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Malaysian Maverick Mahathir Mohamad In Turbulent Times

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  • Brawl Over One Man's Legacy

    an d

    277

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    Cl Barry Wain ZOO9 All rights re)er"Ved. No reproduction, copy or transminlon of this publication may be made without written permission. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with Wf;lIen rmision or in iKco rdance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patt'nts Act 1988, or undef Ihe terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Cop)'l'ighL UClffislng Agerocy, Saffron HOUSE!, 6-10 I(:jrby Strt'et, London EC1N 8TS.

    Any person who does any unauthorired aa in felation to Ihis publication may be liable La criminal prution and civil claims for damages. Thf, author has asserted hb right to be identified as the author 01lhi5 wort: in accordance w,th the Copyright, Designs and Patenh Act 1988. fin;t published lOO9 PAtGRAVE MACMILlAN

    Pal grave M3Cmillan In the UK is an imp"nt of Macmillan PubUshen; Umited. registered in England, company numbef 185998. of Hourw:lmills. Basingstoke. Hampshire RGZ16XS.

    Palgrave MiICfTli!lan in the US is a divisfon of St Martin's Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue. New Yorl

  • 1111I 'wold

    .1,11.111111 1\.1,,11,1111,111 .III h~' du' fierces t crit ic and an ally of Ch inese-Malaysian bus!

    1H~""III('n; ;t lifeless campaigner against Western ('Conomic domination who ,Is.siduously courled Amcrican and Europe" '1 capita lists; a blunt. combatiV(' individua l who extolied till' virt u('S o f consellSlIal Asian values. Much, of course, ca n he cxplain('d by pOlitical ex!X'diency: Like aU suece~S (ll l pol i t icians, Dr. Mah,lI h ir compromised where necessary \0 mt.'Ct the competi ng and shi fting dCln

  • ,III I ,'''rll'tI/.!

    \\']1.1/,111' \1 11111 II v I lIllI"l ,h 'II'I" " I' ". II IIII\\" 1II r>.1,IIMthir':. "'t hink big" philo, \"1'11\ \\ 111t II PIUlltl' l," ,t Pllltih ' loI,T II" wIling all sorts of world records, 111-. ,11,,\,

  • .. onwlhin g

    f .. nter 1981

    J 11/.'11 ,.,../

    III t-1.lllalhlr 111'K"r"d print-ouls of tIll" lhapt!.'r of his unfinished memoirs ill Part I e.lrly 2UOI'I ,lIal explained why hI.' had 1>...... /1 I,IlIabll.' to complete the job in fIlort

    than flV

  • 1 Politicized by War and Peace

    Alor Stilr, the capital of Kedah state. might have Ilt'Cil a slcepy backwater in the e

  • though memorieS of the jn'quitie~ of the system permanently colollr'd hb ou l1ook.

    Where th e esl,lbli shmcnl was concerned, Mahath lr was a mavt'rick, an "outsider" In the words of Zainuddln Maidin, a iou rnalist-turned- Ix>liti clan and supporter In Kedah.2 Mahath lr challenged tilt' rul~ and convl'ntions, whem'vcl tl1(' y appe,ned to make no sense, or got In his way. He {eve lied In being a contra rian, doing what was popularly forbidden . To many others, Mahathir's youthful experience man ifested itself as an inferiority complel( that made him fight harder, shout louder, build bigger and remain sU IX"r-scnsitive to any Slight or uiticislII . "I prefer to say he ha~ a big ch ip on his shoulder," cOllunentecl Ahdullah Ahmad, a long-ti me poli ti(:al ally. t Khalid Atxlullah, ,Ill ea rly business pa rtll'r and friend for more than half a cen tury, observed wit h a gentle laugh, "I thill k he has a little sUlx'riority com plex." Khalid quoted an Arab proverb to explain Mahathir's mentality: "If you Sl'l' me with o ne eye, I have 110 eyes to see you, If you see me with both eyes, I have all my eyes to see YOll ."4

    Eyes wide open, Maha thlr focused on l>olitics early. lie got hooked while he was stili In school and never deviated fro m his desire to become a IXlllt-Icilln_ Every step he took, incl ud ing q ua lifying as a doctor, was meant to enhance his credentials for a j)olitlcall'arl'l'r, He t'nteted the national\>ollt-Ical arena 1x.'Cause he was unhappy with the state of the country and wan ted to Change it. Most of all, he set ou t to Improve the status of fellow Malays, the country's predominant ethnic group who, despite the;r numerical superiorit y, lagged economica lly behind the ChineS(.', He would not become prime minis-ter umit the age of 56, aftt'r overcomi ng s{'veral ~'rious 1x>litiGII obst

  • from Ind ia , Pakistan d to influences ill Ihose fo rmative year,>. No factor was more import ant than hi s pipe-smoking father. Master Mohamad Islmndar, as he was called a t school, IllI poS
  • 8 Ma"wsiall Maverick

