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277
:'05
307
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Cl Barry Wain ZOO9
All rights re)er"Ved. No reproduction, copy or transminlon of this
publicatio...
1111I 'wold
.1,11.111111 1.1,,11,1111,111 • .III h~' du<;h,l(', While h(' has 1x'('1l a public figure In
'1.1.11.11.1 h" 1...
,III I ,'''rll'tI/.!
']1.1/,111' 1 11111 II v I lIllI"l ,h'II'I" " I' ".IIIIII" 1II r>.1,IIMthir':. "'think big" philo,
"1...
·..onwlhing
f..nter
1981
J 11/.'11,.,../
III t-1.lllalhlr 111'K"r"d print-ouls of tIll" l·hapt!.'r of his unfinished memoi...
1
Politicized by War and Peace
Alor Stilr, the capital of Kedah state. might have Ilt'Cil a slcepy backwater in
the e<Hly ...
though memorieS of the jn€'quitie~ of the system permanently colollr€'d hb
oul1ook.
Where the esl,lblishmcnl was concerned...
from India, Pakistan <l nd Bangladesh all daiml;'d him as a native 50n.12
After he retired, he was more relaxed ,)bout it....
8 Ma"wsiall Maverick
Much to Master Moilamad Iskandar's disgust, however, nOlle of his four
daughters could attend seconda...
10 M,tlilysicm .1m-wick
fated to liVl' under tile do minatio n of other peo ple...they IISl'd to be
under the Thais...and ...
12 MalaYS/lilt Mmw;r/c
WOl1ldn friend, only to be delivered to the servants' quariNs of the house. 17
Mahalhlr had a long ...
and chandeliers. "I likl' the feeling of building things, of working with
wood or metal and crt'atillg something," he once...
profitilble. Dr. Mahathir recalled that befo re tht war there had been
oilly two Malay shops in the whole of Alor Star.!" ...
18 MfliCly.i(!/1 Mm't'ficle
On(' of 45 children of the Sultan of Kedah, Tunku Abdul ltahman was an
Anglophile, who readily...
1'111: A"lmd/rcllml W('.~ml'l tyof M<llwlilir Moltamil<l (Kuala I.umpu r: Oxrord UnIver-
sity I'rc)s, 1995), p. 15, sugges...
2
An Early Introduction to Brutal
Politics
Grilbbing the political spotlight after hb election, Or. Mahathir t'stilblisht'...
socially, 'Iunku Abdullah 0l)1l8~d by ('storting him to the S~ln ngor Club,
the J...1Kl' Club and elsewhere, while j><'rsu...
26 Ma/aysian Mi/wric/;
In UMNO, young Malay nationalists associ<lted with Dr. Mahathir,
including Musa Hitam, an assistant...
over, anu Tunku Alxlul Ra hman <lppcaroo to have prev..llcd. But it was some-
thing of it last gasp for the Tunku. Student...
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Mahathir  malaysian-maverick-mahathir-mohamad-in-turbulent-times
Mahathir  malaysian-maverick-mahathir-mohamad-in-turbulent-times
Mahathir  malaysian-maverick-mahathir-mohamad-in-turbulent-times
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Mahathir malaysian-maverick-mahathir-mohamad-in-turbulent-times

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Its not easy thing to lead the politics in third world. Mahathir was a maverick to change from a traditional Chinese dominated Malaysia to Malay's pride. A must book to read as to how he maneuvered politics and changed Malaysia to a fast developing nation

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Mahathir malaysian-maverick-mahathir-mohamad-in-turbulent-times

  1. 1. and 277 :'05 307 : 40 352 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 bereproduced, copied or transmitted save with Wf;lIen rmi sion or in iKcordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patt'nts Act 1988, or undef Ihe terms of any licence permitting limitedcopying 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 pr ution and civil claims for damages. Thf, author has asserted hb right to be identified as theauthor 01lhi5 wort: in accordance w,th the Copyright, Designs and PatenhAct 1988. fin;t published lOO9 PAtGRAVE MACMILlAN Palgrave 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<.. NY 10010. Patgrave Ma<:miUan is the global academicImprint of tht' above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave and Ma<:millan'" are registered trademarks in the United States. the United Kingdom. Europe and other countries ISBN-13: 978-O-l3O--Z3873-Z hardback This bool is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed sustained 10reSI sources. Logging. pulping and manufacturing processes are expected 10 conform 10 Ihe environmental regulatioos of the coontry of origin. A c<ltalogue record for tl1is book is ,fvallable from the Britisl1 Ubrary. A (<It<llogue record foe this book Is available 'rom the library of Congress. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 18 17 16 IS 14 13 1Z 11 10 09 Printed inChina Contents I r"I"II'(I,.d vi 1',111 I The Making of a Malay Champion 1 i'()liticized by War and Peace " -11 Early Introduction to Brutal Politics 22 I'MI II Prime Minister for Life, Almost 51 I rom Outcast to Presidential Premier 5] rile Vj ion of a Modern Nation 85 .. I' Volatile Mix of llusiness and Polilics 124 I. 'il"andal, What Scandal? 149 lIl):, !JiggeT. Bust lH] H I'll Uncrowned King 197 " l"Il ' Perils of a Pragmatic Islam 217 111 A 'itrident Voice for the Third World 242 II I h ' Destruction of a Dcsignatl'd Heir P,III III Turmoil in Retirement i It,lTe-Knuckle 1 , I'I..ce in History ,,,,I, ,
  2. 2. 1111I 'wold .1,11.111111 1.1,,11,1111,111 • .III h~' du<;h,l(', While h(' has 1x'('1l a public figure In '1.1.11.11.1 h" 11.11 1, j I I'lIt ury ami wl'll known abroad for almost as long, he 11.1 pu'wUh'd hunwlf iI') a bundle of cont radictions: a Malay champion, I'h" ,. till' MdldY!>' fiercest critic and an ally of Chinese-Malaysian bus!­ 1H~""III('n; ;t lifeless campaigner against Western ('Conomic domination who ,Is.siduously courled Amcrican and Europe"'1capitalists; a blunt. combatiV(' individual who extolied till' virtu('S o f consellSlIal Asian values. Much, of course, ca n he cxplain('d by pOlitical ex!X'diency: Like aU sue­ ce~S(lll politicians, Dr. Mah,lIhir compromised where necessary 0 mt.'Ct the competing and shifting dCln<lnds of politics. But he remains a ('ompie-x character, Ha series of persul1,1(>", as Klloo IkJ.ok Teik put It in his 1995 study of the man and his ideology.l Critics and admirers, who loathe and lov!! him with equal passion, are both correTt sometimes. [n the words of On(' sage who has known and observed Dr. Mahathlr Since hIli student (lays, he is "so likeab[e and worthy of respect at times am[ so utter[y ruthless at olhers".z Unlike Khoo, I do IIOt an,,[yS(' Dr. Mah'lthlr's !X'rformiH1ce wilhin a thl'Or(>t· ieal framework. As a tOllrnlllist, I tell his slOry from ground h~vel, examinIng the interesting and signirlcant ev('nts In his life ,lnel tile impact they had on him and the country. I foJ1ow him from birth in 1925 in modest circum· stances to his practice: as a provincial doctor, from outcast flfSt·tcfm 1");lrlla­ mentarlan to Malaysia's longest serving prime minist<'r and Third World spokesman, and from the heights of authoritarian IX)WN to tILl' depths of polit.ical recrimination In retirement aHef 2003. I take iI fresh ICKlk Oil til(.' <:on­ troversles that characterized his political cafl'Cr and ('xilll1ine wh"t 22 yeilfs of strongman mle have meant for this former British territory. llirst encountt'"rl'<.l Dr. Milhathir when I was IXlstl'd to Kual" Lumpur from 197710 1979 as a staffcoTfespondl'nt for the Ashlll i'Vt/1I SlIt'('t 'II/mUll and he was deputy prime minister. Ill' was olltspoken and t('sty about l1l'gativc pull­ licity, especially after hI.' switcl1l'd from the edllcatlon portfolio 10 trade and industry, responsible for attracting foreign In ve~tr11t·IH . lie remained eVl.'r ready to ucnounCt' critical foreign pn.'s5 reporting during his premiership. In the interests of disclosure, I ShOllid nwntlon that I hl'ld managerial posts and responsibilities for the loum(/I'.~ coverage of Malaysia from 19M'" to IY92. Dr. Mahathlr speaks for himself. As the author of dO%{'IIS of books, studies and repon s, the willing voice In hundreds of Interviews, several thousand speeches and an ulmost endless stream of commentary, he has had his sayan nearly every conceivable subject. Ilis memoirs will follow when he is finally satisfied with the drafts and resists the temptation to ., I'OTl'WQTd vII rewrite them one marl.' time,J I weigh his words against his record, relying heavily on reporting, by myself and others, supplemented by personal Interviews. In an effort to fiJI the gaps, reconcile differences and illuminate the hadows, I interviewed Dr. Mahathir threi! times for the book. Two meet­ ings took place in his city office on the 86th floor of the Petronas Twin Towers In the heart of Kuala Lumpur, and the other in his regular office at the Perdana Leadership Foundat ion at Putrajaya. Between the second and third Interviews he had open-heart surgery and a follow-up operation for a ,('riolls Infection in the wound. He also answered additional questions sub­ mitted by email. Similarly, his wife, Sit! Hasmah Mohamad Ali, readily agreed to an interview and responded promptly to email queries. The two of their seven children I approached, Marina and Mukhriz Mahathir, also !ubmltted to questioning. The fourth prime minister of MalaYSia and Ihe first commoner 10 hold the Hill', Ur. Mahalhir in many ways was an outsider. A nationaHsl and modern­ izer, essentially pragmatiC, he had litt le time for mles, customs and traditions that might obstruct his ambitious plans. Ever the maverick, he delighted in bucking the system and opting for Ihe unconventional course, especially if told he could not, or should not. Even whlle exercising tighl political control, Dr. Mahathir never embraced the Malaysian establishm('nt, preferring to try and create a new social and political order more to his liking. Some aspects of Dr. Mahathir's early life hitherto have remained obscure, which might be considered surprising given how long he towered over Malaysia and projected himself intem ationally. Part of the explanation for the mystery is his presumed sensitivity to being the grandwn of an Indian Immigrant, which raised cultural barriers that fellow Malaysians have been reluctant to breach by questioning him diJecUy. With me, Dr. Mahathir dis­ t-usscd his family frt'Cly and noted the influcnccs that shaped his outlook and stecred him into politics. Part I rovers events on his way to becoming prime minister althe age of 56. Part II, the body of the IXlOk, is a thematic treatment of Dr. Mahathlr's leadership of Malaysia. It opens with an account of how he defeated suc­ cessive IX>litical challenges, and expLores his vision, an all<onsuming desire to turn Malaysia into a modern, industrialized nation commanding worldwide respect. Or. Mahathir'S decision to dir~t the ruling party into business in a major way, while the government practised affirmative action, changed the nature of the party and accelerated the spread of corruption. One manifest­ ation was the eruption of successive financial scandals, massive by any stan­ dards, which neverthc.less left Dr. Mahathir uural-cd and unapologetic. To help ensure the numerically superior but economically lagging Malays shared national success, Dr. Mahathir fe-interpreted Islam to ("ater for their material as well as spiritual needs. Because of its repercussions, his dismissal in 1998 of his deputy and heir apparent, Anwar Ibrahim, is accorded close and
