Giant of Asia Series Number 2 – Mahathir Mohamad (Part 1 of 2)


For the whole of last week, I read the book by Tom Plate – “Conversation with Mahathir Mohamad – Dr M: Operation Malaysia”.

I like this book for a special reason – because after a major theme has been discussed, the author would insert a summary-like comment titled “A Mahathir Political Point”. This point would in as few words as possible, summarized the main topic of discussions in a chapter.

Some chapters have more than one of these. Some have none.

As they are summary-like comments, I thought it would be worthwhile to blog it and let them serve as a record of the main gist of this book. Here we go:

– If only Americans would listen more to the people who live in a region they are about to invade, they might think twice about it, and win more friends than if they had blundered on ahead.

– Speech was given to me not so much as to disguise my thoughts but to permit me to say exactly what I think.

– Serious bad will start to pile up in your government when after a Cabinet meeting, nothing happens. Nothing happening is not progress. Sometimes you just have to do it yourself.

– Muslim fundamentalism must let me be moderate. Having accepted that, my dealings with the non-Muslims become very easy.

– Starve people long enough and instead of dying they become dangerous. Governing them rationally can serve to remove the conditions under which irrational governance becomes truly dangerous.

– The governance of a polity that has a predominant religious core cannot safely proceed on purely secular grounds.

– The way to permit extremists to appear reasonable is for the non-extremists to give up too much ground by reverting to secular standards of reason.

– Do unto others rhetorically, as in fact they do unto you, if they do it in public… or in a way that can become known to the public, or you will lose face.

– Think first of the rights and security of the group before the rights of the individual.

– Never embarrass the police publicly. Make your points in private and hope professional pride serves as the corrective.

– The people you sometimes most have to trust are the ones you most fear will turn on you.

– In a multiracial country the citizen’s right for total free expression does not exist – if you want a peaceful community.

– There’s nothing like an ounce of harsh prevention, because it’s a lot better than a lot of so-called liberal cure.

– Figuring out how something works is the easy part; understanding why anything works the way it does may be beyond human understanding. Faith can help get you over it. And it’s ultimately humbling.

– Cultural restraints against serious deviation become less effective when the culture itself is changing.

– Serious policy change takes a lot of preparation, good timing and widespread public support. Sometimes only a measure of authoritarianism can foster the centrality of leadership needed to get things done.

– A developing nation must always take its meds, whether the patients (its people) want to or not.

– Democracy is not easily exportable, and rather than being the answer to a country’s problem, may only add to the problem itself.

Done! =)


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