A man who does not care too much for pomp and pageantry, Pak Lah’s stewardship of the country as Prime Minister from Oct 30, 2003 until he officially stepped down yesterday, will be judged differently in the years to come.
The media may be a chronicler of instant history but it is the historian who will have the perspective to look at both the positive and negative sides of Pak Lah’s ledger.
Pak Lah will be the first to admit that he has his flaws.
“Leaders are mere mortals,” he once said. “And mortals are imperfect.
“In seeking to better himself, man needs to be advised and to accept criticism. Therefore, advice and criticism should be constructive and rational, and offered with honesty and sincerity,” he said.
No one will dispute that the democratic space for open discussion of many issues rose many notches under Pak Lah.
Spurred on by the proliferation of new media technology, Pak Lah became the first Prime Minister to openly have to endure relentless attacks on both his policies and his personality.
Not all was sincere or honest. In fact, many bordered on slander and destruction.
But Pak Lah, being the man of the people, did not do what lesser leaders might have done. He kept the space open.
Pak Lah ascended to the highest political office in the land knowing full well that Malaysians had not had a change of leadership for 22 years. The shadow of the previous administration loomed large but his message struck a chord among the people.
He went to the people in 2004 for a mandate and we gave him an overwhelming landslide. It was to be the high point of his political career.
But the vagaries of politics are such that when he went back to the people in March 2008, the verdict turned the other way. It was, as he puts it, the lowest point of his political career.
Although there were many factors beyond his control, quite a number were probably the direct result of the actions of the administration he led.
The hope envisioned by his promises was a little too late in coming.
It is a testimony to the democrat in him that Pak Lah accepted the verdict of the people. Though the political landscape has changed tremendously, and remains hot to this day, he never resorted to any extra-constitutional measures to move things to his advantage.
It would be wrong to judge Pak Lah solely on his years as Prime Minister. He is, in fact, a man born to serve the country and he did. Pak Lah’s service to the nation is long and extensive.
As a politician, Pak Lah never used racial and religious issues to stoke the fires that cause disunity among the people. He was just too nice and too much of a statesman to want to play to the gallery.
He always put nation above self. And he never wavered from trying his best to be truly a Prime Minister for all Malaysians.
Yes, today marks a new chapter for the country. This is a defining moment in our history. It is also a poignant moment for Pak Lah.
Now that the burden of office that he has served so sincerely for the past 1,918 days has been lifted, we want to wish him well.
We pray he will enjoy good health and a peace that transcends all that the world can promise.
We, the people, thank you, Pak Lah.