, the Kampar officer-in-charge of police district (OCPD), shared a robust friendship with my father. Together they formed a formidable team and combated criminal activities in Kampar," shares Rafique proudly.

Sher Mohamed exhibited remarkable bravery in where he was deployed. He pursued and apprehended an armed robber, thwarted a kidnapping attempt of a tin miner, and engaged in combat with the armed kidnappers.

Alongside Graham, their relentless pursuit through the jungles resulted in three kidnappers being shot dead. In recognition of their valour, they were awarded the Colonial Police Medal for Gallantry by Sir Edward Gent, the first appointed governor of the Malayan Union, in 1946.

The duo remained good friends and with Graham's strong recommendation, Sher Mohamed received a fast-track promotion to assistant superintendent of police (ASP) in 1948.

"It was a significant honour back then," says Rafique. "Not only because it was uncommon for an Asian to hold such a position, but also because my father had only recently been confirmed as an inspector."

Sher Mohamed was later promoted to superintendent, having moved up the ranks steadily while serving the country with great distinction. During his tenure as chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Perak, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (PPT).

His career continued to ascend as he became an assistant commissioner of police in 1961. In 1963, he was assigned to Kuala Lumpur as the CID chief, where he played a pivotal role in solving numerous robbery cases.

From 1966 until his retirement in 1969, he served as the deputy chief police officer, leaving a legacy of dedication and excellence. This marked the culmination of his remarkable 35-year career in the force.

"He was a shining star in his career, with an impeccable reputation, and he was our source of inspiration. He brought honour to our home," Rafique remarks quietly.


The grandfather-of-six finally comes to a stop in front of a modest exhibit at the tail-end of the gallery. The unmistakable pride on his face shines through as he points out some of the cups that his father won during his sporting days.

In the glass cubicle, Sher Mohamed's uniform and various memorabilia are displayed. Among them, a Royal typewriter catches the eye — a purchase made with prize money from a long-distance shooting competition.

"My father cherished this typewriter," Rafique explains, adding: "It faithfully served its purpose in an era where officers had to type their reports. He held onto it for many years, eventually passing it on to my wife as he grew older."

It took some convincing, he confesses, for his late mother and his wife to part with Sher Mohamed's mementos. "I told them that the museum would take good care of my father's belongings," he says wryly.

Rafique reveals that his father rarely spoke about his work. However, whenever they visited Kampar, residents who recognised Sher Mohamed would go out of their way to see the former policeman and present him with gifts.

"To them, he was Kampar's son," he reflects.

He, along with his six siblings, shared a close relationship with their father. "He loved us unconditionally," he says softly, adding: Despite his busy schedule, he always made time for us. He was never strict and never once raised his voice. Over the years, we grew closer, but I never fully realised the significance of his legacy until he passed away in 1996."

Rafique grows quiet, and in a heavy voice, he adds simply: "I still miss him a lot."

As the grieving man sifted through his father's medals after the latter's death, the weight of their significance began to dawn upon him. He uncovered the profound depth of his father's contributions to the nation, a legacy that had remained largely unheralded until Sher Mohamed's passing.

In the wake of this realisation, a fervent desire stirred within him — a desire to immortalise his father's remarkable journey in the pages of a book, to ensure that the world would come to know and honour his extraordinary life.

"It became my burning desire to keep my father's legacy alive," he explains vehemently, "…because there was a story to be told and I've always felt that our country was short of stories. I feel it's time for Malaysians to be inspired by true patriotic stories of local heroes — be they uniformed personnel or civilians — in our history".

In 2007, Rafique embarked on the monumental task of crafting his father's biography. Balancing the demands of a full-time job as a human resource practitioner with the meticulous dedication needed to produce a comprehensive pictorial biography tested his patience and perseverance. After six months of unwavering dedication, the book eventually came to fruition.

More than a decade later, he decided to create a graphic novel with the same title, depicting his father's ambitious early years as a police officer. In Kismet (the graphic novel), Sher Mohamed's stories are re-imagined, presenting a novel lens that underscores his courage amidst the challenges faced in Kampar.

"I want my country to hear the stories of our people. I'm not concerned about whether you're Chinese, Indian, Malay or from any other background. This is our collective story and a police heritage story," he continues.

His voice trails off, and we linger for a few more moments, gazing at the exhibit. Moments later, he remarks: "These books are a tribute to my father. If I don't tell his story, who will? You know how it is with the police... They seldom speak about their work, and their secrets often remain veiled until their passing."

Rafique's words hang in the air, resonating with the depth of untold stories and unspoken sacrifices that characterise the lives of those who serve in law enforcement.

As the old man, clad in dark glasses and a prominent songkok, stands among the relics of his father's life, it's easy to feel his palpable pride. He knows that his father's story will endure as long as he continues to tell the stories to anyone who'll listen.

And here, in this quiet museum, amidst the exhibits that chronicle the history of the police, a piece of Sher Mohamed's legacy remains enshrined as a testament to his bravery and sacrifice in dutifully serving the nation he held dear.

KISMET: Inspired by a true story

Author: Rafique Sher Mohamed

115 pages

Available on Shopee.

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