AUG 31, 2003 SUN

Mahathir marks last National Day as PM

By Reme Ahmad

THE spirit of Malaysia Boleh was in full swing last night as the country celebrated its 46th birthday, with a number of records set as a farewell to retiring Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
A cavalry unit joining in the celebrations at Kuala Lumpur's main square, Dataran Merdeka. In his National Day speech, Dr Mahathir urged Malay Muslims to return to Islam's true teachings. -- NEW STRAITS TIMES

Lights in about 100 buildings in the city were also switched on simultaneously at 7pm to give a warm glow to the celebration, the 22nd and final National Day for the Malaysian leader whose rallying call of Malaysia Boleh or 'Malaysia can' inspired the nation.
Thousands upon thousands of Malaysians massed in the city centre, straining roads and public transportation.
The man behind this can-do spirit, Dr Mahathir, turned up at the city's main square, Dataran Merdeka, to lead in the countdown to midnight.
In his eyes, Malaysians - and especially the Malays - can achieve what others have achieved in any field, if they set their minds to it.
In a recorded National Day speech telecast on TV, Dr Mahathir urged the Malay Muslims to return to Islam's true teachings, and not to use the easy way out to achieve things.
'We can achieve whatever we want if we are willing to train ourselves, are not greedy and are patient,' he said.
The Malays have only managed to get a 19 per cent stake in the country's economic pie, well below the 30 per cent target set for them, although the affirmative action policy favouring them in education and business has been in place since 1969.
'Why has this happened? It is due to impatience, a habit of taking the easy way out, and greed,' he said, saying many chose quick profits by selling the contracts given to them by the government, rather than working through the projects to learn new skills.
In the city square yesterday, Dr Mahathir was treated to a concert by 460 harmonica players, which entered the Malaysia Book of Records as the highest number of harmonica players performing at any one time.
The Premier then received 100 'achievers' on stage, Malaysians whose names have been entered in the record books.
They included Datuk Malik Mydin who recently became the first Malaysian to swim across the English Channel and singer Siti Nurhaliza who has won the most number of awards.
Earlier in the day, 18-year-old Jayabarathi Letchemanah pulled 4.8 tonnes of vintage cars with her hair, to enter the national record book as the 'female pulling the heaviest weight'.
Electrical appliances maker I Bhd had in the past few days placed newspaper advertisements with the pictures of famous locals under the heading The Global Malaysian.
They included film star Michelle Yeoh, shoe designer Jimmy Choo, two men who reached the summit of Mount Everest, and the mariner who sailed solo around the world.
'We salute the global Malaysians who have made it. They should inspire more Malaysians to take on the world,' the New Straits Times said in an editorial yesterday.
But it noted that Malaysians seem to be missing from even regional rolls in the arts and literature field.
This morning, Prime Minister Mahathir will witness a parade in Putrajaya, the city that he built from palm plantation lands.