On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Readers still have much to learn about Pak Lah

Not forgetting the same "favourite singers" at almost
every dinner. They must have profited quite a bit from being branded as Dr
Mahathir's choice singers for 22 years. One actually ended up getting a Datuk

To get the facts right for sure this time, The Star
called up Nori, the daughter of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, to find out
what he truly likes. She liked the idea and, in fact, followed the little
contest that we ran with great enthusiasm.

Despite having covered the Prime Minister for almost two
decades, sometimes with glimpses into his private moments, the contest was
still a learning experience. For the 6,000 over people who took part, it must
have been fun, too.

I am sure it was not the prizes that the readers wanted
to win. I am sure Malaysians wanted to interact with their Prime Minister, who
has struck a chord since he took over the leadership.

From the overwhelming response, it was also clear
that they wanted to know Abdullah the person, a hugely popular figure. One
reader called up and demanded that the contest be extended because "we are
talking about our Pak Lah, you know".

But how the readers marked the multiple-choice answers
provided showed they still have much to learn about their prime minister. Some
of it was probably wishful thinking and some preconceived notions of his

Many participants put nasi kandar as Pak Lah's favourite,
presumably because he is a Penangite. I am guilty in some ways, too, because I
have written a few times about the dish being served at his gatherings.

Even I was floored when Nori said that nasi kandar was
not Pak Lah's favourite. I know for a fact that his friends have always
introduced nasi kandar shops, which they claimed to be the best, to his family.

It has now dawned on me that if he insisted that nasi
kandar be served during media functions it is because he knows that many of his
journalist friends love the spicy Penang dish.

Nasi lemak is also certainly not on his menu because he
has become health conscious over the years, watching the kind of food that he
eats. Nasi lemak may be an all-time Malaysian favourite but not for Pak Lah.

Most readers got his favourite colour right though. He
likes blue but his favourite destination is not New
Zealand. The majority of participants
thought it was the best place for him to rest.

After going through the entries, I decided to book a trip
to New Zealand.
There must be something about the place that I do not know about. Japan
is Pak Lah's number one choice, maybe because his mother-in-law is Japanese.

But the best part is that most Malaysians, at least those
who took part in the contest, think that Pak Lah loves watching The Godfather,
a movie about the Italian mafia.

Perhaps they think he fits the image of a tough guy even
though some consider him too nice a person.

The stereotyping continues with many readers assuming
that Bobby, a Hindustani movie, would be his favourite movie. Actually, it's My
Fair Lady. Like Dr Mahathir, he likes old movies, too.

There are other favourites of Pak Lah – he enjoys
collecting walking sticks and his favourite sport is golf, no surprises for
this one. We left this out of the contest because many Malaysians would know

As much as Malaysians enjoy this triviality, they would
be glad to know that Pak Lah himself has enjoyed the contest just as much. Told
about the answers that readers could choose from, he laughed.

It has certainly been a good first year for him. As the
year comes to an end, most of us would have planned our holidays but the next
two months would be a packed one for him.

On his schedule are trips to South America,
the Caribbean and West Asia. Perhaps
Pak Lah may want to consider New Zealand
for a holiday with his family.