On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Pak Lah is ready to move on

Comment by WONG CHUN WAI

DATUK Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi quietly began putting little touches to his two-bedroom kampung house in Sungai Penchala a year back.

It will be his home when he vacates Seri Perdana, the official residence of the Prime Minister at Putrajaya, when he steps down. It is said that extensions are being made to the home now.

Some of the plants in the orchard have started to bear fruit including rock melons, which he has been experimenting with.

He had originally wanted a perigi (well) outside his home but changed his mind when told that it would be unsafe for his visiting grandchildren.

“Remember to visit me when you people are free,” he told editors at a lunch hosted by him on Tuesday.

He has a house in Putrajaya, which he bought but this would handed to his daughter, Nori, while a colonial-style home at Jalan Bellamy, behind Istana Negara, will be returned to the Government.

“Life is about changing roles. I don’t think I am going to be affected in anyway. The pomp and all that. Pomp and pageantry don’t matter,” he said. For the time being, he has no plans.

An editor had asked whether he was prepared for life as an ordinary Member of Parliament without all the attention.

Pak Lah reminded his audience that he has had his share of ups and downs in politics, pointing out that he lost his Umno vice-presidency in 1993.

The editors, some of whom were then reporters who had covered the Umno general assembly, reminded him there had been a blackout at his Jalan Bellamy home that night and the garden was flooded.

“One cannot hold to any position forever. That is something we must remember,” he said.

But he admitted that “the PM’s role was very exciting and I enjoyed it” although he was happy in all the ministries he had worked in.

He has not given any thought to writing a book and dismissed a suggestion that he should have a role in the Perdana Leadership Foundation, which is headed by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“There is no need to lament a fact, as you progress and you know at every stage there is something you can do, you still lead a useful life. You can still contribute. The question is, what do you do with yourself?”

It has not been easy for Pak Lah as the country’s fifth Prime Minister, when he went from hero to zero.

He readily admits that his greatest achievement was the massive Barisan Nasional victory in the 2004 general election and that his lowest point was the 2008 polls, when Barisan lost its two-thirds majority.

He was asked by a journalist why he did not exploit the mandate of 2004 to the fullest as his administration was eventually marked with missed opportunities.

“Yes, missed opportunities in the sense that I could not do many things I wanted to do. My election manifesto was actually a plan for the second half of Vision 2020. I never had any ambition to be there to declare that Malaysia is a developed country. I expect continuity.”

On Tuesday, his aides distributed a 74-page compilation of achievements under his tenure as PM.

“You don’t have to publish it if you don’t want to but I hope you will be accurate in your reporting. You can use this as a reference,” he said.

Abdullah said he was advised a few times that big projects, such as the Twin Towers or KLIA, were politically beneficial but the Prime Minister said he had to remind himself of the costs involved and the impact to the country’s budget.

Yesterday, Pak Lah chaired his final Cabinet meeting and had a group photograph taken with all his ministers.

The leadership transition has begun. Today, a new chapter in Malaysian history begins when Pak Lah and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak meet the King.