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Mahathir Mohamad

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Title: Mahathir Mohamad  
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Subject: Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Hussein Onn, Ministry of Defence (Malaysia), Najib Razak, Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (Malaysia)
Collection: 1925 Births, Cold War Leaders, Commanders of the National Order of the Cedar, Commanders of the National Order of the Cedar (Lebanon), Deputy Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Government Ministers of Malaysia, Grand Commanders of the Order of the Defender of the Realm, Jawaharlal Nehru Award Laureates, King Faisal International Prize Recipients for Service to Islam, Knight Grand Commanders of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of Sarawak (Malaysia), Knights Grand Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of Sarawak, Living People, Mahathir Mohamad Family, Malay People, Malayali People, Malaysian Doctors, Malaysian Malay People, Malaysian Muslims, Malaysian People of Indian Descent, Malaysian Political Party Founders, Malaysian Politicians of Indian Descent, Malaysian Writers, Members of the Dewan Negara, Members of the Dewan Rakyat, People from Kedah, Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Recipients of the Order of the Crown of Johor, Secretaries-General of the Non-Aligned Movement, United Malays National Organisation Politicians
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Mahathir Mohamad

Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Dr.
Mahathir bin Mohamad
محضیر بن محمد

S.M.N. D.K
Mahathir at National Day celebrations in August 2007
4th Prime Minister of Malaysia
In office
16 July 1981 – 31 October 2003
Monarch Ahmad Shah
Azlan Shah
Mizan Zainal Abidin (Regent)
Deputy Musa Hitam (1981-1986)
Ghafar Baba (1986-1993)
Anwar Ibrahim (1993-1998)
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (1999-2003)
Preceded by Hussein Onn
Succeeded by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
4th Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
In office
5 March 1976 – 16 July 1981
Monarch Yahya Petra
Ahmad Shah
Prime Minister Hussein Onn
Preceded by Hussein Onn
Succeeded by Musa Hitam
Minister of Finance
In office
5 June 2001 – 31 October 2003
Preceded by Daim Zainuddin
Succeeded by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
In office
7 September 1998 – 7 January 1999
Preceded by Anwar Ibrahim
Succeeded by Daim Zainuddin
Minister of Home Affairs
In office
8 My 1986 – 8 January 1999
Preceded by Musa Hitam
Succeeded by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Minister of Defence
In office
18 July 1981 – 6 May 1986
Preceded by Abdul Taib Mahmud
Succeeded by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Minister of Trade and Industry
In office
1 January 1978 – 16 July 1981
Prime Minister Hussein Onn
Preceded by Hamzah Abu Samah
Succeeded by Ahmad Rithaudden Tengku Ismail
Minister of Education
In office
5 September 1974 – 31 December 1977
Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein
Hussein Onn
Preceded by Mohammad Yaacob
Succeeded by Musa Hitam
21st Secretary General of
Non-Aligned Movement
In office
20 February 2003 – 31 October 2003
Preceded by Thabo Mbeki
Succeeded by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Member of the Dewan Negara
In office
30 December 1972 – 23 August 1974
Constituency Elected by Kedah State Legislative Assembly
Member of the Dewan Rakyat
In office
25 April 1964 – 10 May 1969
Preceded by Wan Sulaiman Wan Tam
Succeeded by Yusof Rawa
Constituency Kota Setar Selatan
In office
24 August 1974 – 21 March 2004
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Mohd Johari Baharum
Constituency Kubang Pasu
Personal details
Born (1925-07-10) 10 July 1925
Alor Setar, British Malaya (now Malaysia)
Political party United Malays National Organisation
Spouse(s) Siti Hasmah
Children Marina
Parents Mohamad
Wan Tempawan
Alma mater University of Malaya, Singapore
Profession Physician
Religion Sunni Islam

Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad (Jawi:محضير بن محمد; pronounced ; born 10 July 1925) was the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. He held the post for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, making him Malaysia's longest-serving Prime Minister. His political career spanned almost 40 years.

Born and raised in

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons Quotations related to Mahathir Mohamad at Wikiquote

External links

  • Dhillon, Karminder Singh (2009). Malaysian Foreign Policy in the Mahathir Era 1981–2003: Dilemmas of Development. NUS Press.  
  • Milne, R. S.; Mauzy, Diane K. (1999). Malaysian Politics under Mahathir.  
  • Morais, J. Victor (1982). Mahathir: A Profile in Courage. Eastern Universities Press.  
  • Sankaran, Ramanathan; Mohd Hamdan Adnan (1988). Malaysia's 1986 General Election: the Urban-Rural Dichotomy. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.  
  • Stewart, Ian (2003). The Mahathir Legacy: a Nation Divided, a Region at Risk. Allen & Unwin.  
  • Wain, Barry (2010).  

