Monday, December 31, 2007

Queen Elizabeth ll

Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth ll is one of my favourite leaders. I admired how she command the respect of people. I was less than 5 years old, when I had my first encounter with Her Majesties. The whole town seemed to know that Her Majesties would be coming to town. We heard that she would be going to St Pauls Hill and we lined the road. Dad put me on his shoulders so that I could see her clearly. (Ahem being less than 5 years old - everyone seemed taller than you!) Dad was motioning me to wave at her when she passed by us, and I did, and to my delight, she asked the driver to slow down so that she could see everyone. Well at that time, I thought anyone of that level slowing down to wave at us (the masses) that means the person is really thoughtful.

My second encounter with Her Majesties was when she wanted to go to Terendak Camp. This time round, we didn't stand by the road, but we were up at the balcony! Granny's house was by the roadside and she had to pass that road in order to go there. And so, I waved at her again, and I saw her smile and her wave. (Ah well...I was only about 4 years old at that time)

Anyway, this is the story of Her Majesties... (However, I would like to make a comment. Although I have this article on Her Majesties, it does not mean that I do not respect our monarchy)

Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary;[1] born 21 April 1926) is the Queen regnant of sixteen independent states and their overseas territories and dependencies. Though she holds each crown and title separately and equally, she is resident in and most directly involved with the United Kingdom, her oldest realm, over parts of whose territories her ancestors have reigned for more than a thousand years. She ascended the thrones of seven countries in February 1952 (see Context below).

In addition to the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II is also Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, in each of which she is represented by a Governor-General. The 16 countries of which she is Queen are known as Commonwealth Realms, and their combined population, including dependencies is over 129 million. In theory her powers are vast; in practice (and in accordance with convention) she herself never intervenes in political matters. In the United Kingdom at least, however, she is known to take an active behind-the-scenes interest in the affairs of state, meeting regularly to establish a working relationship with her government ministers.

Elizabeth II holds a variety of other positions, among them Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, and Paramount Chief of Fiji. Her long reign has seen sweeping changes in her realms and the world at large, perhaps most notably the final dissolution of the former British Empire (a process that began in the last years of her father's reign) and the consequent evolution of the modern Commonwealth of Nations.

Since 1947, the Queen has been married to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, born a prince of Greece and Denmark but after naturalisation known as Philip Mountbatten and subsequently created Duke of Edinburgh. To date the couple have four children and eight grandchildren; the eighth (Viscount Severn) was born on 17 December 2007 to Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.[3]

Elizabeth became Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) upon the death of her father, George VI, on 6 February1952. As other colonies of the British Empire attained independence from the UK during her reign, she acceded to the newly created thrones as Queen of each respective realm so that throughout her 55 years on the throne she has been the sovereign of 32 nations, half of which subsequently became republics.

Elizabeth II is currently one of the longest-reigning monarchs of the UK or any of its predecessor states, ranking behind Victoria (who reigned over the UK for sixty-three years), George IIIJames VI (who reigned over Scotland for fifty-seven years), and Henry III (who reigned over England for fifty-six). (who reigned over Great Britain and subsequently the UK for fifty-nine),

She is one of only two people who are simultaneously head of state of more than one independent nation. (The other is the President of France, who is ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra.)

Following tradition, she is also styled Duke of Lancaster and Duke of Normandy. She is also Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of many of her realms (and Lord Admiral of the United Kingdom), and is styled Defender of the Faith in various realms for differing reasons.

Early life

Elizabeth was born at 17 Bruton Street, in Mayfair, London, on 21 April 1926.[2] Her father was Prince Albert, Duke of York (the future King George VI) and her mother was the Duchess of York (born the Hon. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later Queen Elizabeth, and, after her daughter's accession to the throne, the Queen Mother).

She was baptised in the Private Chapel on the grounds of Buckingham Palace (it no longer exists, as it was destroyed during World War II) by Cosmo Gordon Lang, the Archbishop of York. Her godparents were her paternal grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary; the Princess Royal; the Duke of Connaught; her maternal grandfather, the Earl of Strathmore; and Lady Elphinstone.

Elizabeth was named after her mother, while her two middle names are those of her paternal great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, and grandmother, Queen Mary, respectively. As a child, her close family knew her as "Lilibet".[4] She had a close relationship with her grandfather, George V, and was credited for aiding his recovery from illness in 1929.[5][6] On 29 April 1929, the young "P'incess Lilybet" appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, in an article that described her third birthday.[7] At 10 years old, she was introduced to a preacher at Glamis Castle. As he left, he promised to send her a book. Elizabeth replied, "Not about God. I already know all about Him."[citation needed]

Princess Elizabeth's only sibling was the late Princess Margaret, who was born in 1930. The two young princesses were educated at home, under the supervision of their mother. Their governess was Marion Crawford, better known as "Crawfie".[8] She studied history with C. H. K. Marten, Provost of Eton, and also learned modern languages; she speaks French fluently.[9] She was instructed in religion by the Archbishop of Canterbury and has remained a devout member of the Church of England.[10]

As a granddaughter of the British sovereign in the male line, she held the title of a British princess, with the style "Her Royal Highness," her full style being "Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York". At the time of her birth, she was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind her uncle, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), and her father. Although her birth generated public interest, there was no reason at the time to believe that she would ever become queen, as it was widely assumed that the Prince of Wales would marry and have children in due course. However, Edward did not produce any legitimate heirs, and Elizabeth's parents had no sons (who would have taken precedence over her). Therefore, she would eventually have become queen whether Edward had abdicated or not.

Heiress presumptive

When her father became King in 1936 upon the abdication of her uncle, King Edward VIII, she became heiress presumptive and was thenceforth known as "Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth". There was some demand in Wales for her to be created The Princess of Wales, but the King was advised that this was the title of the wife of the Prince of Wales, not a title in its own right. Some feel the King missed the opportunity to make an innovation in royal practice by re-adopting King Henry VIII's idea; in 1525 Henry had proclaimed his eldest daughter, Lady Mary, Princess of Wales in her own right.[11] But the possibility, however remote, remained that Elizabeth's father could have a son, who would have been heir apparent, supplanting Elizabeth in the line of succession to the throne.

Elizabeth was thirteen years old when the second World War broke out, and she and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, were evacuated to Windsor Castle, Berkshire. There was some suggestion that the two princesses be evacuated to Canada, where they were to live at Hatley Castle in British Columbia. To this proposal their mother made the famous reply: "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave."[12] While at Windsor, Princess Elizabeth and her sister staged pantomimes at Christmas when family and friends were invited with the children of members of staff of the Royal Household. In 1940, Princess Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated. When she was 13 years old, she first met her future husband Prince Philip.[13] She fell in love with him and began writing to him when he was in the Royal Navy.

Elizabeth made her first official overseas visit in 1947, when she accompanied her parents to South Africa. During her visit to Cape Town, she and her father were accompanied by Prime Minister Jan Smuts when they went to the top of Table Mountain by cable car. On her 21stEmpire, pledging:[14] birthday, she made a broadcast to the British Commonwealth and

I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

During the Second World War, plans were developed to counter the growing Welsh Nationalist influence of Plaid Cymru in Wales, which included "rolling out" a member of the British Royal Family to "smooth things over," according to a report by then constitutional expert Edward Iwi.[15] In a report he gave to then Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, Iwi proposed to make the then Princess Elizabeth as Constable of Caernarfon Castle (a post then held by the Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor), and patroness of Urdd Gobaith Cymru and a touring of Wales as Urdd's[15] patroness.

