The WIM Review
TODAY, Malaysians share with the world ideas and innovations anchored on the twin pillars of scientific inquiry and scientific endeavour.
But this was not always so. We missed out on the age of exploration and discovery. We missed out on the industrial revolution. We would have missed out on the IT revolution as well if it had not been for former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Dr Mahathir did not want Malaysians to be at the bottom of the technology ladder. Rather, he wanted Malaysians to generate and contribute to the corpus of knowledge.
It became his lifelong work to achieve this ambition. In 1981, when he became Prime Minister, a new age for Malaysia dawned with the advent of his scientific, entrepreneurial and visionary leadership.
A bright student, Dr Mahathir was awarded a scholarship to study medicine at the Raffles College Singapore.
Thereafter, he practised as a doctor but did not confine himself to medicine alone. He wrote articles to newspapers under the pseudonym Che Det, dabbled in small business and wrote a book, How to Run a Small Business. He was also active in social work with organisations such as the Malaysian Council of Child Welfare in Kedah.
He ended up serving four terms as Prime Minister of Malaysia over a span of 22 years, becoming the longest serving Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Throughout his premiership, Dr Mahathir presented a fascinating combination of extraordinary combativeness and eloquence, reaching out to people from all walks of life.
He was aided greatly in this process by his own insatiable curiosity borne out of his medical training.
But this curiosity was coupled with a sceptical view of accepted ideas. He was outspoken and very often challenged the status quo and the orthodox with boundless energy.
He was certainly the most influential of prime ministers in Asean, championing causes that other political leaders diplomatically ignored. He was the voice of the Third World: during his tenure as premier, heads of government from numerous countries came streaming into Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir sought the mobilisation of collective technologies beyond the resources of individual companies. He created the Multimedia Super Corridor with the participation and advice of global IT giants. The “Dr M Era”, as it came to be known, saw the nation experiencing unprecedented development and economic progress.
Dr Mahathir was determined to take Malaysia out of a “rubber and tin economy” into a brave new world of expanded horizons and wealth creation for Malaysians. His tangible achievements for Malaysia are life-sized, even grandiose.
He brought Malaysia onto the international stage by organising the Commonwealth Games, hosting the Apec and OIC meetings, creating the Multimedia Super Corridor, and constructing Putrajaya, KLIA, Bukit Jalil Stadium, the Petronas Twin Towers and the Formula 1 Circuit.
Any visionary leader who wishes to be effective must acknowledge and attempt to deal realistically with the enduring features of a mission-driven leadership.
As a leader, Dr Mahathir has succeeded in constructing and communicating convincingly a clear and persuasive message for change anchored on science, engineering and technology.
Dr Mahathir has earned the nation’s gratitude.
On April 5, 1996, he honoured WIM by accepting the award of WIM Eminent Member. A month later, on May 6, Dr Mahathir announced the Government’s plan to amend the Employment Act 1955 to make it conducive for more women to enter the workforce. He said that flexi working hours would be considered, and that more education and training opportunities would be provided for women to facilitate their upward mobility in the labour market.
He encouraged employers to provide facilities such crèches and nurseries to facilitate the needs of working women, so that they may participate more effectively as partners in socio-economic development.
“We just cannot afford to let half our workforce, the female workforce, remain idle if we want to reduce dependence on foreign workers and increase family incomes,” he said.
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