Cited texts

  1. ^ Abdul Rahman, Tunku (September 1969). May 13 - Before and After. Kuala Lumpur: Penerbitan Utusan Melayu. pp. 117–121. 
  2. ^ a b Kaos Jr., Joseph (4 April 2015). "Dr M past his quiet stage, asks Najib to step down". The Star (Malaysia). Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Wain 2010, p. 8
  4. ^ Mahathir Mohamad (2011). A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. MPH Group Publishing. pp. 14;24.  
  5. ^ Teoh, Shannon (8 March 2011). "Dr M admits he has Indian blood". Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 5–6
  7. ^ a b Wain 2010, pp. 4–5
  8. ^ Perlez, Jane (2 November 2003). "New Malaysian Leader's Style Stirs Optimism". New York Times ( 
  9. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 7–8
  10. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 6–7
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Wain 2010, pp. 11–13
  13. ^ Beech, Hannah (29 October 2006). "Not the Retiring Type". Time. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  14. ^ Wain 2010, p. 14
  15. ^ Wain 2010, p. 9
  16. ^ Wain 2010, p. 19
  17. ^ a b Wain 2010, pp. 18–19
  18. ^ Morais 1982, p. 22
  19. ^ a b c d Tan & Vasil, p. 51
  20. ^ a b Wain 2010, p. 28
  21. ^ Wain 2010, p. 26
  22. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 29–30
  23. ^ Morais 1982, p. 26
  24. ^ a b Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 25
  25. ^ Morais 1982, p. 27
  26. ^ Morais 1982, pp. 28–29
  27. ^ a b Wain 2010, p. 39
  28. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 27–28
  29. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 33–34
  30. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 64
  31. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 38–40
  32. ^ Wain 2010, p. 40
  33. ^ Wain 2010, p. 38
  34. ^ "The exotic doctor calls it a day". The Economist. 3 November 2003. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  35. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 28
  36. ^ Sankaran & Hamdan 1988, pp. 18–20
  37. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 30–31
  38. ^ Branigin, William (29 December 1992). "Malaysia's Monarchs of Mayhem; Accused of Murder and More, Sultans Rule Disloyal Subjects". The Washington Post. 
  39. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 32
  40. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 203–205
  41. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 206–207
  42. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 51–54
  43. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 56
  44. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 57
  45. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 57–59
  46. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 97–98
  47. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 80–89
  48. ^ Sankaran & Hamdan 1988, p. 50
  49. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 40–43
  50. ^ Crossette, Barbara (7 February 1988). "Malay Party Ruled Illegal, Spurring Conflicts". New York Times. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  51. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 43–44
  52. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 46–49
  53. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 65–67
  54. ^ Cheah, Boon Keng (2002). Malaysia: the making of a nation. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 219.  
  55. ^ Kim Hoong Khong (1991). Malaysia's general election 1990: continuity, change, and ethnic politics. Institute of South East Asian Studies. pp. 15–17.  
  56. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 1–3
  57. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 165
  58. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 166
  59. ^ Milne & Mauzy 1999, p. 74
  60. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 104–105
  61. ^ Wain 2010, p. 280
  62. ^ Hilley, John (2001). Malaysia: Mahathirism, hegemony and the new opposition. Zed Books. p. 256.  
  63. ^ Wain 2010, p. 189
  64. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 185–188
  65. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 186–187
  66. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 105–109
  67. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 208–214
  68. ^ Stewart 2003, p. 32
  69. ^ Stewart 2003, pp. 64–86
  70. ^ Stewart 2003, pp. 106–111
  71. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 293–296
  72. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 297–298
  73. ^ Wain 2010, p. 299
  74. ^ Stewart 2003, p. 141
  75. ^ Stewart 2003, p. 142
  76. ^ Stewart 2003, pp. 140–141
  77. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 79–80
  78. ^ Wain 2010, p. 80
  79. ^ Spillius, Alex (31 October 2003). "Mahathir bows out with parting shot at the Jews". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  80. ^ a b "Mahathir to launch war crimes tribunal". The Star (Associated Press). 31 January 2007. Retrieved 14 January 2008. 
  81. ^ "Creativity – the key to NEM's success". The Star Online. 14 August 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  82. ^ see Mahathir Mohamad’s preface to Asia’s New Crisis, edited by Frank-Jürgen Richter, Pamela Mar (eds): John Wiley & Sons, Singapore, 2004, (see Amazon)
  83. ^ "Commanding Heights: Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad". Retrieved 1 February 2008. 
  84. ^ World: Asia-Pacific Reform protests follow Gore's Malaysia speech
  85. ^ Butler, Steven (15 November 1998). "Turning the Tables in a Very Tawdry Trial". Retrieved 20 March 2009. 
  86. ^ Symonds, Peter. "What Anwar Ibrahim means by "reformasi" in Malaysia", Malaysia Today
  87. ^ Shattered Summit: A high-handed speech by Al Gore started this year's APEC meeting on the wrong foot. It never recovered.
  88. ^ Joseph Masilamany (29 June 2006). "Mending fences".  
  89. ^  
  90. ^ MMalaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad: On Jews
  91. ^ a b c The Boston Globe: "Rousing Muslim bigotry"
  92. ^ Mahathir Suspects Link to Ringgit's Fall: Malaysian Leader Sees Hidden Jewish 'Agenda' International Herald Tribune, 11 October 1997.
  93. ^ "'"Malaysian Leader: 'Jews Rule World by Proxy. Fox News. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 26 January 2008. 
  94. ^ "Malaysia defends speech on Jews", BBC News, 17 October 2003.
  95. ^ U.S.: Comments raise specter of religious clash within terror war RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
  96. ^ "Mahathir hits back in Jewish row", CNN News, 21 October 2003.
  97. ^ "INVESTMENT IN MALAYSIA". Asia Times. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  98. ^ "INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS; Malaysia Extends Deadline in Singapore Exchange Dispute".  
  99. ^ "Malaysia’s stockmarket; Daylight Robbery".  
  100. ^ "Dr M nominated for Nobel Prize", The Star (Malaysia), 4 February 2007.
  101. ^ Bowring, Philip (23 September 1998). "Twin Shocks Will Leave Their Mark on Malaysia". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 14 January 2008. 
  102. ^ "Mahathir honoured as he steps down". The Age (Australia). 31 October 2003. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  103. ^ Wain 2010, p. 307
  104. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 307–318
  105. ^ Wain 2010, p. 322
  106. ^ Wain 2010, p. 320
  107. ^ Backman, Michael (10 August 2005). "Family ties lubricate Malaysia wheels of power". The Age (Australia). Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  108. ^ Wain 2010, p. 321
  109. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 323–325
  110. ^ Wain 2010, p. 325
  111. ^ a b Wain 2010, p. 326
  112. ^ Wain 2010, pp. 329–332
  113. ^ "'"Dr M says glad to be called 'Antisemitic. CFCA. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  114. ^
  115. ^ Roslan Rahman (11 September 2011). "Malaysia's Mahathir: 9/11 not work of Muslims". AFP News. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  116. ^ Porter, Barry (5 October 2010). "Ex-Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Discharged From Australian Hospital".  
  117. ^ "Dr M, BN men have every right to meet up, Nur Jazlan says". 14 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  118. ^ Chaudhuri, Pramitpal (17–18 November 2006). "'"Visionary, who nurtured an Asian 'tiger. Hindustan Times. India. Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  119. ^  
  120. ^ Wain 2010, p. 331
  121. ^ "Unexpected Results".  
  122. ^ Wain 2010, p. 349


  1. ^ Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Hussein Onn were members of the royalty or had royal ancestry,[7] as does Abdul Razak's son Najib. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's father and grandfather were prominent religious figures.[8]



  • The Malay Dilemma (1970) ISBN 981-204-355-1
  • The Challenge,(1986) ISBN 967-978-091-0
  • Regionalism, Globalism, and Spheres of Influence: ASEAN and the Challenge of Change into the 21st century (1989) ISBN 981-3035-49-8
  • The Pacific Rim in the 21st century,(1995)
  • The Challenges of Turmoil, (1998) ISBN 967-978-652-8
  • The Way Forward, (1998) ISBN 0-297-84229-3
  • A New Deal for Asia, (1999)
  • Islam & The Muslim Ummah, (2001) ISBN 967-978-738-9
  • Globalisation and the New Realities (2002)
  • Reflections on Asia, (2002) ISBN 967-978-813-X
  • The Malaysian Currency Crisis: How and why it Happened,(2003) ISBN 967-978-756-7
  • Achieving True Globalization, (2004) ISBN 967-978-904-7
  • Islam, Knowledge, and Other Affairs, (2006) ISBN 983-3698-03-4
  • Principles of Public Administration: An Introduction, (2007) ISBN 978-983-195-253-5
  • Blog Merentasi Halangan (Bilingual), (2008) ISBN 967-969-589-1
  • A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 8 March 2011 ISBN 9789675997228.
  • Doktor Umum: Memoir Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, 30 April 2012 ISBN 9789674150259. This book was the BM version of his best-selling memoir,"A Doctor in the house".