The idea of posting the princess as constable of Caernarfon Castle was rejected by the Home Secretary as it might cause conflict between north and south Wales, and King George VI refused to let the then princess tour Wales as to not add undue pressure on her.[15] Additionally, the plan to make the princess patroness of Urdd Gobaith Cymru was dropped as two of the leading members were conscientious objectors.[15]

Military career

Princess Elizabeth changing a vehicle wheel during WWII
Princess Elizabeth changing a vehicle wheel during WWII

In 1945, Princess Elizabeth convinced her father that she should be allowed to contribute directly to the war effort. She joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she was known as No 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor, trained as a driver, and drove a military truck while she served.[16][17] This training was the first time she had been taught together with other students. It is said that she greatly enjoyed this and that this experience led her to send her own children to school rather than have them educated at home. She was the first, and so far only, female member of the royal family to actually serve in the armed forces,[18]nominally the Commander-in-Chief of both the British and Canadian Armed Forces, and other royal women have been given honorary ranks. During the VE DayPrincess Margaret, mingled with the crowd after midnight to celebrate with everyone.[19] [20] although every monarch is celebrations in London, she and her sister,


The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on their wedding day
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on their wedding day

Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) on 20 November 1947. The couple are second cousins once removed: they are both descended from Christian IX of Denmark – Elizabeth II is a great-great-granddaughter through her paternal great-grandmother Alexandra of Denmark, and the Duke is a great-grandson through his paternal grandfather George I of Greece. As well as second cousins once removed, the couple are third cousins: they share Queen Victoria as a great-great-grandmother. Elizabeth's great-grandfather was Edward VII, while Edward's sister Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine was the Duke's great-grandmother. Prince Philip had renounced his claim to the GreekDuke of Edinburgh prior to their marriage. As a Greek royal, Philip is a member of the house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, the Danish royal house and a line of the House of Oldenburg. "Mountbatten" was an anglicisation of his mother's titular designation, Battenberg. The marriage was controversial; Philip was Greek Orthodox, with no financial resources behind him, and had sisters who had married Nazi supporters. Elizabeth's mother was reported in later biographies to have strongly opposed the marriage, even referring to Philip as "the Hun".[21]Commonwealth, and, though the royal couple received over 2,500 wedding gifts from around the world, rationing required that the Princess save up her ration coupons to buy the material for her wedding dress.[22] throne and was simply referred to as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten before being created Still, the wedding was seen as the first glimmer of hope in a post-war

At the wedding itself, the Princess' bridesmaids were: her sister, The Princess Margaret; her cousin Princess Alexandra of Kent; Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott, a cadet relative via their mutual aunt, the Duchess of Gloucester; her second cousin, Lady Mary Cambridge; Lady Elizabeth Mary Lambart (now Longman), daughter of the 10th Earl of Cavan; The Hon. Pamela Mountbatten (now Hicks), Prince Philip's cousin; and two maternal cousins, The Hon. Margaret Elphinstone (now Rhodes) and The Hon. Diana Bowes-Lyon (now Somervell)[23]. The Princess' page boys were her young paternal first cousins, Princes William of Gloucester and Michael of Kent.[24]

After their wedding, the couple leased their first home, Windlesham Moor until 4 July 1949,[25]residence at Clarence House, London. At various times between 1946 and 1953, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta as a serving Royal Navy officer. Lord Mountbatten of Burma had purchased the Villa Gwardamangia (also referred to as the Villa G'Mangia), in the hamlet of Gwardamangia in Malta, in about 1929. Princess Elizabeth stayed there when visiting Philip in Malta. Philip and Elizabeth lived in Malta for a period between 1949 and 1951 (Malta being the only other country in which the Queen has lived, although at that time Malta was a British Protectorate). when they took up

On 14 November 1948, Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Charles. Several weeks earlier, letters patent had been issued so that her children would enjoy a royal and princely status to which they would not otherwise have been entitled, instead being styled merely as children of a duke.[26] The couple had four children in all:

Though the Royal House is named Windsor, it was decreed, via a 1960 Order-in-Council, that those descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip who were not Princes or Princesses of the United Kingdom should have the personal surname Mountbatten-Windsor.[27] In practice all of their children, in honour of their father, have used Mountbatten-Windsor as their surname (or in Anne's case, her maiden surname). Both Charles and Anne used Mountbatten-Windsor as their surname in the published banns for their first marriages.[28]


The coronation of the Queen, 2 June 1953 - Prince Philip swears his allegiance to his wife and new Queen
The coronation of the Queen, 2 June 1953 - Prince Philip swears his allegiance to his wife and new Queen

Her father's health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth was soon frequently standing in for him at public events. She visited Greece, Italy and Malta (where Philip was then stationed) during that year. In October, she toured Canada and visited President Harry S Truman in Washington, D.C. In January, 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand. They had reached Kenya when word arrived of the death of her father, on 6 February 1952, from lung cancer.

Elizabeth was staying at Sagana Lodge in Kenya when she was told of her father's death and of her own succession to the throne. It was Prince Philip who broke the news of her father's death to Elizabeth.[citation needed] After that, Martin Charteris, then Assistant Private Secretary to the new Queen, asked her what she intended to be called. "Why, my own name; what else?" she replied.[citation needed] The royal party returned immediately to the United Kingdom.

Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen in Canada first, by the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, on 6 February 1952.[29] Her British proclamation was read at St. James's Palace the following day.

A detail of Elizabeth II's coronation gown, showing the embroidered national floral emblems of Commonwealth countries.
A detail of Elizabeth II's coronation gown, showing the embroidered national floral emblems of Commonwealth countries.

One year later, the Queen's grandmother, Queen Mary, died of lung cancer on 24 March 1953. Reportedly, the dowager queen's dying wish was that the coronation not be postponed. Elizabeth II's coronation took place in Westminster Abbey, on 2 June 1953. Her coronation gown, commissioned from Norman Hartnell, was embroidered with the floral emblems of the countries of the Commonwealth: the Tudor rose of England, the Scots thistle, the Welsh leek, shamrock of Ireland, wattle of Australia, the maple leaf of Canada, the New Zealand fern, South Africa's protea, two lotus flowers for India and Ceylon, and Pakistan's wheat, cotton and jute.[30]

Life as Queen

After the Coronation, The Queen and Prince Philip moved to Buckingham Palace, in central London, the main official residence of the monarch. It has been reported, however, that, as with many of her predecessors, she dislikes the Palace as a residence and considers Windsor Castle, another official residence, to be her home.[31]

Queen Elizabeth II reads a speech in Sydney, upon her visit in Australia in 1954.
Queen Elizabeth II reads a speech in Sydney, upon her visit in Australia in 1954.

Not long after, the Queen and Prince Philip, from 1953 to 1954, made a six-month, around the world tour, becoming the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe. She also became the first reigning monarch of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji to visit those nations. Since then, Elizabeth II has undertaken many overseas voyages. In October, 1957, she made a state visit to the United States, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, and proceeded to tour Canada, wherein she became the first Canadian Monarch to open a session of that nation's parliament. She made another state visit to the United States, as Queen of Canada, hosting the return dinner for President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. In February, 1961, she visited Ankara with Cemal Gursel, and later toured India, Iran, Pakistan and Nepal for the first time. She has made state visits to most European countries and to many outside Europe. In 1969, Elizabeth II sent one of 73 Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages to NASA for the historic first lunar landing. The message is etched onto a tiny silicon disc and still rests on the lunar surface today. She greeted the Apollo 11 crew during their tour of the world.[citation needed] In 1991 she became the first British monarch to address a joint session of the United States Congress during another state visit to that country, and in 2007 became the first British monarch to address the Virginia General Assembly. She has also regularly attended Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings since the practice was established in Canada in 1973. Altogether, Elizabeth II is the most widely-travelled head of state in history.[32][33]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lee Kuan Yew

This is one leader that I have always admired and respected. One of the things that I admire about him is how he can talk in a seminar. From him, I observed the power of speech and his command of English. He is able to make a physical small place into a giant place literally. He is one the foremost Asian leaders.

