Just to remark on the death of Star newsman Rapaee Kawi, known to the world press as Apai Star. Known to me as Apai, too, though we had only met twice – at the Kapit rafting assignment in April of 2008 and the Miri Jazz Festival a month later. Here is a picture of Apai (rightmost) in Kapit with me and Johnson Yong, a reporter based in Sibu.
No details so far on what exactly happened, just one posting found here.
Sad day. Sad day indeed.
UPDATE: Read some more words about this very nice man: Goodbye to The Star's Veteran adventurer and in the Samosaurus Chronicles here which also has a nice picture of Apai as a young paratrooper.
Apparently, Apai died while having his blood pressure checked, after complaining about feeling unwell.
More notes on a good man found on the Internet, and hopefully they offer a balm to Apai's grieving family.
I did not know him too well, having only met Apai twice. But, honestly, I thought he was nice. Yes, he talked a lot, as mentioned on the Net by one his friends, and as mentioned by a few people after I first met him in Kapit. In the picture above, Sarawak Tourism Board's Gustino has an early story-telling session with Apai at the hotel before we set out.
And Apai had the tendency to tell the same story over and over no matter how many times he had told it... to the same person. But I never got the impression – and this was important to me – that he was ever mean-spirited. And you know what, never had he mentioned what would have been the crowning glory of his career – the Everest assignment – unlike some people who would have sneaked that fact into a conversation five minutes into meeting someone new.
And, above all, what struck me about Apai was that he seemed to love his job. Yes, he was complaining a bit about doing two jobs while being paid for one, as he was doing both still photography (and writing) and videography for his employers. Nevertheless, he was still toting both still and video cameras around, and wanting to do a good job. The Kapit assignment where we met was not his first raft race (I was a captive audience for stories about his past assignments in the six-hour boat ride to the longhouse), but he still did it when others without that drive for news would have passed. And for a jaded newsman going on the same assignment he had been on before? "Been there, done that, wake me if something interesting happens" would most likely be the mantra – certainly not as seen in the above picture of a hatted Apai in probably his most usual pose: With a camera to his face.
I suspect he loved news gathering, and would have loved being defined by his dedication to it and being remembered fondly for it. It's something we can all aspire to.