Parliament of Malaysia
Year Constituency Government Votes Pct Opposition Votes Pct Ballots cast Majority Turnout
1964 Kota Star Selatan, Kedah Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) 12,406 60.22% Mohd. Sha'ari Abd. Shukor (PAS) 8,196 39.78% 21,440 4,210 82.8%
1969 Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) 12,032 48.03% Yusof Rawa (PAS) 13,021 51.97% 25,679 989 78.6%
1974 Kubang Pasu, Kedah Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) None None None None None Unopposed None None
1978 Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) 18,198 Unknown Halim Arshat (PAS) 9,953 Unknown Unknown 8,245 78.36%
1982 Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) 24,524 Unknown Yusof Rawa (PAS) 8,763 Unknown 34,340 15,761 78.79%
1986 P004 Kubang Pasu, Kedah Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) 25,452 71.48% Azizan Ismail (PAS) 10,154 28.52% 36,409 15,298 74.21%
1990 Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) 30,681 78.07% Sudin Wahab (S46) 8,619 21.93% 40,570 22,062 77.51%
1995 P006 Kubang Pasu, Kedah Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) 24,495 77.12% Ahmad Mohd Alim (PAS) 7,269 22.88% 33,010 17,226 73.61%
1999 Mahathir Mohamad (UMNO) 22,399 63.22% Ahmad Subki Abd. Latif (PAS) 12,261 34.61% 36,106 10,138 78.62%

Election result

Rising living standards, together with Dr. Mahathir's showpiece buildings and outspoken defence of Malaysia's interests, contributed to a sense of national identity, pride and confidence that had not existed before. He put Malaysia on the map, and most Malaysians were pleased about it.... [However], he would not be able to escape responsibility for many of the problems likely to plague Malaysian society in the future, from creeping Islamisation to corruption and inequality. For while he held Malaysia together for 22 years, the political-administrative system atrophied and decayed under his personalised brand of governance.[122]

According to Wain, writing his biography of Mahathir in 2010:

Two of Mahathir's sons became active in politics: Mokhzani was a senior official of UMNO Youth (the party's youth wing) before leaving politics and focusing on his business career; Mukhriz was elected to Parliament in 2008, and in 2013 became the Chief Minister of Kedah.[120][121]

Mahathir has been a highly controversial figure, and a subject of harsh attacks by his critics. Former de facto Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim writes in his memoirs: "In my heart, I cannot accept allegations that Dr Mahathir personally was a corrupt man. Corrupt people are never brave enough to speak as loudly as Dr Mahathir. Wealth is not a major motivation for him. He only craves power."[119]

Mahathir's official residence, Sri Perdana, where he resided from 23 August 1983 to 18 October 1999, was turned into a museum (Galeria Sri Perdana). In keeping with the principle of heritage conservation, the original design and layout of the Sri Perdana has been preserved.

For his efforts to promote the economic development of the country, Mahathir has been granted the soubriquet of Bapa Pemodenan (Father of Modernization).[118]

Mahathir was featured on the facade of Telekom Tower in Kuala Lumpur during the national day celebrations in 2004.


In the wake of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal in 2015, Mahathir became a vocal critic of Prime Minister Najib Razak's government, even more so than Abdullah.[2] He has repeatedly called for Najib to resign.[117]

Mahathir underwent a heart bypass operation in 2007, following two heart attacks over the previous two years. He had undergone the same operation after his heart attack in 1989. After the 2007 operation, he suffered a chest infection. He was hospitalised for treatment of another chest infection in 2010.[111][116]

Mahathir has continued to attract controversy in retirement for remarks on international affairs. He is a strident critic of Israel, to the point where in 2012 he stated: "I am glad to be labeled antisemitic [...] How can I be otherwise, when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness towards not just their enemies but even towards their allies should any try to stop the senseless killing of their Palestinian enemies."[113] Mahathir established the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission to investigate the activities of the United States, Israel and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.[114] He has also suggested that the September 11 attacks of 2001 might have been staged by the United States government.[115]

On his retirement, Mahathir was named a Grand Commander of the Order of the Defender of the Realm, allowing him to adopt the title of "Tun".[102] He pledged to leave politics "completely", rejecting an emeritus role in Abdullah's cabinet.[103] Abdullah immediately made his mark as a quieter and less adversarial premier. With much stronger religious credentials than Mahathir, he was able to beat back PAS's surge in the 1999 election, and lead the Barisan Nasional in the 2004 election to its biggest win ever, taking 199 of 219 parliamentary seats.[104] Mahathir became an adviser to flagship Malaysian companies, such as Proton and the oil company Petronas.[105] Mahathir and Abdullah had a major fallout over Proton in 2005. Proton's chief executive, a Mahathir ally, had been sacked by the company's board. With Abdullah's blessing, the company then sold one of the company's prize assets, the motorcycle company MV Agusta, which was bought on Mahathir's advice.[106] Mahathir also criticised the awarding of import permits for foreign cars, which he claimed were causing Proton's domestic sales to suffer,[107] and attacked Abdullah for cancelling the construction of a second causeway between Malaysia and Singapore.[108] Mahathir complained that his views were not getting sufficient airing by the Malaysian press, the freedom of which he had curtailed while prime minister: he had been named one of the "Ten Worst Enemies of the Press" by the Committee to Protect Journalists for his restrictions on newspapers and occasional imprisonment of journalists.[109] He turned to the blogosphere in response, writing a column for Malaysiakini, a website sympathetic to the opposition, and starting his own blog.[110] He unsuccessfully sought election from his local party division to be a delegate to UMNO's general assembly in 2006, where he planned to initiate a revolt against Abdullah's leadership of the party.[111] After the 2008 election, in which UMNO lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament, Mahathir resigned from the party. Abdullah was replaced by his deputy, Najib Tun Razak, in 2009, a move that prompted Mahathir to rejoin the party.[112]

Mahathir speaking at the United Nations


Among some developing and Cancún.