Lee Kuan Yew, (Chinese: 耀; pinyin: Lǐ Guāngyào; born September 16, 1923; also spelled Lee Kwan-Yew), was the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore from 1959 to 1990.

Since stepping down from office he has remained one of the most influential politicians in Singapore. Under the administration of Singapore's second prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, he served as Senior Minister. He currently holds the specially created post of Minister Mentor under his son Lee Hsien Loong, who became the nation's third prime minister and second from the same family on August 12, 2004.

Family background

In his memoirs, Lee mentions that he was a fourth-generation Chinese Singaporean: his Hakka great-grandfather, Lee Bok Boon (born 1846), emigrated from the Dapu county of Guangdong province to the Straits Settlements in 1862.

The eldest child of Lee Chin Koon and Chua Jim Neo, Lee Kuan Yew was born at 92 Kampong Java Road in Singapore, in a large and airy bungalow. As a child Lee was strongly influenced by British culture, due in part to his grandfather, Lee Hoon Leong, who had given his sons an English education. His grandfather gave him the name "Harry" in addition to his Chinese name (given by his father) Kuan Yew. Thus Lee is known informally as "Harry" to his close friends and family and his name is sometimes cited as Harry Lee Kuan Yew, although this first name is never used in official settings.

Lee and his wife Kwa Geok Choo were married on September 30, 1950. They have two sons and one daughter.

Several members of Lee's family hold prominent positions in Singaporean society, and his sons and daughter hold high government and government-linked posts. His elder son Lee Hsien Loong, a former Brigadier-General, has been the Prime Minister since 2004, and Finance Minister of Singapore. He is also the Vice-Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Company (GIC) — Lee himself is the Chairman. Lee's younger son, Lee Hsien Yang, also a former Brigadier-General, was the President and Chief Executive Officer of SingTel, a pan-Asian telecommunications giant and Singapore's largest company by market capitalisation (listed on the Singapore Exchange, SGX). Fifty-six percent of SingTel is owned by Temasek Holdings, a prominent government holding company with controlling stakes in a variety of very large government-linked companies such as Singapore Airlines and DBS Bank. Temasek Holdings in turn is run by Executive Director and CEO Ho Ching, the wife of Lee's elder son, the Prime Minister. Lee's daughter, Lee Wei Ling, runs the National Neuroscience Institute, and remains unmarried. Lee's wife Kwa Geok Choo used to be a partner of the prominent legal firm Lee & Lee. His younger brothers, Dennis, Freddy, and Suan Yew were partners of the same firm. He also has a younger sister, Monica.

Lee has consistently denied charges of nepotism, arguing that his family members' privileged positions are based on personal merit. However, these charges have persisted and international publications such as The Economist, International Herald Tribune and the Far Eastern Economic Review have been threatened, sued or banned in Singapore for implying the existence of nepotism.

Early life

Lee was educated at Telok Kurau Primary School, Raffles Institution, and Raffles College. His university education was delayed by World War II and the 194245 Japanese occupation of Singapore. During the occupation, he operated a successful black market business selling tapioca-based glue called Stikfas.[1] Having taken Chinese and Japanese lessons since 1942, he was able to collaborate as a transcriber of Allied wire reports for the Japanese, as well as being the English-language editor on the Japanese Hodobu (報道部 — an information or propaganda department) from 1943 to 1944.[2][3]

After the war, he studied law at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge in the United Kingdom, of which he was subsequently made an honorary fellow, (graduating with Double Starred First Class honours), and briefly attended the London School of Economics. He returned to Singapore in 1949 to work as a lawyer in Laycock and Ong, the legal practice of John Laycock, a pioneer of multiracialism who, together with A.P. Rajah and C.C. Tan, had founded Singapore's first multiracial club open to Asians.

Early political career – 1951 to 1959

Pre-People's Action Party (PAP)

Lee’s first experience with politics in Singapore was his role as election agent for his boss John Laycock under the banner of the pro-British Progressive Party in the 1951 legislative council elections. However, Lee eventually realised the party’s future looked bleak as it was unlikely to have mass support, especially from the Chinese-speaking working class masses. This was especially important when the 1953 Rendel commission significantly expanded the electoral rolls to include all local-born as voters, resulting in a significant increase in Chinese voters. His big break came when he was engaged as a legal advisor to the trade and Students' unions which provided Lee with the link to the Chinese-speaking, working class world (later on in his career, his party the PAP would use these historical links to unions as a negotiating tool in industrial disputes).

Formation of the PAP

On November 21, 1954, Lee, together with a group of fellow English-educated middle-class men whom he himself described as “beer-swilling bourgeois” formed the socialist People's Action Party (PAP - 人民行动党) in an expedient alliance with the pro-communist trade unionists. This alliance was described by Lee as a marriage of convenience, since the English-educated group needed the pro-communists’ mass support base while the communists needed a non-communist party leadership as a smoke screen because the Malayan Communist Party was illegal. Their common aims were to agitate for self-government and put an end to British colonial rule. An inaugural conference was held at the Victoria Memorial Hall, packed with over 1,500 supporters and trade unionists. Lee became secretary-general, a post he held until 1992, save for a brief period in 1957. UMNO’s Tunku Abdul Rahman and MCA’s Tan Cheng Lock were invited as guests to give credibility to the new party.

In opposition

Lee contested and comprehensively won the Tanjong Pagar seat in the 1955 elections. He became the opposition leader, pitting himself against David Saul Marshall’s Labour Front-led coalition government. He was also one of PAP's representatives to the two constitutional discussions held in London over the future status of Singapore; the first being led by Marshall and the second by Lim Yew Hock, Marshall's hardline successor. It was in this period when Lee had to contend with rivals from both within and outside of the PAP. While Lee had to keep a safe distance from his pro-communist colleagues as they actively participated in mass and often violent actions to undermine the government’s authority[citation needed], he also consistently maintained his opposition to the ruling coalition, often attacking the latter as incompetent and corrupt. Lee’s position in the PAP was seriously under threat in 1957 when pro-communists took over the leadership posts, following a party conference which the party's left wing had stacked with fake members.[4] Fortunately for Lee and the party's moderate faction, Lim Yew Hock ordered a mass arrest of the pro-communists and Lee was reinstated as secretary-general. After the communist 'scare', Lee subsequently sought and received a fresh and stronger mandate from his Tanjong Pagar constituents in a by-election in 1957. The communist threat within the party was temporarily removed as Lee prepared for the next elections. It was during this period when he had the first of a series of secret meetings with the underground communist leader, Fong Chong Pik (or Fang Chuan Pi) whom Lee referred to as the Plen, short form for plenipotentiary.

Prime Minister, pre-independence – 1959 to 1965

Self-government administration – 1959 to 1963

In the national elections held on June 1, 1959, the PAP won forty-three of the fifty-one seats in the legislative assembly. Singapore gained self-government with autonomy in all state matters except in defence and foreign affairs, and Lee became the first prime minister of the state of Singapore on June 3, 1959, taking over from Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock. Before he took office, Lee demanded and secured the release of Lim Chin Siong and Devan Nair who were arrested earlier by Lim Yew Hock's government.

