Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia

Group Assignment for Malaysian Studies (MPW 1133)
QUESTION:  Discuss the background and contribution of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 4th Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Tun Dr Mahathir Muhamad


 “Malaysians have all sorts of emotions when it comes to Tun Dr Mahathir,… You just have to say his name, and you get all sorts of reactions…” Comments made by Lina Tan (Editor and Producer of Mahathir, on the History Channel (Astro Channel 555)
Yes, it is true, when you mention the name Mahathir, even among students, you surely get all sort of comments and reactions.  His name Dr M is synonym to the vast development of modern Malaysia.  He is a very well-known political leader who served as Prime Minister of Malaysia for 21 long years, making him Malaysia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, and one of the longest serving leaders in Asia. He is always remembered as the man behind Malaysia’s rapid modernization.  He is also known for his criticisms towards western and developed countries, considered to be one of the Asia’s most influential leaders and noted in the Western world as an outspoken critic of Western Style of globalization. ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki)
In this group work, we are going to discuss in detail the background and  contributions of Dr Mahathir as the Fourth Prime Minister of  Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir Background

Real name of Dr Mahathir is Mahathir bin Muhamad.  He was born in Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia on 20 December 1925. His Father’s name is Mohamad bin Iskandar. Mahathir was the youngest child of nine children of Mohamad Iskandar who was a schoolteacher and Wan Tampawan who was a housewife.  He was mixed blood of Indian and Malay.  His father, a Malayalee Muslim, was an Indian, originated from Kerala, India, while his mother, was a Malay.

During the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, Mahathir sold pisang goring (banana fritters) and other snacks to supplement his family income.  His first school was a Malay vernacular school.  Then, he continued his education at the Sultan Abdul Hamid College in Alor Star.  After that, he went to King Edward VII Medical College (now known as National University of Singapore) in Singapore.  During his study there, he was an editor of a medical student magazine called The Cauldron, and he also wrote for the The Straits Times newspaper using the nickname “Che Det”

 Tun Dr graduated in MBBS in 1953 from King Edward VII College of Medicine, Universiti Malaya, Singapore.

Dr M’s outstanding leadership talent was obviously shown during his college years.  He was President of the Muslim Society in the college.  Upon his graduation in 1953, Dr M joined the Malayan government service as a medical officer. In 1957 he set his own private practice in Alor Star after he left the government service. His private practice really thrived. He was able to own a Pontiac Catalina, a luxury car, and employ an ethnic Chinese chauffeur (even though majority of chauffeurs in Malaysia at that time were Malays). Some critics believe that this foreshadowed a later hallmark of Dr M’s politics, which focused on the “cultivation of such emblem of power”.

On 5th August 1956, Mahathir married Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali who was his fellow doctor and former classmate in college.  They were blessed with seven children, four sons and  three daughters:  Marina Mahathir, Mirzan Mahathir, Melinda Mahathir, Mokhzani Mahathir, Mukhriz Mahathir, Maizura Mahathir and Mazhar Mahathir.  Both his sons, Mukhriz and Mokhzani are businessmen as well as politicians.  His eldest daughter, Marina is a well-known Malaysian writer and AIDS activist.

Early Political Career
Dr Mahathir’s political career began when he was elected member of the House of Representatives for Kota Setar Selatan in 1957. He remained such until 1964.

In the third general election of 1964, Dr Mahathir was elected Member of Parliament  for Kota Setar Selatan after defeating the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) candidate with 60.2% majority.  He lost the seat in the following general election in 1969 by a mere 989 votes to PAS’s candidate, Haji Yusoff Rawa.

Dr Mahathir led the race riots of 13 May 1969, following his widespread distribution to the public of his letter to Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister at that time.  In his letter, he had criticized the manner in which Tunku Abdul Rahman handled the country’s administration which was believed to favour the ethnic Chinese. 

After the race riots of 13 May 1969, Dr Mahathir was sacked from the UMNO Supreme Council on 12 July.  At this time, he resumed medical practice. It was then, he wrote The Malay Dilemma (1970) which he diagnosed the causes for the economically inferior position of Malays in genetic and cultural terms and prescribed positive discrimination to ensure their positions as ‘definitive race’.  Although the government embarked on a similar course with its New Economic Policy, the book, published in 1970, was promptly by the Tunku Abdul Rahman government because it touched ‘sensitive issues.”  However, some of the proposals in this book has been used by Tun Abdul Razak, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s  successor, in his ‘New Economic Policy’(NEP) that was principally geared towards affirmative action economic programs to address the nation’s economic disparity between the Malays and the non-Malays.  The ban on his book was eventually lifted when Dr M himself became Prime Minister in 1981.

