Depicted as a fearsome aged “warhorse,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad landed in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of the world. The announcement came on the night of April 17 (Wednesday).
Sarawak reporter/editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown writes about the prime minister:
“You don’t have to be young to fight the power. Take Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian Prime Minister who came out of retirement last year to lambaste his successor Najib Razak, who is accused of embezzling millions of dollars from the country’s 1MDB development fund. Venting moral outrage, the colloquially called Dr. M swept back to power in a landslide election victory in May 2018 at age 92.”
“The formidable old warhorse dazzled during a grueling campaign, gathering vast crowds; his reliance on core values united electoral groups, and his age inspired trust in a grand man of politics.”
“Now 93, Mohamad has committed to hand over power to the former leader of the opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, 71, whom he released from jail days after his victory. For Malaysia, the episode has re-established democracy in a country that almost teetered into totalitarianism.”
The Bersatu chairman was listed alongside United States president Donald Trump, China president Xi Jinping, Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Pope Francis of the Vatican.
Behind Malaysia’s continued prosperity
According to former Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s massive accomplishments provided the basis for the country’s continued prosperity.
“Much if not all of Malaysia’s present success must be attributed to Dr. Mahathir. He has turned Malaysia into an advanced developing country and there is much enthusiasm for the future,” he said.
Najib added that Dr Mahathir’s vision of making Malaysia a developed nation had broken the mental barriers of the population and has given much confidence to Malaysians in their ability to transform society.
The other side of Mahathir
Despite the accomplishments, Mahathir left a mixed legacy in 2003. Although he began his first term conservatively, during the 1980s Mahathir became more dictatorial. In 1987, he established the Internal Security Act, which allowed him to shut down four newspapers and order the arrests of 106 protesters, religious leaders and political adversaries, including Anwar Ibrahim, his former deputy prime minister. He also modified the constitution to restrict the interpretive power of the Supreme Court, and forced a number of high-ranking members to resign.
Mahathir’s record on civil liberties, as well as his condemnations of Western economic policies and industrialized nations’ strategies toward developing countries, made his dealings with the United States, Britain and Australia thorny and complicated. He outlawed The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal for printing unconstructive viewpoints about him, and backed up a national law putting accused drug smugglers to death and the death sentences of several Western citizens.
Democratic or authoritarian is not the issue
Notwithstanding the atrocities that his opponents have accused him of carrying out, many Malaysians still think that their prime minister is responsible for many of the successes that the country has achieved and that he has influenced not just his people but other leaders of the world as well, making him deserving to be named one of the most influential people in the world today.