Lee faced many problems after gaining self-rule for Singapore from the British, including education, housing, and unemployment. In response to the housing problem, Lee established the Housing and Development Board (HDB), an agency which began a massive public housing construction programme to relieve the housing shortage.

Merger with Malaya, then separation – 1963 to 1965

After Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman proposed the formation of a federation which would include Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei in 1961, Lee began to campaign for a merger with Malaysia to end British colonial rule. He used the results of a referendum held on September 1, 1962, in which 70% of the votes were cast in support of his proposal, to demonstrate that the people supported his plan. During Operation Coldstore, Lee crushed the pro-communist factions who were strongly opposing the merger and who were allegedly involved in subversive activities.

On September 16, 1963, Singapore became part of the Federation of Malaysia. However, the union was short-lived. The Malaysian Central Government, ruled by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), became worried by the inclusion of Singapore’s Chinese majority and the political challenge of the PAP in Malaysia. Lee openly opposed the bumiputra policy and used the Malaysian Solidarity Convention's famous cry of "Malaysian Malaysia!", a nation serving the Malaysian nationality, as opposed to the Malay race. PAP-UMNO relations were seriously strained. Some in UMNO also wanted Lee to be arrested.

Race riots followed, such as that on Muhammad's birthday (21 July 1964), near Kallang Gasworks, in which twenty-three were killed and hundreds injured as Chinese and Malays attacked each other. Today, it is still disputed how it started, and theories include a bottle being thrown into a Muslim rally by a Chinese, while others argued that it was started by a Malay. More riots broke out in September 1964, as rioters looted cars and shops, forcing both Tunku Abdul Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew to make public appearances in order to alleviate the situation. The price of food rose dramatically during this period, due to the disruption in transport, which caused further hardship.

Unable to resolve the crisis, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, decided to expel Singapore from Malaysia, choosing to "sever all ties with a State Government that showed no measure of loyalty to its Central Government". Lee was adamant and tried to work out a compromise, but without success. He was later convinced by Goh Keng Swee that the secession was inevitable. Lee Kuan Yew signed a separation agreement on August 7, 1965, which discussed Singapore's post-separation relations with Malaysia in order to continue co-operation in areas such as trade and mutual defence.

The failure of the merger was a heavy blow to Lee, who believed that it was crucial for Singapore’s survival. In a televised press conference, he broke down emotionally as he announced the separation to the people (this particular conference is used as evidence by supporters of Lee that he had not intentionally instigated the breakup of Malaysia):

"For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I believed in merger and unity of the two territories. ... Now, I, Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, do hereby proclaim and declare on behalf on the people and the Government of Singapore that as from today, the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five, Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of the people in a most and just equal society."

On that day, August 9, 1965, the Malaysian Parliament passed the required resolution that would sever Singapore's ties to Malaysia as a state, and thus the Republic of Singapore was created. Singapore's lack of natural resources, a water supply that was beholden primarily to Malaysia and a very limited defensive capability were the major challenges that Lee and the Singaporean Government faced.

Prime Minister, post-independence – 1965 to 1990

In his biography, Lee Kuan Yew stated that he did not sleep well, and fell sick days after Singapore's independence. Upon learning of Lee's condition from the British High Commissioner to Singapore, John Robb, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson expressed concern, in response to which, Lee replied:

"Do not worry about Singapore. My colleagues and I are sane, rational people even in our moments of anguish. We will weigh all possible consequences before we make any move on the political chessboard..."

Lee began to seek international recognition of Singapore's independence. Singapore joined the United Nations (UN) on 21 September 1965, and founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 8 August 1967 with four other South-East Asian countries. Lee made his first official visit to Indonesia in May 25, 1973, just a few years after the Konfrontasi under Sukarno's regime. Relations between Singapore and Indonesia substantially improved as subsequent visits were made between Singapore and Indonesia.

As Singapore has never had a dominant culture to which immigrants could assimilate, nor a common language, together with efforts from the government and ruling party, Lee tried to create a common Singaporean identity in the 1970s and 1980s.

Lee and his government stressed the importance of maintaining religious tolerance and racial harmony, and they were ready to use the law to counter any threat that might incite ethnic and religious violence. For example, Lee warned against "insensitive evangelisation", by which he referred to instances of Christian proselytising directed at Malays. In 1974, the government advised the Bible Society of Singapore to stop publishing religious materials in Malay. [1]

Senior Minister – 1990 to 2004

After leading the PAP in seven victorious elections, Lee stepped down on 28 November 1990, handing over the prime minister position to Goh Chok Tong. He was then the world's longest serving Prime Minister ever.[5]

This leadership transition was meticulously planned and executed. The recruitment and grooming for the second generation leaders took place as early as 1970s. In the 1980s, Goh and the younger leaders started to assume important cabinet positions. Prior to the official transition, all other first generation leaders (the "old guards") were retired, including Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam and Toh Chin Chye. Being so thoroughly planned, the transition was quite a non-event in Singapore, even though it was the first leadership transition since independence. By stepping down when he was still mentally alert and in good health, Lee set himself apart from other strong contemporary Asian leaders such as Mao Zedong, Suharto, Ferdinand Marcos, and Ne Win.

As Goh Chok Tong became the head of government, Lee remained in the cabinet with a non-executive position of Senior Minister and played a role he described as advisory. In public, Lee would refer to Goh as "my Prime Minister", in deference to Goh's authority. Nonetheless, Lee's opinions still carry much weight with the public and in the cabinet. He continues to wield enormous influence in the country and is ready to use it when necessary. As he said in a 1988 National Day rally:

"Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up."

Lee subsequently stepped down as the Secretary-General of the PAP and was succeeded by Goh Chok Tong in November 1992.

Lee refrained from official dealings with all ASEAN governments, including Malaysia, so as not to cross lines with his successor, Goh Chok Tong. He played a major role, however, with regard to the diplomacy, such as with the agreement of the transfer of public-administration software for the development and management of China's Suzhou Industrial Park with then Vice-president Li Lanqing on February 26, 1994.

Minister Mentor – 2004 to present

On 12 August 2004 Goh Chok Tong stepped down in favour of Lee's eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong. Goh became the Senior Minister and Lee Kuan Yew assumed a new cabinet position of Minister Mentor.

Regarding gambling laws, Lee stated that he was "emotionally and intellectually" against gambling. However, he made no opposition to his son's proposal to allow casinos in the country, stating: "Having a casino is something the new leaders will have to decide".

Recently, Lee has expressed his concern about the declining proficiency of Mandarin among younger Singaporeans. In one of his parliamentary speeches, he said: "Singaporeans must learn to juggle English and Mandarin". Subsequently, he launched a television programme, 华语 Cool!, in January 2005, in an attempt to attract young viewers to learn Mandarin.

In June 2005, Lee published a book, Keeping My Mandarin Alive, documenting his decades of effort to master Mandarin — a language which he said he had to re-learn due to disuse:

"...because I don't use it so much, therefore it gets disused and there's language loss. Then I have to revive it. It's a terrible problem because learning it in adult life, it hasn't got the same roots in your memory."

