NO MATTER which side of the political fence you sit on, a recent video showing former two-term prime minister (PM) Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who is affably known as Pak Lah being wheeled out for his 84th birthday celebration on Nov 26 will have elicited great sympathy.
In the video, Pak Lah who suffers from dementia is visibly frail and looks confused by his surroundings. One cannot but feel sadness for the former UMNO president who looks a pale shadow of his former self.
Pak Lah’s health condition was first revealed in September last year by his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin. The former health minister and current popular podcast co-host of Keluar Sekejap also said Pak Lah had lost his memory and no longer recognised family members.
The former Kepala Batas MP who took over Putrajaya from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2005 is best remembered for his Hadhari Islam approach which sought to link economic and technological development with Islamic principles.
He was also credited for Barisan Nasional (BN’s) landslide victory during the 11th General Elections (GE11) in 2004 where BN won 198 out of the 220 Parliamentary seats and wrested control of Terengganu from PAS.
However, his popularity was short-lived after his predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced he was quitting UMNO in 2008 after having lost confidence in Pak Lah’s leadership.
Although much aligned towards the end of his tenure, many Malaysians will now look back fondly at Pak Lah’s time as PM, especially when compared with the scenario today.
Unlike today where the ultra-conservatives seemingly having the loudest voice, the tone during his tenure in office was decidedly one of moderation.
His administration, does in hindsight, seem far more inclusive and progressive compared to the scenario today.
Pak Lah was instrumental in bringing an international yacht race to Terengganu in the shape of the Monsson Cup. The then PM thought the monsoon season should be used as an advantage to the state rather than being seen as a hurdle.
The Monsoon Cup had helped modernise Pulau Duyong which was the venue for the event from a sleepy fishing and boat-making village into a modern international-class resort and marina complete with boat repairing facilities.
Can you imagine such an event being held or even mooted by the state’s current administration?
It would also do well for many Malaysians to reflect on whether the harsh criticisms of PMV were warranted. While his much-vaunted promise to stamp out corruption did not come to fruition, his successor was none other than Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is currently serving a 12-year stint in Kajang prison for the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) fiasco.
Abdullah served in office from October 2003 to April 2009. He was also the sixth president of UMNO.
Many Malaysians will want to wish Pak Lah and his family well and hope that he can have a comfortable existence for the remainder of his days. – Dec 5, 2023
Video and pics courtesy of Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican