I had the pleasure of reading Hajrudin Somun’s ‘Mahathir The Secret of the Malaysian Success’ during last few weeks. In fact, I was looking for a book about Mahathir Mohamad for some time and I found Somun’s book in a secondhand bookshop in Maradana. I had to decide between Yasser Arafat and Mahathir Mohamad as there were two books about them. I thought of sticking to Mahathir as he was more interesting for me.
The author of the book, Hajrudin Somun was the former ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Malaysia. He wrote the book while he was serving in Malaysia. He mainly wrote the book as a mark of respect to Mahathir as the latter helped Bosnians in a big way after the Muslims in Bosnia Herzegovina were subjected to inhuman atrocities by the Serbs.
Mahathir’s ascend to power is phenomenal. Mahathir bin Mohamad was born on 10 July 1925. He became 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. His political career spanned almost 40 years.
Mahathir has given special attention to Malays as they had been a backward race compared to the Chinese and the Indian communities living in the Malaysia. Malays had been given special opportunities in business, education, civil service, etc. to get them to contribute to the nation like the other communities. If someone tries to do this today in any other country there will be a big cry saying that is discriminating other communities. But Mahathir did it fearlessly as he understood the Malays were lethargic and unproductive. He wanted to change that. He was partly successful in it.
Mahathir had been unsympathetic to his critics and distractors. He had imprisoned hundreds of those who opposed him under Internal Security Act. He didn’t spare his own Deputy Prime Minister and one time loyal strongman Anwar Ibrahim. He was imprisoned for six years in 1998 under Internal Security Act alleging he was corrupt and involved in sexual misconduct including sodomy. He was arrested at a press conference with all cameras active. Ibrahim is the Opposition Leader of Malaysia now. It will be interesting how he will treat Mahathir if the former becomes the Prime Minister of Malaysia someday.
Mahathir took a lot of bold decisions to develop his country to what it is today. They were not popular decisions at the time of decisions were taken. There was a lot of criticism for his decisions. He gave huge concessions to those who invested in Malaysia. There were allegations of corruption but not against Mahathir, but against the politicians and officers.
Mahathir’s acid test was how he faced the economic crisis in the late 90’s. Everybody expected Malaysia to crumble with the onslaught of economic crises in the whole South East Asian region. Some say that this started due to some manipulation done by a Hungarian-American investor George Soros in Thailand share market. But Malaysia survived miraculously thanks to Mahathir’s futuristic vision.
Mahathir is Muslim and a zealous follower of Islam. He gave a special place to Islam in the country. But he did not become a fanatic like most of the other Islam leaders. He did away with unpractical Islam laws like women having to produce four male witnesses in case of a rape of a woman which is still in practice in most of the Muslim countries.
Mahathir’s New Economic Policy (NEP) expired in 1990. He introduced the Vision 2020, under which Malaysia would aim to become a fully developed country within 30 years.
Mahathir did not like to be in power till the end. He believed in a proper succession plan and resigned from the post of Prime Minister in 2003 by introducing a new prime minister to Malaysia.
Many will criticize Mahathir for his unpopular decisions and the way he ruled Malaysia with an iron fist for 22 long years. But I admire him for taking such a backward country forward against all odds.