A gravedigger in Kuala Lumpur recently received an award in conjunction with the federal territory's Maal Hijrah celebration
Roslee Ali is a 63-year-old gravedigger from Gombak.
On Thursday, 12 August, the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI) announced a list of award recipients and he was surprised to find out that he was one of two people to receive the 'Tokoh Frontliner Khas' award, a special title for exemplary frontliners which was given out for the first time ever this year.
In a Facebook post, JAWI wrote, "Mr Roslee bin Ali (63 years old), one of the recipients of the Anugerah Tokoh Frontliner which is a new category introduced this year, is a gravedigger at the Taman Selasih Raudhatul Sakinah KL-Karak Muslim Cemetery since 2011 until now. He is involved in managing burials of COVID-19 bodies since the pandemic first hit the country and he once prepared 40 graves in a single day."
The recipients of the awards were chosen based on several criteria.
This includes leadership and exemplary skills, as well as their contribution to the community, organisation, and the state.
Roslee, who is a grandfather to 16 children, received a cash prize, a certificate, and a plaque.
In an interview with New Straits Times, he said that despite being excited to receive the award, he did not manage to get a day off to celebrate and had to immediately return to work.
"Although I am excited for receiving (sic) the award, I could not afford to take a day off and rest since the number of COVID-19 fatalities continues to increase. I must continue to discharge my duties and responsibilities entrusted to me," he said.
The man added that nevertheless, he was thankful for the award.
"Never had I imagined being named as the recipient of a major award like this throughout my journey as a gravedigger," he noted.
Roslee said that he was shocked when his friends and colleagues broke the news to him
"Such an award is not only a recognition to me but also my friends who are also gravediggers," he said to New Straits Times.
"The award recognises our contribution to the society and it will definitely encourage us to work harder in providing the best services to the community," he added.
He thanked JAWI for naming him as the recipient of the special award and decided to dedicate it to his late wife, Rosnah Ahmah.
Together with his colleagues under JAWI's management, Roslee said he has helped to manage thousands of graves.
"The number of people dying from the virus continues to increase since the pandemic hit the country last year. At times, my friends and I had to work additional hours to ensure the burial ceremony could be done immediately," he explained.
"There were times when I was worried about the risk of managing the remains of people dying from COVID-19. However, as a Muslim, I believe that death can approach at any given place and time. Nevertheless, I did not neglect safety measures and have always complied with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) when performing my duties," he added.
Meanwhile, several other individuals also received awards from JAWI for their contribution to society
The main 'Tokoh Utama' award was given to Armed Forces Religious Corp (KAGAT) director-general Major-General (Rtd) Datuk Kamarudin Mamat.
Ramly Food Processing Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Ramly Mokni was named the 'Tokoh Korporat' corporate award recipient and Dr Ismuni Bohari, the director of the Labuan Health Department, also received the 'Tokoh Frontliner' award, similar to Roslee.
On the other hand, TV3 personality and host Ahmad Fedtri Yahya was granted the 'Tokoh Pendakwah Kreatif' award and Nur Maisarah Leong Yoke Keen, who is attached with the Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM), was granted the 'Tokoh Mualaf' award.