In an interview with CCTV on June 12, 2005, Lee stressed the need to have a continuous renewal of talent in the country's leadership, saying:

"In a different world we need to find a niche for ourselves, little corners where in spite of our small size we can perform a role which will be useful to the world. To do that, you will need people at the top, decision-makers who have got foresight, good minds, who are open to ideas, who can seize opportunities like we did... My job really was to find my successors. I found them, they are there; their job is to find their successors. So there must be this continuous renewal of talented, dedicated, honest, able people who will do things not for themselves but for their people and for their country. If they can do that, they will carry on for another one generation and so it goes on. The moment that breaks, it's gone.";

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (born July 10, 1925) is the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. He held the post from 1981 to 2003. During his term in office he was credited for engineering Malaysia's rapid modernization and the resulting growth of prosperity. Another central issue of Mohamad is the promotion of "Asian values".

Although his formal title is "Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad", Mahathir is fondly called "Dr. M" by his supporters, an appellation also used by the media.

Early life and career

Born in Alor Setar, the capital of the northern state of Kedah, Mahathir said in his autobiography that he had Indian ancestry (from his father), with its origins tracing back to Kerala in India, while his mother was a Kedah-born Malay. Mahathir, however, considers himself to be a "full Malay", in line with Article 160 of the Constitution. Under Article 153 of the Constitution, Malays are granted particular rights not available to other citizens.

During World War II, he sold pisang goreng (banana fritters) to supplement his family income in the Japanese occupation of Malaya.

Mahathir first attended a Malay vernacular school before continuing his education at the Sultan Abdul Hamid College in Alor Star. Mahathir then attended the King Edward VII Medical College in Singapore, where he edited a medical student magazine called The Cauldron; he also contributed to the The Straits Times newspaper anonymously under the nickname "Che Det". Mahathir was also President of the Muslim Society in the college In 1953, Mahathir entered the then Malayan government service as a medical officer upon graduation. He married Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali—a former classmate in college—on August 5, 1956, and left the government service in 1957 to set up his own practice in Alor Star. Mahathir's practice thrived, allowing him to own by 1959 a Pontiac Catalina and a Chinese chauffeur (at the time most chauffeurs were Malay, owing to Chinese economic dominance). Some critics have suggested this foreshadowed a later hallmark of Mahathir's politics, which focused on the "cultivation of such emblems of power".

Active in politics since 1945, beginning with his involvement in the Anti-Malayan Union Campaign, Mahathir joined the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) upon its inception in 1946. As State Party Chairman, and Chairman of the Political Committee, he inadvertently angered some quarters with his proposal that the selection of candidates be based on certain qualifications for the 1959 general election. Hurt by accusations that he was scheming to put up candidates who were strongly allied to him, Mahathir refused to take part in the national election that year.

In the third general election of 1964, Mahathir was elected Member of Parliament for Kota Setar Selatan, defeating the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party's (PAS) candidate with a 60.2% majority. He lost the seat in the following general election in 1969 by a mere 989 votes to PAS's candidate, Haji Yusoff Rawa, after he categorically declared that he did not need Chinese votes to win. (Ironically, Mahathir won the 1999 general elections mainly due to Chinese votes, when the Malay grounds were split over his quarrels with his deputy Anwar Ibrahim.)

Following the race riots of May 13, 1969 in the May 13 Incident, Mahathir was sacked from the UMNO Supreme Council on 12 July, following his widespread distribution to the public of his letter to Tunku Abdul Rahman, the then Prime Minister. In his letter, he had criticised the manner in which the Tunku had handled the country's administration. Mahathir was subsequently relieved of his party membership on 26 September.

While in the political wilderness, Mahathir wrote his book, "The Malay Dilemma", in which he sought to explain the causes of the May 13 Incident in Kuala Lumpur and the reasons for the Malays' lack of economic progress within their own country. He then proposed a politico-economic solution in the form of "constructive protection", worked out after careful consideration of the effects of heredity and environmental factors on the Malay race. The book, published in 1970, was promptly banned by the Tunku Abdul Rahman government. However, some of the proposals in this book had been used by Tun Abdul Razak, the second Prime Minister, in his "New Economic Policy" that was principally geared towards affirmative action economic programs to address the nation's economic disparity between the Malays and the non-Malays. The ban on his book was eventually lifted after Mahathir became Prime Minister in 1981.

Mahathir rejoined UMNO on 7 March 1972, and was appointed as Senator in 1973. He relinquished the senatorship post in 1974 in order to contest in the general elections where he was returned unopposed in the constituency of Kubang Pasu, and was appointed as the Minister of Education. In 1975, he became one of the three vice-presidents of UMNO, after winning the seat by 47 votes. Tun Hussein Onn appointed Mahathir as Deputy Prime Minister on 15 September 1978, and in a cabinet reshuffle, appointed him concurrently as the Minister of Trade and Industry.

Mahathir became the Prime Minister of Malaysia on 10 July 1981 when Tun Hussein Onn stepped down due to health reasons. After 22 years in office, Mahathir retired on October 31, 2003, making him one of Asia's longest-serving political leaders. Upon his retirement on 31 October 2003, Mahathir was awarded a "Tun"-ship, Malaysia's highest civilian honour.

Economic policies

During his term in office, Mahathir turned Malaysia into a regional high-tech manufacturing, financial, and telecommunications hub through his economic policies based on corporate nationalism, known as the various "Malaysia Plans" which set out the government middle-term objectives. These policies remained in effect almost to the end of his tenure in office.

His pet projects have included Perwaja Steel, an attempt to emulate South Korea and Japan, the Proton car company, and Astro, a satellite television service.

Mahathir is credited with spearheading the phenomenal growth of the Malaysian economy, now one of the largest and most powerful in South East Asia. Growth between 1988 and 1997 averaged over ten percent and living standards rose twenty-fold, with poverty almost eradicated and social indicators such as literacy levels and infant mortality rates becoming on par with developed countries.

During this period, Mahathir embarked on various large scale national projects, such as:

While such projects have their benefits, corresponding high costs have made some Malaysians reluctant to engage in more of such ventures, believing that the money can be better spent on other areas of development. On the other hand, Mahathir has always argued that such projects yield a direct return to the economy, apart from just serving the national pride, as government spending in turn creates jobs along with other multiplier effects. Mahathir has also been criticised for the failures and inefficiency of some of his pet projects. Perwaja Steel eventually failed and had to be rescued by a corporate white knight. Its chairman, Eric Chia, faced charges of corruption in 2004. Proton eventually had to be bought by Petronas when its parent DRB-HICOM found itself over-extended. Astro enjoyed a monopoly on pay television services in Malaysia until 2005 when it ended with the granting of a licence to rival MiTV.

The Bakun Dam project was to be managed by a local construction firm, Ekran Berhad. It issued a 1-for-1 on time rights issue which was 63% undersubscribed (the first time in Malaysia for an event of this magnitude). Ekran's chairman, Ting Pek King, had to purchase all unsubscribed shares at a cost of $500 million Ringgit due to his agreement with the underwriters. Subsequently the dam project was taken back by the government which was obliged to pay Ekran for the work already completed.

Political machine

After his twenty-two year rule, Mahathir is still seen as a political "strongman". As Prime Minister, he was often criticised by the west for his authoritarian policies and use of state power to suppress opponents via the media, the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

In 1983 and 1991, he took on the federal and state monarchies, removing the royal veto and royal immunity from prosecution. Many Malaysians, however, were pleased with this, as there had been frequent cases of abuse of power by the royal families. Prior to this amendment of the law, royal assent was required in order for any bill to pass into law. With effect of this amendment, approval by parliament could be legally considered as royal assent after a period of 30 days, notwithstanding the views of the monarchs. However, this only applied to secular laws and the various kings continued to enjoy the right to make Islamic law in their own jurisdictions.