  3. 3. ,III I ,'''rll'tI/.! ']1.1/,111' 1 11111 II v I lIllI"l ,h'II'I" " I' ".IIIIII" 1II r>.1,IIMthir':. "'think big" philo, "1'11 111t II PIUlltl'l,·" ,t Pllltih ' loI,T II" wIling all sorts of world records, 111-. ,11,,,<,111",1 1 wllh Ih, IIhl' t,,~.11 hUllwllollls that constitute the Malay. 1,111 11I,nl.l/, 11 <IIrt! hi" "lIi1"II-lI'IIII' nn the global stage as ,Ill advocate o f ,h ',-I, IplllM I "UI II, In ,11111 1,1,11111 htK·~. IlI'JIIIIl/-! ,II IH ,rllt·/ It,I "jII~ ruled for almost as long as his three pr<.'dcct""Ssors .. ollllllllni. I h r>.1,IIl<llltli might have been I'xlX'Cted to join the internatioll<ll k, 1111t' I iu lIit ,md 'njoy his mix of c('/ebrity and notoriety. But, in a twist that "'.... uncIx."(:tL't! but entirely consistent wit h his unorthodox streak, he I'Jurtgt.."d thick into the politics he hild forsworn, as a savagc and unrelenting critic of hIs handpicked ~uc<essor, .<Ix lullah Hadawi. He contributed to efforts th,1I forced AlxJull,th into relirem(·nt early in his S('("oncl term. Within Sight of hh H41h birthday, Dr. Mahal hir was still making his political preS(>f1c<.' fcl t. I'art II I assessel> Dr. Mallathir's Ie'Sat"y and looks at his place in history. Research ing thh book gavc me the opportunity 10 make con tact with many MalaYSians, quite II numher of them old friends. Mo)t were only too willing to hdp. It was an affirmaUon of thc d leerful coope.ration and cour. tE':>y I haw found throughout a long associatIon with the country. P,tram CUIlHtTaSwilmy was g('nerous with his limf' in discus~ i ng the illter. section of legal and politicallsslles. Alxiul Wahab Mohamed Osman rounded up all as~ort ment of l(){'als in Alor Star to relive the early Mahath ir years. Abdullah Ahmad W<lSa P.lli(·nt gUide through the underside of UMNO politics in the 19605 and 70s. Muhammad ~h<lfe(' Alxiullah, Rehman Rashid, Uew Chin rOllg. Chandra MUl'..affar, Chandran Jeshurun, Ka rpal Singh, Tan Siok Choo, MustaplL Kassim, Abdul Rahim , ;.:i7.. and Austin Zecha assisted in other ways. [ thank Steven Gan for providing the sourcing for a number of MaiaysilJ' killi reports, and P('rdana Lca(il'rship Foundation, Malaysia's Information Department and Bernalll<l for supplying photographs. Sevcral scholars with exp<.'rtise in Malaysian affairs r('ndered assistance. Greg Barton, Johan Saravilnamultu and Peter Searle read various sections and made helpful suggestions. John Fu n~ton 's. support was Invaluable. He answered a string of questiolH and undNtook a detailed critique thai significant ly improved the manuscript. For the fort'ign policy chapll'r, Marvin Ott pluggl'd a sourcing gap and NUS Press made avallable In advan(e a book on Dr. Mahathir's fordgn policy.4 I am indebted to formt'r colk"lgul.'S at Ih(~ Asian Wall Sireet/vllmal, renamL,<1 the WI/1I5(ri'd /U/mwl Ashl in 200S, for their suppOrt. As editor, John lIlI~st:'.y granted acce~~ to the paper's flk'S, including mcmorable reports irOI11 Malaysia in the early 19ROs thaI Wt're lIot available online, Celille Fernandez in Kuala Lumpur and Judy Chan in lIong Kong actL't1 as unpaid research assistaUlS. CrUCially, Raphal'l "Rocky" I'ura, Ihe- paper's Kuala Lum pur-based veter,1!1 reporter ant! (.'ditor, sOll1e of whose (olllpclJing dispatches are relk'C1l'd in this volume, providc-d running ..dvke on bo th structure and contellt. f'o"'w()Id ix At the Institute of Soutllea:>t Asia n Studies in SinglLpOTI', the library staff wt're extremely helpful and ISEA'i spffialists generously shared their know. I{'tigl:'. Among them, Mustafa izwddin and R. Rarnas<uny ;Issisted with tr;'lIlslatlon, and Lee Hod.:. Guan, Mich"d Mo ntesano, Verght'se Mathews, 001 Kee I~eng, Rod Severi no and Ian Sto (ey offered useful insights. The ItulIlerous individuals I interviewed over a p<.'riod of two and a Iwlf years, including some of those Ilwntioned above, are identifled in the texl and hlOlnotes. While all these sources informed my understanding and were much appreciated, ultimately mine is very Illllch an independent study, the product of observing Dr. Mahathir in action acro~s more than 30 years. Barry Wain Singapore N.B. I. The prot<lgonist'<; name, Mahathi r bin Mohalllad, wll k ll identifies him as Mahathir, son of Mohamad, is rendered Mahathi r Moham3(1. The "bin" is dropped In Hne with modern u ~age. Mahathir h pronounced ma-HAA-teer. Although Mahathir held various honorific titles, retlcctlng his rising statll~ - dlltllk, dallik ~I'ri and LillI - I have chosen to call him "Or." Mahath ir throughout, or al least ;tfter h is graduation from medic<ll school in 1953. As Iw told me long ago when discussing titll.'s, NI earned that one."5 For convenience, the only other persons <lccordcd lilIes In the book, apart from his wik , also a doctor, are members of royalty. t Although Malaysia has "dopll..'d a new way of l>pelling "Orne place nanH.'S In recent years - for example, Johor instead ofJohore, Melaka for Malacca and Alor Setar rather than ;lor Star - I have u~ed the o ld slyle for con· sistency, since the book spans both periods. 4. Malaysia's currency, the ringgit, formerly known as the Mala)'~ian dollar, and before that the Straits dollar, was loosely pegged to an American dollar· dominated basket o f currencies during much of the Mah,ltilir era. The ringgit fluctuated betwL'en an annual average of RM2.:m:n and IlMZ.8 U 2 to USS I between 1981 and 1997, before falling to RM4.S4S0 when the peg was abandoned during the 1997- 98 Asian ('(onomic crisis." The gov­ ernment ftxed the rate at IlM:t80 wilen introd ucing curr('IKY ('oltrols in September 1998. Notes Kiloo 1100 Td.., J',mI<Juu.1 u{ !"'[,Iiwtllirbm: All /lild/(o(" /lIlIl IlI0SI"u(!IIY uf j,("II"II/i,' Moil,mwd (Kuala l.umpur: Oxford Unlwrsity Press, 1995). 2 Email correspontknn' wi th long.time acqualnt3nC(' of Mahalhir Ivloh<lll1'ld, 2 $(oplembcr 2007.
  4. 4. ·..onwlhing f..nter 1981 J 11/.'11,.,../ III t-1.lllalhlr 111'K"r"d print-ouls of tIll" l·hapt!.'r of his unfinished memoirs ill Part Ie.lrly 2UOI'I ,lIal explained why hI.' had 1>....../1 I,IlIabll.' to complete the job in fIlort­ than flV<' Y{'a(s. "lk-("au.'K' I wrile ,1m! then I re-read and cornocl again. SomClim('s I di ard what [ havl' wrHlcn ,lOd H'wrile Ihe whole ch;,pler again...and then SQIll;." The Making of a Malay Championlime whilc Ic-rea<ling I rCl1lcmlx-r .....hich $hould Ix.' in...'". inlerview with Mah:llhir Mohamad, 31 Mnrch 2008. 4 Kamlndcf Singh Ohlllon, MaJors;"" "'"rris" l)oJhY;1I tll<' MII/IilUlir Era (1981-2003); l)iJ('"IIUI/(IS u(f)('l'f.'lQfIllU'/11 (Singilporc: NUS I'J('SS, 2009). .s. BalrY Wain, Dr. M, Reaching for llis Gun", /j;<l/l Wall Stree/jUllma/. 6June 6 Bank Nq ;,ra Mal<ly ia' Monthly Stati ticill Bullelln,January 1')98.
  5. 5. 1 Politicized by War and Peace Alor Stilr, the capital of Kedah state. might have Ilt'Cil a slcepy backwater in the e<Hly years of [,1St c('ntury. hut the sodal distinctions were drawn as sharply ![wre as anywhere in colonial Malaya. Ma lay roya ll y and the aris- tocracy lived in relative splendour in the northern outskirts ,lrouncl lhe palace. Senior civil servants and til!! wl'althy occupied fml' hOI11('$ closer 10 the centre . The rest shared the rcst, with the poorl'sl fmding sheller on the other side of the Kedah River that bis('('ted the IOwn. Mahathir Mohamad was burn south of the river. , s Mahathir was to discover, inequality was not conlined to owning a colonial houS(" in the best neighbourhood. Ilis father, fou nder o f the gOY- ernment's first EngliSh-medium st'comliuy school in Kedah and a passion- ate educationist, could not gel his daughters inlO secondary school. Members of the elite were given priority, as they were in almost everything else, from university scholarships to coveted iolls in the Kedah civil service. Allhough Mahathir obtain('d the at·ademic distinctioll that usually won a scholarship for someone wit h the right pedigree to study abroad and gain professional qualifications, none was forthcoming for him. British elit ism aod a Malay sense of hierarchy combined 10 let pt'ople know their plact.' in society. Tunku Abdul Rah man !'ulra, son of the Sultan of Kcdah and the independent country's tirst prime ministl'r, did beller than most royalS in socializing with fellow citizens, but h(' never forgol his rega l origins. Explaining why h(' wnu ld not have known Ihe young Mahathir, Tunk1Abdul Rahman said, HHc was 11 nobody. His fa ther was a subordinate officer in Kedah . I did not mix with his father. We had a dub in Ketlah, a special club for civi l servants, for royalty and so Oil . They had a subordinate dub."l The discri mination Mahathlr's fa mily sLlffl'rl'd because it lacked tile nec- essary sorio-economic backgro1lnd and connC'ctions was general, not per- sonal. 11 said much about Mahathir's strength of character, and the fami ly support he rel,:eived, Ihat he did not allow it to obstruct a successfu l career in medicine and polilics. Indeed, it made him more determined to succeed, .1
  6. 6. though memorieS of the jn€'quitie~ of the system permanently colollr€'d hb oul1ook. Where the esl,lblishmcnl was concerned, Mahathlr was a mavt'rick, an "outsider" In the words of Zainuddln Maidin, a iournalist-turned-Ix>liticlan and supporter In Kedah.2 Mahathlr challenged tilt' rul ~ and convl'ntions, whem'vcl tl1('y appe,ned to make no sense, or got In his way. He {evelied In being a contrarian, doing what was popularly forbidden. To many others, Mahathir's youthful experience manifested itself as an inferiority complel( that made him fight harder, shout louder, build bigger and remain sUIX"r- scnsitive to any Slight or uiticislII. "I prefer to say he ha~ a big chip on his shoulder," cOllunentecl Ahdullah Ahmad, a long-time politi(:al ally. t Khalid Atxlullah, ,Ill early business partll€'r and friend for more than half a century, observed with a gentle laugh, "I thillk he has a little sUlx'riority complex." Khalid quoted an Arab proverb to explain Mahathir's mentality: "If you Sl'l' me with one 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, Mahathlr focused on l>olitics early. lie got hooked while he was stili In school and never deviated from his desire to become a IXlllt- Icilln_Every step he took, including qualifying 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 wanted to Change it. Most of all, he set out to Improve the status of fellow Malays, the country's predominant ethnic group who, despite the;r numerical superiority, lagged economically behind the ChineS(.', He would not become prime minis- ter umit the age of 56, aftt'r overcoming s{'veral ~'rious 1x>litiGII obst<lcles, two potentially fatal. Tlut then he would cling to the post for more than 22 years, almost as long as his three IHl-dccl'Ssors combinl'd, unceasingly trying to shape a modern nation in his own image. Although Mahathir was d<.'Cply embroiled in the contentious dl.'bates that preceded and followed Malaya's independence in 1957, he was not in the vanguard of the country's first-gcl1cratlon leaders. Ill.' was an early member of the United Malays NatiOlH11Organization (UMNO), formed to oppose a specific British colonial arrangement perceived 10 weakell the position of Malays, which emerged as the country's premier political pany. lIut UMNO initially was led by members drawn from the traditional arislOcracy such as Atxlul Rahman, the first prime minister, who was a trmku, or 1('IIXku, princt'. He was followed by Abdul Kazak lIussein and Hussein Onl1, both of royal lil1eage, who became brothers·in-Iaw when they married into the royal (amily in thl' southern state of Johore. M" hath ir, decidedly a COltllllont'r, W<lSan outspoken critic of UMNO policies under Tunku Abdul Rahlllan, whom he blallll'(l for a«:eptlng p.lssivcly the plight of the Malays. The youngest of nine children - a tenth had died at binh - Mahathir was born in the family home in Scbcrang l>erak, a semi-rural slum in Alar Star, on lO)uly 1925.lIi5father, Mohamad Iskandar, a teacher, had lX'l'n recruited 1'()liticll.",1 by WIIf alld Pro((' 5 from Penang by the Kedah state authorities to open a secondary school for the sons and daughters ofthe sultan anc1 local clite. Left with Iltrl'C children after the death of his wife, he moved to Alor Star and married Mahathlr's mother, Wan Tcmpawall Wall lIilnafi, a local woman 14 years hIs lunlor, who <llso h'ld been PTl'ViOlLSly married. As indicatoo by the "Wan", she had links to state royalty, but too distant to provide any entree into aristocratic cirdes.~ With six surviving children of their own, Mohamad and Wlill Tempawan raised all nine kids. Although the family could be considered lower middl! dass, they set up home where they could afford to live, in ramshackle SclX'rang Perak. With che,lp rental accommodation, it attracted new arrivals, mnong them Javanese ami Sumatrans from Indonesia, Indian Muslims and poorer Chinese. They were known as 1J(!/I(ldtorlS. nl'wcomcrs or immigrants, if only from othl'r parts of the Malay Peninsula, accepted but still not integrated into the local community. The Immigrant mentality, the deSire to sUl'(·cl'(.l, was in the air. Alxlul i)aim Zainuddln, who would become one of thl' country's longest- serving fina nce ministers, grew up nearby and went to sl'hool In Seberang Perak, Mohamad Iskanda r was <I "Pen,lrIg Malay", or more correctly, Jawi pa- GIII/ktl/r _ often short('lled to l aw; pekm/ - meaning it locally born Muslim with Indian blood.' A forbear, most likely Mohamad's father Iskandar, had emigrated from southern India to btogin a new life in British Malaya.7 Some Indians, after marrying Malays, reu lned aspects of their culture, including language ;md links to their former homeland. Mohamad never looked back: Ie ackllowledged no rl'lativcs in India and spoke no Indian language, ilCcording to Mahathir,!1 though one grandson silid Mohamad's cousins in Penang were Iluent in Tamil and he heard Moharnad scold a stranger with impl.'ccable Tamil pronundation.9 While SOlIl(' other fam ily members speculat<.>(1that Iskandar hailed from Kerala, Mahathir said he was not CV('1l sure it was his grandfat her who was the immigrant, Since no records survived and his father had never mentiolled the ~u)iel·t . "Frankly, Ve don't know whkh part of Indi,l we CHme from," he sa id. "Maybe this grandfather or ))re,11 grandfather: One of thelll lIlust have come from India,.. ra Mahathir never met his grandfather Iskandar, who died before he was born, though he knew his grandmother, IsJ...andar's wife Siti Hawa, whom he idenUrloo also as a "Penang Malay". Like his father, Mahathirdid not dl.Cuss his Indian side publicly, and the mall('r was treated like a dirty fa mily seCret and not mentioned ill polite company. Aft er he became (cplrty prime minister, an official government publication described his fatlier as the firsl "Malay" 10 become a secondary school headmaster. A genealogical chart displayed in Mahathir's old house, converted Into a museum in 1992, traces his lineage through his Malay mot her, but has almost nothing on his fat her'S side. While he was al'live politically, Mahathir left the impression it was a sensitive subject, even wHh his immediate farnily, !l though ill' was highly amused when p('oplc