Developing world

On 11 November 2009, he also chaired closed-door meeting of leading investors at the Malaysia Global Business Forum – Bosnia, which was also attended by then president Haris Silajdžić.

On 22 June 2007, he made another visit to Sarajevo with a group of Malaysian businessmen to explore the investment opportunities in the country.

In February 2007, four non-governmental organisations: the Croat National Council, nominated Mahathir for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work during the conflict.[100]

He made a three-day visit to Visoko to see the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun in July 2006. He made another visit a few months later.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mahathir has been noted as a particular significant ally of that nation. He visited Sarajevo in June 2005 to open a bridge near Bosmal City Center signifying friendship between Malaysians and Bosnians.


However, relations with Singapore under Mahathir's tenure were stormy. Many disputed issues raised during his administration have not been resolved. Many of these international issues have been raised up under Mahathir's Premiership term, but no significant headway had been made then to resolve them bilaterally. Issues have included:

Mahathir is an alumnus of the Medical College at the University of Malaya at that time located in Singapore under British Malaya [University of Malaya campus at Singapore has since been renamed National University of Singapore while the campus at Kuala Lumpur remains as University of Malaya]. He graduated as a physician from then King Edward VII Medical College in 1953, during British rule.


He tagged the West as "anti-Muslim", for double standards by "protecting Jews while allowing others to insult Islam." He also said "But when somebody condemns the Muslims, calls my prophet, "terrorist", did the European Union say anything?"[96]

The criticism was ignored in Asia and Islamic countries, which felt that his remark had been taken out of context. Mahathir later defended his remarks, saying: "I am not anti-Semitic.... I am against those Jews who kill Muslims and the Jews who support the killers of Muslims."

He also named Israel as "the enemy allied with most powerful nations." Israel criticised the remarks and the speech was also condemned by several nations from the Western world. Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that Dr Mahathir had employed "expressions that were gravely offensive, very strongly anti-Semitic and... strongly counter to principles of tolerance, dialogue and understanding'." At the same time, Mahathir's speech was defended by several Muslim leaders and politicians, including Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Maher and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai.[91][94] United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Bush considered the comments "reprehensible and hateful."[95] The Muslim Public Affairs Council condemned Mahathir's remarks as "extremely offensive, anti-Semitic comments."[91]

We [Muslims] are actually very strong, 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million [during the Holocaust]. But today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them. They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries. And they, this tiny community, have become a world power.[93]

On 16 October 2003, shortly before he stepped down as prime minister, Mahathir said during a summit for the Putrajaya, that:

In 1997, during the financial crisis, he attributed the collapse of the Malaysian ringgit to a conspiracy of Jews against a prosperous Muslim state: "The Jews robbed the Palestinians of everything, but in Malaysia they could not do so, hence they do this, depress the ringgit." Under strong international criticism, he issued a partial retraction, but not in Malay-language media sources.[92]

Mahathir's public remarks about Jews date back as early as 1970 when he wrote in his controversial book The Malay Dilemma: "The Jews for example are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively."[90][91]

Under Mahathir, Malaysia was a staunch supporter of the Israel without special government permission.) In 1986, a major diplomatic row erupted with neighbouring Singapore when Chaim Herzog, the President of Israel, paid a state visit.

Middle East and remarks about Israel and Jews

Mahathir, along with other Malaysian politicians (and many other Asian leaders) also heavily criticised Keating's successor, John Howard, whom he believed had encouraged Pauline Hanson, whose views were widely perceived as racist.[89]

Mahathir's relationship with Australia (the closest country in the Anglosphere to Malaysia, and the one whose foreign policy is most concentrated on the region), and his relationship with Australia's political leaders, has been particularly rocky. Relationships between Mahathir and Australia's leaders reached a low point in 1993 when Paul Keating described Mahathir as "recalcitrant" for not attending the APEC summit. (It is thought that Keating's description was a linguistic gaffe, and that what he had in mind was "intransigent".)[88]


Even after retirement, Mahathir was not hesitant about his criticisms of the United States. In 2004, (2004 United States presidential election.

In spite of all this, Malaysia's relationship with the US has been strong. A 2003 house subcommittee hearing (Serial No. 108–21) on US policy towards South East Asia sums it up as "Despite sometimes blunt and intemperate public remarks by Prime Minister Mahathir, U.S.-Malaysian cooperation has a solid record in areas as diverse as education, trade, military relations, and counter-terrorism."

More recently, the mandate.

Marie Huhtala, the American ambassador to Malaysia, responded with a statement: "These are not helpful statements by any standard, and I'm here to tell you that Washington does take note of them. They are bound to have a harmful effect on the relationship."

If innocent people who died in the attack on Afghanistan and those who have been dying from lack of food and medical care in Iraq are considered collaterals, are the 3,000 who died in New York, and the 200 in Bali also just collaterals whose deaths are necessary for operations to succeed?

In 2003 Mahathir spoke to the Non-Aligned Movement in Kuala Lumpur, and as part of his speech, said:

At the other end of the spectrum, the United States government has previously criticised the Malaysian government for implementing the ISA, most recently in 2001 when President

Yet Mahathir has not hesitated to point to America for justification of his own actions. In speaking of arbitrary detention without trial of prisoners of conscience in Malaysia, he said: "Events in the United States have shown that there are instances where certain special powers need to be used in order to protect the public for the general good."

The relationship was stormy both ways. Following Anwar's firing and subsequent imprisonment, Madeleine Albright paid a visit to Anwar's wife.

However, Mahathir's views were already firmly entrenched before this event. For example, before the ASEAN meeting in 1997, he made a speech condemning the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, calling it an oppressive instrument by which the United States and other countries try to impose their values on Asians. He added that Asians need stability and economic growth more than civil liberties. These remarks did not endear him to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was a guest at the meeting.

Mahathir greeting US Secretary of Defense William Cohen in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

Gore and the United States were critical of the trial of Mahathir's former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, going so far as to label it as a "show trial". US News and World Report called the trial a "tawdry spectacle."[85] Also, Anwar was the preeminent Malaysian spokesperson for the economic policies preferred by the IMF, which included interest-rate hikes. An article in Malaysia Today commented that "Gore's comments constituted a none-too-subtle attack on Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and more generally on governments, including Japan, that resist US demands for further market reforms."[86] Gore's endorsement for the reformasi (reformation) asking for (among other things) the ouster of Mahathir, was anathema to Mahathir, and he remarked that "I've never seen anybody so rude". This also summed up the Malaysian expectation that one who is a guest should not show such discourtesy to the host.[87]

Democracy confers a stamp of legitimacy that reforms must have in order to be effective. And so, among nations suffering economic crises, we continue to hear calls for democracy, calls for reform, in many languages – People Power, doi moi, reformasi. We hear them today – right here, right now – among the brave people of Malaysia.