In 1988, when the future of the ruling party UMNO was about to be decided in the Supreme Court (it had just been deregistered as an illegal society in the High Court), he was believed to have engineered the dismissal of the Lord President of the Supreme Court, Salleh Abas, and three other supreme court justices who tried to block the misconduct hearings.

In 1998, attention around the globe was focused on Malaysia when the government brought sodomy and abuse of power charges against the former finance minister and deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar claimed that he was being set up because he had tried to turn corruption and nepotism into major political issues, with Mahathir and his associates as the targets. Mahathir's supporters believe that it was Anwar's attempt to replace Mahathir as the Prime Minister, upon seeing the downfall of Indonesia's Suharto, that has led him to be removed from politics altogether. It was Mahathir after all, who had groomed and placed him there as his deputy.

At the UMNO meeting in June 1998, Anwar's supporters had planned a sneak attack on the prime minister, hitting him in the area where they consider him most vulnerable: corruption. Mahathir fired back, reading from a prepared list, the names of all ruling-party members who had benefited from government contracts. The list included some of Anwar's relatives. The corruption talk was quickly shelved.

Many observers also saw the engineering of Anwar's dismissal as the result of the triumph of the secular corporate nationalist old guard over the younger "green" or Islamist faction within UMNO, created after the popular Islamic youth leader, Anwar, had been brought into the government by Mahathir.

The trial itself was a tawdry spectacle. The government included the statements of the purported "victims" of Anwar's sodomy attacks, evidence that was widely considered to be tainted. Furthermore, the prosecution was unable to accurately decide on a date that the alleged acts of anal sex had occurred - the government originally alleged that a sodomy had occurred inside a building that had not been constructed at the time of the alleged event. Mahathir himself went as far as to go on television to declare Anwar guilty of sodomy and homosexual acts, even as the trial still was underway. There was widespread condemnation of the trail from human rights groups and the Malaysia bar association, who expressed serious doubts about its fairness. Mahathir then ordered a crackdown on the media and opposition parties who protested the trial. Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and nine years prison for sodomy, to be served concurrently.

The Anwar crisis sparked protests by some Malaysians, of all ethnic groups, and some of Anwar's supporters from UMNO regrouped around the intellectual-Muslim "Parti Keadilan Nasional" (National Justice Party). It garnered widespread support from Malaysians, though "Parti keAdilan" could only win only two parliamentary seats in the 1999 elections as Mahathir frequently used his authority and intimidation to stifle its organization. In the subsequent 2004 elections, with Anwar's release and conviction overturned, the party was nearly wiped out, with Wan Azizah, the wife of Anwar, winning one seat by the narrowest of margins, mainly based on sympathetic votes, and thereon ceased to be relevant.

UMNO under Mahathir developed a feudalistic tradition whereby political factions battling to ensure the growth of so-called 'warlords' would gladly throw UMNO into chaos, rather than see their prominent champion miss out on appointment to plum posts. The Anwar debacle was an example of this, as was an earlier rebellion by UMNO strongman, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who broke away to form the "Semangat 46" (the Spirit of '46) party (now defunct).

UMNO heads were seen by opposition supporters as corrupt politicians more focused on power and economic gain, as Mahathir was only interested in their total loyalty. PAS leveraged this into a selling point by promising a clean, Islamic administration. Despite this, PAS only captured the state of Terengganu in the 1999 elections, and failed to retain it in the next election. This was largely seen to be due to PAS' fundamentalist Islamic policies, as they had introduced Islamic sharia laws into Terengganu and their other stronghold, Kelantan. These laws included banning various forms of entertainment, and mandatory wearing of the headscarf for female Muslim civil servants. Many political analysts felt that this had prevented PAS from making major gains, keeping the reins of power firmly in Mahathir's hands, as the non-Malay voters were turned off by the perceived religious fundamentalism of PAS. Also, Mahathir remained tremendously popular among many Malaysians, and the third world. He is known for being a man of few words, and for his somewhat successful policies in steering Malaysia towards development and economic prosperity. In the Asian financial crisis of 1998, IMF has prescribed a recovery package for Malaysia, but Mahathir defied international pressure, his then Deputy Anwar Ibrahim, and conventional wisdom, in rejecting the package. Though economic prosperity has been mixed since then, Mahathir argued that Malaysia's recovery was relatively faster and better, as compared to many other Asian countries affected.

Ministries were allotted to all component parties of the Barisan Nasional. Even non-Malay parties obtained the ministerships of key ministries such as Health (MCA), Transport (MCA), and the Works Ministry (MIC). Certain ministries were also shared with one party traditionally getting the ministers post and another party getting the deputy ministership. This was standard coalition politics as with all other coalition governments who wanted to ensure everyone got a slice of the cake.

Educational system

In 1975, Mahathir was appointed Minister of Education. He had always believed in the need for "education for the masses", with greater emphasis on maths and science, at high school level, in order to achieve his dream of a developed Malaysia. He continued to strongly promote his agenda of quantity-and-quality higher education during his term as prime minister.

In those days, English, Chinese and Tamil-medium schools were fully run by private and missionary organizations. Students from these school sat for the respective overseas examinations set by the board of school committees and associations. For instance, Overseas Cambridge School Certificate (OSC) was set for English schools. Under the former Prime Minister's order, he drafted the KBSM syllabus in order to make Malay a compulsory subject to be taught in all subjects in these schools. Overseas examinations were subsequently abolished one after another throughout the years. Schools which converted to the national type received heavy fundings from the government. Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) were fully introduced as national examinations.

In order to cater for the lower income indigenous population, boarding schools were promoted and constructed. Through government scholarships, tens of thousands of students were sent yearly to universities in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, western-type countries that Mahathir aspired to achieve par development with. Middle- and higher-income groups from non-Bumiputera Malaysians who were unable to get a place in the local universities, due to the restrictive quota system and limited government scholarships, also independently sent their children to these universities. This has led Malaysia to have the third largest number of students going to western-type countries to pursue higher education, after China and India. Till today, education is a major source of Malaysia's expenditure, something that the current administration is trying to remedy. After years of sending students abroad, Malaysian post-graduate and industrial research and development has still not shown any notable progress.

In 1980, education quota was introduced as part of the National Economic Policy. Mahathir who became the acting prime minister, introduced the quota system to all economic sectors in Malaysia including the education system, whereby a designated percentage of undergraduate seats of higher institutions were reserved for Bumiputra (natives) citizens. This has led to a large number of highly competitive non-bumiputra applicants being unable to secure admission to institutions of higher learning. These applicants resort to the neighbouring or foreign countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and the western countries mentioned above.

Towards his later years, Mahathir promoted the liberalization of university start-ups, leading to branch campuses being built or the formation of permanent tie-ups with some of the most prestigious universities in the world. Amongst others, these led to the construction of

Private companies with a long running history in Malaysia like Intel and AMD were also encouraged to set up, and run partnerships and/or higher education centres and centres of excellence.

In 2003, after more than 20 years in post, he commented that non-bumiputra students excel far ahead of bumiputra students in academic qualifications. He soon introduced meritocracy by gradually lowering down the quota percentage reserved each year for the intake of bumiputra applicants in higher institutions to encourage fair competitions. In the year before his retirement, he attempted to remedy this problem by announcing that Mathematics and Science subjects must be taught in English in all primary and secondary schools. As a result of this rapid transition, the new school textbooks contain numerous typographical errors, and school teachers who are not fluent in English suffer difficulties in their teachings. This also subsequently caused some resentment among the Chinese education community and the hard-line Malays.

