Mahathir – Biografy
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Tun Mahathir bin Mohamad born July 10, 1925 is a retired Malaysian political figure. He was the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. He held the post for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, making him Malaysia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, and one of the longest-serving leaders in Asia.
During his term in office, he was credited for engineering Malaysia’s rapid modernisation. Mahathir is also known for his criticisms towards western and developed countries.
During his administration, he was considered to be one of Asia’s most influential leaders. Mahathir is also noted in the Western world as an outspoken critic of Western-style globalization.
Mahathir was born in Alor Setar, Kedah, the youngest of nine children of a schoolteacher and a housewife. His father, Mohamad Iskandar, was of half-Indian origin, being the son of a Malayalee Muslim (who migrated from Kerala) and a Malay mother, while Mahathir’s own mother, Wan Tampawan, was Malay.
During World War II, he sold pisang goreng (banana fritters) and other snacks to supplement his family income during the Japanese occupation of Malaya. Mahathir attended a Malay vernacular school before continuing his education at the Sultan Abdul Hamid College in Alor Star.
Mahathir then attended the King Edward VII Medical College (the predecessor of present-day National University of Singapore) in Singapore, where he edited a medical student magazine called The Cauldron; he also contributed to the The Straits Times newspaper pseudonymously under the nickname “Che Det”.
Mahathir was also President of the Muslim Society in the college. Upon graduation in 1953, Mahathir joined the then Malayan government service as a medical officer. He married Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali—a fellow doctor and former classmate in college—on 5 August 1956, and left government service in 1957 to set up his own private practice in Alor Star.
Mahathir thrived in private practice, and allowed him to own by 1959 a Pontiac Catalina and employ an ethnic Chinese chauffeur (at the time, almost all chauffeurs in Malaysia were Malays, owing to the economic dominance of the ethnic Chinese). Some critics have suggested this foreshadowed a later hallmark of Mahathir’s politics, which focused on the “cultivation of such emblems of power”.
From his marriage with Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah binti Haji Mohamad Ali, they have seven children, four sons and three daughters: Marina Mahathir, Mirzan Mahathir, Melinda Mahathir, Mokhzani Mahathir, Mukhriz Mahathir, Maizura Mahathir and Mazhar Mahathir. Both Mukhriz and Mokhzani are involved in business as well as in politics while their eldest daughter Marina is a prominent local writer and AIDS activist. He successfully underwent a heart bypass operation in 1989 at age 63.
In the third general election of 1964, Mahathir was elected Member of Parliament for Kota Setar Selatan defeating the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) candidate with a 60.2% majority. He lost the seat in the following general election in 1969 by a mere 989 votes to PAS’s candidate, Haji Yusoff Rawa.
Following the race riots of 13 May 1969, Mahathir was sacked from the UMNO Supreme Council on 12 July, following his widespread distribution to the public of his letter to Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister at that time. In his letter, he had criticised the manner in which Tunku Abdul Rahman had handled the country’s administration which was believed to favour the ethnic Chinese. Dr. Mahathir was subsequently relieved of his party membership on 26 September.
While in the political wilderness, Mahathir wrote his book, “The Malay Dilemma” in which he sought to explain the causes of the 13 May Incident in Kuala Lumpur and the reasons for the Malays’ lack of economic progress within their own country.
He then proposed a politico-economic solution in the form of “constructive protection”, worked out after careful consideration of the effects of heredity and environmental factors on the Malay race. The book, published in 1970, was promptly banned by the Tunku Abdul Rahman government. However, some of the proposals in this book had been used by Tun Abdul Razak, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s successor, in his “New Economic Policy” (NEP) that was principally geared towards affirmative action economic programs to address the nation’s economic disparity between the Malays and the non-Malays. The ban on his book was eventually lifted after Mahathir became Prime Minister in 1981.
Mahathir rejoined UMNO on 7 March 1972, and was appointed as Senator in 1973. He relinquished the senatorship post in 1974 in order to contest in the general elections where he was returned unopposed in the constituency of Kubang Pasu, and was appointed as the Minister of Education. In 1975, he became one of the three vice-presidents of UMNO, after winning the seat by 47 votes. Tun Hussein Onn appointed Mahathir as Deputy Prime Minister on 15 September 1978, and in a Cabinet reshuffle, appointed him concurrently as the Minister of Trade and Industry.
Mahathir had announced that he has resigned from UMNO, the backbone of the ruling party, the Barisan National on 19 May 2008 which coincides with the Wesak Day celebration.
Mahathir became the Prime Minister of Malaysia on 16 July 1981 when Tun Hussein Onn stepped down due to health reasons. He was the nation’s first Prime Minister that came from a modest social background, whereas the first three prime ministers were members of the royal or elite families.
After 22 years in office, Mahathir retired on 31 October 2003, making him one of Asia’s longest-serving political leaders. Upon his retirement on 31 October 2003, Mahathir was awarded a “Tun”-ship, Malaysia’s highest civilian honour.
Deputy Prime Ministers
- Tun Musa Hitam 1981-1986
- Tun Ghafar Baba 1986-1993, appointed by Mahathir
- Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim 1993-1998
- Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi 1999-2003, appointed by Mahathir
Sacking of Anwar Ibrahim
In 1998, the government brought charges of sexual misconduct and abuse of power charges against the former finance minister and deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar claimed that he was being set up because he had tried to turn corruption and nepotism into major political issues, with Mahathir and his associates as the targets. Mahathir’s supporters believe that it was Anwar’s attempt to replace Mahathir as the Prime Minister, upon seeing the downfall of Indonesia’s Suharto, that has led him to be removed from politics altogether.