  7. 7. from India, Pakistan <l nd Bangladesh all daiml;'d him as a native 50n.12 After he retired, he was more relaxed ,)bout it. "You know, what I r('sent most is that anything I do wh ich appears to be successful. they atlributt' il to my Indian origin. If I fail, then it musl be my Malay origin." ll The COlilltry has never had any trouble accl'pting It'adcr~ of mixed parentage. In thai respect, Mahathir continucd what had become almmt a leadership tradition. Tunku Alxlul Rahman's mother wa~ Thai, Ihu.ak lraced his ancestry to the Bugis from til(' Indonesian island of Sulaw('si and Ilusse.in Onn had Turkish blood. While Mahathir's political rivals Q(·casion. ally tried to use his Indian background against him, the issue found little traction. For the Mala}' community, whosl.' view is reflected in thl' nation's Constitution, the conccpt of being Malay is not ethnic as it is in being Chinese or Indian. Constitutionally. a "Mal'ly" is defined as a persoll who professes the Musli m religion, habitually sp(~aks the Malay language and confOrms to Malay custom. Indians, Europeans or anyOIlt' el~e may be accepted as Malay if they adh('re to those requirements. Somehow, though, !x'ing part Indian was not qllite as exotic as being Turklsh or Thai, since (he overall Indian n )flllllunity, the thi rd-Iarg~t cthnic group, was bOttom of thl' economic pile. And the Malays, for all their int(-r- marrying with Indian ilild Arab Muslims, often vaguely yearned for an ideal- ized leader who was "pure Malay", even though such a person hardly existed. For Mahathir. joining UMNO, whose membership was restricted to Malays, raiSt.."d no questions. But he was easily riled O'l-r his sub-continental COIl- nections, complaining privately soon after serving a term in Parliament that Tllnku tt)(lull~ahman would refer to him as "t hat Pakistani". I~ Many of Mailathir's other defining characteristics were apparent in his early life, (lr can be trac(>d to influences ill Ihose formative year,>. No factor was more important than his pipe-smoking father. Master Mohamad Islmndar, as he was called at school, IllIpoS<'d a similarly strict regimen at home (IS hI.' famolls[y did In the classroom. [It' ~upervi~ed his children's homework, helping them with mathemati<."S an(1 English. RelatiVl.'s s<.'nt their children to stay with the fam ily, knowing he would insist that they study. Ilis rok' wa~ to Inulkate illl lle <:hildren work habits and Icarn l n~, havillg acquired his OWIl education in Penang over tilt:' obje<:tions of his pa r~'llts and lifted himself 10 a pOSition of illithority and respect in the w mmlinHy. As Mahathir recalled, "The sound of his l:ough dS he approadlcd the ImllSt' wa~ l·llough to ~ncl us boys flying back to our books.'<1 ~ Wilful though nol rebellious, Mahathir "bsorlx.'{1tll~' worklOild and ('xcelled al school. Quil't, studious and not much interested ill sporlS - Ill' once lOld a friend he played marblesl(, - he read voraciously lind kq )t pr<:tty much to himself. At hOllie, Mahalh ir had his own ide,ts ami stud to them with preco- ciousobstinafY. /5 llis sist('rs said, they found 110 point in trying to stop llim once he had made up his mind to do SOmething !x-l-;!USe he knew exactly what he willlted. The whole family learned in the enel that it was easiest to let f'olilidzl·,jI)y W", fIIull't'(ltr 7 stubborn lillie Mahathir tlo things his wilyY In due COUTSt', the ellti rt' country went along with him. idull Mahathir's (henu· song - suggested by ot ht.'rs (lncl readily C'llIbraced by him - was the oTie pO]Jularized by Frank Sinatra, My W!I)'. In lalt'r life, MJlwthir was often judged (0 be "ull-Malay'· in his dom- Jnant personal values: discipline, hard work and self-im provement, tIll' qualities acquiTt'd from his highly-motivated ami upwardl y mobile father. Real izing the rewa rds of striving for excellence, he believed other Malays could b(' successful too, if thcy were given half a chance and changed their attitud('s. providing that opportunity and trying to bring about (I ll adj ust- ment ill the Malay mindsel would remain a lifelong COtll 111 it IIlt'n. If his fathcr was emotionally distant, Mahathir fou nd love and afkt·tioll amollR the womcn in the household. While his sisters indulged the last born, his mother l'ould be counted Oil to provide protection on those occa- sions that his father 10:;1 his temper with the boyyl They C<l IINI him Che Det, the P(' name by wh ich he would always be known to relatives and close friends in Kedah. Che is a Shorl form of ('Iu-ik, th(' Malay equivalent of mister, whik' Del is a popular shortening of the rlllal syllable of Mahathir. Living in a traditional wooden hOllS(' on stilts with ,Ill (ll/ap roof of palm fron ds, the kind found in every kaJII/'IIIIS. villagt." Ma hathir was raised In a normal Malay ellvironment. He altendt.xI the local Malay-mediulTI primary school for boys - harefoot becausl;' his parents could IIOt afford to buy him sh(){'slQ - and took Qur'an-reading classes after school. nut Mahathir WilS obviousl)' different frolll the other kids in the area. While they ran cari.:'fre(' in the fields, he and his siblings W('re <:Qnfined to home in supervised study sessions, even Juring holidays. Whereas Mahathir could r('ad, write and speak English, most of the neighbourhood kids could not. They sometimes teased him and called him malllok, a term for an Indian Muslim tl1at can be derogatory, and to which Mahathir long reUl<lined sensitive.'w "He was nothing like liS," some of the fOTilwr neighbours iI/ld old friends - all fa ns of the retired pri.me minister - who attended a reunion dinner for Mahathir in Alor Star in 2006, told organizers.11 After completing his primary eduCillion, Mahathir sailed through the entrance examination that would enll[)le him to enter the Government English SdlOOl, founded hy his father in 1908, :Ind later renillllcd the Sultan AWn] Hamid College. Established for the conv('nienc(' of royalty and the rich, til(' school h,)d become mudl 1I10re egalitarian, dropping the restriction on lion-Malays and admitting Chinese, Indians, Thais and others. [n fact, the entrance exam WilS a bmrier for many Mal;IYs, who lived in nlral areas and eitller could not afford to continue' ~tldying, or did not h,we suf6- ckllt coillmand of English. Mahathir felt a tWinge 01 pride at being a cut above his former schoolmates, but kllt'w he owed it to his (<I tiler's rigorolls routine: All fOllr of his brothers already Ilad made it into s('con<iary schoo1.Zl
  8. 8. 8 Ma"wsiall Maverick Much to Master Moilamad Iskandar'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 his first daughter ;Iher she had fi nished primary school. S'lid Mahathir, " 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, which was started later on, refused to accept my sister." NOlle of the other th ree girls had any better luck when their time callJe.2-.i Jllst how galling Illat was to Moharnad Iskandar, who was obsessed with education as a means or getting ahead. can be gaug('d by one measure: He had fal siHed the birth dates of his sons to ensure they could start the first year of primary school wit hout any of the usual arguments about having to wait until the following intake. Mahathir's birth certifICate showed he was born on 20 December 1925, and it remained his official birthday, being chaser! hy the guvernment, for example, a~ Ihe day on which to op('n his old house as a museum. BUI , a.~ Mahathir discovered from notes written by his father in the back of a dictionary, he WilS actually born fi ve mon ths e;IfJi('r. Ilis fath er h'ld given ,Ill the boys arbitrary Dt'Cember birth dates, while r('cording the correct datt's in the dictio nary.2~ If the autJlorities hoped to make amends lal(>r by naming a primary schooLestablished within the Sultan Alxlui llamid ColI<.'ge mmpound, aft<.'r Moharnad, their dforts went a....ry. They called the school hy mistake Iskandar, which of course was his father's name, not lli$.2..'i Hundred s of uniforrned students froill the Iskandar school :111( the COllege, girls induded, marched in Moharnad's funeral procession in 1961 , recognition of his con· tribution to education, but also a relll inder of his niggling unllappiness. Mahalhir's teenage innocence was shattered by two traumati<: ('vents, whkh tboroughly politicized him and changed the course of his life: the Japa nese occupalion of Malaya from 194 L to 1945 and Britain's return after World War II wit h radical plans for the fu ture administration of the country. Mahathir watcht'd arriving Japane~e troops flush a British soldier out of the local COlLrthouse, drag him 10 the riverbank and bayonet him to death. His tasting memory of the Japanese in terlude. how('ver, was the expo~urt;' of Malay "backw<lnhwss and incompetence". With the Khools shut, t6-year-old Mahalhir found himself on th(' street and trying to earn a living. He joincd two Malay friends and St.>t up a coffee stall in the local market. They sold thc ~hop for a small profit ,1nd gradu· .lIed to selling bananas and morc lucrative items before the war enck-'d. But most Malays werl' not so savvy or adaptable. Many, induding his own brothers, who wer(' retrenched by the Japanese from their government jobs, found it hard to make ends mee!. Mahathir described their lack of knowlt'dge of even petty trading a~ "piti ful~. He condud(>d thai If Malays were l'ver to enjoy the same living standards a~ Chincse, they would nct'd extra government ht'lp. 1'lIlilici7.t'1i iJ,' W(If 11/1,1 l't'II(~ 9 As it happened, the return ing British proposed to form the Malayan Union, which would remove the advlll1tages the Malays had long enjoyed, while extending citizenship freely to all races. As Mallathir and others saw it, if the Malays were behind when Ihey already receiwd preference in areas such as employment in the bureaucracy, land ownership and educational assistance, they would suffer grievollsly in the open competition being enVisaged with the Chinese and IndialiS. Int roduced in 1946 over fervent Malay objections, the Malayan Union grouped the nine Malay states, where Britai n ruled iudirectly th rough monarchies headed by sultans, with the settlements of Penang and Malacca - which Britain administered directly, <llong with Singapore - turning the Malay Peninsula into a single colony. It stripped the sultans of tht'ir tradi- tional powers and transferred iurisdiction to the Killg of England. Without consultation, the British withdrew their Ilcar-century-old r(;"cognition of Ihe "special poSitionH of the MaJ;IYs, whi ~· h was meant to protect their heritage and birthright. The deC) s~'nse of betrayal felt by the Malays was matched only by their grave fear of thc future. After all, it was British sponsorship of largt'·scall' inllnigration 10 peninsular Malaya in the nint.'teentil c('ll tury - Chinese to work In the tin mines, Indians 10 labour on Ihe rubber estates - that had turned the Malays into a minority in tht'ir own land. More enterpriSing and sophisticated in business, the newcomers spread to the kamplltlS.5, where they hecaml' slOrt'keepers and moncylenders. In lime, tht·y gained a monopoly in the Industrial and commercial sectors and lived mostly in urhan centres, while the Malays remained in roastal and rural settleillents engaged in traditional subsistence agriculture and fishing. !-Iaving creat('(1what 1ll.1y have bc>en the world's most complex sod ety -three communitirs dividt'd hy rt'ligion, Ian· guage, culture, value systems, place of residence, o<:cupatioTl and income - Ihe Ilriish had made no attcmpt to integrate the immigrants, originally regarding them as guest workt>rs. Now that they and olher foreigners had control of the economy, Britain was intending to grant them citizenship. As pout of the Malay nationalist outrage that swept the country, Mahathir led schoo! friends in organizing protests, mainly producing and distribut- ing posters at night. 1·le jOined activist group~ and attended, as an observer, a Ililtlonal congress of Malay organ i7.A1lions th<1t gav(' biJth to UMNO.2f> In the face. of lhc fiert·" UMNO·kd resistance, tl1e British abandoned the Malayan Union in 1948, replacing it with a federation Ihat allowed the sultans to retai n certain powers, though under one overall govcrnmcllt. Although M<lhathir had not previously thought much beyond hecoming a government derk, he lifted his aspirations as he imbibed and contributed to the new-found Malay nationalism: ... my interest in politics was st irred up act ually during thl' Japanese period. You know, I read a lot of history, and I felt that the Mlllays seem