Foreign relations

During Mahathir's tenure in office, Malaysia's relationship with the West was turbulent. Early during his tenure, a small disagreement with the United Kingdom over university tuition fees sparked off a boycott of all British goods led by Mahathir, in what became known as the "Buy British Last" campaign. It also led to a search for development models in Asia, most notably Japan. This was the beginning of his famous "Look East Policy". Although the dispute was later resolved by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Mahathir continued to emphasize Asian development models over contemporary Western ones. Although Mahathir has managed to find solutions to many problems in Malaysia, ironically, he has managed to create more problems diplomatically, as seen with a great number of countries. These problems are usually small ones which crop up from personal matters, yet Mahathir always brings the Malaysian government into play, such as the imposition of boycotts.

United States

Mahathir has always been an outspoken critic of the United States but yet the United States was the biggest source of foreign investment, and was Malaysia's biggest customer during Mahathir's rule. Furthermore, Malaysian military officers continued to train in the US under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program.

Some say that relations with the United States took a turn for the worse in 1998, when US Vice President Al Gore stated at the APEC conference hosted by Malaysia:

"Democracy confers a stamp of legitimacy that reforms must have in order to be effective. And so, among nations suffering economic crises, we continue to hear calls for democracy, calls for reform, in many languages - People Power, doi moi, reformasi. We hear them today - right here, right now - among the brave people of Malaysia."

Al Gore and the United States were critical of the trial of Mahathir's former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, going as far to label it as a "show trial". The trial itself was a tawdry spectacle. The government included the statements of the purported "victims" of Anwar's sodomy attacks, evidence that was widely considered to be tainted. Furthermore, the prosecution was unable to accurately decide on a date that the alleged acts of anal sex had occurred - the government originally alleged that a sodomy had occurred inside a building that had not been constructed at the time of the alleged event. Mahathir himself went as far as to go on television to declare Anwar guilty of sodomy and homosexual acts, even as the trial still was underway. In response to widespread condemnation of the trail from human rights groups and the Malaysia bar association, he ordered a crackdown on the media and opposition parties who protested the trial.

Also, Anwar Ibrahim was the preeminent Malaysian spokesperson for the economic policies preferred by the IMF, which included interest rate hikes, among others. An article in Malaysia Today commented that "Gore's comments constituted a none-too-subtle attack on Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and more generally on governments, including Japan, that resist US demands for further market reforms." Gore's endorsement for the reformasi (reformation,) asking for (among other things) the ouster of Mahathir, was anathema to Mahathir, and he remarked that "I've never seen anybody so rude." This also summed up the Malaysian expectation that one who is a guest should not show such discourtesy to the host.

However, Mahathir's views were already firmly entrenched before this event. For example, before the ASEAN meeting in 1997, he made a speech condemning The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, calling it an oppressing instrument by which the United States and other countries tried to impose their values on Asians. He went on to share his view that Asians needed stability and economic growth more than civil liberties. This did not endear him to Madeleine Albright who was a guest at the meeting.

The relationship was stormy both ways. Following Mahathir's ouster and imprisonment of Anwar Ibrahim, Madeleine Albright paid a visit to Anwar's wife.

Yet he has not hesitated to point to America for justification of his own actions. In speaking of arbitrary detention without trial of prisoners of conscience on Malaysia, he said: "Events in the United States have shown that there are instances where certain special powers need to be used in order to protect the public for the general good."

At the other end of the spectrum, the United States government has previously criticised the Malaysian government for implementing the ISA, most recently in 2001 when President George W. Bush said "The Internal Security Act is a draconian law. No country should any longer have laws that allow for detention without trial." In 2004, however, Bush reversed his stance and claimed "We cannot simply classify Malaysia’s Internal Security Act as a draconian law."

In 2003, Mahathir spoke to the Non-Aligned Movement in Kuala Lumpur, and as part of his speech, said: "If innocent people who died in the attack on Afghanistan and those who have been dying from lack of food and medical care in Iraq are considered collaterals, are the 3,000 who died in New York, and the 200 in Bali also just collaterals whose deaths are necessary for operations to succeed?"

Marie Huhtala, the American ambassador to Malaysia responded with a statement: "These are not helpful statements by any standard and I'm here to tell you that Washington does take note of them. They are bound to have a harmful effect on the relationship."

More recently, the 2003 Invasion of Iraq caused additional friction between the two countries; Mahathir was highly critical of Bush for acting without a United Nations mandate.

Notwithstanding the behaviour of Mahathir, Malaysia's relationship with the US has been strong. A 2003 house subcommittee hearing (Serial No. 108–21) on US Policy policy towards South East Asia sums it up as "Despite sometimes blunt and intemperate public remarks by Prime Minister Mahathir, U.S.-Malaysian cooperation has a solid record in areas as diverse as education, trade, military relations, and counter-terrorism."

Even after retirement, Mahathir was not hesitant about his criticisms of the United States. In 2004, (The Star, October 18, 2004), he was quoted as having said "The American people are, by and large, very ignorant and know nothing about the rest of the world.... Yet they are the people who will decide who will be the most powerful man in the world". In the same interview, he also predicted George W. Bush's victory in the 2004 United States Presidential Election, in which he was later proven correct. In another October 2006 interview with Associated Press, he predicted that the Republicians will retain both chambers in the 2006 mid-term elections because "American voters are not astute and will be fooled by President George W. Bush's propaganda".


Mahathir's relationship with Australia (the closest country in the Anglosphere to Malaysia, and the one whose foreign policy is most concentrated on the region), and his relationship with Australia's political leaders, has been particularly rocky. Mahathir regularly took offense at portrayals of Malaysia in the Australian media (which criticized Mahathir's belligerence and outspokeness), calling on the government to intervene in this (an action that would be politically unthinkable in Australia). Relationships between Mahathir and Australia's leaders reached a low point in 1993 when Paul Keating described Mahathir as "recalcitrant" for not attending the APEC summit. (It is thought that Keating's description was a linguistic gaffe, and that what he had in mind was "intransigent".)The Malaysian government threatened trade sanctions, which if imposed, would actually have more negative effect on Malaysia than Australia.

Mahathir, along with other Malaysian politicians (and many other Asian leaders) also heavily criticized Keating's successor, John Howard, whom he believed had encouraged Pauline Hanson, whose views were widely perceived in Asia as racist. Australian politicians then pointed out Mahathir's farcical trial of Anwar Ibrahim, saying that the prosecution was using homophobic overtones.

Mahathir has valued the right of a nation to do whatever it wants within its borders, which he calls "sovereignty". This was articulated in the ASEAN policy of non-interference. In 2000, Mahathir was quoted as saying: "If Australia wants to be a friend to Asia, it should stop behaving as if it is there to teach us how to run our country. It is a small nation in terms of numbers and it should behave like a small nation and not be a teacher." He also said "This country stands out like a sore thumb trying to impose its European values in Asia as if it is the good old days when people can shoot aborigines without caring about human rights" and denounced Australia as the "white trash of Asia".

Mahathir also made remarks to the effect that John Howard was trying to be America's 'Deputy Sheriff' in the Pacific region. This was in response to John Howard's statement that they would pursue terrorists over the borders of their neighbours.

