On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Dr M, your ‘sons and daughters’ salute you

Not one of these ordinary Malaysians felt that the
tribute being paid to Dr Mahathir could be regarded as idolatry, toadying and
sycophancy, as some politicians have claimed.

Malaysians, regardless of their race and religion, simply want to say thank you
to a man they genuinely believe has contributed greatly to their lives.

Here is a man who has been the catalyst of tremendous changes to Malaysia
over the last 22 years.

While not all the messages were commendable of Dr Mahathir, which is
understandable and accepted in any democratic society, they acknowledged the
economic differences he had brought to this country.

Some clearly did not agree with his politics but they accepted his vision and
boldness. Much more than that, they also said they would miss him. But none
said the tribute was excessive.

I have decided to reproduce extracts of e-mail and letters from readers who
took the trouble to respond.

These Malaysians deserve to be heard by the rest of the nation, especially the
petty politicians.

Reader Mike Lui wrote that Dr Mahathir is more than just a Prime Minister,
describing him as "a father who would spank us when we misbehave, and when he
knew what was better he would not back down."

"Our country still lacks a true democracy but yet we never lacked a leader who
cared," he said, adding that Malaysians could not expect a perfect man.

Dr Mahathir, as Lui aptly pointed out, did not feel the need for popularity in
his leadership and quest to make Malaysia
better, and that the whole nation would miss his leadership.

"We have been lucky to have him. For this is indeed a great man and he has
served the country well," Lui wrote. "His work has made all of us proud as

Reader Mohamed Ismail said Dr Mahathir had made many unpopular decisions in his
career and had angered him several times, but in the end the Prime Minister was
proven correct.

"He was a man ahead of the times. He was always many steps ahead of us and
often we could not understand that he just wanted the best for us.

"In the end, he was right and for that we must salute him.

"As a human being, he made mistakes but during the 22 years as a leader, his
achievements for Malaysia
certainly outweighed those flaws.

"As a Muslim, he also dared to tell us what was wrong with us," wrote

Reader Lim Chew Yin admitted that at times she, too, had been angry with Dr
Mahathir, especially during the 1997 financial crisis and his strong criticism
of the West "but he stuck to his guns and we came away with flying

"I know this sounds clichéd, but I will always admire him and love him. He will
be greatly missed."

Riduan Ismail from Kuala Lumpur
telephoned to say he was upset with the "fault finders" and those with "holier
than thou" attitude who were more concerned with achieving their political
ambitions in the name of religion.

"Dr Mahathir was one man who would never be intimidated by those who want to
chart the course of the nation with their medieval social order.

"As a Muslim, I will remember Dr Mahathir for his guts in voicing the concerns
of moderate Muslims."

Ang Layping, who lives in the United States,
wrote that she was often overseas but had followed the country's development
and Dr Mahathir's leadership closely over the years.

"I personally felt that our country is very lucky to have such a respectful and
courageous leader. I have met him in New York
and I truly wish him well in health and many more years to come.

"Malaysians should be very proud of him; without him, we Malaysians will not be
known to other nations. Almost everyone in the world knows our prime minister.
I sincerely salute you. Thank you, sir."

Couple Anitha and S. Daniel e-mailed me to say that they were "deeply touched
with your kind words and understanding of our prime minister" in the two
previous articles.

"Our Prime Minister told us that we could do anything we want just by believing
in ourselves.

"He has so much confidence in us that we lack in ourselves. Despite the many
critics, he made Malaysia

From Italy,
reader Lee Sau Kuan wrote that "Dr Mahathir has developed Malaysia
and also made Malaysian well-known. I now live in Italy
but I miss him dearly."

Chee Keong Tan, in his late 20s, wrote: "I am one of the lucky people in the
age whereby we witnessed the tremendous growth of our beloved nation. Looking
around today, the living condition has improved, infrastructures have been
upgraded, we are all – at least the majority – more comfortable now than in the

"We owe all these to Dr M, a person so close to our hearts that he is like
family, a fatherly figure to all of us.

"I am sure many of us know how much he has sacrificed for the country and the
people, yet we have disappointed him again and again with problems.

"But just like a father, he never gave up on his 'sons and daughters.' Thanks
for not giving up on us, thanks for being a great father to all Malaysians. And
thanks for giving us a future.

"From the bottom of my heart, as well as many of the Malaysians, we will really
miss you and your love to us will never be forgotten. We love you, Dr M!"

Vickenswari Thurairajah wrote to say that she has an 11-year-old daughter and
wants to send a postcard to Dr Mahathir to thank him for what he has done for Malaysia.

Yes, your family can do so by writing to him at the Prime Minister's Office,
Bangunan Perdana Putra, Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan, 62502 Putrajaya
or email to ppm@pmo. gov.my.

From Ohio State
University in the United
States, student Johnny Khong, too, said he
wanted to write to Dr Mahathir to express "my deepest appreciation for his
leadership and inspiration during his tenure."

And finally, I even received two responses – from Bosnia
and Ethiopia –
saluting Dr Mahathir. They, too, say they will miss Dr Mahathir as much as all
of us.