KOTA KINABALU, Sept 16 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad received the celebrity treatment today, in his first appearance here since leading Pakatan Harapan (PH) to win Putrajaya.
While the Malaysia Day celebration may not be the grandest that the town has seen, townsfolk and visitors alike flocked to Padang Merdeka in the city centre here just to get a glimpse of the 93-year-old.
As he took the stage to deliver his speech, the crowd inched closer to the main stage and gave a welcoming applause to the man once accused of neglecting the east Malaysian state.
Firefighter Mohd Safri Wasli, 40, drove some 40km from Papar into the city centre, with his wife Dayang Suhana Pangiran Mat Salleh, 34, and three children just to be a part of the merriment.
“I wish Tun live a long and healthy life so he can do things right this time and truly help Sabahans. Let bygones be bygones.
“I am really looking forward to hear what he has to say in his speech,” he told Malay Mail when met before the celebration started.
Lee Chee Kong, 28, who was acting as a tour guide for his Korean friends here, said the group delayed their Mount Kinabalu trip because they heard Dr Mahathir is in town.
“They are so excited to see Tun. They said they are amazed at how eloquent he is at giving speeches and how fit he is, especially for someone his age,” he said.
Motorists driving by Gaya Street were also seen taking a peek, with their heads out of car windows to check out what was happening on the field.
Even after he was long done with his 10-minute speech, faint cheers of “Hidup Tun (long live Tun)” could still be heard from across the road.
Apart from Dr Mahathir’s appearance, the highlight of the night was the official signing of a commemorative book called Buku Catatan Hari Malaysia.
The crowd, of some 2,000, were also feted with a colourful dance performance called Malaysia Harmoni, Warna-Warna Malaysia and Malaysia Baru by 800 primary and secondary students, specially choreographed by the Sabah Cultural Board.
Also present were Yang di-Pertua of Sabah Tun Juhar Mahiruddin, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu and Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo, among others.