The government included the statements of the purported victims of Anwar’s sexual assaults, evidence that was alleged by some to be tainted. Furthermore, the prosecution was unable to accurately decide on a date that the alleged acts of anal sex had occurred – the government originally alleged that a sodomy had occurred inside a building that had not been constructed at the time of the alleged event.
When the anomaly was pointed out, the prosecution amended the date of the alleged acts to a date after the building was built. Mahathir himself went as far as to go on television to declare Anwar guilty of sodomy and homosexual acts, even as the trial still was underway. There was widespread condemnation of the trial from human rights groups and the Malaysia bar association, who expressed serious doubts about its fairness. Mahathir then ordered a crackdown on the media and opposition parties who protested the trial. Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and nine years prison for sodomy, to be served consecutively.
The Anwar crisis sparked protests by many Malaysians, of all ethnic groups, and Anwar’s supporters formed “Parti Keadilan Nasional” (National Justice Party) or “KeADILan”. It garnered widespread support from Malaysians, but it managed to win only five parliamentary seats in the 1999 elections. In the subsequent 2004 elections, when Mahathir’s successor became Prime Minister, KeADILan was nearly wiped out, with Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah winning its sole parliamentary seat. Six months later, Anwar’s conviction was overturned and he was released. Mahathir criticized the release of Anwar. The 2008 elections showed a major comeback from the opposition parties with Anwar’s KeADILan party helping to form five state governments, as well as becoming the biggest opposition party in Parliament.
In 2002 a tearful Mahathir announced his resignation to a surprised UMNO General Assembly. He was persuaded to stay on for a further eighteen months, in a carefully planned handover that ended in October 2003.
On his retirement, he was granted Malaysia’s highest honour, which entitles him to the title Tun from his original Datuk Seri. Since retirement, he has been serving as an advisor to the Malaysian national oil company Petronas and the Malaysian national car company Proton, an original core national project initiated by Mahathir during his premiership. He is also the head of the Perdana Leadership Foundation, a foundation whose aim is to preserve, develop and spread materials regarding or written by previous Malaysian Prime Ministers. While he has retired from all political offices, he remains very outspoken regarding national policies.
In 2005 Mahathir brought up the issue of excessive awarding of Approved Permits (APs) to import cars, stating that they were creating too much competition for Proton, causing friction between him and Rafidah Aziz, the Minister for International Trade and Industry, who oversaw the awarding of APs.
His successor, Abdullah, then announced that a National Automotive Policy (NAP) would be created to appropriately handle the issue. Later, when touching on the issue, Mahathir lamented the government’s majority in Parliament, saying, “I believe that the country should have a strong government but not too strong. A two-thirds majority like I enjoyed when I was prime minister is sufficient but a 90% majority is too strong….We need an opposition to remind us if we are making mistakes. When you are not opposed you think everything you do is right”.
Mahathir has also ventured into a bakery business with a Japanese partner. Together they established a Japanese-style bakery and bistro outlet called “The Loaf”. As of October 2007, there are two outlets in Malaysia, one in Langkawi and one in Kuala Lumpur. They are planning expand their business into other countries in Southeast Asia. In May 2008, Mahathir started a blog under his old pseudonym, which reached a million visitors within the span of one month.
Mahathir started to weblog since May 2008. The site is intended to publish all his writings as when he is able to pen his thoughts and opinions.
Resignation from UMNO
Mahathir announced his resignation from UMNO on 19 May 2008 (Monday) at 12.35pm before 1,000 Kedah UMNO members in Alor Star and urged other members to follow suit as a way of pressuring Abdullah to step down. However, he resists to join any other party and would only rejoin UMNO after Abdullah steps down. His departure raises the possibility of large-scale desertions by loyalists, which could split the party and bring down the government.
His son Mukhriz, the Jerlun member of Parliament, and a contender for the UMNO youth chief post in the next party election, however stays put but nevertheless urges Abdullah to quit immediately.
The former Prime Minister has a history of mild heart attacks. He had a coronary artery bypass in 1989. On 9 November 2006, he was admitted into Institut Jantung Negara (National Heart Institute) in Kuala Lumpur after suffering a mild heart attack that was caused by a clot in his arteries and has since recovered. On 14 May 2007, Mahathir was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Langkawi after suffering from breathing difficulties.
Mahathir, 82, underwent a second heart bypass on 4 September 2007 in a specialist cardiac hospital in Kuala Lumpur. He recovered in the intensive care unit where he was operated on by a team of surgeons, including a US specialist.
On 23 September 2007, Mahathir underwent further surgery at the National Heart Institute due to an infection of the surgical wound in his chest. He has since come out of the hospital and appears to be healthy, even appearing in the V. K. Lingam public inquiry on 17 January 2008 as a witness.
For his efforts to promote the economic development of the country, Mahathir has been granted the soubriquet of Bapa Pemodenan (Father of Modernization).
Since his resignation, there are signs that his influence is on the wane, notably the cancellation of a Mahathir-approved double tracking rail project on grounds of cost.
Mahathir’s official residence, Sri Perdana, where he resided from 23 August 1983 to 18 October 1999, was turned into a museum (Galeria Sri Perdana). In keeping with the principle of heritage conservation, the original design and layout of the Sri Perdana has been preserved.
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