LANGKAWI: Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s campaign trail today continued in Langkawi, where he engaged the locals in small talk during walkabouts at popular public places.
From stopping for coffee to sampling durians and getting his morning dose of roti canai, the former leader proved to be a celebrity here, with people jostling to take selfies with him.
At one point, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman and his wife, Dr Siti Hasmah Ali, stopped for coffee with Ooi Chin Tong, who chairs the Langkawi Taiji Association.
Taiji, or tai chi, refers to the ancient Chinese martial art known for its slow movement of the body, which is popular for its health benefits.
Met later, Ooi was full of praise for the former prime minister.
“He is our former prime minister who has done so much for Langkawi. We appreciate what he has done for the country, his sacrifice for the country, sacrificing his old age to come and lead the country again.
“He should be sitting at home retired. It is very admirable of him to come out of retirement. If I were him, I would be happy resting at home, taking care of my grandchildren. He could do that,” he added.
Ooi said during their conversation, Mahathir had asked about his tai chi classes, as Siti Hasmah also practises tai chi.
The long-time Langkawi resident said the island had been “sleeping for far too long” after Mahathir’s retirement.
He said under the present government, the island’s development lacked proper planning.
“There is no heart to developing Langkawi. But it is different with Mahathir.
“He made proposals, gathered information and took action. He really heard us.”
Mahathir has been widely credited with turning the island into an international holiday destination during his 22 years as prime minister.
He is standing against the incumbent from BN, Nawawi Ahmad, and PAS’ Zubir Ahmad.
Ooi, 64, said it was Mahathir’s personal interest in Langkawi that had transformed the island.
“He always comes to Langkawi, almost every month. And he would drive himself around,” he said.
Ooi said he did not agree with the suggestion that Mahathir was not popular with the Chinese community, and had done little for them.
On the contrary, he said Mahathir was easily accessible to the common man, and one could meet him anywhere.
“It may not necessarily be in the office. It can be in the coffeeshop or at the stalls. Even if he is walking down the street, you can just stop him.
“He will always ask what’s the problem. He will listen to what you say, and later on, there will be action,” he said.
Local durian seller Wan Razali Din also had a personal encounter with Mahathir today as he stopped by his stall at the Kuah market this morning to sample his durian.
For Razali, 40, Mahathir’s candidacy was also good for business.
“With Tun coming here, we are feeling more fired up to do our business,” he said.
Like Ooi, Razali too has only kind words for Mahathir, adding that life was good in Langkawi under Mahathir’s administration.
Now, he said, it is different.
“People are facing hard times. They do not have money to spend. The economy has deteriorated,” said Razali.