Re: Late W.A.S. Ouderland - Mohammad Abdul Maleque
Mr. W.A.S. Ouderland took over BSO (Bata Shoe Organization) operation in the then East Pakistan in 1970 as Company Manager (CEO). During those days, Bata-operation in the then East Pakistan was the branch company of Pakistan having its factory & office at Batapur, Lahore, West Pakistan. Mr. Ouderland was originally a Dutch National. Later, he took Australian Citizenship and settled down in Perth (Western Australia).
Prior to his taking over the then Bata East Pakistan operation, he did work in Tongi as an officiating executive in manufacturing area and later deputized for the Company Manager. Full-fledgedly, he took over the company operation in 1970 from MR. R.W.Hockley. He was a devoted & dedicated person in his job and other area of corporate social responsibilities.
Situation as a whole started declining in the beginning of 1971, which finally turned to be the war of liberation for the then East Pakistan which came into being as Bangladesh finally.
Circumstantial developments were so much so that we all got into liberation war in 1971. Factory was closed for sometime. I also left Dhaka in March 1971 for my village home in Rangpur and later, in June I returned to my job. We started working for the liberation war and got associated with Ulukhola Camp (TONGI area), a remote area (the other side of the River ‘Turag’). Our responsibilities were related to arranging supplies of food, medicine clothing etc. In those days, communication was so poor that we had to use country boat in the night time to reach the destination with pre-set codes so that the freedom fighters on duty could identify the people at operating level. Some local people were with us. Nurul Islam (Kachkura) was one of them. All these activities were co-ordinated under the leadership of Mr. W.A.S. Ouderland. Our colleague Mr. K. M. Abdul Hai, Mr. A. Salam were giantly associated with the activities. All works were put into action with enough pre-caution and high degree of secrecy.
During the day time, we could meet Pak-army at TIC centre (Tongi) with Mr. Ouderland’s Ford Fairlane big car with Australian flag thereon. We used to collect information & their plan of operation.
It is difficult to narrate all the incidents. I may place some incident here. Once in November/December 1971, Mr. Ouderlan & I were returning from Tongi to Dhaka. All on a sudden, there was an air-raid and anti-aircraft shooting was going on. We jumped out of the car and dived down in the lower side of the road and Mr. Ouderland was showing me & the driver how to dive during this kind of situation. He was disclosing his experience of the 2nd world war wherein he took part. Once he showed us the badges of the position he held during those days.
One of the important Personalities with whom we used to co-ordinated, was Mr. Zainul (I do not know whether he is still alive) of Farmgate area (Dhaka). He was a giant freedom fighter. Series of activities were kept continued and directly or indirectly we were involved. Supporting with finance was one of the dire necessity for the freedom fighters. Things were so much inordinate that we could hardly put them in writing. Of course, we were quite emotional as well. Mr. Ouderland used to inspire us every moment of our activities. Because of Ouderland, we could maintain some liaison with Pak-army and communicate the information secretly to our camp. It was not only difficult but, risky as well.
Mr. Ouderland was always kind & sympathetic to work-men. Our knowledge & experience got enriched in geometric progression following direct intervention of Mr. Ouderland as far as industrial relationship was concerned.
In 1976-77, he had maintained a very good relationship with Ex-President Ziaur Rahman. Because of this relationship, we secured an order of 125000 pairs of PT shoes (Canvas Shoes with PVC injected sole). We also used to supply this PT Shoes to Bangladesh Ansars. Col. Mashidul Islam was, at that period, the officer in-charge of the ANSARS.
Time goes by and we were more matured & got older. Ouderlan had high blood pressure & some Cardiac problem. His wife Maria personally requested me to ensure that Ouderland does not smoke in the office. Once it happened so, that he requested me to get him some cigarettes. He used to take Rothman International. I said, “Mr. Ouderland, you should give up smoking. Your wife has requested me to make sure that you do not smoke in the office”. He shouted at me and said “who is your boss? Me or my wife”. There was no need to further reply. I arranged only two sticks.
During early 1978, he became terribly sick. He used to use a stick! In the factory, he used to take my help. He kept one hand on my shoulder and one hand on the stick. I am extremely grateful to him for his act(s) of kindness & appreciation of my job that I could attend a very high profiled Production Management Course including a successive large session in Waterloo University in Canada in 1977. My days in Waterloo University was quite exciting. We studied Management Science which did encompass operation-research as well. It was an excellent opportunity.
Finally in June 1978, He left Bangladesh. Prior to this, Ouderland was awarded a gallantry award “Bir-Protik” as appreciation of his participation in freedom-fighting i.e. liberation war of Bangladesh. He is the only foreigner.
Mr. K. M. Abdul Hai & myself accompanied him to the airport. He was in wheel chair. We could go inside the airport. We did have some heart to heart talk and got some important paper signed by him for the company operation. He was crying and tears rolled down his cheeks. He was a strongman. But, at times, he became so emotional particularly at the point of his final departure from Bangladesh in June, 1978. We could not arrange even a farewell. He was so sick all on a sudden that he had to leave Dhaka quickly for Singapore (Via Bangkok). We said “Khuda Hafez”! With chocked voice! That was the end of long 7-8 years experience of working with Ouderland.
Later, when we could contact him after about 10 years (in1988); he started losing his eyesight. He became more sick day by day. He had only one daughter and perhaps some grand children. We do not know, if his wife is still alive! Ouderland had a strong character. He had unprecedented love & affection for us & Bangladeshi people. He did not care any adverse situation!
Some working photographs are
(1) In 1971 (September – October), we (participant of FERO SHOECON-1971) made a “reporting-back” presentation in GLOBE office which was our sales division. Mr. Ouderland is seen showing some articles of shoelace (Sundry Items) before the audience.
(2) This photograph is featured with a visitor (high Govt. Executive in Income Tax Department). Mr. Ouderaland is seen in the right and I myself being with him by his left side and Ekramuzzaman Chowdhury (PRD) with me. From the left, Mr. Salahuddin Ahmed and Mr. K. M. Abdul Hai are there.
Stories of Ouderland covering 1971 period & post liberation war can’t be finished in such a short description. It may be even a book! Ouderland was with us in our heart, he would continue to be in our heart and the people of Bangladesh. May Good Lord grant eternal place to his departed soul!
Re: Late W.A.S. Ouderland - By Mohammad Abdul Maleque, Ex-General Production Manager, Bata-Bangladesh.
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