PETALING JAYA: When everyone scoffed at James Anthony Tan and discouraged him from pursuing his dream, one man listened: the Prime Minister.

It led to doors swinging open and sponsorships rolling in, which made it possible for Tan, then 21, to circumnavigate the globe in 48 days in 2013.

The feat earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest pilot to fly around the world solo.

“When people first met me – an unknown young guy from Kajang with no background – no one cared about what I had to say.

“But Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak listened to me. He thought objectively, and he was humble. Many people don’t see that side of him, but he is a nice guy,” Tan, now 26, said in a statement to The Star.

Tan, who is of British-Chinese parentage, said he was able to secure an appointment with the Prime Minister out of sheer luck and an act of kindness from two people who helped to pull strings. During their six-minute meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, he recalled that Najib asked him how much he was willing to sacrifice for this dream.

“My answer was, ‘My life’,” he said.

Tan, an exco member of the youth NGO Organisation for National Empowerment, said it was only after Najib agreed to endorse his mission that people started paying attention to him.

He began his “1Malaysia Around The World” mission on March 28, 2013, from Langkawi in Kedah, flying his Cessna P210 for 47,359km and crossing 21 countries through “storms, lightning, typhoon and volcanic eruption”.

Najib was on hand to receive him at the RMAF airbase in Subang when he touched down on May 14.

Tan, who manages his own business now, said he decided to write the statement because he was frustrated with the #UndiRosak campaign, which calls upon voters to spoil votes to show their frustration over both the ruling coalition and Opposition.

“The campaign goes against my belief in the greater good. It is depriving people of their right by encouraging people to be crybabies instead of mature voters,” he said.

He said his dream could be achieved five years ago because he saw a “glimmer of hope” in the Malaysians who supported him on his journey.

“It was your encouragement that enabled us to create history.

“Be unstoppable. Let’s move #ForwardTogether and we will succeed as a nation,” he said.

 

Originally published on The Star on Friday March 16, 2018.

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