Try going abroad and introduce yourself as a Malaysian. The immediate response one would get is ‘Malaysia boleh. Mahathir. Bagusss.’
This is our Tun Dr Mahathir- known simply as Dr M. From a poor African nation to a wealthy Arabian country, he commands a great respect. Such huge respect he had that Shah Rukh Khan- arguably one of the biggest superstar in the world- had flown directly from London with his private jet just to celebrate our beloved former prime minister’s birthday.
It is an open secret that many of the developing countries cherish the idea of having Dr M as their leader. Locally, the recent poll suggested Dr M is the right man for the Prime Minister job. It is due to a simple fact that this man has turned Malaysia from an agriculture country to the 17th largest trading nation in the world by the time he retired.
As a trained physician, he has generally been brisk, modern, quick to diagnose and even readier to prescribe. Because of these traits, Malaysia followed what Dr Mahathir calls the “Sinatra Principle” – they did it his way in dealing with East Asia Financial Crisis of 1997. Unlike Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia did not seek financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund.
Dr M is never afraid to stamp his authorities. He is like Sir Alex Ferguson in politics; he believes for whatever decisions he has to made, unpopular or not, it is for the good of the country.
In the same week in September 1998 that he fired his popular deputy, Dr M thumbed his nose at the global economy by instituting restrictive exchange controls on the Malaysian currency. He put the world on notice that unfettered capitalism may not be for every country.
Dr M was called an idiot, an ignoramus and a pariah. Undeterred, Dr M wrote to the Time Magazine. The article ‘Call Me a Heretic’- I must say- is the sheer act of bravery to take on western savants and pundits who were almost unanimous in denouncing his measures. And 10 years later when the world plunged into financial crisis, Dr M has the last laugh.
Whether Malaysians realised or not, the nearest Malaysian to be conferred with Noble prize is Dr M- for his vociferous defense of discrimination against the Muslim in Bosnia. (Although I personally think the nomination for Noble prize in economy will be more apt.)
Few noticed Dr M as the evergreen writer. The writer in him continues to shine whether writing his own speech, an article or for his hugely popular blog. He is among a few politicians (or Prime Minister, maybe?) to make his stand known by writing his own thought. This is what makes Dr M different from his predecessors, contemporaries and nemesis. How many times our opposition leader pens his thought rather than simply reposting someone else’ opinion on his personal blog? The fact is very telling- Dr M is an intellectual without pretending to be one.
Those who loathe him especially the intellectual (or rather pseudo-intellectual), to undermine him is the easiest way up. Maybe to demonise the Grand Old Man will make them smarter. How dandy is that thinking.
If the detractors can’t argue with Dr M’s facts and figures, they will resort to question his origin. Ironically, these are the very same people who have self-styled themselves as meritocracy advocates and also the analysts that kept saying that race and colour are not important. Such racist people can be when desperate.
Last 31st Oct 2013 commemorates the 10th anniversary of Dr M’s retirement as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. After 10 years, we miss Malaysia under Dr M’s leadership. But instead of remembering the good old days, we should have move forward.
Recently, I went to Japan under the Look East Policy initiative. Never been to the land of rising sun, I was amazed how Japan can be so successful and developed country without having natural resources. How could that be? Later, I came to realize that the greatest resource that Japan ever had is the Japanese themselves. Since the near-total destruction of World War 2, Japanese have rebuilt their country through the hard work, passion and pride.
Dr M- the longtime admirer of the Japanese culture always wanted Malaysian to emulate Japanese’s work hard culture. When he introduced Look East Policy thirty years ago, he believes this one single character contributes the most to the success of individuals, society or nation. They are not laid back.
The success of the country is very much depended on the people; their values, their work ethics and their discipline when doing whatever they have to do. This is the essence of the Look East Policy.
Fast forward today, the country is facing big political and economic challenges. Now more than ever our government needs us. We can’t hope to have another Dr M to make our Vision 2020 to be realized. To make this happen, it’s going to be up to us- the people.
We should remember the government is a system of which the public is also a part. The Executives, you, me and all Malaysians. If the system is lacking in certain things, then to rectify the weaknesses is our responsibility as well. Remember, God only help those who help themselves.
Even though the doctor is still in the house, (to quote Mr Shamsul Akmar’s article), Malaysians are responsible to keep the house in order.