The BBC reported that relations with the United States took a turn for the worse in 1998,[84] when US Vice-President Al Gore stated at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference hosted by Malaysia:

Mahathir has always been publicly critical of the Foreign Policy of the United States [83] and yet relations between the two countries were still positive and the United States was the biggest source of foreign investment, and was Malaysia's biggest customer during Mahathir's rule. Furthermore, Malaysian military officers continued to train in the US under the International Military Education And Training (IMET) program.

United States

During Mahathir's term, Malaysia's relationship with the West was generally fine despite his being known as an outspoken critic towards it.[80] Early during his tenure, a small disagreement with the United Kingdom over university tuition fees sparked a boycott of all British goods led by Mahathir, in what became known as the "Buy British Last" campaign. It also led to a search for development models in Asia, most notably Japan. This was the beginning of his famous "Look East Policy".[81] Although the dispute was later resolved by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Mahathir continued to emphasise Asian development models over contemporary Western ones... he particularly criticised the double standards of Western nations[82]

Foreign relations

At UMNO's general assembly in 2002, Mahathir announced that he would resign as prime minister, only for supporters to rush to the stage and convince him tearfully to remain. He subsequently fixed his retirement for October 2003, giving him time to ensure an orderly and uncontroversial transition to his anointed successor, Abdullah Badawi.[78] Having spent over 22 years in office, Mahathir was the world's longest-serving elected leader when he retired.[79] He remains Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister.

While Mahathir had vanquished his rival, it came at a cost to his standing in the international community and domestic politics. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended Anwar as a "highly respectable leader" who was "entitled to due process and a fair trial".[74] In a speech in Kuala Lumpur, which Mahathir attended, US Vice-President Al Gore stated that "we continue to hear calls for democracy", including "among the brave people of Malaysia".[75] At the APEC summit in 1999, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien refused to meet Mahathir, while his foreign minister met with Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.[76] Wan Azizah had formed a liberal opposition party, the National Justice Party (Keadilan) to fight the 1999 election. UMNO lost 18 seats and two state governments as large numbers of Malay voters flocked to PAS and Keadilan, many in protest at the treatment of Anwar.[77]

Anwar stood trial on four charges of corruption, arising from allegations that Anwar abused his power by ordering police to intimidate persons who had alleged Anwar had sodomised them. Before Anwar's trial, Mahathir told the press that he was convinced of Anwar's guilt. He was found guilty in April 1999 and sentenced to six years in prison.[71] In another trial shortly after, Anwar was sentenced to another nine years in prison on a conviction for sodomy.[72] The sodomy conviction was overturned on appeal after Mahathir left office.[73]

By the mid-1990s it had become clear that the most serious threat to Mahathir's power was the leadership ambition of his deputy, Anwar. Anwar began to distance himself from Mahathir, overtly promoting his superior religious credentials and appearing to suggest he favoured loosening the restrictions on civil liberties that had become a hallmark of Mahathir's premiership.[68] However, Mahathir continued to back Anwar as his successor until their relationship collapsed dramatically during the Asian financial crisis. Their positions gradually diverged, with Mahathir abandoning the tight monetary and fiscal policies urged by the IMF. At the UMNO General Assembly in 1998, a leading Anwar supporter, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, criticised the government for not doing enough to combat corruption and cronyism. As Mahathir took the reins of Malaysia's economic policy over the coming months, Anwar was increasingly sidelined. On 2 September, he was dismissed as deputy prime minister and finance minister, and promptly expelled from UMNO. No immediate reasons were given for the dismissal, although the media speculated that it related to lurid allegations of sexual misconduct circulated in a "poison pen letter" at the general assembly.[69] As more allegations surfaced, large public rallies were held in support of Anwar. On 20 September, he was arrested and placed in detention under the Internal Security Act.[70]

The final years and succession (1998–2003)

In his second decade in office, Mahathir had again found himself battling Malaysia's royalty. In 1992, Sultan Iskandar's son, a representative hockey player, was suspended from competition for five years for assaulting an opponent. Iskandar retaliated by pulling all Johor hockey teams out of national competitions. When his decision was criticised by a local coach, Iskandar ordered him to his palace and beat him. The federal parliament unanimously censured Iskandar, and Mahathir leapt at the opportunity to remove the constitutional immunity of the sultans from civil and criminal suits. The press backed Mahathir and, in an unprecedented development, started airing allegations of misconduct by members of Malaysia's royal families. As the press revealed examples of the rulers' extravagant wealth, Mahathir resolved to cut financial support to royal households. With the press and the government pitted against them, the sultans capitulated to the government's proposals. Their powers to deny assent to bills were limited by further constitutional amendments passed in 1994. With the status and powers of the Malaysian royalty diminished, Wain writes that by the mid-1990s Mahathir had become the country's "uncrowned king".[67]

The financial crisis threatened to devastate Malaysia. The value of the ringgit plummeted due to currency speculation, foreign investment fled, and the main stock exchange index fell by over 75 per cent. At the urging of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government cut government spending and raised interest rates, which only served to exacerbate the economic situation. In 1998, Mahathir reversed this policy course in defiance of the IMF and his own deputy, Anwar. He increased government spending and fixed the ringgit to the US dollar. The result confounded his international critics and the IMF. Malaysia recovered from the crisis faster than its Southeast Asian neighbours. In the domestic sphere, it was a political triumph. Amidst the economic events of 1998, Mahathir had dismissed Anwar as finance minister and deputy prime minister, and he could now claim to have rescued the economy in spite of Anwar's policies.[66]

Mahathir initiated a series of major infrastructure projects in the 1990s. One of the largest was the Multimedia Super Corridor, an area south of Kuala Lumpur, in the mould of Silicon Valley, designed to cater for the information technology industry. However, the project failed to generate the investment anticipated.[63] Other Mahathir projects included the development of Putrajaya as the home of Malaysia's public service, and bringing a Formula One Grand Prix to Sepang.[64] One of the most controversial developments was the Bakun Dam in Sarawak. The ambitious hydro-electric project was intended to carry electricity across the South China Sea to satisfy electricity demand in peninsular Malaysia. Work on the dam was eventually suspended due to the Asian financial crisis.[65]

