TOKYO: Looking smart in a black baju Melayu and songket gold embroidered sampin, complete with songkok, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad created another first as he became the first Asian leader in office to receive one of the highest Japanese awards from Emperor Akihito.
The Prime Minister was conferred the “Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers” in a ceremony at the Imperial Palace here yesterday.
He was accompanied by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, who looked resplendent in a pink baju kurung.
Obviously pleased with the award, Dr Mahathir mentioned it twice – before his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at the start of their bilateral talks and at their joint press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office.
The conferment of the award is due to the huge contributions of the Prime Minister in strengthening bilateral ties.
“I feel greatly honoured to be conferred the award by the emperor and Japanese government,” Dr Mahathir said.
Abe, in his opening remarks, also congratulated Dr Mahathir, describing him as a “long-time friend of Japan” who has visited the country more than 100 times since 1961.
“Please accept my warmest congratulations on the conferment from the emperor. You have been a long-time friend, sent 16,000 students and trainees under the Look East Policy.
“I would like to pay my respects to your valuable service in advancing bilateral relations,” Abe said.