Before he steps down as Prime Minister, Mahathir should ensure that Magendran and Mohandas. the two Malaysians who first planted the Jalur Gemilang  on  Mount Everest in 1997, are given their  long-overdue proper recognition by government and nation  so that the spirit of  “Malaysian Boleh” is source of national inspiration,  pride and unity instead of creating national division and unhappiness

at Bayan Baru, Penang on the  DAP’s 46th National Day Celebrations/Defend Secular Malaysia campaign
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangSaturday): The 2004 Budget presented to Parliament yesterday, which created history in being the longest budget speech in the 44-year history of Parliament – over three hours or about double the normal budget speech – was the third time in two weeks that Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had referred to the successful English Channel swim by Abdul Malik Mydin early last month. 

The first mention by  the Prime Minister in the past fortnight was in his  46th National Day Message describing the English Channel  crossing by Malik as “bringing glory to the race, religion and country”  and the second time at his press conference at the seventh Malaysia Super Corridor (MSC) International Advisory  Panel (IAP) meeting at Cyberjaya a few days later where he said that Malaysian workers had the capacity to do all kinds of things like swim across the English Channel and do sophisticated jobs in the spirit of “Malaysia Boleh”.  

There are however two criticisms in the way the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit is being promoted. 

Firstly, it would be in the greater national interest if the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit is manifested and channeled towards achieving world’s best national feats which will uplift Malaysia’s international prestige, honour and standing like being among the world’s ten least  corrupt nations, having  world-class universities,  internationally recognized as  among the world’s  most dedicated and efficient civil services or ranks high in the world as a  nation which enjoys a  free and responsible press..  

Malik’s conquest of the 21-mile English Channel, considered the “Mount Everest” of marathon swimming, on August 3, 2003  in 17 hours 42 minutes is a great personal feat and deserved all national attention and support.


However, the government, state and nation should not go overboard as Malik’s English Channel swim must be seen in proper perspective and context.  We must not delude  ourselves into believing that the world sat up and noticed Malik’s English Channel swim.


This is because over 630 individuals have made successful  English Channel swims out of over 6,000 known attempts. The first documented conquest of the English Channel was 128 years ago by Capt. Matthew Webb on 24.8.1875 in 21 hours and 45 minutes.  


Among those who have conquered the English Channel was a 12-year-old boy in 1979, a 12-year-old girl in 1983, a 65-year-old man in 1983, and a 45-year-old woman in 1975.  Last year,  a Texan paraplegic, Jason Pipoly, 32,  who had  lost the use of his legs and gets around in a wheelchair,   crossed the English channel, swimming it in 13 hours and 48 minutes.   


The first woman to swim the English Channel was 19-year-old American Gertrude Ederle on 6th August 1926, 77 years ago, setting a woman’s record that stood for 35 years - 14 hours and 31 minutes.   On that day, the sea was so rough that steamship crossings had been cancelled.


The “King of English Channel” is journalist Kevin Murphy who has done 32 crossings. 


The “Queen of the English Channel” is British currency trader Alison Streeter, who had swam the Channel more times than anyone – over 40 crossings – and  the first woman to swim the “double” (i.e. swim the English Channel back and forth) and the only woman ever to have completed the “three-way”, i.e. England to France, back and to France again.  She first swam the Channel at 18 and her fastest swim was 8 hours 48 minutes – an hour and a half off the American-held world record.

The English Channel swim by Malik is a personal feat but it must be seen in proper perspective and context.

Secondly, the “Malaysia Boleh” should be promoted in a fair and even-handed manner so that it would be a source of national inspiration, pride and unity instead of creating national division and unhappiness.

For this reason, I call on Mahathir, before he steps down as Prime Minister after 22 years in office at the end of next month, to ensure that  the two Malaysians who first planted the Jalur Gemilang  on  Mount Everest in 1997, M. Magendran and N. Mohandas  are given their  long-overdue proper recognition by the government and nation as all fair-minded Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, are agreed that both of them had not been given a fair deal by the government and society  as compared to other Malaysian “bolehnauts”.

In his last budget speech yesterday, Mahathir said that the government was proud of the success of our national athletes who had brought “fame and glory to the nation at the international level”.

Members of Parliament, whether from Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP should debate as to how the government and nation can make recompense to the two Malaysian conquerors of Mount Everest in giving due and fair recognition for their 1997 feat although it is six years after the event – as it is better late than never for justice to be done.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman