Friday, May 18, 2007
Mahathir met Mahathir - a reunion in Nias
RECIPROCITY works - that much I can tell you. When Utusan Malaysia reporters working with the Malaysian Red Crescent Society brought back to Kuala Lumpur an Indonesian orphan by the name of Mahathir about two and a half years ago, little did we know that his namesake would in turn visit him in his native land - Nias, off Sumatera.
Nias was hit by a major earthquake about three months after the world's worst tsunami in December 2004. Malaysian rescue teams joined their counterparts from other parts of the world and provided all sorts of help to restore life on the poor island. The MRCS also headed for Nias, as did Mercy, Yayasan Salam, and a host of other NGOs from Malaysia.
It was during one of these missions that Utusan Malaysia journalists encountered an orphan by the name of Mahathir. Upon probing, it was soon revealed that the boy's parents had named the boy after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malausia's former Prime Minister.
The boy was flown to Kuala Lumpur where he had hi-tea with Tun Mahathir and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali at the latter's house at The Mines. There were many well-wishers too who gave the boy gifts while some donated to help repair the orphanage in Nias. Mahathir Jr went home after spending almost one week in KL.
Exactly two weeks ago, on May 4, both the Tuns flew into Nias on a 5-seater Beachcraft King Air. It was a whirlwind tour as Tun Mahathir had really wanted to see how his namesake was doing. As it turned out, Mahathir Jr was down with fever but that did not stop him from welcoming the former PM.
It was a touch and go trip, but Tun still had time to visit the Mercy hospital in the town. The hospital was built with the help of donations from well-wishers, mostly Malaysians, and should be opened soon. Tun's visit was a much-needed boost to Malaysian social workers and volunteers in Nias.
Tun Dr Mahathir and Tun Dr Siti left the island just before dark, catching the next plane to Kuala Lumpur from Medan.
Nias is popular among surfers who said that the waves are very challenging. The island is in need of more infrastructural developments. Much of Nias looked very much like Malaya before Merdeka. Nevertheless, many houses and shops have big satellite dishes. Even Astro is available there.
It was in Nias that I saw AC Milan gave a classy lesson to Man Utd's tired players. "MU kena bully Pak," said an Indonesian worker watching the game live at Mercy's base camp.