PDC chief who served under 4 Penang CMs calls it a day

Rosli Jaafar (centre in batik shirt) during the farewell ceremony at the PDC headquarters in Bayan Baru, Penang, today.

GEORGE TOWN: A civil servant who served under four chief ministers has revealed how he “survived” his post — by staying neutral.

Rosli Jaafar, who retired today on his 60th birthday as the general manager of Penang Development Corporation (PDC), said the secret of his longevity in the agency was the lack of political affiliation.

Recounting his 29 years with PDC — Penang’s richest government agency — Rosli said he was never a “yes man” and dared to object to decisions made by the PDC chairman, who is the chief minister, if he felt the decision was not a good one.

“It is all about getting the trust of the chief minister. I am not a party man. I just served the government of the day.

“If the decision made by them is good, we abide by it, no questions asked.

“If the government had insisted on something that was not good, I would have just quit. You cannot be a pain in the butt (to the state),” he said after a sending-off by 400 PDC staff members in Bayan Baru today.

Rosli, who joined PDC as an architect in 1990, said although he is being relieved of his duties from today, he remained accountable for all his past actions.

“I am going to miss all the lively discussions I have with my staff daily,” he said when asked what he would miss most.

Earlier, in his farewell speech, Rosli recalled his fond memories with his past four “bosses” — the late Dr Lim Chong Eu, Koh Tsu Koon, Lim Guan Eng and current Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

He said he cherished the moments he had with them and was thankful for the “lifelong lessons” from them.

Chong Eu, who served as chief minister for 21 years, was a strict and no-nonsense man, he recalled.

“After him came Koh Tsu Koon, a former lecturer who would always correct our grammatical mistakes and make sure our sentences were right. This made me speak and write better.

“Lim Guan Eng is one who crunches numbers and is good with his maths. He is brilliant, so we have become good with numbers.

“Chow Kon Yeow has a lot of humility, which all of us can follow.

“Each CM had his own strengths. I am sure the PDC members have picked up their good qualities.

“All these leaders made us go beyond our scope of duties, and led PDC to success over the decades as a state agency that delivers on its objectives,” he said.

At the sending-off ceremony, video messages from some of his closest aides, including a long-time helper who made his favourite teh tarik over the years, were played. A drone with a camera hovered above and took pictures of the farewell.

Johor Bahru-born Rosli joined PDC in 1990 and rose through the ranks to become the deputy general manager in 2000. In 2006, he became PDC’s youngest general manager at the age of 48.

Rosli joined a small architectural firm in Johor before moving to Penang. He said he moved north to be close to his girlfriend whom he eventually married.

Rosli played a major role in developing PDC’s key townships, including Bayan Baru and Seberang Jaya. He personally designed several buildings such as Mayang Mall and the Motorola Solutions complex.

On his retirement, Rosli said he would paint full-time. He said it was a passion he has been pursuing on weekends since 2012.

His drawings are mostly bird’s-eye views of George Town, done from the top floors of Komtar.

Rosli said he would put up his paintings at Kesum Art Restaurant, which he runs with his daughter, where diners get to enjoy authentic Johor cuisine at Stewart Lane.