  9. 9. 10 M,tlilysicm .1m-wick fated to liVl' under tile do minatio n of other peo ple...they IISl'd to be under the Thais...and Ihey had to pay tribute to China. They had to submit to the British, the I'ortuguesc...for 450 years.. .! rcad ,Ibollt the thirteen colonies and how they struggled for independence and how the United States eml'rgcd .. .this innuencc<i me a 10tY Hack In schoo l at tht' age of 20 to complete his fi nal year, Mahathi r edited the school magazine, penning a front-page editorial for the single issue produced in 1945. In it he welcomed vk tory in the war by the "Po wers of Right and Justicc". Mahathir calculated that two professions, law and medicine, would givf' him the crroibility in the Malay community he felt was 11('("C'SSary to pursue a career in politics, "particularly among people older than me'l.2tI llis choic(' was law, the field chosen by the country's first lI)(ee prime minis- t('rs, who studied In England. I-laVing graduated in December 19-16 with excellent results for the Cambridge School Certificate - he obtained the top grade for three subjects and the second- highest mark for his four other sub- iel'ts - " I would have expe<.·ted a state scholarship, of w urse," Mahathir said. "-But after the British returned, the Uritish military administratio n operated as if the whole country W,IS u nder one govt!rnmt.'III." In those unsettled cond itions, his application went unheeded. Ultlmatcly, the fed - eral government offered him fmancial assistance - "not a true scholarship, but just support"Z9 - to study at the Ki ng Edward VII College of Mroicine in Singapore, precursor to the Univl'rsity o f Malaya. Makill"; a vi rtue of !l('cesslty, he would latex position himself as the fITst home.growlI leader, untainted by dose associatio n wit h the fo rmer colonial power. Money was an issue fo r Mahathir. NOllc of his brothers got the chance to attend university, though one made it into agricult ural college. They all b('(all1(' state civil servants, e)(cupying modest positions. Mahathir's father, who had quit leaching to remain In Keda h, after having lx--cll trarlsferred inter-slate for several years, joined the Audit Department of the state adnrinis. tration. nut he was compulsorily retired as a senior auditor at 53, when Mahat hir was still in primary school. His monthly sal<lry of 230 dollars was replacl-'d by a 9{k:lollar I>cnsion, which dwindk'<l in purchaSing power ("Very year as it was not adjusted for infl ation, "Well, it mack us rathcr poor," Mahathir said. I'lis father kept trying to earn money from olher sources, at times working as a clerk In arl Arabic .school "!ld as a petitio n writer. MI Mahathir himself wo rked In the stati.' govt'rnll)el1t whi le awaiting his fi nal exam result~, and ht' earned Incol11e from m ntrilllltiollS to tht' Ililtionally- circulated, Singapo rl'-based Stmit.~ "film's. Ht' began writing for tht' paper after taking a com .'Sponcicllcl' COlrTse in jouTll,1lism, using tht' pseudonym, C.H.E. J)et, a variation 011 his nicknilml'. When roUege aclrnini~trators learned from a routine asses:illlcnt that Mahalhir's father was sending him 10 doUars a month, they cut his allowance by 10 dollars. "(lli/icilt',/ by W", (llIII I'CllCI' I I Relocating in 1947 at 22 fro m the fringes o f empire to the commercial l·en tre of colonial Malaya, Mahathir encou ntered a co mpletely different world in Singapore,)r It opened his eyes to the possibilities of modern- Ization and confirmed his worst fears about the Malays bei ng d ispossessL'd of their own country. The island settlement al the foot of the Malay Peninsula administered d irectly like Malacca and Penang previou~ l y, was Uritbh territory, having been aC4ul red from the Sultan of JohOTe in the ('arly nineteel1th century, and anyone born there was a British subject. Mahathlr r('<:alled, "They were so very far ahead of us - huge urban com· munity, very sophistIcated and very rich peo ple - wherea~ I carne from Alar Star, where Ihe Malays in particular were very p OOr. "12 The dangers, tho ugh, were just as conspiCUOUS. As Mahathir wrole, the "easy·going" Malays had been unable to compete wit h the "native diligence and busincss drive'" or the immigrant Chinese, who had been encouragl'd by the Uritish 10 settle in Singaporc. Once the owners and ru!l'rs, Malays now were to he found o nly in the poorer quarters living in dilapidated (Ilial' and plank huts, "sometimes only a stone's throw from the palatial resldellces of Chinese millionaires". ·llleY wo rked as S}'Cl'S, fIIkmrs k('/mll, tambies - drivers, gardeners, office boys - and cooks. Most English schools w('re compktcly withoul Malay studl'n ts. So unenviable was the position of the Mala~r"s in Singapore that ~ most of them have lost their .self-respect and racial pride". If Malay interests .....ere not safeguarded, there was no doubt what would happen: .. ...the prevailing condition in Singalx>re would invade the Peninsula"_.l3 Malay under.representation in his college, where 630 of 700 students were non.Malay, reinforced the impression of their exciusion.J4 Against strong opposition, M'lhathir argued for the retention of a 75 per cent quota in favour of Malays for govem ment scho larshipS to the col1cge.·15 While M,lhathir d id well in his medical studies, it worried him that other Malays, who num bered JUSl seven or the intake o f 75 students in his year, o ften struggled. Only four of them graduated as doctors, despite special coaching to which Mahathir contributed. One who had tro uble with physics and chemistry and needed his help - she had not been able to study these sub- jects in her secondary school - was Sil i Hasmah Mohamad Ali, the only female among the Malay students, who was from a resl>cctl'd fami ly in Selangor state. Although Mahathir was shy and awkw;ud in the presence of girls - meet ing the o pposite sex was a totally Ill'W('xpcriente for him - he soon bc<:ame "possessivt'" and "Iealous"..u> Dr. Mahathlr, who grad uated In 1953, married his f!CSt and o nly girlfriend in 1956,;1union that was 10 last a lifetime. Not surprisingly, Mahalhlr acquired a jaundiced view or the often unruly, poorly educated Ch ine~c who joslled aggressively in the crossroads port. !-Ie knew from personal expcriencl' how the Malays were often brushed aside and their dignity flouh.'d. IIe once askl'll a laxi driver to take him to the home of a
  10. 10. 12 MalaYS/lilt Mmw;r/c WOl1ldn friend, only to be delivered to the servants' quariNs 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 MalaY5ia's deputy prime minister, Dr. Mahathir did not try to hide his deep anti-Singapore feeli ngs. lie told his host that 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 freshman year to include those who gradu- ated late or d roPlx'<I out - the bonds were especially warm and enduring. They had a deal that those who turned Ul' for dull and dreary clasSt.'S signed attendance for the abscntl'CS. "We shared our lecture notes and even om case write-ups in oDstClrlcs," rl"Called Wong Hee Ong. ~ in all this, Mahathi' was 0 11(> of US."l'" They held regular reun ions, in Singapore o r MalaYSia, culmi nati ng In a 60th ann iwrsary ga thering in 2007. with Dr. Mahathlr always making a supreme effort 10 all(!nO. While he wa'> prime minister, he wo uld t('li hl:i bodyguards and minders 10 leave, exposing himself to the Tagging of aging medicos reliving their youth, and dishing il out to them In return. At these intensely private, Informal gatherings, Dr. Mahathit and Dr. Siti lIasrnah, both considered to have good voices - hers somewhat better than his - were usually called upon for a duet. In 1997, Or. Mahathir sang My WtlY solo, with lyrics written for the occasion by class members a nd featuring Arneriran investor George Soros, blamed by the Malaysian leader for aggra- vating the A~lan t'C(momic crisis that )'ear.4O Living away from home for the first time, Mahathir proved a true son of his father as he managed his time eXp.:'rtly. Sor ializing little beyond occasional visits to thl' cinema, he shunned campus politicS, dismissing such activity as "playing galles~, and telling fellow students he prden ed to pmticipatc In tht' 1'('31 political d rama unfolding on th(' Malay P('ninsula.~1 Mahathir bccaml' president of the college Islamic Socicty, and edited and produced an issllc of his medical school loumal, the Ow/drou. lie continued writing artick-s regularly enough for Ihe Stmits "'/11"5 lind Sunriay Times to help buy a motor- cycle; Siti IId",mah n.xll· pillion. lIis varied output, written in a ~di r('d, didactic style. W>lS a "rt'markable accomplishm(·nt for a full-time student in a demanding d iscipline....' ! And if was apPl'('Ciated, >It least by the Straits Timl·s. An editor called him to the paper's offic(.>$ in Singapore and asked if hl' was intt're:.t('(] In a job as a journalist. No, he was not. Singapore gave birth to an urban myth, Ihat Mahathir thought of himself as an Indian when he elllered university. The story was relold in several gossipy versio ns, losing no nc of it~ appeal across the decad('s. Academics, diplomats and even a former cabin('t COlleague delighted in passing along the dNails, all completely untru(>. Mahathir's father considered himself a Malay and he l'nsured that illl his l'hildren were nothing else but Malay. Politicized by WilT (I//(/l'l'II((' 1:1 In hi$ writings, which began before he went 10 Singapore, Mahathir identified totally with the Malays and show('ti he was intimately familiar with their customs, social life and problems, whether it was education, fish, ing or pudi plimting. His more overtly political Wlltrihutions were polem· ical, and uncompromising in dcf(>ncc of Malay rights. Foreshadowing the nationalist stance Ihat would make him a hero to many Malays when he enter('(1 Parliament, he criticized the colonial administration, l'alled for the re-introduction of Malay as an oflicial language, alongside English, and made tht' case for "retarding progrt'ss" sometimes in order to help tht' Miliays advance. Well ahead of his time, hl' also advOt'ated women's rights, argUing espt"'Cially for women to be given opportunities In education and employment.H At the same lime, Mahathir began to reveal critical opin- ions about the Malay'S themselves that would be<ome another of his trade- marks: for in5tanc(>, their "low aver;lge intelligence quolienl...~~ After graduating, Dr. Mahllthh spent only four years in government s('rvin~ in Penang and Kedah befort· resigning to open a private practice, while his wift' was to work as a doctor fo r the governmellt for 2S years. Alt hough the immediate reason fOr his quitti ng was the failure of a superior to support his ilppl iGlI iol for a posting to study In a teHching hospital in Penang to be a surgeon, h(' also wanted to remai n ncar his aging parents. Borrowing money from a brother-in-law. he opcnl'<.l in Alor Star the MAHA Clinic - a name meaning Qgr('al~ in Malay thai rornbined the first two letters of Mahalhir and lIasmah, his wjfe~5 - in 1957. As one of only five privall' doctors in the town and the fir:;! Malay, he camc to be known as ~Ur. UMNO", with his office often Identified as the "UMNO Clink". Dr. Mahathir acquiH.'<I the reputiltion of being a caring doctor, willing to make house calis at any hour and trudge across pmli fields in the dark to treat patients. If they could not afford his fee, they S€'ttled by instaliment or paid what they had. Llut he never missed an opportunity to scold Malays when their performallce fell short. Observing hard-working Chinese farmers next door producing morc rice, he would ask idle Malays with more than a hint of s.arcasrn, "No rain this sicle?"41> While the sarcasm was never far away, Dr. Mahathlr would carry much of his bedside manner Into po litics: Evl'n his <;harpest comments. which stung, l'Ut and wounded, were usually cleiiv('rt'(l in dulcel lones, as if advis- Ing an ill farmer to tak(· hh pills three times II day. Mukhrlz Mahathir saw his father lose his temper and curS(' only once: whl'n It was di~covered Imt in time that someone in Dr. Mahathir's re-election campaign office had Incorr€'<.'tly completed his nomination papers in an allcmpt to sabotage his candidacy. The expletive was mild, Mukhrlz said. " In Kcdah, t'specially that generation, they swear somewhat politely."47 Dexterous, Dr. Mahathir spent his spare limr In a home workshop on car- ]X'ntry, wood turning and metalwork. l Ie built boo.ts powered hy outboord motors and used machinery to fashion wrought Iron into name plates, lamps
