In 1989, Mahathir Mohamad, as Prime Minister of Malaysia, suffered a heart attack.

In 1989, Mahathir Mohamad, as Prime Minister of Malaysia, suffered a heart attack. His doctor at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital recommended surgery in the US. The bed-ridden politician objected.

“I had to have faith in our Malaysia doctors,” he would write about the dilemma. “I knew that if I didn’t make an example of myself, no one else would have confidence in our medical service. Previously, all our VIPs had gone abroad.”

Reflecting further on his refusal to leave Malaysia for dependable treatment, even with his country revolving on third-world medical infrastructure then, he shared:

“As a doctor myself, I knew the risks. I knew there was a possibility that I might not survive the operation as it was not, at that time, a common procedure… But I told myself that if I was going to die, then that was it----. I would leave it to Allah and the skill of the surgeon (local). I rested for four days before the angiogram, which confirmed that I needed the operation. Dr Stertzer again offered the option of having the bypass done in California……When I was left alone with Hasmah, I asked her to call Dr Yahya (the local doctor) and when he entered the room, I told him simply that I wanted him to do it.”

Do you now see why, at age 92 in 2018, Mahathir Mohamad was re-elected as Prime Minister by his people? He had sacrificed his life for them. And after refusing to travel abroad for medical treatment in 1989, he went on to build world-class medical facilities in the then underdeveloped Malaysia. It’s this remembering of his time in office, compared to the disastrous leadership (by Malaysian yardstick) experienced after him, that made the people embrace the nostalgia to elect the world’s oldest political leader.

©Gimba Kakand

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