The expiry of the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1990 gave Mahathir the opportunity to outline his economic vision for Malaysia. In 1991, he announced Vision 2020, under which Malaysia would aim to become a fully developed country within 30 years.[56] The target would require average economic growth of approximately seven per cent of gross domestic product per annum.[57] One of Vision 2020's features would be to gradually break down ethnic barriers. Vision 2020 was accompanied by the NEP's replacement, the National Development Policy (NDP), under which some government programs designed to benefit the bumiputera exclusively were opened up to other ethnicities.[58] The NDP achieved success out one of its main aims, poverty reduction. By 1995, less than nine per cent of Malaysians lived in poverty and income inequality had narrowed.[59] Mahathir's government cut corporate taxes and liberalised financial regulations to attract foreign investment. The economy grew by over nine per cent per annum until 1997 prompting other developing countries to try to emulate Mahathir's policies.[60] Much of the credit for Malaysia's economic development in the 1990s went to Anwar Ibrahim, appointed by Mahathir as finance minister in 1991.[61] The government rode the economic wave and won the 1995 election with an increased majority.[62]

A view of Petronas Twin Towers and the surrounding central business district in Kuala Lumpur, the iconic towers were once the tallest buildings in the world, but still the tallest twin towers building in the world, a testament of the Malaysian phenomenal economic evolution. Major economic reforms together with high-profile megaprojects propelled throughout Mahathir's administration has catapulted the Malaysian economy from an agricultural backwater depending on tin and rubber into an industrial powerhouse and the 17th largest trading nation in the world.

Economic development to financial crisis (1990–1998)

Mahathir suffered a heart attack in early 1989,[54] but recovered to lead Barisan Nasional to victory in the 1990 election. Semangat 46 failed to make any headway outside Razaleigh's home state of Kelantan (Musa had since rejoined UMNO).[55]

At the same time as the political and judicial crises, Mahathir initiated a crackdown on opposition dissidents with the use of the Internal Security Act. The appointment of a number of administrators who did not speak Mandarin to Chinese schools provoked an outcry among Chinese Malaysians to the point where UMNO's coalition partners the Malaysian Chinese Association and Gerakan joined the Democratic Action Party (DAP) in protesting the appointments. UMNO's Youth wing held a provocative protest that triggered a shooting by a lone Malay gunman, and only Mahathir's interference prevented UMNO from staging a larger protest. Instead, Mahathir ordered what Wain calls "the biggest crackdown on political dissent Malaysia had ever seen". Under the police operation codenamed "Operation Lalang", 119 people were arrested and detained without charge under the Internal Security Act. Mahathir argued that the detentions were necessary to prevent a repeat of the 1969 race riots. Most of the detainees were prominent opposition activists, including the leader of the DAP, Lim Kit Siang, and nine of his fellow MPs. Three newspapers sympathetic to the opposition were shut down.[53]

Having survived the political crisis at least temporarily, Mahathir moved against the judiciary, fearing a successful appeal by Team B against the decision to register UMNO Baru. He steered an amendment to the Constitution through parliament to remove the general power of the High Courts to conduct judicial review. The High Courts could now only engage in judicial review where specific acts of parliament gave them the power to do so. The Lord President of the Supreme Court, Salleh Abas, responded by sending a letter of protest to the Agong. Mahathir then suspended Salleh for "gross misbehaviour and conduct", ostensibly because the letter was a breach of protocol. A tribunal set up by Mahathir found Salleh guilty and recommended to the Agong that Salleh be dismissed. Five other judges of the court supported Salleh, and were suspended by Mahathir. A newly constituted court dismissed Team B's appeal, allowing Mahathir's faction to continue to use the name UMNO. According to Milne and Mauzy, the episode destroyed the independence of Malaysia's judiciary.[52]

[51] instead.Semangat 46 and with the support of both of Malaysia's surviving former Prime Ministers Abdul Rahman and Hussein, registered the party Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah Each faction raced to register a new party under the UMNO name. Mahathir's side successfully registered the name "UMNO Baru" ("new UMNO"), while Team B's application to register "UMNO Malaysia" was rejected. UMNO Malaysia, under the leadership of [50][49] Any illusion that the 1986 election may have created about Mahathir's political dominance was short-lived. In 1987, he was challenged for the presidency of UMNO, and effectively the prime ministership, by

Exerting power (1987–1990)

In Mahathir's early years as prime minister, Malaysia was experiencing a resurgence of Islam among Malays. Malays were becoming more religious and more conservative. PAS, which had in the 1970s joined UMNO in government, responded to the resurgence by taking an increasingly strident Islamist stand under the leadership of the man who in 1969 had defeated Mahathir for his parliamentary seat, Yusof Rawa. Mahathir tried to appeal to religious voters by establishing Islamic institutions such as the International Islamic University of Malaysia which could promote Islamic education under the government's oversight. He also attracted Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (ABIM) to join UMNO. In some cases, Mahathir's government employed repression against more extreme exponents of Islamism. Ibrahim Libya, a popular Islamist leader, was killed in a police shoot-out in 1985; Al-Arqam, a religious sect, was banned and its leader, Ashaari Mohammad, arrested under the Internal Security Act.[47] Mahathir comprehensively defeated PAS at the polls in 1986, winning 83 seats of the 84 seats it contested, leaving PAS with just one MP.[48]

On the economic front, Mahathir inherited the New Economic Policy from his predecessors, which was designed to improve the economic position of the bumiputera (Malaysia's Malays and indigenous peoples) through targets and affirmative action in areas such as corporate ownership and university admission.[42] Mahathir also actively pursued privatisation of government enterprises from the early 1980s, both for the liberal economic reasons it was being pursued by contemporaries such as Margaret Thatcher, and because he felt that combined with affirmative action for the bumiputera it could provide economic opportunities for bumiputera businesses.[43] His government privatised airlines, utilities and telecommunication firms, accelerating to a rate of about 50 privatisations a year by the mid-1990s.[44] While privatisation generally improved the working conditions of Malaysians in privatised industries and raised significant revenue for the government, many privatisations occurred in the absence of open tendering processes and benefited Malays who supported UMNO. One of the most notable infrastructure projects at the time was the construction of the North–South Expressway, a motorway running from the Thai border to Singapore; the contract to construct the expressway was awarded to a business venture of UMNO.[45] Mahathir also oversaw the establishment of the car manufacturer Proton as a joint venture between the Malaysian government and Mitsubishi. By the end of the 1980s, Proton had overcome poor demand and losses to become, with the support of protective tariffs, the largest car maker in Southeast Asia and a profitable enterprise.[46]

The 2012 Proton Prevé
The 2012 Proton Prevé Sapphire concept. Mahathir considered that an automotive industry was essential to Malaysia becoming a industrial nation. His government used tariffs to support the development of the Proton as a Malaysian-made car and to limit the capital outflow of Malaysian Ringgit to foreign countries.