  11. 11. and chandeliers. "I likl' the feeling of building things, of working with wood or metal and crt'atillg something," he once told a IIri tish journalist. No onc who witnessed h im at his h()hbi~ do ubted he wo uld have made a fml'surgeon. Dr. Mahalhir and Dr. Siti lIasmah were also involwd in welfat(' and public health activities. While he, as President of the Kedah Tub('rculosis Association, visited Indian workers on rubb('r plantatIons to tr('at and give advic(' to 'I'll su fferers, '~ she threw h('1 weight behind the K('dah Family Planning Associatio n. At Dr. Mahathir's request, Shailri Oaud, a federal bun.·aucra! and friend, helped him l'Stablish a private l'tlucation association to fi n<lnce the studi('S of d ls.1dvantaged Malay children.49 '1he couple lost no time In starting what became a si7..abl(' and happy f<l mlly: A daughter, Marln(l, arrivet! in June 1957, ten mont h~ after th('y w{'re married. Altogcthl'r, the Mahathir~ had sewn children, five o f whom joined the household In under n ine years and Jiwd for a while in Alor Stat, Years later ill Kuala Lumpur, wht'n lhl'Y had left home to study oV('r~eas or marry, Pri me Minbter Mahathir and his wife, fim1ing it "a little bit lonely" as ('m pty.ne~ters,~l ilnd "red lIP ~ waiting for grand Children,S! Slartt'd what amollnted to a second f.tln lly. Or. Mahathir built on his fa t her'~ "strange liking for the letter M", as he once put it,u Where Mohamad Iska m1ar gave all five sons namt?S starting with M. Dr. Mahathir did the s.lme for hh th ree gills as well as the four bo ys. Thr.'(' of the kids Wl'rc ,Idoptcd in two diffl'rent and un usual circum· stances. The couple's third child, Melinda, actually chose Dr. Mahathir (In c! his wife as her parents, rather than thc other 'ay arou nd. Tlwy became her godparcnls In a tr<lditlonal (cr('mony at Illl' age of six months, after Dr. Milhath ir cured her of a minot aliment. Wht'n he visited her house to treal her brother years later, shc wantcu to follow Dr. Mahathlr llOme. lie as,,:('d, as did her pilfents, farmers who worked their own land lit Tokai outside Alar Star. Sitl Aisha Abdul Rahman joi nt..'tI the M:lhathir fami l)' in 1960, ilged six and with an M nanll', remai ning until she marrIed in 1982. Sht' was trcated the s.lme a.:o. her urothers and sisters, except that she returned to the farm to spend school holida}'S with her rcal parents.l Or. Mahathir was inspired to e)(l13nd the family again on a state visit to 1'<lld5l<1n in 1983. Invited to review a national day parade b}' Pn.'Sldent Zia ul-Ilaq, he was s-truck by tht: ~ Vl'ry good.looking children" In national drt?Ss. "I thought, wow, thcy look wry nice to Ille. I thoughl I would <ldopt Pakistani ch il tlren~. s1 L,ller, a clost' friend who <llso wanled to adopt, visited Pakistan and ~e1e(:ted four babll's from an orptlilJlage, and returntt1 to Ma!a~'sla with thelll. In October 1984, thl' MahathllSgot a fOu rth SOli, Mal'.har, nlm' months, aod a third daughter, Malzutlt, sewn months. Dr. Mal1,lthll was 59 and Dr. Slti Ilasmah 58. Growing up in Aim Star, the older children rell1emher "an almost idyllic childhood", especially after they moved into a new, split-leVel brick home l'olitic/I.'YiIIY w,,'IUI,II'~l~~ 15 al Titi Gajah, I I 1..Jlo!l1t:lres out of town - on the pn'stigio us northern sid('. ~s Desigm'd by Baharuddl n Abu Kassim. Ihl' archlt~t responSible for the Natio nal Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, the house feat ured mod ern con- V(!nil~nCes unknown to most locals and sat in spacious grounds that backed onto iI river and upened at Ihe front to a vista of almost endless green fields . lIoth parents strl'ss{'d the traditional and religiOUS values that had bC<'n d ru mmed Into them : honesty, gratitude, r('~I)('Ct for elders, hard work and discipline, along wth the illlpOTtanC{" of cduratlon and the valu(> of mo ney. Dr. Mahathlr j'lughed when the kids enter('(.l [}('wsp<lpt'r contests involving a certain amount of luck. I-Ie told U1{'111 that nothing came easy, and there was no shortcut to sucu _'Ss. Thl' fa.:o.t tTad. to corpora! punishment was to ie, sleal or {'omrnit another of the offencC'i that w(:re not tolerated. Or. Mahathlr got out the calle and, with the other children assem bled to ahsorb the lesson, admln i<;tered the T('(lulsite numix'r o f whacks to the offender's back~id(· . M. Although the girls escaped the cane, Marina recalled being ~()und l y "panke(! when small for poking out her tongue at Ille gardcncrY rrom the hal'kl>lol'ks of Malaysia, the children learned about tht wider world from their father. Mari na was not allowl'd to have pen pill~ from South Mrica or israel because of apartheid and the I'a le~tinjan cauSl.'. Twice, an American teenager stayed with the fa mily fOI a couple of lIIonths under a student exchange programme, which Dr. Mahathlr "was really into", as Mukhriz Mahathir put it. The pa~nts lost some of their enthusiasm, though, after Marina, at 16, returned from three months in California "quite influ· cnCl'(1 b)' the AmerIcan way o f life~ , in Il{'r mot her's words. Marina had become u very forward , argumentaliv{''', Dr. Siti Ilaslilah said.'>II Marina l<lter became II journalist, Tlt'wsp<I!)C.r columnist amI S(X.'illl activist, heading the non·govern rn('ntal Malaysian .,,-ll)S Council for ten yenfs. Indulging an entre preneurial streak that had hel'n wil li him since ch ild- hood , I)r. Mahathlr invested in variOUS business:'~. In primary srhool, he had rx'ddled balloons to earn pockct lIloney, buying them lit two cents fo r thr('(' and selling them at twO cents each. if Ill' inherited the business bug, It surely came from h is mother. WaH Tempawan had Jxo(on resourcdul in contributing to the fa mily budgct. She rented space under the ho use to itinerant hawJ.:('rs, who skpt there and movt'tl around selling their wares during the day. She also grew jasmine, wh ich the ch ildren collected and threaded 0 11 string made fro m d riet! grass, fashioning g;ltlands fo r sale."' Mohlunad Iskandar'S only foray into busi ness, o n the other hand, had flopped. A~ait1st h is youngest son's advice, he sold frui t-prod ucing land to buy two trishaws, which he rented out. ~ Wt' never saw the rent 01 the trlshaws again," s<tid Dr. Mailll th ir.'~1 Dr. Mahatltir went into property d('veloprnent, tin mining, a franch ised petrol stat ion and a silop to do quIck prillling - sometimes to fescue Malay busInessmen in finalldat trouble - though not all his ventures were
  12. 12. profitilble. Dr. Mahathir recalled that befo re tht war there had been oilly two Malay shops in the whole of Alor Star.!" He helped found the Malay Chamber of Commerce and later serv('(1 as a director. "Mahathlr was an inspiration," said locally-born Jaafar Ismail, who in 2007 was the exc· Cltive director, infrastructurt·, of an Australian-listed international invest· ment fund and asset management group. " I saw business as a thing to dO."62 One of Dr. Mahathir's noteworthy investments began with his pilch to a sales representative, who distributed pharmaceuticals to doctors, to quit his Penang-based agency and ioin Dr. Mahathir in forming a rival company. Dr. Mahathir, with 30 per cent of tht' eqUity, was one of eight shareholders when MICO Farmasi Sdn. Bhd. was incoqX)f;lthi in 1964. He organized the flllancial side wh ile the former salesmall put together the management team and ran the company. [t was called Mleo, at Dr. Mahathir's sug- gestio n, for Malaysian Indian Chinese Organ ization, beca u~e the owners were drawn from all three ethnic groups. In addition to distributlng drugs wholesale throughollt Kedah and Perl is states, the company operated a retail pharmacy in Ala r Star. In 2008, 44 years later, MleO waS humming along with a staff of ten, its original family shareholder structure still in place, including Dr. Mahathir's stake. The managing director was l'laja Nasrudeen Abdul Ka reem, 46, the physiCian son of the salesman-founder, who had taken over upon his father'sdeatb in 1992.fL1 While Dr. Mahathir told friends he was trying to make money to launch his political bid, he did not hesitate to flaun t his wealth. He bought one of the biggest and most imposing alltomobiles ever produced by Detroit, a blue Pontiac. His later explanation that he acqui.red the car from a friend, who was the agent, because he was haVing trouble selling the Pontiac and offered it cheap - "only 12,000" dollars - and o n installments, was only part of the story. At a time when most people in Alor Star walked or pedaled bicycles along d usty streets lined with low wooden bui ld ings and everyone knew who owned which car, Dr. Mahathir was makIng a state- ment: It was "a symbol of his aspiration to prove the capabilities of the Malays", as one admirer saw it.64 Most immediately, it was a declaration that the boy fro m the wrong side of the tracks had arrived. "Maybe there's somc clement also of that," Dr. Mahathir conceded. In case anyone missed the point, Dr. Mahathir employed a Chinese driver. His later contention, thai "'1never realized that I was doing something odd" and that he hired the mao because he asked for the job and spoke Malay, should be taken with more than a grain of salt. His friends in Kuala Lumpur certainly let him know they found the arrangement "ullusual ~ . Remember that Dr. Mahilthir had cited Malays working as drivers as evidence of their marginalization in Singapore. As he once told a frknd, "A driver sits in the front of the car, but who is the t/lan? The master sits in the back. Who opens the door? The driver." M NatiOnally, the UMNO-Icd Malays, energized by the likes of Dr. Mahathlr, secured arrangements for independence largely on their terms, following British re-recogn ition in 1948 that Malaya was essent ially the land of the Malays. Independent Malaya, which materialized on 31 August 1957, was a "Ma lay~ nation-state where the "special position" of the Malays was rctog- nized in til(' Constitution. The sovereignty of the sultans in the nine Malay states was reaffirmed, and Ihey were given powers to reserve government jobs, licences, servic<.'S and scholarships for Malays, exercised in practice through political leadc.rs. But while the 8ritish COl1CN.kd Malay political primacy among the various races, they insisted that UMNO work out a basis for inter-racial cooperation, unity and harmony. It took the form of an Alliance linking UMNO with polit- ical parties representing the- Chinese and Indians. The three lJ.clrties negotiated what came into focus later as an unwritten "social contract", which most Malays hOIX'd would lead to economic improvement while most non-Malays hoped to gain po litical intlw:tlce. Although Malay was the national language and Islam "the" religion, qualified non-Malay residents of Malaya would share citizenship with Malays, and they would en joy fr('edom of worShip. The terms of the agreemcnt remained contentiolls, making the future nation-state subjcct to contin uing racial pr<.'Ssures and challt·nges.'.6 Just ,1S some Malays always would be ready to prt.·ss even harder for k<'II/(II/(//1 Mday/l, Malay supremacy, there would be non-Malays prepared. to resist Dr. Mahathir would be in the thick of the recurring wrangling. Although Dr. Mahathir was well placed to plunge into national politics, trouble loomed in the form of his nagging disagreements with Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was acclaimed as fJupa Ml'uieku, Father of Independence. At one level, it might be considCfl'"(l an inherited clash: Master Mohamad Iskandar had found it necessary 10 get outside help to keep a young Tun ku Abdul Rahlllilll in check in his school. The fi rst to aomit ill adulthood that he was naughty ;m d in need of discipline as a child, the Tunku U5ed to arrive every dily on the sholllders of an aged palace attendant, resplendent in a gold-studded cap as part of his royal regalia. With the approval of the Tunku's mother, Mohamad Iskandar had pul a stop to the fancy dress, in the interests of equality among the students, and he devised a quick solution to a teacher'S complaint that the Tunku was disrupllng his class. He sat him near the teacher's table./)] Differences between Dr. Mahathir and Tunku Abdul Rahman, however, were much d('('per. The irritation and periodic ill-feeling, which would be a factor in Malaysian polities for 40 years, was mutual. The two came from vastly d ifferent backgrounds and generatio ns, and saw the world through d ifferent eyes. It was hard to imagine two more opposite personalities, who happent'd to be horn in the same state and engaged in the same endeavour at such a critical juncture in the country's history.
