Tun Dr Mahathir was born on 10th July, 1925 in Kampung Seberang Perak, Alor Setar, Kedah, described by Tun himself as “the poorer quarters” of town. Tun Mahathir’s parents were Mohamad bin Iskandar and Wan Tempawan binti Wan Hanafi and Tun was the youngest of nine siblings.
He received his early education in his hometown at Sekolah Melayu Seberang Perak, an all-boys school for two years, then in a government English school where his father was the headmaster. This school would later be renamed Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid. As a student, Tun Dr Mahathir was active in debates and was highly regarded for his English language skills. In 1947, Tun Mahathir gained admission into the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore as a government scholar. In 1953, Tun Mahathir graduated and served as a medical officer at Alor Setar General Hospital. While in college, Tun had met Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, also a medical student. In 1956, they were married and they have seven children.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became Malaysia’s fourth and longest-serving, Prime Minister, on 16th July 1981. He is known as Malaysia’s “Father of Modernisation” for his successes in transforming Malaysia into a modern, industrial powerhouse. Tun stepped down as Prime Minister on 31st October 2003. In a stunning political comeback, the coalition he established in 2017 to challenge the government, won Malaysia’s 14th General Elections in 2018. At the age of 93, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became Malaysia’s 7th Prime Minister.
Throughout the years, Tun Dr Mahathir was levelled with criticism for his assertive leadership with labels such as autocrat and dictator being hurled at him for his indomitable will and often hard-hitting ways of getting things done. Yet, the statesman shrugged off the criticisms because he was motivated by a singular goal he has often repeated in his public speeches to restore good governance and rule of law to the country. This goal sustained him through his rollercoaster journey back from retirement to once again taking the helm of the country’s administration. Next, Tun Dr Mahathir knows who his stakeholders are. It is the people who believed in him and voted him back into the premiership of the country. With this, he tailored his message to his stakeholders.In the campaigning season, Tun Dr Mahathir crisscrossed Peninsular Malaysia for rallies and speeches. Known for his wit and humour in both English and Malay, he consistently drove home a message of reform and described his hope for the nation’s return to glory as an economic powerhouse. He also simplified complex issues like how alleged corruption and abuse of power have affected our nation’s economy in layman terms to make a case to the people on why a change is necessary.
A night before Election Day, thousands of Malaysians watched as he spoke about his hope for a new, reformed Malaysia a heartfelt, powerful speech that no doubt tipped the scale in his favour when Malaysians went out to vote the next day.Even after he was sworn into the Prime Minister office, Tun Dr Mahathir continued communicating with the public through press conferences and statements on the initiatives by the new government from investigating corruption to overhauling the nation’s financial health spending.Yet, despite the uncertainty and weight on his shoulders, Tun Dr Mahathir displayed a patience that reminded us more of a grandfather than a ‘dictator’. At every public appearance he makes, he answered questions about the state of the nation’s economy and politics with calmness and confidence.
While he is aware that his stakeholders are hoping he could solve the nation’s issues quickly, he has expressed that every decision he makes must adhere to the rules of law. “Everything takes time, even answering you takes time, ” was his response to a reporter’s query on his initiatives. Spoken like the wise leader he is.Besides that, a great leader possesses a clear vision. He is courageous to lead that vision and has a clear focus of what needs to be done to attain that vision.In many circumstances in the past few weeks leading to the elections, we saw one very clear role that Tun and his team of leaders had. They all led the role of articulating a clear vision for the future of Malaysia with a 100-day manifesto and this short-term vision gave hope to Malaysians of what Malaysia could be in the next 5 years to come if they are the governing administration.
Tun not only united the parties for a common goal but he was able to influence and unite the hearts of the rakyat to achieve this one similar vision which is to REFORM MALAYSIA.However, this success and responsibility is not just a one-man task. The right timing and the role of the people is also significant. Though the parties have been rivals for years, they were forced to be united by the power of the people.Last but not least, being a strategic planner, Tun first garnered teamwork by uniting the 4 parties to be represented as 1 united coalition for the 14th General Elections. By doing this, he had reduced confusion among the voters and lessened the dispersion of votes. So, voters did not have to decide among the 4, they just had to choose 1 unified party.
Imagine if Tun had not done so, the voters would have been undecided to elect their representatives as there are about 9-10 parties including the independent candidates.It was definitely not an easy feat to unite the 4 parties as one and this leads me to my next point is the negotiation skills of a leader, his ability to influence without authority and his proposed winning formula for one coalition.