Blog Program Bicara Negarawan: Day 4 (Part 1)

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

In case you missed it:

Blog Program Bicara Negarawan:
Day 1 [link]
Day 2 [link]
Day 3 [link]



Oh yeah, Tun Dr Mahathir was there some of the time with us too.

So read on for Part 1 of the fourth day of my unbelievable time with the program!

Day 4 (Part 1) – Monday, 29 March 2010


It hung in the air so thick that you could practically cut it with your fingernails.

Yeah right, I wish.

Today was the first day all of us could wake up at a leisurely hour; about 9.00am, to be precise. The plan in the morning was to leave Impiana Hotel by 10.30am to the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya.

We had breakfast at almost 10.00am and left – admittedly behind schedule – for Putrajaya, boarding JASA’s buses once more.

You want to know why we were late? Two words: photo op!

Conquered the Impiana Hotel Lobby // Image by Sivananthan, UniKL

Conquered the Impiana Hotel Foyer! // Image by Yusuf Hashim, UTP

Winning & Losing

We were having the closing ceremony of the program in Putrajaya today, and Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad would be gracing us once again with his presence.

To our joy, we learned that he would be passing us our certificates personally, so we’d each get a unique photo op with him on stage! However, before that, Mahathir would be giving his customary speech.

Before It Begins.. // Image by Tasnim Mohammad, USIM

I was actually one of the first few in the hall. Seeing how the front rows were still all empty, a bunch of us opted to sit in the second row from the front.

Imagine my surprise later on when I realized my seat was practically right behind Mahathir’s! You can see later in Jinggo’s pictures where I sit relative to the Man himself.

Talk about being lucky huh? Especially when comparing to the hundred-odd students from various varsities who were attending the closing ceremony as well. (FYI these students were not there under our program, only to hear Mahathir speak.)

Interrogating an Old Man

Anyway, due to time constraints caused by the aforementioned certificate ceremony, only five of us would have the opportunity to ask him a question. We had to submit our question in English to the organizing committee for vetting.

About one hour before Mahathir was due to arrive, Hazman – our Penghulu from UTM – pulled five of us aside, me included, to inform us that we had the chance to ask Tun a question, one to one!

So there we were: myself, Berlina (UTM), Sabrina (UPM), Amin (UniKL), and Kumar (UTP), going to get to ask Mahathir our questions before we receive our certificates!

We didn’t have much time to think about it though, because Mahathir came in pretty soon after!

Customary Speeches

Sitting behind The Man Himself // Image by Jinggo

The speeches by the VIPs – Tuan Sayid and Dato’ Fuad – were surprisingly brisk, whereby the both of them took turns reliving the past four days with us and speaking about the difficulties in organizing such a program as ours.

After them, Mahathir was invited to the stage amid a standing ovation. He talked about our weaknesses as a country and as a people. He talked about acknowledging those weaknesses and working to overcome them.

He talked about the power of knowledge and inculcating good values in the youth. He talked about brains vs. brawn. He talked about his being more likely to win using brains and lose badly if challenged with brawn.

In short he talked about quite a lot for quite a while, ending his speech by reminding himself “he still had to pass out the prizes after this”, to much appreciative laughter from the hall.

Query for the Man

Then it was time for the question-and-answer! I got to ask mine first.

I was so nervous asking him this! // Image by Jinggo

My question was pretty simple: having met many other world leaders during his premiership, who did he find the most charismatic person of all?

Tun Dr. Mahathir replied that he admired Nelson Mandela the most. In the early years of his career as Prime Minister, one of the first leaders he met was this South African leader.

According to Mahathir, at the time he met Mandela, this inspiring leader had just been released from prison after spending 27 years behind bars! Mahathir went to the meeting expecting to find a broken man, embittered by the seeming futility of his struggle against apartheid.

When they did meet, Mandela surprised Mahathir. Far from being bitter and vengeful, Mandela was optimistic about his country’s future, and still firmly believed that reconciliation between the white and black South Africans could yet be a reality.

Mahathir said Mandela made the most of his sentence and even became friends with the prison wardens, who eventually began to treat him better and helped to smuggle newspapers in for the great leader.

This spirit of Mandela inspired Mahathir very much back then, and it was cool to know that our former PM – one who is greatly respected, even revered, looked up to Mandela to such a high degree.