Dr Mahathir was readmitted to UMNO on 7 March 1972, and after a brief membership of the Senate was elected to the House of Representatives as Member of Kubang Pasu in 1974.  He relinquished the senatorship post in order to contest in the general elections where he was returned unopposed in the constituency of Kubang Pasu, and was then appointed as the Minister of Education.  In 1975, he became one of the three vice-presidents of UMNO, after winning the seat by 47 votes.  Tun Hussein Onn appointed Mahathir as Deputy Prime Minister on 15 September 1978, and in a Cabinet reshuffle, Dr M was appointed as the Minister of Trade and Industry (1977-1981).  In 1981, he succeeded Hussein Onn as Prime Minister and President of  UMNO.

Contributions of DR M as Prime Minister of Malaysia

The following are among the major contributions of Dr Mahathir during his long 22 years of service as Prime Minister of Malaysia:

  1. Dr Mahathir has campaigned resolutely to maintain and strengthen racial harmony within Malaysia and to improve the position of the Malays in business and other matters in order to preserve a balance of opportunity for all. (Robin Adshead, Mahathir of Malaysia Statemen and Leader)
  2. Inn the field of national development,  Dr M has successfully created a paradigm shift in the structure of the economic system in Malaysia.  Dr M has transformed Malaysia from a country that depended so much on self-subsistence agriculture, cultivation of rubber and tin mining, into a vibrant economic based on trading and industrialization. Malaysia now have heavy and high technology industries that have become developed and competitive and at par with other developed countries in the world.
  3. Dr Mahathir has  conceptualized VISION 2020, where by the year 2020 Malaysia is expected to be fully developed country.  He has called upon the entire citizens of Malaysia to work harder and to prepare themselves to really achieve THAT VISION.
  4.  In the late 1990s, Dr Mahathir has taken steps to enable Malaysia to face the future by establishing the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), which emphasizes ‘Information Technology’ (IT) as very important asset for the country in the new millennium.
  5. In 1982 Dr Mahathir first announced the National Car Project, which is one of the many important developments as Malaysians forges ahead in achieving Vision 2020. It first started as joined venture between Perusahaan Outomotivle National Berhad, Proton, Hicom Berhad, Mitsubishi Motor Corporation.
  6. Dr Mahathir has also initiated several changes in the administrative system of the country by introducing the following policies, good qualities of the East Asian countries:
  • ‘Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy’ policy
  • ‘Leadership By Example’ Policy
  • Instilling ‘Islamic Values in Administration’ Policy
These policies would make the government machinery more efficient, of higher quality and more competitive.  The implementation of such policies has resulted in the Malaysian Civil Service being one of the best in the world.
  1. In the field of literature, Dr Mahathir has contributed greatly since his schooling days.  Due to his great interest in writing Dr M was an editor of the Darulaman magazine, published by the Sultan Abdul Hamid College.  While studying at the University, he was the editor of the magazine published by the Medical College of Singapore.  Among his works are ‘The Monetary Crisis of Malaysia:  How and Why It Happened,’ ‘A New Deal for Asia’, ‘The Way Forward’, ‘The Voice of Asia: Tow Leaders Discuss the Coming Century’, ‘The Malaysian System of Government’, ‘Menerangi Kemiskinan: Peladang, Penternak dan Nelayan’, ‘Regionalism, Globalism and Spheres of Influence’, ‘The Challenge’, ‘Guide for Small Businessmen’, ‘Malay Dilemma’, ‘Warisan Kepimpinan’ and ‘Menghadapi Cabaran.’
  2. Dr Mahathir had successfully handled the financial crisis 1997 and stabilized Malaysian economy.
  3. Dr Mahathir sought to make Malaysia an industrial nation and develop Malay businesses, and promoted non-individualistic "Asian values" while often denouncing the West. Although Malaysia made enormous and rapid economic progress under Mahathir, political stability was maintained by not tolerating dissent and restricting political freedoms, and his government was denounced for human-rights abuses.
  4. In the field of telecommunications industry, during Dr Mahathir government, Telekom Malaysia has 3.8 million fixed line customers and 1.8 million mobile phone users in Malaysia.  Banking system embarked on the extensive use of modern information technology.  All schools are being equipped with computers.  Information Technology specific training institutions and universities are being established and knowledge workers encouraged to participate fully in economy.(MSC, 1998)
  5. Dr Mahathir has made Malaysia less depending on neighbouring country port by constructed our own major ports like Tanjung Pelepas and West Port.  This helps Malaysia to reduce foreign currency outflow.
  6. Dr Mahathir embarked on various  large scale national projects, such as:
  • The North-South Highway, which has cut transport times in half on the west coast of Malaysia;
  • The Multimedia Super Corridor, a flagship project based on Silicon Valley designed to enable malaysia’s foray into information technology (it includes Malaysia’s new administrative capital Putrajaya);
  • Port of Tanjung Pelepas;
  • The Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, and an adjacent Formula One Circuit.
  • The Bakun Dam, meant to supply all of the electricity needs of the East Malaysia states of Sabah and Sarawak and which has enough capacity to enable exportation of power to Brunei.
  • Olympic-class stadium in Bukit Jalil; and
  • The Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, the world’s tallest building from 1997-2003, that have become symbolic of modern Malaysia.