The 2012 Proton Prevé

Mahathir exercised caution in his first two years in power, consolidating his leadership of UMNO and, with victory in the 1982 general election, the government.[35][36] In 1983, Mahathir commenced the first of a number of battles he would have with Malaysia's royalty during his premiership. The position of Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Malaysian head of state, was due to rotate in to either the elderly Idris Shah II of Perak or the controversial Iskandar of Johor. Mahathir had grave reservations about the two Sultans. Both were activist rulers of their own states and Iskandar had only a few years earlier been convicted of manslaughter.[37][38] Mahathir tried to pre-emptively limit the power that the new Agong could wield over his government, introducing to parliament amendments to the Constitution to deem the Agong to assent to any bill that had not been assented within 15 days of passage by Parliament. The proposal would also remove the power to declare a state of emergency from the Agong and placed it with the Prime Minister. The Agong at the time, Ahmad Shah of Pahang, agreed with the proposals in principle but baulked when he realised that the proposal would also deem Sultans to assent to laws passed by state assemblies. Supported by the Sultans, the Agong refused to assent to the constitutional amendments, which had by then passed both houses of Parliament with comfortable majorities.[39][40] When the public became aware of the impasse, and the Sultans refused to compromise with the government, Mahathir took to the streets to demonstrate public support for his position in mass rallies. The press took the side of the government, although a large minority of Malays, including conservative UMNO politicians, and an even larger proportion of the Chinese community, supported the sultans. After five months, the crisis resolved, as Mahathir and the Sultans agreed to a compromise. The Agong would retain the power to declare a state of emergency, but if he refused to assent to a bill, the bill would be returned to Parliament, which could then override the Agong's veto.[41]

Early years (1981–1987)

Mahathir was sworn in as Prime Minister on 16 July 1981, at the age of 56.[32] One of his first acts was to release 21 detainees held under the Internal Security Act, including journalist Samad Ismail and a former deputy minister in Hussein's government, Abdullah Ahmad, who had been suspected of being an underground communist.[33] He appointed his close ally, Musa Hitam, as Deputy Prime Minister.[34]

Domestic affairs

Prime minister

However, Mahathir was not an influential deputy prime minister. Hussein was a cautious leader who rejected many of Mahathir's bold policy proposals. While the relationship between Hussein and Mahathir was distant, Ghazali and Razaleigh became Hussein's closest advisers, often bypassing the more senior Mahathir when accessing Hussein. Nonetheless, when Hussein relinquished power due to ill health in 1981, Mahathir succeeded him unopposed and with his blessing.[31]

Mahathir is regarded as having been a successful Minister for Education and then Minister for Trade and Industry (1978–1981).[24] In the latter post, he implemented a "heavy industries policy", establishing a HICOM, a government-controlled corporation, to invest in the long-term development of manufacturing sectors such as an indigenous car industry.[30] He spent much of his time in the ministry promoting Malaysia through overseas visits.[27]

In 1975, Mahathir ran for one of the three vice-presidencies of UMNO. The contest was considered to be a battle for the succession of the party's leadership, with both Razak and his deputy, Hussein Onn, in declining health. Each of Razak's preferred candidates was elected: former Chief Minister of Melaka, Ghafar Baba; Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a wealthy businessman and member of Kelantan's royal family; and Mahathir. When Razak died the following year, Hussein as his successor was forced to choose between the three men to be deputy prime minister; he also considered the ambitious minister Ghazali Shafie. Each of Mahathir's rivals had significant political liabilities: Ghazali, having been defeated by the others for a vice-presidency, lacked the support of UMNO members; Ghafar had no higher education and was not fluent in English; and Razaleigh was young, inexperienced and, critically, unmarried. But Hussein's decision was not easy. Hussein and Mahathir were not close allies, and Hussein knew the choice of Mahathir would displease Abdul Rahman, still alive and revered as the father of Malaysia's independence. After six weeks of indecision Mahathir was, much to his surprise, appointed as Hussein's deputy. The appointment meant that Mahathir was the anointed successor to the prime ministership.[28][29]

Abdul Rahman resigned in 1970 and was replaced by Abdul Razak Hussein. Razak encouraged Mahathir back into the party, and had him appointed as a Senator in 1973.[25] He rose quickly in the Razak government, returning to UMNO's Supreme Council in 1973, and being appointed to Cabinet in 1974 as the Minister for Education. He also returned to the House of Representatives, winning the Kedah-based seat of Kubang Pasu unopposed in the 1974 election.[19] One of his first acts as Minister for Education was to introduce greater government control over Malaysia's universities, despite strong opposition from the academic community.[26] He also moved to limit politics on university campuses, giving his ministry the power to discipline students and academics who were politically active, and making scholarships for students conditional on the avoidance of politics.[27]

Return to politics and ascent to premiership

While in the political wilderness, Mahathir wrote his first book, The Malay Dilemma, in which he set out his vision for the Malay community. The book argued that a balance had to be achieved between enough government support for Malays so that their economic interests would not be dominated by the Chinese, and exposing Malays to sufficient competition to ensure that over time, Malays would lose what Mahathir saw as the characteristics of avoiding hard work and failing to "appreciate the real value of money and property".[22] The book continued Mahathir's criticism of Abdul Rahman's government, and it was promptly banned. The ban was only lifted after Mahathir became prime minister in 1981; he thus served as a minister and deputy prime minister while being the author of a banned book.[19][23] Academics R. S. Milne and Diane K. Mauzy argue that Mahathir's relentless attacks were the principal cause of Abdul Rahman's downfall and subsequent resignation as prime minister in 1970.[24]

