On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Handover to Pak Lah will be short and sweet

This is where the press photographers will be waiting to
record the smooth leadership transition and where Abdullah will assume his
duties as the country's fifth premier.

Staff of the Prime Minister's Office will line up to extend their wishes to Dr
Mahathir, who clocks out for the last time as prime minister.

From Saturday onwards, Dr Mahathir will be an ordinary Member of Parliament
and, most probably, sit near former MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik
at the Dewan Rakyat. Dr Ling stepped down from his party and government posts
in May.

In the final lap of his leadership, Dr Mahathir was in Timor Leste on a two-day
official visit where was accorded an official welcoming ceremony. Timor Leste
gained independence last year after breaking away from Indonesia.

Its president, Xanana Gusmao, has said that of all the countries in Asia,
the "Malaysian model" of national development and natural resource management
was most suitable to adopt.

Dili – the capital of Timor Leste – has named one of its streets after Dr
Mahathir. This is certainly the first for Dr Mahathir because he has forbidden
any local authority to name a road, building or project after him.

Over the weekend he was in Papua New Guinea
at the invitation of his counterpart, Sir Michael Thomas Somare. It was his
third visit to Papua New Guinea,
which has many Malaysian investors, particularly in logging.

On Wednesday, Dr Mahathir will chair his final Cabinet meeting. Most ministers,
I understand, have decided not to submit any working papers so as not to bog
down the meeting.

They want Dr Mahathir to use the occasion to express his feelings on how the
respective ministers should handle the priorities he would want carried out.
For the more senior ministers like Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Datuk Seri Dr
Lim Keng Yaik, this extraordinary meeting will be an emotional affair.

The following day, Dr Mahathir will speak at the Dewan Rakyat as a premier for
the last time. He will answer questions as well as table the mid-term review of
the Eighth Malaysia Plan.

The same evening, the Umno president will chair a meeting of the party supreme
council at the Putra World Trade Centre before breaking fast with senior Umno

For a man who has been branded a dictator and a despot for the past weeks by
the western media, he has certainly proved his willingness to give up his post
without being kicked out of office in an election or a revolution.

Dr Mahathir has not held on to office for life, unlike many leaders in the Arab
world who never even held elections. They are spared from any labels by a
hostile press because they act as proxies for the United

The criticism against Dr Mahathir is a dampener as Malaysians prepare to bid
him farewell but he is no stranger to controversy. He is a man who calls a
spade a spade.

In many parts of the western world, the international media has humiliated him
for his purported anti-Semitic remarks. Yet, those of us who read his speech in
full or watched him on television during the opening of the Organisation of
Islamic Conference knew that his speech was directed at Muslims, particularly
the clerics and hardliners.

He lambasted Muslim countries for being backward and for shunning science and
technology. He ridiculed fatalistic Muslims who prepare for the next world but
ignore tomorrow. He castigated "interpreters of Islam who taught that the
acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic

If anyone who should be upset, it ought to be the majority of Muslims.

We remember he caused an uproar some years back, especially among some PAS
leaders, when he allowed Israeli children to visit Malaysia
to see for themselves what a modern, progressive Muslim nation can be.

Even at home, we know how he has continuously criticised the Malays for
depending on the government and how he reminded non-bumiputras to accept the
benefits of affirmative action, which may seem unfair but has brought overall
political and economic stability to this country.

No one has been spared in his criticism, so there is no reason why the Arabs
and Jews should be spared. No one is a sacred cow and certainly no one is
untouchable as far as Dr Mahathir is concerned. Even the Malay Rulers found
that out.

We know Dr Mahathir enough to understand that when he said Malaysia
was already an Islamic state, the majority of non-Muslims were not alarmed
because under his leadership, our country has been forward-looking and

We know that the Chinese and Indian communities do not have to worry about
their cultural dances being banned, unlike PAS which lumps such performances
under its anti-vice drive despite trying to convince us that they will be fair
to the minority races.

Dr Mahathir has brought unprecedented growth to Malaysia
over the past 22 years. He has single-handedly transformed a former British
colony that depended on rubber and tin into one of Asia's
most modern and wealthy countries.

We hold our heads high and proudly tell foreigners that we are Malaysians
because of you, Dr Mahathir. You have been an inspiration to all of us. For
this, we can only say thank you and wish you the very best in your future

Terima kasih, Dr Mahathir.