Retirement as Prime Minister
Dr Mahathir retired as prime minister in 2003 and was succeeded by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.  Out of office he has continued to be outspoken and has become increasingly critical of the Malaysian government. In 2008 he resigned from the UMNO in protest against his successor's leadership and the party's poor showing in the national elections; he rejoined the party after Abdullah stepped down in 2009.

During the Dr Mahathir’s long years of leadership, he has received numerous awards of achievement as shown in the table below:
Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara

Darjah Kerabat Yang Amat Dihormati Selangor

Darjah Satria Bintang Sarawak

Sarawak, Malaysia
The Most Honourable Order Of The Royal Family Of Kedah

Kedah, Malaysia
The Most Esteemed Order Of The Royal Family Of Kelantan

Kelantan, Malaysia
Tuanku Syed Putra Of Perlis Royal Outstanding Award
Perlis, Malaysia
Knight Commander Of The Sultan Ahmad Shah

Pahang, Malaysia
Fellowship of The International College of Surgeons
Anugerah Cemerlang
Perlis, Malaysia
The Most Esteemed Order Of The Royal Family Of Tuanku Syed Putra

Perlis, Malaysia
Wira Keadilan
Pasir Mas Foundation
Melaka Historical City's Honorary Citizen Award
Wira Nusa Raya
UMNO, Sabah
The Most Esteemed Order Of The Royal Family Of Johor

Johor, Malaysia
Kedah Order Of Merit

Kedah, Malaysia
'FAR', Father of Modern Development By the Pasir Salak UMNO Division
Pasir Salak
Sultan Ibrahim Medal I

Johor, Malaysia
Knight Grand Commander Of The Most Honourable Order Of Melaka

Melaka, Malaysia
Seri Setia Sultan Mahmud Terengganu

The Most Esteemed Order Of The Royal Family Of Negeri Sembilan

Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Knight Grand Commander Of The Most Honourable Order Of Pulau Pinang

Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Knight Commander Of The Most Honourable Order Of Negeri Sembilan

Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Seri Panglima Darjah Kinabalu

Sabah, Malaysia
Seri Paduka Cura Si Manja Kini

Perak, Malaysia
Dato Patinggi Bintang Kenyalang

Sarawak, Malaysia
Dato' Seri Paduka Mahkota Johor

Johor, Malaysia
Seri Paduka Mahkota Selangor

Selangor, Malaysia
Seri Setia DiRaja Kedah, Kedah

Kedah, Malaysia
Pahang, Malaysia
The Second Tun(Dr) Ismail Oration Academy of Medical
Pingat Perak
Perak, Malaysia

“Di Mana akan Ku Cari Ganti?” translated as “Where Can We Find Replacement?” the song that was frequently aired on the local television and radio when Dr Mahathir stepped down as Prime Minister in 2003.  Malaysians has lost a genuine leader who has the heart of the people (‘pemimpin berjiwa rakyat’) who held the post of Prime Minister for more that two decades.  His contributions to Malaysia cannot be tabulated on a paper, nor can it described in words because they are numerous and valuable. All the people of Malaysia are equally benefited from his political and economic policies that he has initiated for the country.  Dr Mahathir has valuable spirits that should we younger generations should be modeled and remembered by  Malaysians. 


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahathir bin Mohamad
  2. Mohamad Azizi Puteh, Yearbook 2002, Berita Pulishing Sdn Bhd(2002).
  3. Robin Adhshead, Mahathir of Malaysia: Statemen and Leaders, 2002.
  4. Faizal Yusup, Bicara Tentang Mahathir, (2004)Pekan Ilmu Publications Sdn Bhd
  5. Multimedia Super Corridor,(1998) Pelanduk Publications (M) Sdn Bhd
  6. http://www.networkmalaysia.com/subtitle/people/Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
Done by:
1.  Rose Engol
2. Syla Liday
3. Victoria Steven
4.  Jasmine Nicholas
5.  Henryson Augustine
6.  Bibiana George
7.  Melta Beni
8.  Priscellia Japon
9.  Mourin Bt Inyu
10.  Emmy Markus

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