KICKER: Back in the 1990s, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was at the peak of his prime ministership (he was around 70 then), he was asked by reporters during one of his engaging media conferences on what made him tick, despite heart by-passes and other surgeries and ailments. A special diet, obviously, good genes, naturally, but more intriguingly, tantalising urban legends that he made annual pilgrimages to Switzerland for blood transfusions, besides gulping down a monthly fortune in exotic medication, the inquiry suggested. Chuckling at the proposition's outlandishness, Dr Mahathir had a succinct answer to his vitality: Pharmaton. It must be a zinger of a health supplement, because he still pops it regularly and as he approaches 88 years old in June, his elegant physique and probing mental acuity are robust enough to fell younger political opponents. In stepping down from his prime ministerial hot seat in October 2003 after a 22-year run, Dr Mahathir executed his final official duty. He has since accentuated his private citizenry that holds a potent grip on public imagination. The riptide of high profile critiques, observations, insights and missives, dispatched from his immensely popular blog and articulated over never-ending speaking engagements, elevated him into a statesman "intellectually licensed to kill" - his words probingly satirical, mocking and double-edged, not just aimed at domestic political foibles but also Western inanities and bullies. It is this formidable intellect, the one that constantly prods Malaysians with blunt assertiveness, biting clarity and historical didacticism that was demonstrated in a luxuriant 90-minute interview with NST journalists RASHID YUSOF, AZMI ANSHAR and ROZANNA LATIFF, and ZAHARI ZAKARIA, who captured an exquisite portrait of the ex-PM at his stylish 86th floor office at the Petronas Twin Towers.

BACK in the 1990s, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was at the peak of his prime ministership (he was hovering around 70), he was asked, out of curiosity, by reporters during one of his engaging media conferences on what made him tick vigorously, despite heart by-passes, other surgeries and ailments.

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Published on: 14 April 2013
Publication: New Sunday Times
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