Veteran journalist Ismail Kassim dies of cancer

Mr Ismail Kassim was known for his coverage of the political scene in Malaysia and Indonesia. He was also the author of several books.
Mr Ismail Kassim was known for his coverage of the political scene in Malaysia and Indonesia. He was also the author of several books.ST FILE PHOTO

Veteran journalist Ismail Kassim, who was the former general secretary of the Singapore National Union of Journalists and vice-president of the Confederation of Asean Journalists, has died of cancer. The bachelor was 76.

Mr Ismail, known for his coverage of the political scene in Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as the author of several books, died yesterday at Changi General Hospital.

He worked initially as a teacher in the early 1960s, but went on to further his studies at the National University of Singapore, eventually getting a Master in Social Sciences (Political Science).

He entered journalism in his 30s, when he started off as a feature writer for the New Nation daily in 1972. He transferred to The Straits Times in 1982.

The former editor-in-chief of the then English and Malay Newspapers Division at Singapore Press Holdings, Mr Cheong Yip Seng, remembers Mr Ismail as a "pioneer" who had a great interest in Malaysia and Indonesia.

"He was given a free hand, and he travelled to Malaysia frequently. He cultivated contacts in high political circles in Kuala Lumpur. He gave us insights not found in the work of the news agencies on which we heavily depended on," said Mr Cheong.

He added: "Singapore journalism owes much to Ismail."

Retired ST and Berita Harian correspondent Salim Osman said that he was saddened by Mr Ismail's death. Mr Salim, 67, said he used to meet Mr Ismail on a weekly basis, and had considered him to be his mentor.

Mr Salim said: "When we were covering politics in Malaysia and Indonesia together, he let me follow him around and taught me what were the issues to watch out for and how to write about them."

"The editors trusted and allowed him to go wherever he wanted, and he would always deliver good stories."

Mr Salim said that beyond his reporting prowess, Mr Ismail would also be remembered for being a good and kind person who often checked in on colleagues and made the time to talk to them.

"He was very humble and friendly and could always find the time to chit-chat. I am really going to miss him," Mr Salim added.

Hariz Baharudin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 26, 2019, with the headline 'Veteran journalist Ismail Kassim dies of cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe