TUN DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD
“If you want to be a leader, you must have ideas. If not, you’re simply a follower”
TUN DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD
1.xxxTun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammad is one of South East Asia’s greatest nationalist. With a track record of six decades in politics,xno one would be at par with his credibility and achievements as a leader of Malaysia in particular and South East Asia in general.xxxAs a young doctor he agitated for independence from the British and promoted the rights of the Malays, and his long political career culminated in his illustrious22-year term as a Prime Minister during which Malaysia’s rapid development, his forthright words, vision, and policies propelled the country into eyes of the world. He faced the challenges successfully and was recognized globally for his tireless efforts for reinvigorating the people and socio-economic reforms. Albeit, his image was tarnished by the label of being ‘Autocrat’, yet he is overwhelmingly regarded as “The Leader” who successfully steered his nation to ultimate progress and development and earned the nickname Bapa Wawasan (Father of Vision) .
Early Life / Education
2. Real name of Dr Mahathir is Mahathir bin Muhamad. He was born in Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia on 20 December 1925. Mahathir was the youngest child of nine children of Mohamad Iskandar who was a schoolteacher and Wan Tampawan who was a housewife. During the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, Mahathir sold banana fritters and other snacks to supplement his family income. His first school was a Malay vernacular school. Then, he continued his education at the Sultan Abdul Hamid College in Alor Star. After that, he went to King Edward VII Medical College (now known as National University of Singapore) in Singapore and graduated in MBBS in 1953.
3. Mahathir life can be termed as a textbook account of classic leadership. Every stage of his life was governed by some shade of a leader. His leadership traits are delineated below:-
(a)xxSelf-made Personality.xxx The son of a schoolmaster, Mahathir’s family came from a very modest background. He first started selling coffee, and later was a dealer of snacks. So he had no proverbial ‘invisible strings’ to ensure his existence in the politics rather it was unwavering resolve and commitment that propelled him to be the most powerful Prime Minister of Malaysia. The Prime Minister of Singapore and his former political rival paid tribute to him by saying”Mahathir was different from his predecessors . The Tunku, Razak, and Hussein were from the aristocracy or the traditional ruling families associated with the Sultans. On the contrary, Mahathir was a commoner, a trained professional doctor, and self-made politician.
(b) Communication Skills. Mahathir has exquisite communication skills. This coupled with his charismatic personality always infused his followers. He is an excellent orator as well as a prolific writer. His success story became possible with the help of his 16 books and inciting speeches shrouding his struggle for the transformation of Malaysia.
(d) Initiative. His biggest achievement during his time as prime minister was his recovery strategy during the Asian financial crisis of 1998. He went against the economic pundits and tied the currency to the U.S dollar. This bold move let Malaysia recover quicker than other countries. Moreover, his defiance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) following the 1997 economic crisis, once ridiculed, is now widely viewed as particularly prudent.
(e) Courageous. Mahathir firmly stood against the perpetual Western nefarious rhetoric of labeling Islam as “Terrorist Religion”. His notion was generally considered as counter-productive especially for the nascent Malaysia situated in the region where it was considered that in order to be a prosperous nation one got to dance with the tunes of West and other developed nations. In the press conference after the end of the OIC Summit in Putrajaya, he explicitly said “Lots of people make nasty statements about us, about Muslims. People call Muslims terrorists, they even say the Prophet of Muslims, Muhammad, was a terrorist . There are other terrorists… There are Christian terrorists, there are Catholic terrorists in Northern Ireland, there are Hindu terrorists and even Buddhist and Japanese terrorists. Nobody ever takes into consideration their religion.”
(f) Discernment. Due to the profound discernment ability of the Mahathir, Malaysia became among the most committed countries in the world in spite of more than 40 % non-Muslim population, society fabric based on multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi- culture . The delicacy of the situation warranted extreme care as only a slight mistake could have started up the unmitigated divergence between the different segments of the society. Leading such a society to the success is a manifestation of his pervaded leadership that is adored by each and every segment of the society, even today.
(g) Visionary. Mahathir is a very visionary leader. He had envisioned that merely agriculture was not sufficed for Malaysia to become the leading economy of the region. Since the very beginning, he had foretold that the development of Malaysia lied in the adaptation of industrialization. He very prudently gave road map in the shape of Vision-2020 in which he aptly covered the challenges faced by the Malaysia and measures to fend off that impediments .
(h) Resilience. Being an avid supporter of ‘United Malays National organization’ party, he quickly became a prominent member through his charismatic personality. In 1959, he did not participate in elections due principle disagreement with the Prime Minister, Abdul Rahman for the lack of PM vision. This was considered to be a setback for his leadership but he did not give up his principle stand. He again faces the brunt when he lost his re-election in 1969. Finally, undeterred by the political upheavals and through sheer resilience, he became the Prime Minister of Malaysia to lead the country to a bright and prosperous future.
(h) Human Understanding. Mahathir has a tremendous aptitude of human understanding. This leadership ability enabled him to pick the right personfor the right job which is a sine-qua-non especially once confronted with a humongous challenge of reviving a nation. When he became a prime minister in 1981, his carefully selected “clean, trustworthy, and efficient” administration which took every nook and corner of the country by storm .
(j) One Man Show. Many critics term Mahathir’s leadership style as autocratic and dictatorial . However, his political life reveals that he was more ofa one-man show. He succeeded in changing the fate of the Malaya people; however, the flip side of his strong personality was that everyone else was subdued. People followed his dotted line everywhere and it looked like that he has intentionally centralized the decision-making under the pretext of efficiency. All these notions are denied by today’s Malaysia enviable stature in the region.
11. Mahathir is the master-mind behind the transformation of Malaysia. He was able to instill the people to be united for their bright future. Owing to his exuded leadership, he undertook the challenge of amassing the people of Malaysia hailing from different religion, culture, ethnicity and races to a peaceful co-existence. Due his charismatic personality, courage, and vision he was able to get the applause even by his opponents. He always stood up by his principles even at the cost of temporary setbacks. Through his resilience, he was able to get the nation from the quagmires. In a nutshell, Mahathir leadership successfully steered Malaysia it to an emerging regional giant.
1. From Third World To First – The Singapore Story: 1965-2000 Singapore : Marshall Cavendish (Edisi 3) Author Lee K Y page. 276-7
2. The Role of Malaysian Leaders in Nation Building Process (1957-2003) Research Paper by Mohamad Nasir Saludin, Arts and Social Sciences Journal, Volume 2010 Page 6
3. The Role of Malaysian Leaders in Nation Building Process (1957-2003) Research Paper by Mohamad Nasir Saludin, Arts and Social Sciences Journal, Volume 2010 Page 7
4. Malaysian : The Way Forward (Vision 2020) by Dr Mahatir Bin Mohammad
5. Passing the Mantle: A New Leadership for Malaysia Asia Program Special Report September 2003 page 12 ;13
4. Website:wwwmalaysianbar.org.my/ /tun_dr_mahatir_mohamad