As the fourth and most dynamic Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad will indelible impression on the sands of Malaysia for many years to come. He held the post for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, making him Malaysia's longest-serving Prime Minister, and one of the longest-serving leaders in Asia.
Born on 20th December, 1925 in Alor Setar, Dr. Mahathir is the son of a teacher. He is the youngest of nine children of a school teacher and a housewife. His father, Mohamad Iskandar, was of Indian descent, being the son of a Muslim and a Malay mother, while Mahathir's own mother, Datin Wan Tempawan Wan Hanafi, was Malay. He is married to Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah binti Haji Mohamad Ali, they have seven children, four sons and three daughters. From an early age, Tun Mahathir had the importance of education drummed into him by his father, who was also a strict disciplinarian.
After his early education at the Maktab Sultan Abdul Hamid in Alor Setar, he enrolled at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in the University of Singapore. Armed with a MBBS degree in medicine, he set up his own clinic, the Maha Clinic in Alor Setar. As a doctor, Tun Mahathir came into close contact with people from variety of social strata and enjoyed a close rapport with them. He understood their problems. Thus, when he was thrust into the politic limelight, he strove to fulfil the needs of the people.
He was first catapulted into the world of politics when he became the Member of Parliement for Alor Setar in 1964. After holding a number of portfolios, including Minister of Education, Minister of Trade and Industry and Deputy Prime Minister, he finally became the Prime Minister on 16th July, 1981. The country flourished with Dr. Mahathir at the helm of the government. His contributions to the nation are so immense and par excellence. He has left his mark in every aspect – in politics, economy or education.
Realizing that government-owned enterprises are neither efficient nor profitable, he initiated the privation policy in 1983. This had immediate effect of cutting down bureaucratic ineptitude and operational cost while at the same time generating more revenue.
With collapse of the prices of agricultural commodities in the eighties, Tun Mahathir decided that it was time to shift the nation’s focus to more profitable areas. Thus, he started the industrialization programme. Reputed as the country’s top salesman, he showcased Malaysia to investors abroad in a bid to woo them. As a result of the heavy industrialization drive, major projects like national car project or PROTON and the steel company, PERWAJA, together with other mega project were launched one after another. Next, realizing that industrialization would require a good infrastructure, he set about improving it. The Mahathir era saw a successful completion of the North-South Highway, the East-West Highway, the Multimedia Super Corridor, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang and many more.
An astute politician, he charted the growth of the country’s progress from the day he took office. He envisages that Malaysia can only attain the status of a fully developed country if it becomes an industrialization one and this ambition has been his main agenda during his tenure. With this in mind, he announced Vision 2020, his most ambitious vision.
Frank and outspoken by nature, Tun Mahathir speak without fear nor favour. This has been the hallmark of thus much respected statesman. The inefficiency of local and international organizations has always come under his scrutiny and critism.
It has been almost two decades since Tun Mahathir took over reins of the government. It has undoubtedly been the golden era for Malaysia with many notable achievements.