  13. 13. 18 MfliCly.i(!/1 Mm't'ficle On(' of 45 children of the Sultan of Kedah, Tunku Abdul ltahman was an Anglophile, who readily admitted he had misspent his youth In England on slow horses and fast women. Hl' earned his arts degrec with the lowest possible marks for a pass and was 45 by the tim(' b(' passed his fina l bar cxam, having work('( In the Ke(ah civil service. A confmll('d bon vivant who contlnucd to drink and gambk moderately, he was superstitious, ( h,mnlng and put a high store on being happy, though h(' had natura l po lltlcal instincts and devl'lopcd a steely resolve. "The Tunku", or simpl y "Tunkll", as he was affecliomllely known even though numerous others of royal birth bore the same tit le, became UMNO leader fortUitously. When the post opened up unexpectedly in 195 1, Razak Ilossein was asked to stand, but nominated his friend, the Tunku, bccause he considered himself too young. Not only did Dr. Mahathir not smoke or gamble, he strongly disapproved of the lifestyles of senior civil servants and politicians who spent their I('bun.' hours in bars and dance halls - and on the golf course, a game played by the first three prime ministers. He was incenSE.'d by feudal aspects of royalty and scathing about the hold that some tradit ions had on th(' Malays, exemplified by the proverb, "L.et the child die, but lei not the custom pe rish.~ He pointed out with dour logk that " if Ihe child dies, then the custom dies along with HIt.1>!! As (ar as Tunku Abdul Rahman was concerned, Or. Mahathir lacked respect for Malay custom known as fldot and did not know his place. He was certain he r{'Cognized in Or. Mahathir an inf('riority complex occa· sioned by his part-Indian ancestry, bet:ause he hlms('lf had suffered from the same "diseasc" when looked down upon over his skin colour while studying in Cambridge. "To overcome this feeli ng of Inferiority,~ said the TlI llku, " I bought the most expensive, at that till1e, super sports car and I sped through town i n It 1ll.1king quite a nuisan("(,' o( myself. Just to be noti(ed." t,~ While Dr. Mahathir had his gian t Pontiac, he want('(illlon,' than personal attention. He had a cause to sell as well. Although he and Tunku Abdul I~ah ma n shared the opinion lhat the Malays were not very clever or dcmand- ing, they pa rted sharply over what should be done about It. Th(' Tunku fi&'llrt'(l they would be {"onlenl to control the machil1<'ry of state, heading gov- ernment departments, the police and Ihe army, and Issuing licences and eol- lel1ing taxes. He was quite open alxlut leaving business to the Chinese because. he said, they were good at it and the Malays "have no idea how to make money". Dr. Mahathir wanted nothing less than to teach the Malays to compete and get their fair share of Ihe nation's rkhe~. Dr. Mahathir and Tunku Abdul Rahman first clashed during the anti- Malayan Union campaign back in the 19405. The Tunku was "very an noyed ~ when Mahathir, still a student, corrected grammatical mistakes in a letter drafted by the Tunku to be sent to the colonial st'cretary."-' Dr. Mahathir l'uiitidu,l lJy Wi/( amll'(,lIet 19 ('merged as an internal critic in 1954 after Tunku Abdul Rahman - named chief minist('r of a gowrnment that was granted home rule after leading the Alliance to victory in 5 1 of 52 contested s('ats in tilt' country's first general ell>etion - negotiated wit h London for an end to the British IH(,S- enee. Dr. Mahathir ob jected to an agreement allowing British and other Cornrnomvealth forces to remain in Malaya after Independence In return for a commitment to th(' (ountry's external dc(eIKc. Hc somt' im{'s found hlrnsl'lf out of step wiIII UMNO's ]('adersh ip and sharIng vIews with oppo- ~lt ion parties. He also opposed Ihe adoption of the folk tunc TI'f(lIIg Hulall, r("packaged as Nt'${1w ku, as the national anthem, on the grounds of its ~en ti nl{'n t alit y . H e lost th,tt argument, 10 0 , but h,1(1 Ihe last .sely when he bc:ame prime minister much later. Chairman of UMNO in Kedah and known nationally, Dr. Mahathir was eXpl'i:led to be a candiclate in the 1959 genew l eit'Ction, the fi r~t in inde- pcmk nt Malaya. Hul he withdrew over a minor confl kt, revealing another side of his personality ,lOd politkal style that would crop up Ix'riodically in his career: a deep senSitivity to the actions of othl;'rs alld, on occasions, an all-Of-nothing response to political problems.?) Dr. Mahath lr had proposed that UMNO members choscn as candidates should have ccrtaln {'ducational qualifications, alienating some members, who appealed to Tunku Abdul Rahman. Or. Mahathir said that as "the party president backed them", he "withdrew from active IJarticipation in the party".ll Determined that when he madc his entry II would b(' all his terms, Dr. MahathiI kept up the criticism. "There Is no way that I will go 10 Kuala l.umpur just to tag along with the Tunku at the golf course In order to make a comeback,~ he sald.1 lie did not have to. Nominated as thc Alliance candidate for Kcdah's Kola Star Soulh parliamentary constituency in 1964, he romped home against a I'ersatuan 1~lam 5.1 Tanah Melayu (PAS) opponl'nl. Notes Kua Kia Soong, cd., K. I hH & /11,' Tllllle" 'rClfJI:~ (1'el..llnl; Jaya: Str..tcgic tnfo R.~~a rch Dl,,'clopIllCIlt, 2002), l'p. 131- 132. 2 Zainuddin Maldln. '111(' Oilier Si(i(' of MdlU/tlti, (Kuata Lumpur: Utusan I'ublicatiolls &: Distributors Sdn. liM ., 1994), p. 14. 3 tntcrv!{'w wit h Ab....ullah Ahmad, 30 May 2007, 4 Intervit'w with Khalil! Alxlullah, 28 f d1fuary 2007. 5 John FUllston, ~ jl() lit il"lI l Cau.'crs of Mahathir Mohamad and An war Ibrahim: [la ra lll.'!, Inll'rsl't'ling and COlllllCling Lives", IKMAS Working Papers (Institute of Malaysian and In tl'rIllltlonal Studlt'S, Uni Vl'rsltl Kl' ba n g ~a .m Malaysi a), no. 15 Ou ly 1998): I- Iv, 1- 32. 6 Con1llcting Vil'W$ I'xlst on Ik M"hathlr's orisi ns. Two prominent K holars 113V(' wriHen that Dr. Milhathlr'5 father was an immigrllIll from India. See Joh n Flln~toll , "The Legacy (i f I)t. Mahat hir", AIIS/w/IIIII nmlllc/III R('I'irw, 30July 2004; and Michal'll.t'ifer, /Jicfiollfuy of111(' MOf/rflt Po/ilks or s.mtll('(lst Asia (London and N~'w York Routledge, 1996 ('<litlon), p. 158. Khoo Roo Telk, "arwioxr.s orMalUltlljr-
  14. 14. 1'111: A"lmd/rcllml W('.~ml'l tyof M<llwlilir Moltamil<l (Kuala I.umpu r: Oxrord UnIver- sity I'rc)s, 1995), p. 15, suggestL'l1that Dr. Mahathir's father, Mohamad Islandar, waSIx)rn 111 Malaya by noting Ih~ t he " 'itS ~IMlf Indian". 7 Dr. Mahat hlr dcnlloJ - email correspondence 12 rebruary 200c) - that his grand. fa ther'~ full name was Iskandar Kuty, as reported in rome- ne-wspapcr artll"i<.'s and on the Internet. lie said he had never heard the na me Klltty In his f:ull ily: l'mall COrTe-Slxmdl'nce 18 February 2009. 8 Intl'rvlt-w wllh Mahonhlr Mohalllad, H August 2007. 9 rllon(" Intt'rvie-w with Ah mad Mustapha Hassan, 31 May 2008. 0 Interview wll h Mahalhir Mohamad. 20 March 2007. I I Intl'rvil'w with t.'lukhri7 Mahathir, 22 March 2007. 12 Email correspom.lenc(' ....ith Marina Mahathir, 24 J;lIluary 2008. 13 Int'rvie-w with Mahathlr Mohamad. 14 August 2007. 14 Email rorreslkmdencc with John Fu nston, 2 June 2006. 15 J. Victor Morais, M(I/tuthl,: A "'ufik i" CIHlrtlS{" (I'etallng Jaya: EasU'rfl Unlvcnltles I'ress (M) Sdn, 8M" 1982), p. I. 16 Interview with Shaari Daud, 27 February 2007. 17 Robin , dsh'ad, Mall1llllif of Maluysia: Stute.mllll/ ,/lid Ll'mkr (London: 1111I1s(:1I) j'ublishing Company, 1989). p. 27. 18 Intl'rvil'w with Mah,uhir Mohamad, 31 March 2008. 19 Ihid. 20 john Funs!()n, "The l.o:gal-Y of Dr. Mahathir". 21 Inh'rvj(,w wilh Mu~ tap.a l(a!.Sim and Abdul Rah man Azll, 26 rchruary 2007. 22 Robin Adshead, .""alr",hi, o(M"I"y~i", 1" 21:t 23 Inl('rvi("w with Mahalhir Mohalllad, 20 March 2007, 24 Ibid. 25 Interview with Mahathil Moha tnad, 31 Mardl 200R. 26 Rubin Adshl'ad, M,IIwtl,iruf!l1<1/(I,'Sit., p. 33. 27 Inlervkw wilh Mahathir Moh,ltllad, 20 March 20()7. 28 Robin Adshead, .1('/III//t;, ofMI,/uysia, p, 34, 29 Interview With Mahathll Moharuad, 31 March 2008. 30 Intcrvl("ws ~'ith Mahilthlr Moilamad. 20 March. 14 Augusl 2007. 31 john FunSlon, Mrolltical Cafl'('rS of Mahathir Moharnad ami Anw.lr Ibrahim: Parallel, Intersecting and Conflicting Uve~ ~. 32 In ler'kw with Mahathir Mohalllild, 20 Milrch 2007. 33 Dr, Mahathlr Mollamad, "New Thoughts on Nationality", In 'fI/(' Hurly Y{"(ln; 1947-1972 (I(uata Lumpur: Ik'rita l'ublhhi ng StIlt. Bhd., 1995), PI', 85-87. 34 john Funslon, ~l'olillcal CiHl't:r~ of Mahath ir Mohamad amI Anwar Ibrahim: I'aralle!, Inlcfsc.'Cti ng and ConOlctlng Uvcs". 35 Or. Mah:lIh lr Mohamad. "Mal:1y Jlro~r~ss and Ihl' University". In TIll' ~;ur'}' YI''''s. p. 70, l'ltC!d in john Fllt1slJn, ~ "Olilk,ll CarC(!ts of Mallat!!lr Mohullla{1 and Anwar liJr"hit n: Parallel, Intl'r('rting and <:llnniCling UV('~". 36 Inll'rvlew with Sill Hasrnah Moh,u1l3d Ali, 17Jal1l1ary 200M. ]7 Lee I( lan Yl'W, flom Tlti,'" WUlld '0 I:ils(: Till' Si"suf!/)f(' Story: lYfiS- 200u (Sin>:apore: 1'11111:5 ~kdla I'll'. Ud.. 2000), p. 276. 38 Ibid., p. 276. 39 Intervll'w with Or. Won): II1'c Ong, 21 M;HCh 2007. 40 Interview with Dr. Wong lll'l' Ong, 21 M;HCh 2007; pho ne in terview with Dr. Jaml'S Mumga~u, 2J June- 2ooS. 4 1 intervl("w with Wang GUlIgWl, 6 Oclolx'r 2006. 42 jolm Fu n~to n, "l'ol1ll'al Url'i.·rs of Mahal hir Moharnad and Anwar Ibrahim: l'araHel. ImefSCCllng and Conl1lcllng Ll vl'S ~. 4i Ihld. 44 Ik Mahathlr Mohamad, ~Ma l ay I'logrc)s and the UniVl'rsity·, In Till' Emir YI'<II':i. p.70. 05 InlC!rvil'w wilh Mahathlr Mohalllad, 14 AugusI2007. 46 [m erview with Khalld Abdullah, 28 Fl'bruary 2007. 17 Intervi("w with Mukhriz Mahathlr, 22 March 2007. "8 Zainuddin Maldin, 1111' 00'1'1 Sidl' V(MIIII.lll1ir, p, 6. 49 Intervlo.-w with Shaarl naud, 27 february 2007. SO Intervicw with Sitl I-Iasmah Moha mad Ali, 17 january ZOOS. 51 F.l1Iall correspondence with Marina Mahat hlr, 24 January 2()()8. S2 J. Victor Morais, M,,/wlili'. p. I. 5J IrttervlcI with Sili Ilasmah Mohamad All, 17 january 2006. S4 Interview with M"hathlr Mohamacl, 20 March 2007. 5S Email corrl'Spondence wit h Marina Mahathit. 24 january 200ft 56 Interview with Mukhrl;e Mahathir, 22 March 2007. 57 Email cOH'Spond('ncl' with Marina Mahalh ir, 24 Janua ry 2ooK. 58 Intervi......... with SitI Hasmah Moha mad AI!, 17 J,ltl uary 2008. 59 Interview with Mahathl r Moham;ld, 31 Marth 200S. 60 J. ViCIOr Morals, M"/,,,tlti,, p. 1. 61 lnl("rview with Mahathir Mohamad, 20 MilKh 2007. 62 Interview with M_ Jaaf'.;Ir Ismail, I I De<.1!mbcr 2007. 63 IIIIervi('w with Haja Nasrudeen Abdul Kar('("m, 28 February 2007. 64 Zainuddin Maidin, TI~ 0011"' Sldl' Qf MI/llatlllr, p, 7, 65 Interview ",i th Abdullah Ahmad, 23 March 2007. 66 Cheah Roon Kheng, Ma/aysi(l: 1'J.{" MlIkillg u( 1/ Natio" (Si ngapore: Inslitul(" of Southeast Asian Studies, 2002), p. 6. 67 J. Victor Morais. MII/m,lfir, pp. 4-5, 68 Zain uddin Maidlo. TI~ Ot/." Sick O(MII/wt/li" p. 15. 69 Kua Kia Soong. ed., K. Vas« till' 1imkll Taprs. p, 1n . 70 Interview with Mahathir Mohamad. 20 Match 2007. 71 john Funston, MPolitical Careers of Mahilthlr Mohamad and "n....·ar Ibrahim: Paraliel, Inte~ting and Conflicting UV"SM. 72 Interview with Mahathir Mohamad, JI March 2008. 73 l.Jinuddin Maldin, 1'1'1' Ollll!f 5;(/(' o( M"/lal/II" p. IS.
