It was a quiet day in the office of the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association (KLHA) in Pantai Dalam, Kuala Lumpur.
Inside, newly-minted president Datuk Seri Megat D. Shahriman Zaharudin had just arrived for this interview. He was 15 minutes late.
“I am terribly sorry. I was rushing from another meeting,” said the father of two girls, grabbing a canned drink on the table as he sat down.
Born in Seremban, Negri Sembilan, in 1983, Shahriman played hockey, volleyball and football in school.
He received his education at St Paul’s Institution, Seremban, and later, SK St John 1 when his family moved to Kuala Lumpur.
During his A-Levels at HELP Institute, he represented the college in hockey, which fuelled his passion for the top post at KLHA.
“I did my A-Levels at HELP Institute, but failed (laughs). Then, I did my Diploma in Business Studies at Kolej Profesional Mara Beranang in Selangor.
“During my fifth semester in Mara, I sold books at a fair as a part-time job.
“I sold RM70,000 worth of books by the end of the week. The company offered me a job although I did not have a diploma.
“I got my first big break at the age of 23 and it was a RM4 million contract.
“I left my job and started my own publishing company called GIG Technology Holdings Sdn Bhd. The company was also involved in information technology and system integration.”
The avid sportsman was recognised as Yayasan Pembangunan Buku Negara’s youngest publisher of the year in 2012. He has published several biographies and coffeetable books.
Shahriman will be contesting the presidency of the Malaysian Paralympic Council against former youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who submitted his nomination for the post on June 15, a day after the closing date, which raised questions on validity.
Last month, Khairy, 43, said his only wish was to contribute to the council if given the opportunity to lead, replacing outgoing president, S.M. Nasarudin S.M. Nasimuddin.
“Khairy is a politician and has his own track record, but I can do greater things without politicising the whole thing. It is not a popularity competition, but about who can deliver the results. I am not intimidated by any of that.
“I don’t have a father-in-law who was a prime minister and I have fewer advantages if you want to compare them.
“When I first found out about it (Khairy contesting), I thought ‘oh, this is going to be interesting’.
“But strip all of that finery and go back to the starting line. Can you make it without any help?”
On the postponement of the annual general meeting (AGM) for the second time, he said, he knew of the “hidden hands” in the contest for the president’s post.
“You have to follow the rules. For the AGM to be postponed, you must get the approval from the office of the sports commissioner.
“Please do not exploit people on wheelchairs, or the disabled.
“I used the proper channel and procedures and got it through the proper way.
“If from the beginning, you are doing it wrong, it would carry on forever.
“Win or lose, it’s ok. It’s adat (tradition).”
Shahriman said he had the full backing of his association to carry out his plans.
“If I don’t do it, I’m not fit to be here. I told my members that if I don’t deliver, I will step down.
“I have to gain their respect and trust, it is not something they give away for free.
“So when I deliver, I don’t feel as if I owe them anything. My conscience is clear.”
Among the plans he hoped to execute was the upgrading of the hockey stadium.
“I’m going to look at the contract with City Hall and see if I can work out a new contract or enhance the current one.
“If there is a limitation, I will propose funding or sponsorship.
“I am trying to commercialise all the empty rooms here. Next, I am going to create something like community initiatives in the stadium like what is being done in the Netherlands.
“I may put food trucks every night for people to come in. Hopefully, we can get 5,000 to come. With the activities, we can do night hockey.”
CAN HE WIN?
“I’m confident I have the numbers. I come from the outside and I can bring everyone together.”
“I got a lot of guidance from my dad, he is my partner.
“He told me, if you work hard in the first 10 years, you’ll enjoy the rest of your life.
“But if you enjoy the first 10 years, you will suffer later. I didn’t get it at first, but it was a saying I hold dear to this day.”
Shahriman said he worked hard as a young man and became a public-listed director at the age of 28.
“When I was 31, I hadn’t even been to a club, travelled to Bali or enjoyed life like many of my friends.
“I’m very open and speak from my heart. I believe in truthfulness and whatever you do, you must fulfil your promises.”
When asked to name his idol, he mentioned Elon Musk, “because he became a billionaire in a very short time”.
He explained that he was inspired by the way Musk took chances and business opportunities to the next level.
“If your intentions are good, then God will protect you.
“Sometimes you think you are failing, but divine intervention is always there. Faith is important.”
Shahriman considers himself “colour blind” in politics.
“As long as my business and interests are taken care of, I am all for it, but responsibly.
“People can say I am a responsible opportunist.
“It’s like this: when there is a change of people in power, you can’t straightaway jump ship because that’s wrong. In life, you have to remember people’s kindness and their contributions in your life and how they were there to help you.”
Shahriman said he hoped to continue empowering people and inspiring them to take on responsibilities.
“That’s how I can manage so many associations. I am very lucky because I only do 10 per cent of the work and the rest are done by my exco members.
“I have a dream team. I can sleep at night because they are capable and I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
A HERO TO HIS DAUGHTER
Shahriman said he used to hang out with paralympic athletes, whom he described were “like my siblings”.
“I know their living conditions and how they have been treated.
“If you want to be somewhere, you must go to the ground and find out people’s problems, dissatisfaction and setbacks.
“In my own capacity, I try to lead by example. I tell people to hire them as they are good and smart.
“Earlier, when I see people with disabilities, I never felt anything but everything changed when I had my own child.
“I am lucky to have my golden child,” he said, referring to his daughter who has hydrocephalus.
“Because of my daughter, I started Yayasan Hydrocephalus Negara that helps children go for neuro or brain surgery.
“We help when parents lack funding, but we don’t publicise or make it viral because it is not nice. It’s all self-funded, it is our way of giving back to the community.
“I don’t have personal gain out of this, I just want to be a hero to my daughters. That’s all.”
“I am not social media-savvy, but I have an official account that operates from 8am to 5pm (laughs), managed by my officer.”
Shahriman said although he found social media distracting, he hoped to be more active in the future.
“I welcome comments and criticism. I am calm. When I am presented with issues, I want to handle them professionally.
“I don’t want to say something that will damage the reputation of the association.”
Shahriman said he welcomed constructive criticism.
“I have been moving towards loving criticism because criticism makes you stronger, wiser and brings you more friends (laughs).
“There is a Malay saying, tak kenal, maka tak cinta. My interest is to ensure that sports are on the right track and not politicised.
“To become the president, you should know and love the game because you are setting an example.
“But if you start by lying and falsifying, there is no point going on because you will always be a liar and a cheater.
“It is not a good example. It will affect the whole community, the ecosystem and creates disharmony.
“I can read and understand that the form must be submitted before the 15th, but I don’t understand why somebody who sits so high up can’t read the form or be blind or stupid.
“I didn’t go to Oxford. I went to a normal public college that the government paid, I got RM165 per month, but I think I can read very well (laughs).”
Shahriman acknowledges that it would be a tough year ahead and he is looking forward to it.
“I like challenges. I don’t know why. I just like to do things that people do not like to do. I am not a follower.”