Elected to parliament in a volatile political period, Mahathir, as a government backbencher, launched himself into the main conflict of the day: the future of Singapore, with its large and economically powerful ethnic Chinese population, as a state of Malaysia. He vociferously attacked Singapore's dominant People's Action Party for being "pro-Chinese" and "anti-Malay" and called its leader, Lee Kuan Yew, "arrogant". Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in Mahathir's first full year in parliament.[17][18] However, despite Mahathir's prominence as a backbencher, he lost his seat in the 1969 election, defeated by Yusof Rawa of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).[19] Mahathir attributed the loss of his seat to ethnic Chinese voters switching support from UMNO to PAS (being a Malay-dominated seat, only the two major Malay parties fielded candidates, leaving Chinese voters to choose between the Malay-centric UMNO and the Islamist PAS).[20] Large government losses in the election were followed by the race riots of 13 May 1969, in which hundreds of people were killed in clashes between Malays and Chinese. The previous year, Mahathir had predicted the outbreak of racial hostility. Now, outside parliament, he openly criticised the government, sending a letter to Abdul Rahman in which the prime minister was criticised for failing to uphold Malay interests. The letter, which soon became public, called for Abdul Rahman's resignation.[21] By the end of the year, Mahathir had been fired from UMNO's Supreme Council and expelled from the party; Abdul Rahman had to be persuaded not to have him arrested.[19][20]

Mahathir had been politically active since the end of the Japanese occupation of Malaya, when he joined protests against the granting of citizenship to non-Malays under the short-lived Malayan Union.[15] He later argued for affirmative action for Malays at medical college. While at college he contributed to The Straits Times under the pseudonym "C.H.E. Det", and a student journal, in which he fiercely promoted Malay rights, such as restoring Malay as an official language.[12] While practising as a doctor in Alor Setar, Mahathir became active in UMNO; by the time of the first general election for the independent state of Malaya in 1959, he was the chairman of the party in Kedah.[16] Despite his prominence in UMNO, Mahathir was not a candidate in the 1959 election, ruling himself out following a disagreement with then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. The relationship between the two Kedahans had been strained since Mahathir had criticised Abdul Rahman's agreement to the retention of British and Commonwealth forces in Malaya after independence. Now Abdul Rahman opposed Mahathir's plans to introduce minimum educational qualifications for UMNO candidates. For Mahathir this was a significant enough slight to delay his entry into national politics in protest. The delay did not last for long. In the following general election in 1964, he was elected as the federal parliamentarian for the Alor Setar-based seat of Kota Setar Selatan.[17]

Early political career

Mahathir was a hard-working student. Discipline imposed by his father motivated him to study, and he showed little interest in sports. He won a position in a selective English medium secondary school, having become fluent in English well ahead of his primary school peers.[10] With schools closed during the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II, he went into business, first selling coffee and later pisang goreng (banana fritters) and other snacks.[3] After the war, he graduated from secondary school with high marks and enrolled to study medicine at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore (now part of National University of Singapore).[11] There he met his future wife, Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, a fellow medical student. After he graduated, Mahathir worked as a doctor in government service before marrying in 1956. He returned to Alor Setar the following year to set up his own practice. The success of his practice, as the only Malay doctor in the town, allowed him to build a large house, invest in various businesses and, pointedly, employ a chauffeur to drive his Pontiac Catalina.[12][13] He and Siti Hasmah had their first child, Marina, in 1957, before conceiving three others and adopting three more over the following 28 years.[14]

A large two storey building with two wings, painted yellow and white with a red tiled roof
The former Government English School in Alor Setar, the secondary school attended by Mahathir and founded by his father, now the Sultan Abdul Hamid College[9]

Mahathir was born at his parents' home in a poor neighbourhood of Alor Setar, the capital of the state of Kedah, British Malaya, on 10 July 1925.[3] Mahathir's birth certificate gives his date of birth as 20 December. He was actually born on 10 July; his biographer Barry Wain explains that 20 December was an "arbitrary" date. Mahathir's father, Mohamed Sikander Kutty, is of Indian ancestry, hailing from Thalassery town, located in the Kannur district in the state of Kerala, India, while his mother Wan Tempawan, was from Kedah, of Malay descent respectively.[4][5] An aspect of Mahathir's birth set him apart: he was not born into the aristocracy or a prominent religious or political family.[6][N 1] Mahathir's father was a school principal whose low socio-economic status meant his daughters were unable to enroll in secondary school, while Wan Tempawan had only a distant relationship to Kedah's royalty. Both parents had been married previously; Mahathir had six half-siblings and two full-siblings.[7]

The Literary and Debating Society of Sultan Abdul Hamid College in 1946. Seated from left: Ahmad Nordin, Mohammad Khir Johari, Tiddemand (the Headmaster), Mahathir Mohamad, Zulkifli Hashim.

Childhood and medical career


  • Childhood and medical career 1
  • Early political career 2
  • Return to politics and ascent to premiership 3
  • Prime minister 4
    • Domestic affairs 4.1
      • Early years (1981–1987) 4.1.1
      • Exerting power (1987–1990) 4.1.2
      • Economic development to financial crisis (1990–1998) 4.1.3
      • The final years and succession (1998–2003) 4.1.4
    • Foreign relations 4.2
      • United States 4.2.1
      • Australia 4.2.2
      • Middle East and remarks about Israel and Jews 4.2.3
      • Singapore 4.2.4
      • Bosnia-Herzegovina 4.2.5
      • Developing world 4.2.6
  • Retirement 5
  • Legacy 6
  • Election result 7
  • Ancestry 8
  • Books 9
  • References 10
    • Notes 10.1
    • Citations 10.2
    • Cited texts 10.3
  • External links 11

He remains an active political figure after his retirement. He became a strident critic of his hand-picked successor, Abdullah Badawi in 2006 and later, Najib Razak in 2015.[2] His son, Mukhriz Mahathir, is the Chief Minister of Kedah.

During Mahathir's tenure as Prime Minister, Malaysia experienced a period of rapid modernisation and economic growth, and his government initiated a series of bold infrastructure projects. Mahathir was a dominant political figure, winning five consecutive general elections and fending off a series of rivals for the leadership of UMNO. However, his accumulation of power came at the expense of the independence of the judiciary and the traditional powers and privileges of Malaysia's royalty. He deployed the controversial Internal Security Act to detain activists, non-mainstream religious figures, and political opponents including the Deputy Prime Minister he fired in 1998, Anwar Ibrahim. Mahathir's record of curbing civil liberties and his antagonism towards western interests and economic policy made his relationships with the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, among others, difficult. As Prime Minister, he was an advocate of third-world development and a prominent international activist in support of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the interests of Bosnians in the Balkans conflict of the 1990s.

. Hussein Onn and being expelled from UMNO. When Abdul Rahman resigned, Mahathir re-entered UMNO and Parliament, and was promoted to the Cabinet. By 1976 he had risen to Deputy Prime Minister, and in 1981 was sworn in as Prime Minister after the resignation of his predecessor, Tunku Abdul Rahman [1]

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