Yesterday was TDM's 85th birthday. Today (July 11) is his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, who turns 84. Those who are close to her, had worked with her and knew her would confess one thing - that she was never a publicity-craze when she was Malaysia's 'First Lady' despite holding several positions in various organisations.
In fact, where on earth can you find a First Lady being so commanding, so publicity-craze and giving a public perception that she is also running a government together with her husband?
Hasmah is not that kind of a First Lady. When Dr Mahathir was prime minister, she only accompanied him upon request and permission from her husband. Never did she try to object whenever Dr M had to leave her behind for some meetings or oversea trips. Never did she complaint if her activity was not attended by members of the Press.
I have been to many countries. I have not seen any First Lady wanting to be as popular as her hubby or even more popular than him, regardless of nations. Even US First Lady seldom gets coverage in newspapers or 'airtime' on television.
However, this First Lady whom I (and many of you) know is extraordinary. Whenever her husband appears on TV... say, for 30 seconds on any News programme, she will have hers too, if not 30 seconds, 10 would suffice. Almost all newspapers will carry her story and picture, too. I wouldnt know if some editors have to allocate the space for her everyday or having to chuck off other items as to make room for her. If they do, they are just a bunch of crass to me.
Siti Hasmah had always maintained her mediocrity. She never tried to supersede the function of a premier, neither did she make any attempt that may cast doubt among the rakyat towards Dr M's leadership. Most of all, she never took advantage of her position as the wife of a Prime Minister.
In a few countries where women are presidents and prime ministers, their 'First Gentlemen' too rarely came into picture. In most cases, the people never saw them being alongside their wifes at any official function.
I guess times have changed to allow a First Lady to 'join-hands' ruling a country with her husband. I dont know as to whether the people like her ways and style. Foremost, I am not quite sure if this First Lady realises that she may shorten her husband's tenure as a prime minister, for giving the impression that she got so many hands in the administration.
Whatever it is, I think she is the only First Lady who got a special TV interview about her husband political path, her plans as the First Lady and everything about what she wanted her husband to be... a month before he became a prime minister! But I would not blame her. I blame the TV station, instead... for pushing her to go overboard!
To Dr Siti Hasmah, HAPPY BIRTHDAY... we love you.