  15. 15. 2 An Early Introduction to Brutal Politics Grilbbing the political spotlight after hb election, Or. Mahathir t'stilblisht'd a reputatiOn as an a{"tive and articulate parliamentarian in dcfclH:c of the Malays. II<- became lJMNO's main spokesman in the ruling party's conflict with Singapore, led by Lee KUan Yew, over the kind of ~ociet y they were trying to bulld.L Or. Mahathir'$ first parliamentary l('rlll. from 1964 to 1969, was an extremely turbulent lx-rial! in tlw coun try's political dcvelop- ment, and one of the hottest Issues wa~ the presence of Singapore. By he lime Dr. Mahathir took his place in the lIouS(' of Representatives, Malaya had become Malaysia, a new territorial configuration whose legit- ilTlacy was opposed hy the Philippines and challenged hy Prc:.idelll Subrno's Indonesia with a m](~d incursions. Established 0 1 16 Septemix'r 1963, Ma!;lysi<l hnd Malaya as the core, with three olher fonner British colontal lcrrilOries tackeoJ on: self-governing SingalxHc, jOim'd by ,Icauseway to lX'ninsular Malaya, alld Saba!! and S,1rawak, severa! hundr('(1 kilomrtres away across tht' South China Sea in lIorneo. Among the numerous cakulations that wellt into the creation of Malaysia was the primary desire to OffSl'! Singapore's pre- dominantly Chinese population in order to prot('(t the pt:'l1 in~ular Malays. While Indonesia's so-called ConfrorH"atioll fa(It'd with lht:' end of the Sukarno regime through internal turmoil, SingaIX)re'S induslon turned MalaYSia into a communal battleground that recalled the MillaY,11 Union debatc. I.ee Kuan Yew's People's Action i'arty acvoc<ltcc a "Malaysian MalaYSia", meaning a mult iracial nation in which ('V('ryone enjoyed political t:'ql1ality cven if the Malays wcre accorded spedal economic and socia! rights. Wh ile Dr. Mahathi r's mOTe eX1X'rienced colleagues I('rt' reluctant to do dirt"Ct com- hat with Le<.', acknowll'dg<,<J as a brilliantl)()llt ician and debater, the country doctor was fearless. Referring to I.ee, he dlsmlss('(1 "the mad ambition of o ne man to sec himself as the fi rst Chinese prime minister of Malaysia".";! Selected to give the formal "address of thanb" to the King, despite being a rdatively raw backbencher, Dr. Mahathir dclivert'(l all emotional spl'('ch to Parliament on 26 May 1965. li e attacked the "so-called non-communal parties", the People's Action Party and the Malayan Socialist Front, for 22 .'III f:<lrly IlIlr(}(illc/iOI/ /(I Bml,," '/Jlilio 23 being "pure Chinese chauvinists" and "the most cOlllmunal and rilcialiM In their attitudes". He discerned only one d ifference between them: "The Soci<lJist Front is merely pro-Chinese and communist-oriented, while the PAP is prO-Chinese, cOllununist-oriented and positivt'ly anti-Malay." Dr. M<lhathir conlrilsted some Chinese who "appreciate the neell for <III communities to be well-off" with "the insular, selthh and arrogant type, of which Mr. Lec is a good example". Most of them had never crossed the causeway, he said. "They have never known Malay rule and could not bear the Idea tlwt tlw people that they have 0 long kept under their hecl~ ,hould now bt: in a position to rule them."~ When Singapore was expelled from Malay~la less than three month~ later and became a nation In its own right, Dr. Mahathlr chcNed. "I felt Singapore was too big a mouthful for MalaYSia," he ~aid. "SlngdPorean Chinese were too aggressive" and lacked the understanding and !>ensitivity of most Mala~ian Chinese.' The Singaporeans may hav(' lost th('ir Malaysian Mi]laysla dreillll, !Jut they left a mark on Dr. Mahathir that was to haunt him for a long time: the label of "ultra", or communal extremist, which was adopted enthusiast- ically hy his Malaysian o ppOnt'nts liS well. Certainly radlc"l, Dr. Mallilthir appealt.'d emOtiOnally to the Malays and often frightened the Chinese, who viewed him with suspicion. Yet he deniLxI being an {'xtremlst and COIll- plained that he was misinterpreted and mhunderstood, and that the tag made it hard to explain his stand in a rational manner. Dr. Mahathir identified with a younger group in UMNO that began to develop diff(,rent "iews from those of party leader... They urged greater gov· ernment assistance for Malays. closer alignment with Afro-Asian develop- ing countries and opposition to foreign troops being based In Malaysia. Elected chairman of the Afro-Asian People's So lidarity Organization's com- mittee for Malaysia In 1964, Dr. Mahathir represented the coumr)' oversea~ in <I bid to weaken international support for Indonesia, thenli'ngaged in its anti-Mala~ia Confrontatioll. Members of till' group looked to Dr. Mahathir for leadership, light-heartedly calling him among themselves "Osagyefo". the title given to Kwame Nkrumah, the presiden t of Ghana, the first black African country to shake off the chains of colo nialism." Osa~,.}'do means "Redeemer" In Twl, a dl<llcct of the Akan language. Life In Kuala I.umpur for Dr. Mahathir was not all sweat and tears, IlOwever. For one of tlc few times In his life, he let his hair down occasion- ally in the company of another first- term UMNO parliamentarian, Tunku Abdullall Tuanku Abdul [t(lhman, a playboy prince from the Negri Sembilan royal fam ily who lVent by tile name of Charlie. An unlikely duo, they hecame fi rm friends, wit h Dr. Mahat hir St<lying in Tunku Abdullah's house when Parliament was in session. "With him J could go to all the Ut!st places in Kuala Lumpur and 1I0t feel out of place," said Dr. Mahathir.7 Urged by the absent I)r. Siti liaslIl:h to give her still-slly husband a "push"
  16. 16. socially, 'Iunku Abdullah 0l)1l8~d by ('storting him to the S~ln ngor Club, the J...1Kl' Club and elsewhere, while j><'rsuadlng him 10 dance and have a glass uf white wine. "I hrought him down to my level," said Charlie. "OlhcrwiM' it would have Ix't'li horing."1! In tIll' COOlp4ny of Tunku Abdullah, who would later build a substantial business group, Dr. Mahalhir's entrepreneurial sparks began 10 ny again. ThC'y went inlo partnership, starting a limOUSine service from the airport to the city, and acquiring a 20·room hotel in Sumatra, but neither venture took off. Lacking borrowing power, thcy had to sell out to a third partner after acquiring land and lJuliding W!sma Budiman, a high·rise commercial building, in the capital. ~It was a good effort" and they made "some money", said Tunku Abdullah, though politics remained tlil' priority for Dr. Mahathit. With the v.uious races r('presentcd hy the Alliancc, however impe-rfecliy, and the economy til-king over, Malaysia was s('('n internationally as a developing·world sun:('ss. 'I'll{' newly n eate-d count ry had survived expan- sion to include Si ngapo re, Sab'lh .t!ld Sarawak, co ntr.lctlon with lhe wit h, d rawal of SinglLpon:, il Chinil·backcd l'Oll1munist immgcm'y that rcqulrl'<.1 ,I sla t ~' of emergency frolll 948 to 1960, <lOci Sukarno's milit<try l)1'ov(JCa· lions. So it was no surprise that Tunku Abdul Rahm,1Il was incli ned to sit back, smile and pcriod k ally proclaim himself "the happkst prime minIster in the world". Who could blame him? Answer: Dr. Mahathir. lie warned that the Tunku's appro'l(."h was misguided and would not Illst, and that behind the peardul f'H.:ade pres,surl'S were building dangerously. Su b~cquell research would show Dr. Mahathir W,IS right. The consti- tutional bias in favour of til(' Malays simply was not working in practice. Soon after Malaya ol)taill('<i indl'lX'TUlence. the avl'rage aTlllual income for an adult mate was calculated at RM3,223 for Chinese, RM2,OU for Indians and RMt ,463 for Malays.1I Many a~S<.'SsllU'IltS showed that titt' Malay share of national wl'alth d('Clint'd over th(' I1l'xt tt'n to 15 year.s. While goV('rnIlH.'nt Slx'nding was SUPfX)sed to hav{' IK.'t.'n heavily sk('w(.'(1 in favour of the countrysldc where 70 per cent of Mai;l)"I toik>d as rite farmers, ftshl'rlllcn and rubix'r small·holders, it was insuffic:icnt, or not gUldt.'d by tlte appropriate policil..'s, to promote meaningful change. Malay rural life, in fact, was st.tgnating. with farmers missing out un the growth being achieved by the overall economy. While the provisIon of roads, irrigation, electriflcatiun and (ochnical advice helped, such infrast ructurc could Ilot Ovt'r(,OIlW imtitutional nmstraints such as l.tlldICssncss, lack of rCilsonahh: credit and marketi ng rnOllopoiies.I(I Looking back, political sck'nti.st John Funston found thal thE' rcason for the lack of Mal:ty progrl'ss IV:tSthat UMNO did not have control of the political ~ystelll, despite wh,lt WitS almost universally belil'ved. Whilc UMNO field(.'(i most candidate.. In eJections and h;lci a dl'dsive majority of C:tbinet slots, it was thl' ChInese "artncr, till.' Mahlyslall Chinese Associatio n, that provided All E(/flr/lI/roclr/('1i1J1I 10 Hrutd l l'oliti(~ 25 IIImt of the AllianC(' funds and held the two key portfolios, Financl', and ( ormnert·c and Industry. t nd while It was true that power was concentrated III the hands of Tunku ,belul Rahman, he was no typical Malay and did Ilut alway'S repr(!';l'nt their interests. In many ways, the Anglicized, mahjong· pl,tylng, horse race·loving Tunku had mort' in (o mmon with the leadl'rs of Ilit, Alliance partner parties than with the rank .md file of ur'.1NO.II Presciently, in a newspaper artldt, published in 1968, Or. Mahathir fore· '»11' ,I "pent·up reservoir of iIl.feelings", with thl' potential for violence, l)l:hlnd the seemingly "harmonious relationship betwc('n thl' raccs". Noting tiM! racial intolerance leading to riots had occurred In the United States, IIritain, Africa and neighbouring ASian (ountril'S, he said preventi'(> mea!o- urcs were needed to avoid it haplX'ning in Malaysia. He was in touch wllh people on the ground, and ~J know that tlu.' slg n~ and ~ymptorns are ,rlrt.'ady there.~ flaving giv('11 a similar warning In an art icle the previous month, I.)r. MahJI hir co ncluded, "If I may say so again, soon it may be tOO 1,lIe."12 Just over a year later, on 13 May 1969, Dr. M'lhiltitlr's grim prcdit"tion came I rue. Three days after a gelleral election result upset the precarious Ih11ance of hope and kilr, following a camp'llgn thill arouS(.'(1C()mTIIUllal p.ilS~ions, Malays ilnd ChinC!>l' indulged in an orgy of killing, looting and lJurning in Kuala I umpur. Although the Alilanre government retaIned a majority In Parlla· ment, UMNO lost Mof its 59 scats, on(' of thelll Dr. Mahalhir's. The oppos· Itlon won 14 urban scats, 13 of thcm at tl(' cxpen!><: of Ihe Mala~ian Chinese ASSOCiation. Critk'ally, the opposition captured half of the scats in the Sclangor ':Ilate As!';embly, raising the possihility that a Malay state that included the nation's capital would pa..s into Chlne!>C hands. Chin('S{' and IndIan opposition ~upporl('rs paraded through the streets of Kuala Lumpur in cciebrdtion, taunting and insulting the Malays. Fearful that they were losing their last refuge, political dominan('(', the Malays retal- Iated. The} slaughtered each otllt'r with an assortment of f'c"alI.'<s, a type of macheue with a wooden handle, I<.niH'S, daggers, iron b.1rs and mlwr impro- vised weapons. while torchillg CJr and buildings. By the time the anny moved In and n.'SIOR'<l order, terrified Chinese and Malays wt're hudd led behind makeshift barricades In a Illazc of fortifll'd. enclavcs ,"l trolJed by armed vigilantes. The ofli:cialtoll wa.. put at 1% dead and 4]9 wounded. Unofficial estimates r.lIIllludl higher. "May 13" was scan'<i in the young nation's soul: a date, a bloodb:ltit, a tragedy. The following day, the king procl;limed a .'itate of Fmergency, suspcndL,( Parliament and a National Operations COlttlcll took over, a scrious setback for the Iledgllng democracy. It effectively markl'd the end of Tunku Abdul Rahnwn's reign, though he dId nOI formally retire as prime minister untll September )970. Oeput)' Premier Ral.ak, who was also defence ministl'r and minbter for hom(' affairs, slipped easily Into the chairmamhip of the coundl, which governed by decree for thl' next 2 1 months.