    Much to Master Moilamad Iskanda r's disgust, however, nOlle of his four daughters could attend secondary school in Kedah, as all places in the girls' school were taken by children of the elite. He was silock(.'d when the school rejected h is fi rst daugh ter ;Iher she had fi n ished primary school. S'lid Mahathi r, " Ik was wry annoyc'd because he was a government officer, and he was invited to Kedah to start the school. And yet this girls' school, whi ch was started la te r on, refused to accept my sister." NOlle of the other th ree girls had any better luck when their ti me callJe.2-.i

    Jllst how galling Illat was to Moharnad Iskandar, who was obsessed with ed ucation as a mean s or getting ahead. can be gaug('d by o ne measu re: He had fal siHed the birth da tes of h is sons to ensure they could start the first yea r of prima ry school wit hout any of the usual arguments about having to wait un til the following int ake. Mahathi r's bi rth certifICate showed he was born on 20 December 1925, and it remained his official birt hday, bei ng chase r! hy the guvernment, for exa mple, a~ Ihe day on which to op('n his o ld house as a museum. BUI , a .~ Mahathir discovered from notes written by his father in the back of a di ction ary, he WilS actually born fi ve mon th s e;IfJi (' r. I lis fath er h'ld given ,Ill the boys arbitrary Dt'Cember birth dates , while r('cordi ng the correct datt's in the dictio nary.2~

    If the autJlorities hoped to make amends la l(>r by naming a prima ry schooL established within the Sultan Alxlui l lamid ColI

  • 10 M ,tlilysicm .\1m-wick

    fated to liVl' unde r t ile do minatio n of o the r peo ple ... they IISl'd to be under the Thais ... and Ihey had to pay tribute to China. They had to submit to t he British, the I'o rtuguesc ... for 450 years .. .! rcad ,Iboll t t he thirteen colon ies and how they struggled for independence and how the United Sta tes eml'rgcd .. .th is innuencc

  • 12 MalaYS/lilt Mmw;r/c

    WOl1ldn frie nd, only to be deli vered to the servants' qua riNs of the house. 17 Mahalhlr had a long memory, particularly wll('n it carne to insults and enemies. Invited to Singapor(> in 1978 by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Y(>w soon after becoming Ma laY5ia 's deputy prime minister, Dr. Mahathir did not try to hide his deep anti-Singapore feeli ngs. l ie told his host t hat Singapore Chinese looked down upon the Malays.jB

    At a personal level, however, Mahathir had no trouble: at all making friends with people of all ethnic backgrounds. In the Class of 47 - Ihe students thoughtfully named it aher their fres hman year to include those who gradu-ated late or d roPlx' of US. "l'"

    They held regular reun ions, in Si ngapore o r MalaYSia, culmi nati ng In a 60th ann iw rsary ga ther in g in 2007 . with Dr. Mah athlr always making a supreme effort 10 all (! nO . While he wa '> prime mini ster, he wo ul d t(' li hl:i bodyguards and min ders 10 lea ve, exposing himself to the Tagging of aging medicos reliving their youth, and dish ing il out to them In retu rn. At these intensely private, Informal ga therings, Dr. Mahathit and Dr. Si ti lIasrnah, both considered to have good voices - he rs somewhat better t han h is - were usually ca lled upon for a duet. In 1997, Or. Ma hath ir sa ng My WtlY solo, with lyrics written for the occasion by class members a nd featuring Arneriran investor George Soros, blamed by the Ma laysian leader for aggra-vating the A~lan t'C(momic crisis that )'ear.4O

    Living away from home for the first ti me, Mahathir proved a true son of his father as he managed his time eXp.:'rtly. Sor ializing li ttle beyond occasional visits to thl' cinema, he shunned campus poli ticS, d ismissing such activity as "playing gall\es~, and telling fellow students he prden ed to pmticipatc In tht' 1'('31 polit ical d ra ma unfoldin g on th(' Ma lay P('ninsula.~1 Mahathir bccaml' president of the college Islamic Socicty, and edited and produced an issllc of his medica l school lou mal, the O w/drou. lie continued writing artick-s regularly enough for Ihe Stmits "'/11"5 lind Sunriay Times to hel p buy a motor-cycle; Siti IId",mah n.xll pil lion. lIis varied output, written in a ~di r('d, didactic style. W>lS a "rt'm arkable accompli shm(nt fo r a ful l- ti me studen t in a demanding d iscipline .... ' ! And if was apPl'('Ciated, >It least by the Straits Timls. An editor called him to the paper's offic(.>$ in Singapore and as ked if hl' was intt're:.t('(] In a job as a journalist. No, he was not.

    Singapore gave bi rth to an urban myth, Ihat Mahathi r thought of himself as an Indian when he ellle red un iversity. The story was relold in severa l gossipy versio ns, losing no nc of it~ appeal across the decad('s. Academics, diploma ts and even a forme r cabin('t COlleague delighted in passing along the dNails, all complet ely un tru(>. Mahat hir 's father considered hi msel f a Malay and he l'nsured that illl his l'hildren were noth ing else but Malay.

    Politicized by WilT (I//(/l'l'II((' 1:1

    In hi $ w ritings, which began be fore he went 10 Singapo re, Mahathir identified totally with the Ma lays an d show('ti he was intimately familiar with thei r customs, social life and problems, whether it was educat ion, fis h, ing or pudi plimti ng. His more overtl y poli tical Wllt rihuti ons were polem ical