Public Service & Law

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

The grand old man of Malaysian politics, this nonagenarian is still surprisingly active and continues to serve the nation.

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Perhaps the most well-known face of Malaysia, having been its prime minister for a cumulative grand total of 24 years, Mahathir Mohamad is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. This record-breaking feat sees him as being the country’s longest-serving prime minister, where he held office as the country’s fourth PM from July 1981 to October 2003 and a second stint (as the seventh PM) from May 2018 to March 2020 marks him as being the country’s (and the world’s) oldest premier as well. In the May 2018 elections, he was voted-in as member of parliament for Langkawi, a seat which he has served in since.

But way before he served the country via politics, he served the people in another capacity. Trained as a medical doctor in Singapore’s King Edward VII College of Medicine, he went to work as a physician in government service upon his graduation, before returning to his hometown of Alor Setar, Kedah to open his own successful practice in 1957. The year before that, he married his college sweetheart, Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, a fellow medical student of King Edward VII College.

His involvement in politics began at the early age of 21 when he joined the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) political party before becoming a member of parliament in 1964. In 1974, he was appointed minister of education, and four years after that became the prime minister in July 1981.

He successfully elevated Malaysia on the world stage and made it one of the Asian economic tigers of the 1990s. Past achievements (and controversies) are too numerous to list, but major ones include his establishment of national car company Proton, successfully navigating Malaysia through the 1985 and 1997 economic crises, spearheading the modernisation of the country through the construction of the North-South Expressway, and his push for various infrastructure development and prestige projects such as the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Petronas Twin Towers. It is through these accomplishments and more that have earned him the sobriquet of Malaysia’s Father of Modernisation (Bapa Pemodenan).

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His love for cars is well-known, and he takes every opportunity to drive the vehicles that he launches – even ‘driving’ in a Shinkansen bullet train simulator during a working visit to Japan in 2018.

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