Former Malaysia PM Mahathir, 90, takes Indonesia's Jokowi for a spin in a Proton

President of indonesia Joko Widodo taking a ride in the new proton Iriz driven by Proton Chairman Tun Mahathir Mohamad during his visit to the Proton centre of Excellence in Shah Alam. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK
President of indonesia Joko Widodo taking a ride in the new proton Iriz driven by Proton Chairman Tun Mahathir Mohamad during his visit to the Proton centre of Excellence in Shah Alam. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

SUBANG JAYA (The Star/Asia News Network) - Being driven by a senior citizen at rather high speeds is not something many people would be comfortable with, but Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo demonstrated perfect calm when the "treat" was served.

Jokowi, who was visiting Malaysia for the first time after taking power last October, was one of the rare few who had the privilege of being taken on a three-lap spin at Proton's testing track by company chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad while visiting Proton's Centre of Excellence.

Dr Mahathir, who put a Proton Iriz at a brisk pace throughout, expressed admiration for Jokowi, who is 37 years his junior.

"Normally, people do not like to be driven on a slope by a 90-year-old, but he was not frightened - he was happy and smiling," Dr Mahathir told reporters. Malaysia's Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003, Dr Mahathir was appointed Proton chairman last year.

Jokowi also witnessed a memorandum of understanding signing between Proton and Indonesia's PT Adiperkasa Citra Lestari to study the possibility of developing an Indonesian car.

According to Dr Mahathir, Jokowi was impressed with Proton.

"He seemed pleased with what he saw and experienced, and I think he is a man dedicated to his work.

"He wants to make Indonesia better and he thinks that in some areas, Malaysia might serve as a good model," Dr Mahathir added.

Later in Kuala Lumpur, Jokowi demonstrated his common touch by breaking with protocol and getting out of his car before it entered the Indonesian embassy in order to greet well-wishers.

Trader Rohana Sulaiman, 55, said she was shocked that the president came to speak to her, and even obliged for a photo together.

"I don't think I would have the chance to do this if I were in Indonesia," she said, adding that many had waited for more than three hours to catch a glimpse of Jokowi, who enjoys rock-star popularity in Indonesia.

The president and his wife Iriana arrived in Malaysia on Thursday for Jokowi's first bilateral trip abroad. During the trip, Jokowi and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak agreed to appointing special envoys to help resolve long-standing maritime boundaries between the two countries. The leaders also agreed to set up an Indonesian School in Sarawak.

However, no new steps were announced to address the treatment of Indonesian workers in Malaysia despite several high- profile abuse cases, including one in 2011 when a maid was starved to death by her employers. Both leaders said their countries would continue talks to ensure that Malaysians use only official channels to employ Indonesian domestic helpers.

Jokowi left Malaysia for Brunei, the second-stop of his three-nation tour that also includes the Philippines, on Saturday morning.