Dr.Mahathir – The Last of Asia’s Strongmen?


March 15, 2019

Dr.Mahathir – The Last of Asia’s Strongmen?

The Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

Image result for dr.mahathir mohamad

Tun Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad

 

MANILA : In one of his most famous lines, Shakespeare wrote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em”.

Many of today’s most powerful persons belong to one of these three categories. Some were born with exceptional capabilities and magnetic charisma, carrying in their bosom a burning vision for their communities.

They have an unmatched talent for inspiring countless souls, steering whole nations toward the terminus of history.

One could think of Cyrus the Great of Persia and Alexander the Great of Macedonia, who built the biggest and most cosmopolitan empires of their times, as belonging to this category of men.

Others achieve greatness through sheer hard work, untrammelled ambition and unimaginable sacrifice and self-mastery.

One could think of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi as belonging to this category.

Image result for maggie thatcher

For free marketers, Dame Margaret Thatcher also fits this description.

Then there are those who are catapulted to the vortex of history through sheer circumstances. Throughout their lives, they were never known as exceptional characters or particularly ambitious persons.

And yet, when the moment came, they did their best to rise to the occasion.

One could think of Catherine the Great of Russia and Cory Aquino of the Philippines as belonging to this category: two brave women who filled up the political vacuum left by their prematurely demised husbands.

Catherine oversaw the transformation of Czarist Russia into a haven for the European intelligentsia, while Cory oversaw a messy transition out of the black hole of a literally bankrupt dictatorship.

Image result for Tom Plate Mahathir

When I met Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) last week, I wondered to which category he belongs. Not that he is a perfect leader; nor have I turned a blind eye to his more authoritarian past.

In fact, I was a Mahathir-skeptic in the past, partly because I was critical of, inter alia, his “Asian values” argument: I reject the suggestion that civil liberties and human rights are only for Caucasian people.

I believe in the universality of human dignity and, similar to former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, the perfect compatibility between democracy and development.

But “greatness” should be understood in terms of Greek tragedy: We are not speaking of perfect beings, or the “best president in the solar system”, but instead restless mortals who dedicate their lives to pursuing a cause bigger than themselves, no matter the sacrifices it entails.

In my view, Dr. Mahathir is great in all three categories.

He was born with unfathomable energy for political engagement from early youth.

Hailing from a humble background, he worked his way up to the pinnacle of power by sheer hard work and ruthless ambition.

But the Dr. Mahathir that I admire is the one who had greatness “thrust upon” him. At the astonishing age of 92, he decided to rejoin the maelstrom of politics.

As D.r Mahathir told me during our conversation, he decided to shun “retirement” in order to “do something”: to save Malaysia from the downward spiral of unrestrained corruption and increasing subservience to a foreign power, namely China.

What I admire even more about him is his personal discipline, making sure that he never skips any major event despite the vicissitudes of advanced age. Not to mention his reputation as a loving husband and father.

Above all, however, Dr Mahathir is the epitome of a great leader, one who bravely stands up to both a hegemonic Western power and an overbearing Eastern rival.

During his visit to Beijing last year, Dr Mahathir bluntly warned of a “new colonialism”, underscoring the need for vigilance vis-à-vis welcoming large-scale but low-quality investments from China.

At the same time, he has also warned against the belligerence and warmongering of US President Donald Trump, who, according to Dr Mahathir, “resort(s) to unconventional reactions to problems”.

Now, that’s a truly “independent” foreign policy.

Image result for fidel ramos

Fidel Ramos

Of all Filipino leaders, I think only one came close to being our own version of Dr Mahathir: Fidel Ramos.

Sadly, he only had a few years to fix the mess of the lost decade of the ’80s, just to see a populist successor throw all the most precious gains of his hardworking administration out of the window.

We never lost the chance to under-appreciate truly good leaders. –

The Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

12 thoughts on “Dr.Mahathir – The Last of Asia’s Strongmen?

  1. Delusional.
    If he is so great, just look at where Malaysia is today.
    Just about every other country in SEA and Asia has overtaken or soon to overtake Malaysia in economic growth.
    LKY and Singapore.
    Deng and China.
    South Korea.
    Taiwan.
    Thailand,

  2. “When I met Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last week, I wondered to which category he belongs. Not that he is a perfect leader; nor have I turned a blind eye to his more authoritarian past.”

