I’m going to be cheeky and wonder what the reaction would be among the Malaysian public if Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak should take ill in the middle of a public function.
As you know, this happened to Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, last week (on Aug 21) when he spoke at the island nation’s 51st National Day rally. He stopped in mid-speech and looked blank-faced for 10 seconds; the symptom seemed to indicate a stroke attack. He was assisted offstage for medical attention.
But after he was examined, he was pronounced to be all right. An official report said what he had suffered was merely the result of prolonged standing, heat and dehydration.
Lee returned to the hall more than an hour later to continue his speech, and appeared in good humour. He got loud cheers and a warm standing ovation and, as reported in the media, thousands of well-wishers expressed relief on social media.
The first thing he said - “I gave everybody a scare” - straight away lightened the atmosphere and brought relief to the audience who had waited patiently for more than an hour for his return. They applauded when he said, “I’m going to have a full check-up after this.”
No doubt many in the audience were ruling party supporters, loyal civil servants, fans of the PM, but you got the feeling that there was great concern for Lee when the incident occurred. Outside of the hall, Singapore social media was abuzz with messages expressing shock, wondering if Lee’s condition was serious, worrying that it might be and extending prayers for his well-being.
I got ample evidence of that from Singaporean friends I communicated with. An ex-Malaysian who took on Singaporean citizenship just two years ago said, “My wife cried when she was informed about this. We all love our PM.”
Another Singaporean friend said, “Putting country first b4 his wellbeing, hope he’s really ok... very scary.”
Another lamented, “Pushing himself too hard. Sigh...”
Would this note of sympathy and admiration pour out for Najib if he suddenly took ill at a public function?