  17. 17. 26 Ma/aysian Mi/wric/; In UMNO, young Malay nationalists associ<lted with Dr. Mahathir, including Musa Hitam, an assistant minister, and Abdullah Ahmad, polit- ical secretary to Ralak, reached a rough consensus 011 tile electoral results. They felt the "social cOlllract " had failed, that UMNO had conceded too much to the Chinese, and the country must be "r('turned" to the Mal'IYs. They held Tun ku Abdul Rahman responsible and relt he should quit, but Ismail Abdul Rahmiln, recruiled as home affairs miTLister by Razak, told a four-man delegation, which Included Dr. Mahathir, that he would not tolerate any attempt to depose the Tunku. At the same time, though, Ismail said to give him and Razak .1yeM , and If they failed to "arrange things" with the Tunku, they would openly back a putsch against him.U The anti- Tunku agitators were supposed to be patient. Dr. Mahathir had other ideas. He sat down in Alor Star o n 17 Jun(' ;lOd hammered out the most notorious letter in Malaysian politics. This was no sural layallS, flying letter, an anonymous poisoned messag~' designed to discredit an opponent, which is a ("ommon ta(tlc. He addressed hiS missive to Tunku Abdul Rahman, and signed it. Having been reprimanded by the Tunku for commenting publicly o n tht' delicate political Situation, Dr. Mahathir sent a letter in Malay that political scientist Karl von Vorys called no teworthy not only because it was dc1iberat~ly offensive but also because it rcpresentl.'d the mood of many Malays. 14 In it, Dr. Mahathir said Tunku Abdul Rahman'Spro.-Chine.se pOlicies were directly responsible for the "May 1J " riots. Malays, whether UMNO or the opposition Persatuan Islam Sa Tanah Melayu (PAS), "really hate you...,~ he said. "I wish to convey what the community really thinks, which is that it is high time you resigHed as prime minister and head of UMNO." Dr. Mahathir said he felt the responSibility to speak up, even if it meant he might bc jailed. lie accused the Tunku of continuing to play poker "with your Chinese friends" during the emergency, USing police vehicles and escorts to find players. On a sensitive, pe rsonal note, Dr. Mahathir wrote that he had heard that the Tunku had called him "Pakistani" - an allUSion to his South Indian forebears - but he did not believe it. This was because Dr. Mahathir had always defendc.>d the Tunku when ['AS called him "the son of Siam " - a rd- er('nce to hIs Thallllothcr - which impllt'd h(' was unfit to be the leader of the Malays. So, Dr. Mahathi.r said, h(' expectc(1 that the Tunku would have defended him, despite his having "two spoonfuls of Pakistani blood in my body". Having withdrawn earlier at the merest hint of a brush wilh Tunku Abdul Rahman, Dr. Mahathir chose Ihe extreme opposite tack this time: frontal assault. 11 was all or nothing again. And it was hugely risky for anyone hoping to climb the political ladder, though it was almost certainly carefully calculated. As would become clearer later, Dr. Mahathir rarely, if ever, made a pOlitical move without weighing the likely consequences. All Hllrly Itrl ro.JlldiOiI I I) IJmtll/ /'ulitic.... 27 Mort' than most, he realized how deeply unpopular the TUl1ku had become .1I110ng Malays. Ihe Tunku was doubly furious to fi nd that Dr. Mahathir's letter was Itt'ing read throughout the country. While student sympathizers passed on ,nples, til{' letter was systematic;tlly distrihuted by a group that included It,lz,lk's Ili<le, Abdullah Ahmad. Membe rs chipped in a total of RM I,SOO to t(lv('r ink, t'nvelopes and post,lge, copied the letter and mailed it to every- IIlIe on UMNO, universities ilnd civil service invitation lists that they oht,lined.ls 1I0w and when the letter left Dr. Mahath ir's hands remained disputed. Nlll' gave it to tht' right peo ple," said Abdullah, who rnaintaint'd that he ',Iwa copy before Dr. Mahalhir sent it to Tunku Abdul Rahman. " bdullah ....lld h(' showt'd the letter to Razak, who said, ''I've read it. We've d iscussl.'d It, but please understand that I haven't Sl.'en this letter."16 Dr. Mahathir, h(lwever, denied clrculatillg the leiter in advance to anyone, " Later o n, I ~a vc copies to fr iends" as a ~ kind of insur'lIIce. If anything happens to me Ihey will know I have dOll(' this".!i Ihe one person Dr. Mahat hir might have informed, consl(i('ring he was It'!I[Jarliizing his political career, was Dr. Siti J-Iasmah. But he told his wife lIothing - "I was shocked," she said - establishi ng a pattern of behaviour lilat he was to observe throughout his political life.'H Involved in some of the most tumultuous events in the nation's history, Dr. Mahathir declined tn discuss them as they unfolded with his family. Returning ho me in the l'wlli ng after upheavals in the government or party, he would usually H'm;lin tight-lipped. Uke other Malaysians, his wife and children learned what happened from newspaper and TV reports. "We would never know ,Iho ut it, ('V(,JI if Iw had <Illig day," said Mukhriz Mahathir. 19 i'unku Abdul Rahm<II's response to Dr. Mahathir was an ultimatum: I{l'ign o r be expelled from the party. Sensi ng high. level sympathy fo r I)r. Mahathir, e....en with the deputy prime Illinister, the Tunku also issued ,III ultimatum to Razak: It was either h.im or Mahathir.20 With Razak preSid- ing, Dr. Mahathir was evicted o n 12 July 1969 from UMNO's Supreme ( ouncll, to whkh he had bE'eo elected on an annual baSis since 1965. Aware of what the verdict would be, Dr. Mahathir still refused to apologize or back down wilen addressing fellow council members, The charge was Im'acil of party discipline, that he had widely circulated wrrespondence ("Orltaining "vitally important pa rty mattcrs" that should have been first d i ~cuss('(1 by the Suprc'Tn(, Co uncil. He insisted then, as he would sub- ('(Iucntly, that he had not abetted its dissemination. On 26 September, Dr. Mahathir was kicked out of the party altogether. Musa Hitam, one of his staunchest allies in the anti-Tunku campaign, was forced to resign as ,assiStant minister 10 lhe deputy prime minister. With Musa heading abroad to study and Dr. Mahathir beating a retreat to Kedah to resume full-lime practke as a docto r, the crisis in UM NO was
  18. 18. over, anu Tunku Alxlul Ra hman <lppcaroo to have prev..llcd. But it was some- thing of it last gasp for the Tunku. Students at institutiOn!'> of higher learn- ing were agitating for his removal, making it necessary for the National Operations Council to ban "any meeting, proc('ssion, demonstration or puhlic utterance to get Tunku Alxlul Rahman to '>tep down from offlcc". Dr. Mahathir's letter wa!> abo formally banned. with printing, selling or dis- tributing It punlsh..ble Ily thrre ycar~ Imprisonment and a rille of RM2,OOO. Witll this son of protectiOn, no outsiders could force till' Tunku to quit, Ihough iu~t itS surt'ly he would Ita longer iJave the final sayon m<ltt f'r~ of sub- slanc{'. New poliCies were 011 the way to ensure Malay political dontinann', and the TunJ..u would bE' carril'd along with the tide, before being cased out. Dr. Mahathir blamed Chlnl'sl' volNS for Ihe surprising loss of his St'at. i'riends s.lid he courted defeat with a loose comment in advan("(' that he could win if ..11 the Malays, who constituted 80 to 90 per cent of the Kota Star South constilul'ncy, voted for him. His remark was interpretcd in , Cllinl'Sl' n(·wspaper as ;til ilHult 10 mean he did not nCl'{l Chinese sup· port, and Chinese vOlers responded by rl<'serting him In favour of his PAS o ppon(·nt.1.1 Dr. Mahathlr agrc('d tllat the Chinese - who held what Ile called "the casting vote si nce Ih{' Malays WCT(' fairly cvenly split - had switched allegial1l:l'. But he said It was because "they thought I was a ~t alay ultra", the label given to him by Sillgapore. Defying national Ir('nds, "bl'CdllSC I was known as a champion of til(' Malay....,.. his Malay vole actually IIlcrcased, hl's<tid.Z2 With the police still illVl'Stlgating his letter, I)r. Mahathlr feared arrest. IIe learned from police tri('nd!'> thai Tunku Ahdul Rahman wanled to detain him, but they persuaded the Tunku it would o nly make a martyr of Dr. Mahathir.21 Too late: IIe was already a hero In Malay eyes. rhe rapid seq uence of shattering events - a traumallc election c.1mpaign, his defe,tt, th(' "May 13" violence, the I'unku leller, double expulsion - gave him an al lllost cult-like following In his community. As political '>Cientist Khoo noo ·1elk said, "It trilllsformed him from being a failed elecloral Gtlldidate into a living symbol of Malay nationalism."l4 III no siage during his almost three years in thc politiCal wi ldcrttc~s did Dr. Mahathlr lose interest In shaping the debate on MalaYSia'S future. III addition 10 running his clinic and inve....ting, he stepp{'( up his writing. In early 1970, he publishl..'d hi~ best known hook, 71'1' Malay DiI(,III/1/(/,.!5 vhich was promptly banned in MalJysla, remaining proscribed until Ill' be<:ame prime minister in 19R1. Th{' ban added to Dr. Mahathir'!,> maverick image without the contents of Ih(' book remaining st.'uN, sinC(' it WitS ilvailable in Singapore and he ;lc{"cpIed ~pca ldn g invitations and discus~cd Ihe sub· s t;tll("C of it. Two otht'r puhlicatiortS that ilppeilred a few Yl'ars later wert' ubstant!aily written during this pe riod. I'mu/HfIllI)l'IIiasa Kt'ril, publiSht'd in 1974, appeared in English in 19M5 as GI/;/lt' (or SIl/(/lIlJltsillt~~SIll(,II. It adviS<'d Malays how to get startl'd in busin("Ss and, in particular, how to succeed All Early '"/rudu(liuI/ to lim/,,' PfJlitio. 29 ,I}l,tlmt Chinese competition.2.. The 14 essay.... published as M(,lIglllltil/pi t ,,/11/((111 In 1976, and issued In 1986 as Tilt' Clll/lll'US", was a r{'fleclive work tlt.tl emphasiz.('d the importance of spiritual values, 1..'(III(aOon, dis(·iplinc ,Ilid o rganizatiOIl. It was n ltkal of (·orruption, d('tnlCtiv{' opposition 10 wwernmcnts from pressure groups ilnd allegedly decadent Weslern ways Il',istance to hard work, untidilless, nud ity and hOlllosexuaiityY Contcnt iously, TlI(' ,o'ulay Vi/emma argued that the Malays W('fe the orl~ll1al or indigenous I>copie of Malaya, and should be accepted as the "tlt'lmitive rac{'''. II rejl'cled lion-Malay claims to political, linguistic and lullUral parity with the Malays. but not o n the grounds Ihat the Malays 't're ~uperior in any way. Just as count ries sud ) as the United States and utralia required a certain minimal assimilatioll of migrants to their own n.ttional culture, the Malays had a right to expect the non.Malays to do the ,Hnl.'. The aim was "not dl.'Slgned 10 IX'Tj>ctuate the privileges of the o ri- /olillotl ddlnitiv(' race to thl' exclusion of thl' II{,Wimmigra n t races...sell i(-rs willing to conform to !ttl' characteristics of the dl;'fmitive citizen will in fact IIl'uJlll(, definitive citil.('Tl!'> and will excTcist lill;' s,11lle rights and privileges". III praCticc, they would l1,-,ed to ~ peak Malay .md b(' ed ucated In Mal.lY, Iitough thcy would 11m be required to adopt lsliHlI. Ihe book defillctllb titi(o: "The Malay dik'lllma is whether they should 'lOp trying to help Ih('IIl~l'lvC5 in order that Ihl'y .should IX' proud to be the t)f.)()rcitil.ens of a prosp<.'TOus country or whether the), should try to get al nllle of the rid ll'S thai thi~ country bO.lstSof, even if it blurs th{' economic IUtture of Malaysia a little." The answer was never in doubl: "The cup of M,llity bitterness must IX' dlluted. A solution must be found, an {'(Iuitable olutlott which denies notlting to anyone ami yl't giv('s the Malay his place lull1e Malayan sun ." l)r, Mahathir's proff<'rl'd s(liutio n was ~conslrw,:tive protection", a vaguC' h'rmlmplying a level of upport somewhere in betwt'('!l leaving the Malays lll'fellceless in tlw facl' of Chinese aggr('ssloll and making their lives so lomfo rtable that they would forgcl how to compele and progress. His lOllcern about over·prou."Cting the Malays was due to his helief In the then ptlpular, later discreditl--d, notion known as Social Oarwinlsm 10 explain tlldr inferiority and Chines{' superiority. While he never used the term, Ik Mahathir, like Social Darwinism's other adherents, applied tile phrase u~urvi val or the fittesl" - firsl coin('(j by the IIritish economist, Herbert 'pencer, after Charles lJarwin'~ evolutionary thL'Ory of ~ lIatural selection" to the comp('titlon for survival in human soddy. Dr. Mahathir even l'1lI!Jrao::d the eugenics oHshoot idea, that thL' unfit transmit their undcsir- .thle characteristics. The book surmised Ihilt tile e<!fly Malays, inh,tbitlng a lush hmd with plenty of food, d id not suffer starvalion <tnd evell the weak in mind and body were able to survive and procreate. The hOI, humid cllmatc waS not umducive to clther vigorous work or mental activity, so they were content

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