More than satisfied with his reply – having Mahathir look you in the eye as he formulated his reply is unnerving! – I bowed slightly in thanks and took my seat.

Prizes and Certificates Galore!

Our certificates came in these velvet files! // Image by Thara Zainal, UMS

After Mahathir answered the remaining four questions by Sabrina, Berlina, Kumar and Amin, it was time for the prize-giving ceremony! Apparently there were quite a lot of awards to be given out:

Special Performance Award, 2nd Runner-Up:
Khairunnabihah Zainal Abidin, UNIMAS
– Sajak Performance

Special Performance Award, 1st Runner-Up:
Wan Farid Wan Ahmad, MMU
– Drums Performance, Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”

Special Performance Award, Champion:
Shobana Sandrasegaran, UPM
– Indian Classical Dance

Best University Award, Runner-Up:
Universiti Putra Malaysia
– represented by Sabrina

Best University Award, Champion:
Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS
– represented by Yusuf Hashim

Then came the big moment: the Top 5 contestants students in Malaysia, the creme de la creme, the best who had proven themselves worthy among all the brightest students our universities had to offer!

These five winners would receive a special trophy, a signed certificate by Tun Dr. Mahathir and a RM 5,000 cash prize! In no particular order, they were:

Wan Ahmad Hazman
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

Vincent Ooi Chin Siang
Universiti Sains Malaysia

Jared Ee Han Seong
Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS

Farhan Nor Diyana
International Islamic University Malaysia

Balaganesh Ponniah
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris

Nur Iylia Aimi
(additional; recipient of Anugerah Khas Kepimpinan JASA)
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Honestly, I COULDN’T BELIEVE I WON! It took me every ounce of self-control I had not to scream there and then when my name was called!

Dr Fazley – the event’s MC – later announced that Farhan Nor Diyana had been selected among the top five as the best overall student, and would receive another trophy on top of an additional RM 3,000! Congrats Farhan!

My proudest moment! // Image by Thara Zainal, UMS

Closing the Closing Ceremony

After the certificates were presented to everyone, we adjourned for a group photo session, lunch and more photo sessions!

The Official Group Photo! // Image by Yusuf Hashim, UTP

The UTP Contingent! // Image by Yusuf Hashim, UTP

Note: the bigger trophy is the one we won for being Best University!

The Victor! // Image by Thara Zainal, UMS

By the time all this was done, though, the day was barely half-done.

It was 2.30 p.m., and our next agenda – a guided tour around the Proton plant in Shah Alam – still beckoned!

[read about Day 4 (Part 2) now!]


About Jared

I am all the awesomesauce you could ever want in a handsome, neat package, and you know it.
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2 Responses to Blog Program Bicara Negarawan: Day 4 (Part 1)

  1. Dude says:

    I don’t understand why you are so crazy over Mahathir.. you seem to have forgotten that this is the dude that in the name of development, destroy our judiciary (which still hasn’t recovered), built up the class of “Umnoputras” who suck our government’s coffers dry, and allowed corruption to fester in the country.. the same guy who criticized his successor for corruption but forgot to mention the wealth of his sons.. And who now is the patron of Perkasa, a right-wing racist organization.. You call this a statesman? No, he is just a fear monger, using fear and dividing the people just so he can remain in power, refusing to keep quiet even after he “retired”..

  2. Jared says:

    Yes, Mahathir ruined the judiciary, spawned dozens of corrupt govt servants, slammed Pak Lah, etc. Yet at the same time, look where he took our country, look at the things we have achieved as a nation during his premiership, look at how this one man put Malaysia on the map and made us much more than the banana-shaped piece of land between Thailand and Singapore.

    Call me naive, stupid, an idealist, whatever. I don’t hold Mahathir in high esteem because of the things he did as you mentioned. I do so because in he was a visionary and a revolutionary. I certainly don’t worship him as a perfect human being; he has his flaws. But he inspires me in the way he speaks, the things he knows, the future he foresaw for Malaysia.

    Who else in Malaysia could have taken us as far as he has? Reviewing the work of the Prime Ministers that followed him, and I’m being honest here, I certainly don’t see much to either Pak Lah or our dearest Najib!

    So yes, I do consider Mahathir – after everything he’s done for Malaysia – as a statesman! 🙂

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