Veteran Malaysian journalist Subramaniam Harihar dies at 79

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In this undated picture, Subramaniam Harihar, a lifelong journalist and longtime correspondent in Malaysia for The Associated Press, has died at the age of 79. Subramaniam joined The AP in 1970 and retired from the news agency in 1997, having reported on a period of extraordinary economic growth for his country, even as it was overshadowed by regional neighbors buffeted by war and instability. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Subramaniam Harihar, a longtime journalist in Malaysia who covered the country's period of extraordinary economic growth for The Associated Press, has died at age 79.

Subramaniam used the byline Hari Subramaniam for his AP stories and was known as Maniam to his friends. He had been in ill health for several years and died on Aug. 21, according to The Star newspaper, where he worked after retiring from the AP in 1997. The cause of death was not announced.

Subramaniam joined the AP in 1970 and covered events including the 1975 hostage-taking by the Japanese Red Army at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the 1992 collision of a container ship with the oil tanker Nagasaki Spirit that killed more than 40 people, and the collapse of an apartment building in 1993 that left 48 people dead.

Subramaniam launched his journalism career 62 years ago in 1960 at the age of 17, joining the local Malayan Times three years after the country's independence from Britain. He moved to United Press International and then to The Associated Press.

“Back in the dark days, we ignorant outsiders dispatched from New York had a term for underpaid, underappreciated bureau reporters who connected us to complex realities: ‘locals.’ Anyone who still uses it has never met Hari Subramaniam,” Mort Rosenblum, a retired AP foreign correspondent, recalled Thursday.

“He floated seamlessly among government offices, embassies, British expats at the tight-knit Cricket Club, and late-night street food stalls that perfumed what was still a sleepy colonial backwater," Rosenblum said. “People with things to hide opened to him, unfailingly, until they detected a relentless hard-ass reporter at work.”

“He knew everything about Malaysia that there was to know," said Denis Gray, AP’s former bureau chief in Thailand.

Subramaniam was also devoted to Indian music and enjoyed opening his home for concerts by visiting performers.

“It's a way I can contribute to the community and spread an appreciation for Indian music,” he said.

The Star said his funeral was held on Aug. 22.