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


Last week, I wrote Part 1.

In Part 2, I will write about some interesting facts I had came across in that book.

In the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in 2002, Dr Mahathir conducted a press briefing. It occurred to me as something very bad when I read that some reporters present, and waiting for his briefing to begin, actually assume that he is stupid and more or less an average 3rd world leader. What arrogance!

Dr Mahathir is noted for his defying of Wall Street rules and often threw sands in the face of so called Washington Consensus on liberal and open economies. He dared to voice out against the norms.

Dr Mahathir advocates Islamic Banking – prioritize banking that is community-driven, or anchored in social norms. That banks should not make profits through the charging of interests. Also that banks should not offer money to businesses that make bad or “un-Islamic” products. He is showing us another way forward in that field of banking and finance.

In the interviews, Dr Mahathir came across as someone blunt and outspoken. But that is a must have trait of all strongmen.

Dr Mahathir is supportive of the Bumiputra and Malay affirmative scheme. However, the scheme’s outcome creates a culture of dependency among the group of less economically capable Malays. So is the scheme for more good or bad in the long run?

Dr Mahathir believe that the affirmative scheme is needed because otherwise there could be agitation or violence created by the less well off Bumiputras in the long run. The lack of the scheme may also lead to a PAS government (when it taps on Malays discontentment), and when this happen, it will be much worse for the Chinese and Indians as compared to the current situation under the affirmative action.

Dr Mahathir’s views on Islam (E.g. modern Islam) is interesting especially on the point of how people interpret religion. Some would interpret it in the modern context (E.g. tap modern technology) and this can lead to development. Others would have vested interests to interpret it for their own purpose. He said some would wish to justify their agenda through misinterpretations.

Dr Mahathir believes that as each person belongs to a particular race, he has the values that are held by that race. So it is difficult to force him to discard his values and accept foreign values. So it is wrong to force foreign values down to other, he said.

On the point of democracy, Dr Mahathir said “There is a limit to freedom. There is no absolute freedom for anyone.”

To Dr Mahathir, democracy is that you can remove a leader without a revolution. That is the main trait of democracy. Other “freedoms of these, and freedoms of those, and all that” are appendices added to democracy.

Dr Mahathir agreed that the Western definition of freedom is sometimes like a prescription for irresponsibility. That’s why the difference of Western and Malaysia society.

Dr Mahathir said he would consider writing a “New Malay Dilemma” book to show the inability of Malays to be less dependent upon the government (due to the affirmative action), and to compete on their two feet.

Dr Mahathir proposes a three-term cap (not 2) for US Presidents. He believed that at his first term, the President is trying to learn the job. And then he got to be busy trying to win the next term. Once on the second term, he has little time for implementation of his policies. So there is a need for term number three.

Dr Mahathir said that any one term President is basically useless. (Dr Mahathir is Malaysia’s PM for 22 years = 5.5 US Presidential terms).

It is common to see Dr Mahathir joke about stuffs in the 4 interviews. He is sometimes seen as being serious, other times not. At first, it was difficult for Plate to gauge.

Dr Mahathir is portrayed as a soft authoritarian who believes in Asian values – Plate said Asian values can best be summarized with 3 words “Daddy knows Best”. (Can substitute the word “Daddy” with “Government” or “State”.

To know more, I think you need to grab that book! 😉



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