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By June RamliTweet
Malaysia’s Best Premier
Sydney, April 3: Interviewing Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a dream come true for me.
When I first started as a reporter at the New Straits Times in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dr Mahathir was still premier but because I was a junior reporter then, my editors barred me from covering him.
A few months after I joined the organisation, he made the shock announcement at one of the UMNO general meetings that he would resign from his job as Malaysia’s fourth prime minister after holding the post for 22 years.
That was in 2003 but Dr Mahathir made a brief come back as a premier for a short two years from 2018 and 2020. I wasn’t in the country at the time to experience the second round of his premiership.
In my opinion, Dr Mahathir is a great leader and the best prime minister that Malaysia has had to date.
Some of his notable achievements include the creation of Malaysia’s national car Proton, the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers and even bringing in the Malaysian Grand Prix to the Sepang International Circuit in 1999 which had its tenure end in 2017.
But this interview was not easy to ace and after sending in my expression of interest through Whatsapp and then subsequently through email and waiting for months on end, I received a formal reply that the interview would take place on Jan 24.
I was elated and beyond disbelief that I managed to score the interview as an independent newsmaker and content creator with this respected statesman.
But as you all might have read, Tun felt ill at the start of the year and his office subsequently emailed me to tell me that the interview had to be cancelled at the 11th hour owing to his ill health.
I wasn’t upset and understood the cancelation but being far away from home, all I could do was hope and pray that Tun’s health would improve and that I would still have a chance to interview this wonderful statesman one way or the other.
Fortunately, for me, my prayers were answered and the interview took place for real this time on March 21 at about 2pm Sydney time for 20 minutes.
I didn’t want to ask him any political questions as I knew questions like these always gets him riled up and so I decided to concentrate on the angle of him as an entrepreneur doctor who left his cushy job years ago to become a politician and subsequently the Prime Minister of the country.
I asked him questions on whether his move to politics after being a physician for many years was prompted by the sheer fact he secretly wanted to be the Prime Minister of the country from day one. His answer would surprise you, well it certainly did surprised me.
Growing up in beautiful Malaysia, I have had many close encounters with Dr Mahathir in the past, I’ve seen him a few times at media conferences after he retired from the top job and while I was still a reporter for New Straits Times, met him a couple of times during walkabouts in the city at Ramadan bazaars and I even lived close by to his current residence near Mines Wonderland.
So, when I met him on Zoom for the interview, it was as though I was meeting an old friend after a very long time.
I also took the liberty to dress up for this interview and wore my national costume the Baju Kurung, something I haven’t worn for years since moving to Australia.
Although I didn’t get to do the introduction that I normally do for most of my other podcast guests by reading out their bio, asking them how their day went, I think the interview still went well, nonetheless.
Here is an unedited version of the whole interview that is about 25 minutes long and if you can’t watch it, then you can also listen to the edited version below:
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June Ramli is the editor of DailyStraits.com. To stay in touch with June, look her up on Twitter @junesairaramli