    The majority of Malaysians (with the exception of the self-pitying whining of Kua Kia Soong) have moved on beyond his more authoritarian past. If LKS can, if his erstwhile ISA-incarcerated political foes can, we all can. Try harder, Kua.

    No, the bigger problem is Mahathir’s incompetent present, not his past.

    Let’s not be harsh; it’s against the very laws of nature for a 90-year-old to win an election stacked so heavily against him.

    But this is a Mahathir Mohamad who has lost his political chops, his aura for the Malays, and his former knack of keeping his Cabinet ducks in a row. Let’s not forget that some of the most egregious howlers of the Pakatan Hopeless cabinet were conceived and approved with Mahathir sitting at the head of the table.

    It’s a point that brain-dead Mahathir cultists like Syed Akbar Ali pretend not to see, of course. In his mind, his flawless lord and master should still be Prime Minister at the age of 189. Or perhaps 289. (Let’s see how good those Swiss clinics really are.)

    For those who have imbibed less Kool-Aid, we’re wishing that the old man would put one last burst of energy into getting his house in order in the next 12 months or so, before handing over to (deep breath, everyone), yes “that guy”.

    “That guy” will need to be pretty abysmal to match Mahathir’s dire performance in his second term, but the cultists don’t want to see that, either.

  3. If this were not a serious Blog I would not even venture a reply. Is this piece intended to be irenically polemic? “Dr. M…the epitome of a great leader…” hurts the intellect; certainly does mine! A pity that the identity of the author is unknown.

  4. Malaysians were large hearted enough to give him a second chance to clean up his mess but instead of doing that, he is diverting the Reformasi-minded coalition to think not of all races and religions but focus instead on defending their own race and religion. He is a shrewd politician but he has no vision.

  5. This Fillipino writer must had been dedah Kaw kaw sampai telan bola Mahathir. (Paycheck journalist to the hilt and sucking on Mahathir’s balls)

    Mahathir his GREATNESSES lies in PLUNDERING, LOOTING, RACISM, MACHIAVELLIAN SINISTER DIRTY Politics and a MEGA DICTATOR to boot.

    If Mahathir is GREAT, my big toes are greater.

    Comparing Ferdinand Marcos is more appropriate than Fidel Ramos and Marcos is a SAINT by comparison.

    This Fillipino writer must had been dedah Kaw kaw sampai telan bola Mahathir. (Paycheck journalist to the hilt and sucking on Mahathir’s balls)

    Mahathir his GREATNESSES lies in PLUNDERING, LOOTING, RACISM, MACHIAVELLIAN SINISTER DIRTY Politics and a MEGA DICTATOR to boot.

    If Mahathir is GREAT, my big toes are greater.

    Comparing Ferdinand Marcos is more appropriate than Fidel Ramos and Marcos is a SAINT by comparison.

    Its such an irritating write up of Mahathir whose failures had wasted Malaysia’s by decades and now again.

    There was no greatness in Mahathir except his GREED, lies and sinister traitorous intents.

    Mahathir is the political T-REX of the Universe.

  6. How does the writer measure greatness that he thinks Dr Mahathir fits the bill? Well, I think that he made his measurement by looking at the degree by which the man’s actions have impacted the nation. For good or bad, Dr M is (in my opinion) a man whose actions have had a large impact on the nation; and on the scale of those impact, he fits the bill.

  7. We all now have the Internet to say what we like. The second time, he has delivered. It is now up to all of us to continue building this country based on rule of law and not individuals.

  8. /// Above all, however, Dr Mahathir is the epitome of a great leader, one who bravely stands up to both a hegemonic Western power and an overbearing Eastern rival. ///

    Wow, Mahathir (or Malaysia) is a rival of Xi Jin Ping (China). There is rivalry between the US and China. But rivalry between Malaysia and China?

  9. DSAI takes over and then Malaysia can have faster (and deeper) reform ?

    (Stalin dethroned by elderly Lenin, Trotsky takes over the “USSR”).

  10. Mahathir is not daring enough to lead Malaysia back to the developed society it once was.

    The quantum leaps society it was to better the Majapahits when then Malaysia was founded in 1402.

    When Parameswara amalgamated the Spice Trade and made it a magnet for the most adventurous men in the world.

    Thus helping spur the the European Renaissance in 1500 and then the seeds of the British Empire.

    Mahathir should do an Erdogan with his anti-AI age termite adversaries. The march of history calls for relentless destruction of the “everybody is doing it” criminal culture.

    #pathmini_terrorism #spiritofponnamal

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