KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali today charmed her audience, regaling them with stories of why she held the hands of two “handsome people”, namely Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Siti Hasmah, the wife of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said in jest that her daughter-in-law had remarked that she “was ashamed that I was flirting with these men”.
She then spoke about the time Putin visited them many years ago in their home, “which was the smallest, not like other palaces”, on his way to the airport after his official visit to Malaysia.
“Putin was one of the illustrious leaders in the world who had come to our humble house,” she said at a cheque presentation ceremony at the Global Doctors Hospital today.
“He was in KL for an official visit during the 10 years when we were sidelined. We were not invited for any official function then.
“Putin himself had said he wanted to see Mahathir. So Mahathir went to the hotel to pay a courtesy call, but Putin was of the view that despite us coming to see him at the hotel, he must come to our house.
“So he came to our humble house. How do you feel when a person as well-known as Putin, the president of Russia, comes to your house?”
Putin’s last official visit to Malaysia was in 2003.
Siti Hasmah said Putin reciprocated that gesture when she and Mahathir went to Moscow and invited them to his house. She remarked that Putin’s wife was a very nice lady.
At the recent Asean Summit in Singapore in November, Siti Hasmah said Putin had insisted on meeting them there, instead of in Papua New Guinea where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting was to take place, “as there would be more time to talk to Mahathir in Singapore”.
“He stayed at the same hotel we were in. There were more than 100 security personnel guarding him, which made it difficult for us to see him. Eventually, the guards let us in and we went in to shake his hands.
“After shaking hands and meeting him, we of course had to take pictures.
“I had to hold someone’s hand. So I held his. Why are you so envious? What is wrong with it?” she asked in jest, causing the crowd to erupt in laughter.
Siti Hasmah then went on to narrate her experience with Imran during his official visit to Malaysia last month. Imran and his delegation were feted to lunch at Seri Perdana.
She said during lunch, Imran, who was accompanied by his wife, was very friendly.
“After that, Mahathir asked to arrange for a picture-taking session. You photographers were there. You know what happened.
“At that point, he was about to leave. So we took our positions. I asked him if I could take his hand. He said yes.
“So I took his hand. Why I did that is because he is another illustrious son who came to our humble home.
“So what is wrong with that? Why are you jealous?” she asked again, leaving those present in stitches.
Siti Hasmah then told the audience she was unable to see their faces due to her poor eyesight.
“In most instances, I don’t even recognise my own children until I hear their voices and when they come to kiss my cheeks.
“Don’t take advantage of that just because I can’t see you. I can still hear you.
“My hearing is good. That is the compensation,” she said.
Siti Hasmah urged everyone to take care of their eyesight and hearing so that they will not end up in embarrassing situations, relating an incident in Tokyo where she had mistakenly held another man’s hand, instead of her husband’s hand.
“I was so ashamed. I scolded my husband and told him ‘this is what happens when you are not beside me’.”
Siti Hasmah later presented RM37,000 each to Malaysian Rare Disorders Society president Hatijah Ayob, National Autism Society of Malaysia chairman Feilina Feisol and Childline Malaysia’s PH Wong.
The money was raised from a charity dinner organised by Global Doctors on Nov 16.