I grew up when Tun Mahathir was the prime minister of Malaysia.
My whole family adore this guy. Like, seriously.
It almost felt like I was indoctrinated to adore him. He was my Prime Minister throughout my whole schooling years. In school, the concept of ‘Wawasan 2020’ envisioned by Tun Mahathir never failed to grace the lyrics of our dikir barat or the sub-theme of our choral speaking. His famous words of ‘Leading By Example’ (Kepimpinan Melalui Tauladan) was used numerous times in our debate speech. His ‘Look East Policy’ (Dasar Pandang Ke Timur) was also a favourite theme in any elocution contest.
You see, the reason Tun M was very quotable was because he was very original and very visionary. And remember, in his student days he was a writer, writing scathingly against the British and Tun Abdul Rahman by using the pseudonym of CheDet. He is quotable because he is talented with words and know how to use them to describe his vision.
My admiration in him remained strong even after the Anwar scandal. It was made even sturdier after he successfully steered our country out of a painful financial crisis.
My father always talked about the brilliance of Tun M in bringing back Malaysia from the brim of disaster that was the 1997 financial crisis. We talked about how he defied the IMF formula in managing the financial crisis and how with great courage he did the unconventional thing and went counter-current by choosing to peg our Malaysian ringgit at 3.80 ringgit to 1 US Dollar. How he turned a deaf ear to all the uproar of criticism when he firmly stuck to his decision of ringgit pegging. He was so resolute. So determined.
It took balls to ignore criticism and do it your way. And when it turned out to be the best way anyway, the sweetness of victory must taste like the manna of heaven.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying he is perfect in my eyes. Because no one is perfect. But we cannot deny that during his leadership, our county made progress in leaps and bounds. His style of leadership was so different from the usual inefficient, timid ways of the Malays. He has the willingness to put forward unpopular strategies, the courage to be confrontational, the desire to instil discipline and introduce competition. He is gutsy! And I admire guts in anyone because that is something Malays are very lacking in.
I read a book written about him when I was in standard 6. I still remember the title of the book; ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir’. The book was written by Zainuddin Maidin in the early 90s. I remember how proud I was when I read about The Dawn Raid (of The London Stock Exchange) and The Buy British Last Policy. When the book was written, the financial crisis did not yet happen. But I came across that book in Sekolah Rendah Asma school library when the financial crisis was ongoing. Reading that book gave me a glimpse of what kind of man Dr. Mahathir was and it gave me hope that he would be the man to turn the financial crisis around, God willing. I never doubted that SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, Malaysia would get out of the crisis successfully in his premiership. It was at the age of 12 years old that I learned to really admire this patriot, thanks to the book ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir‘. I particularly enjoyed reading the episode of the Buy British Last Campaign which had ended with Lady Margaret Thatcher having to strike a deal with Dr. Mahathir to end the campaign. I particularly loved his firm witty words in his letter to Margaret Thatcher. At last our former colonizer had to acknowledge the power and sovereignty of a small developing country like Malaysia. That is a sweet victory!
A few years ago, I also bought his autobiography: A Doctor In The House, his famous memoir. I have finished reading all the 1000++ pages some time ago. But I found myself re-reading some of the chapters recently after I came across his HILARIOUS facebook status regarding the recently held Sinar Harian forum “Adakah Tun M terlalu tua untuk jadi PM.”
He wrote in his facebook status “I am here guys. Say it to my face.” There was a picture of him sitting at the front, directly facing the stage where the panelists were talking about whether he was too old to be a PM. (Hahah. ROFL.) One panelist in particular was made uncomfortable by his presence. Such a stomach-tickling moment that one was.
That’s how you fight your enemies. Boldly seek them out. Go face-to-face. With bravery and a flash of humour.
Below is the you tube video of the whole forum session. The forum wasn’t that factually stimulating, in my opinion. But I watched it anyway just to see the moment when pandemonium broke loose as Tun M calmly sauntered into the room. Haha.
Tun M reminded me of one of my favourite TED talk in YOU Tube about the power of grit. In the end, it wasn’t your IQ that made you stand out and succeed. It was grit. The not giving up. The persistence. Grit makes you try one more time. Do it again and again. Until you get it right. Until you attain what you wanted. Until you excel at things.
Listen to this 6 minutes TED talk, guys. It would totally inspire you, I promise.
Tun M, a 93 year old man, is surely one gritty man! A passionate patriot! A great sophisticated statesman.
I wish him luck in his political career at this age. And I hope he will win his parliamentary seat, wherever it is he will be contesting for the upcoming general election. Even if he is too old to be a prime minister (but if anyone could do it at this age, it is him, God willing), I don’t think he is too old to be an MP.
Tun M has my utmost admiration. Forever shall he be remembered as the best Prime Minister Malaysia has ever had.