Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will remarry this week, about two years after his wife of 40 years died of cancer, his office said yesterday in a statement likely to pleasantly surprise most Malaysians.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement on its Web site that Abdullah will marry Jeanne Abdullah on Saturday. Only close relatives will attend.
The statement gave no details, but it is believed that Jeanne, a distant relative, has been taking care of the prime minister and his house since his wife, Endon Mahmood, died on Oct. 20, 2005.
Although stunning, the news of his remarriage does not come as a total shock, since Malaysian news Web sites and blogs had swirled with rumors early this year that Abdullah, 67, was contemplating wedlock.
"I am really surprised. I thought he loved his [late] wife, but if it makes him happy then so be it," said Andrew Ma, 39, a financial controller.
"Well that's good, that's great ... He needs someone to be with him to represent the country as a first lady. I think it's timely. It's the perfect time," said Noh Yusof, 27, a former lawyer.
Abdullah, who has two adult children, had scotched rumors of a marriage, smilingly dismissing questions by reporters in March about his marriage.
"They are all rumors, just rumors," he had said.
Still, Abdullah had also spoken about being lonely in the palatial prime minister's official residence since the death of Endon after a four-year battle with breast cancer.
The statement on the Prime Minister's Office Web site said Jeanne Abdullah, who will turn 54 on July 29, is the eldest of four siblings. Jeanne is the ex-wife of Endon's brother.
The statement said Jeanne has "wide experience in the administration and hotel sector after being involved in managing several famous hotels in Malaysia, including Hotel Hilton Kuala Lumpur and Hotel Pan Pacific."
"She has also worked before as ... manager of the Seri Perdana Complex [the prime minister's official residence]," the statement said.
It said Jeanne has two daughters, Nadiah and Nadene, from the previous marriage.
The wedding will be held at the prime minister's official residence and will be attended by close family members only, it said.
Abdullah, well-liked by Malaysians for his soft-spoken and avuncular personality, had captured the hearts of many when he broke down in tears in public during Endon's funeral. The couple had not been shy to demonstrate their love for each other in public, often hugging and kissing each other's cheeks.
Abdullah's decision to remarry may have surprised many people, but it is not likely to reduce his popularity.
"He loved his wife, but life must go on. Let the man marry," said Raja Kamariah, 59, a nurse. "Who will look after him at this age if he is sick?"
"He needs a companion. It's not lust, it's somebody to talk to when you go to bed," she said. "Let it be. I think it's the best thing for him. It's good for him. He needs somebody. He is lonely."
Abdullah married Endon on Sept. 4, 1965. They have four grandchildren from a son, who is a successful businessman.
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