SIBU: Senior Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh on Wednesday paid glowing tribute to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad whom he said was an intellectual and politician par excellence.
He said Dr Mahathir had never stopped questioning existing realities and exploring new ideas.
“We all know that you are a visionary who envisage things far ahead, be it in political, economic or social terms,” he said.
Wong, who is Minister of Local Government and Community Development, was speaking at a dinner in honour of Dr Mahathir who was on a one-day visit here on Wednesday.
He added that as far back as 1990, Dr Mahathir had “invigorated the whole Malaysian nation with your forward looking Vision 2020 concept”.
“You announced your noble hope and ultimate objective for Malaysia to be a fully developed nation by the year 2020.
“According to you, it should be fully developed not only in the economic sense but encompassing all – a nation that is fully developed in all dimensions: economically, politically, socially, spiritually, psychologically and culturally.
“We must be developed in terms of national unity and social justice, political stability, system of government, quality of life, social and spiritual values, national pride and confidence,” Wong said.
He said the 2020 national development agenda had since served as the country’s guide and a compass to navigate it to the future.
He added that years before Dr Mahathir envisaged a fully developed Malaysia, he had also demonstrated an international sense of responsibility a developed nation should be.
“And so among your foreign policy initiatives was to offer technical assistance to some African countries. You also championed the South issue and the interests of the South Pacific nations.
“And so, Tun, on the international arena, you are a ‘hero’ among Third World nations. Indeed, in the field of foreign policy, you have also proven to be innovative and courageous and featured Malaysia prominently on the world map,” he said.
Wong added as far as Sibu was concerned, its people were deeply indebted to Dr Mahathir.
“I can recall the last two occasions you came to Sibu when you were still the prime minister.
“You announced the approved allocation of RM500 million for the Sibu-Tanjong Manis road project which has now been completed and the extension of Sibu Airport terminal which is somewhat delayed after you left office, but is now under implementation.
“The other time you came was to help in the election campaign for state and general election, which we all won with resounding victory,” he said.
Wong described Dr Mahathir as the most analysed prime minister ever, the most examined and some said the most controversial.
But, he said Dr Mahathir must be considered among the most prepared and most qualified prime ministers.
He quoted a biographer who observed that ‘few leaders in the world have assumed the role of prime minister better prepared than Mahathir’.
About 1,000 people attended the dinner.