His perception of Howard has not softened after retirement. In an interview, he stated: "They (accepted) Blair, and I am sure they will accept Bush. They have already accepted Howard who told a blatant lie", a reference to the "Children overboard" scandal during the run-up to the 2001 Australian elections.

Middle East

Mahathir is regarded by many, especially in the West, as an anti-Semite. In 1984, his government banned the performance of works by the Jewish composer Ernest Bloch, during a visit by the New York Philharmonic, specifically because of Bloch's religion. The Orchestra responded by refusing to play in Malaysia.

In 1997, during the financial crisis, he attributed the collapse of the Malaysian ringgit to a conspiracy of Jews against a prosperous Muslim state: "The Jews robbed the Palestinians of everything, but in Malaysia they could not do so, hence they do this, depress the ringgit." Under strong international criticism, he issued a partial retraction, but not in Malay-language media sources.

Under Mahathir, a leading critic of Israel, Malaysia was a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, and established diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. (Israeli citizens remain banned from entering Malaysia and Malaysian citizens from Israel.) In 1986, a major diplomatic row erupted with neighbouring Singapore when Chaim Herzog, the President of Israel, paid a state visit.

On October 16, 2003 (shortly before he stepped down as prime minister), Mahathir said at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Putrajaya, "We Muslims are actually very strong, 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Nazis killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." He also named Israel as "the enemy allied with most powerful nations." Israel strongly criticized the remarks. "The speech was also condemned by the European Union and Germany in particular, as well as by the United States, Australia and other Western states. Germany summoned Malaysia's charge d'affaires in Berlin to protest at the 'totally unacceptable' comments. Speaking for the EU, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that Dr Mahathir had employed 'expressions that were gravely offensive, very strongly anti-Semitic and... strongly counter to principles of tolerance, dialogue and understanding'." At the same time, "His speech was defended and admired by many Muslim leaders."


Mahathir is an alumnus of the National University of Singapore (previously named University of Malaya). He graduated as a physician from then King Edward VII Medical College in 1953, during British rule. He is held in high regard by his alma mater, and regularly attends reunions.

However, relations with Singapore under Mahathir's tenure have been stormy. Many disputed issues raised during his administration have not been resolved, and in fact have been exaggerated by both sides. Many of these international issues have been raised up under Mahathir's Premiership term, but no significant headway had been made then to resolve them bilaterally. Issues have included:

Both sides had stubbornly refused to compromise, with the result of bilateral relations turning frosty. The absurdity of the whole situation was illustrated by Mahathir's proposal to replace the Malaysian portion of the Causeway with half a bridge, with the end result, a crooked structure, being derided as ridiculous by citizens of both nations. Under Prime Minister Abdullah, and due to a change of leadership and tact in Singapore, relations have begun to thaw, and inter-citizen relations have gone on much as they have before in that they are totally independent of political bickering. Many Singaporeans and Malaysians have relatives on the other side of the Causeway, and despite the bickering of both governments over different issues, relations between citizens of both countries remained unaffected.

However, on the other hand, it could be understood that from Mahathir's perspective, he was trying to preserve the interest of the Malaysian people and public, as he viewed Malaysia as being marginalised by Singapore, the causeway and the water issues being two of the many disputes.

Recently, the issue of replacement of the Causeway with a bridge and the use of Malaysian airspace by the RSAF have been successfully solved by Mahathir's successor Abdullah, an issue that has been heavily criticised by Mahathir.

People's Republic of China

Though an anti-communist in his early career, Dr. Mahathir is highly in approval of the new directions adopted by the People's Republic of China (PRC) after Deng Xiaoping's ascension to power. Malaysia and the PRC maintained a close relationship since the late 1990s, when doubts and suspicions of China's ambition in ASEAN region were cleared, and Mahathir and Chinese leaders found many common grounds in their authoritarian style of ruling and their opposition to Western interference in regional matters. Mahathir is keen that the rise of PRC could to some extent balance the American influence in Southeast Asia, as well as benefiting Malaysia from the PRC's economic prosperity.


In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mahathir has been noted as a particular ally and sympathetic co-religionist of that nation. He visited Sarajevo in June, 2005 to open a bridge near Bosmal City Center signifying friendship between Malaysians and Bosnians.

He made another 3-day visit to Visoko to see the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun in July 2006.

Developing world

Among developing and Islamic countries, however, Mahathir remains greatly admired, particularly for Malaysia's impressive economic growth. Foreign leaders, such as Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, praised him and have been trying to emulate Mahathir's developmental formulae. He was one of the greatest spokesmen on Third World issues, and strongly supported the bridging of the North-South divide, as well as exhorting the development of Islamic nations. He was dedicated to various Third World blocs such as ASEAN, the G77, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Nations, and most recently, the G22 at the latest WTO talks at Cancún.


In 2002, a tearful Mahathir announced his resignation to a surprised UMNO General Assembly. He was persuaded to stay on for a further eighteen months, in a carefully planned handover that ended in October 2003. On his retirement, he was granted Malaysia's highest honour, which entitles him to the title Tun from his original Datuk Seri. He is now (since retirement) an 'advisor' to the National Oil Company Petronas and the National Car Company Proton. He is also the head of Perdana Leadership Foundation, a foundation whose aim is to preserve, develop and spread materials regarding previous Prime Ministers or written by previous prime ministers. Since Mahathir has retired, he has still been very outspoken regarding national policies.

Shortly before leaving office, Mahathir sparked off a fierce controversy when at the 57-member "Organization of the Islamic Conference" (OIC) summit, he claimed that "the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them". [8] However, he also mentioned:" We also know that not all non-Muslims are against us. Some are well disposed towards us. Some even see our enemies as their enemies. Even among the Jews there are many who do not approve of what the Israelis are doing." On contrary many within the Jewish community rebuke his statement.

His comments were widely criticized in the West, but the issue was ignored in Asia and Islamic countries, which felt that his remark had been taken out of context. Mahathir later defended his remarks, saying: "I am not anti-Semitic ... I am against those Jews who kill Muslims and the Jews who support the killers of Muslims." He tagged the West as "anti-Muslim", for double standards by "protecting Jews while allowing others to insult Islam." also mentioning “But when somebody condemns the Muslims, calls my prophet, "terrorist", did the European Union say anything?".In 2004, he stated that both Bush and Kerry avoided certain acts due to concerns that they would "annoy the Jewish group." However, his comments does not stop international criticism especially from United States and Israel.

In 2005, Mahathir brought up the issue of excessive awarding of Approved Permits (APs) to import cars, stating that they were creating too much competition for Proton, causing friction between him and Rafidah Aziz, the Minister for International Trade and Industry, who oversaw the awarding of APs. His successor, Abdullah, then announced that a National Automotive Policy (NAP) would be created to appropriately handle the issue. Later, when touching on the issue, Mahathir lamented the government's majority in Parliament, saying, "I believe that the country should have a strong government but not too strong. A two-thirds majority like I enjoyed when I was prime minister is sufficient but a 90% majority is too strong. ... We need an opposition to remind us if we are making mistakes. When you are not opposed you think everything you do is right."



  • The Malay Dilemma (1970)

  • The Challenge (1986)

  • The Pacific Rim in the 21st century (1995)

  • The Challenges of Turmoil (1998)

  • A New Deal for Asia (1999)

  • Islam & The Muslim Ummah (2001)

  • Globalisation and the New Realities (2002)

  • Reflections on Asia (2002) ISBN 967-978-813-X

  • Achieving True Globalisation (2004-11-30) ISBN 967-978-904-7

  • The Chinese Malaysian Contribution (2005)