Name: Puan Zarina Abu Bakar
Book: Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia
Author: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Publisher: MPH Publishing
Publication Year: 2021
Book Language: English
Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia chronologically follows on from the final chapter of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first memoir, A Doctor in the House. This standalone work chronicles not just the unexpected journey of Tun Dr Mahathir back to premiership but also the great changes taking place within Malaysia today. The story starts with his retirement, which finally gave him the time and means to pursue matters close to his heart—the plight of the Palestinian people, and the criminalisation of war—before the country’s troubles soon pulled him back into the maelstrom of Malaysian national politics.
Unable to sit idly by as his country plummeted towards disaster, Dr Mahathir found himself in the unique position of opposing the very party he led for 22 years. More astonishing was his victory in Malaysia’s 14th General Election and his return at the age of 92 as the seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia, making him the oldest serving head of government in the world at the time.
This book offers a frank and at times blunt discussion of the difficulties that the Pakatan Harapan Government faced, the challenges of rebuilding national political consensus, the betrayals from within the coalition that ultimately led to the Government’s downfall in March 2020 and to the many unthinkable firsts in Malaysian politics.
Whether one agrees with Dr Mahathir or not, it is impossible to deny the impact he has had—and continues to have—on the Malaysian political landscape. This book seeks to discuss those impacts as well as Dr Mahathir’s unfinished struggle to steer Malaysia away from the destructive political dynamics that have fuelled corruption and division in the country for so long.
When Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad completed “A Doctor in the House” in 2008, it was unlikely that the former Prime Minister had an inkling that his political career would be revived and in such spectacular fashion, too. But revive it did, when in 2015, Malaysia’s longest-serving Prime Minister rejoined the political fray at the ripe age of 90. Working alongside former political foes and heading the Opposition Bloc, Pakatan Harapan, Tun made history by unseating Barisan Nasional from power in 2018 and becoming Malaysia’s Prime Minister for the second time.
This memoir picks up where the first one left off, at retirement, with Tun contemplating quieter years leading causes he feels strongly about, including criminalising war and making leaders such as former US President George W Bush and former UK PM Tony Blair accountable for the destruction they caused through their self-serving wars. While these causes are the opening chapter of the memoir, subsequent chapters deal with Malaysian politics and government, notably the twists that led to the unprecedented win of 2018, and the turns that culminated in Tun’s shocking resignation in 2020.
The memoirs are written in much the same way as all his previous books: in a direct and very accessible style that makes for compulsive reading. There are no convoluted sentences nor skirting around issues: the author, in fact, takes great pains to break down events, explain decisions, and reason opinions.
One example is the chapter on Pakatan Harapan’s government (chapter 6) where Tun counters the allegation of failure by listing all the various wins of the PH government alongside the policy changes that were under way. Readers would appreciate the details on policy-making as well as the intricate balancing act that has to be achieved with every draft of a new law. The writer also acknowledged the various challenges he faced as Prime Minister: overcoming the “opposition mindset” of his cabinet members, countering the Malays’ fears and suspicions of DAP in government, and communicating effectively with the public.
The book is a must-have for any home library in Malaysia. It reveals the happenings behind the scenes of government and politics at an historic juncture. It also reveals the mindset of an extraordinary leader – a man who began his public service more than 60 years ago and who has played a key role in the nation’s government and politics. Whatever one’s political views are, the book offers many insights into Malaysia, past and present, and points to the difficult journey still ahead for our beloved nation.
– Puan Zarina Abu Bakar, General Manager, Perdana Leadership Foundation
“There was also a serious psychological problem to overcome: having been in the Parliamentary Opposition for over six decades, many Pakatan Harapan leaders needed time to make mindset adjustments. Even when they became Cabinet Ministers, some continued to behave as if they were still in the Opposition, and this was problematic. To put it simply: the Government has to do things, and when you do things, you open yourself to criticism. When you’re outside the Government, you can criticise as much as you like, and your actions don’t come under as much intense scrutiny. I needed to help the new Ministers get used to this.”
– Chapter 5, A Doctor Back in the House, page 104
“When a government makes a policy decision, it needs to know how it is to be implemented from the very beginning – otherwise, it will never be implemented. It’s not good enough to say, “Well, I want to enrich the poor villages.” The important questions are: how? What is the Government’s role? What is the role of the people? You may have the best of intentions, but if the people don’t accept it, it won’t work. You also need to know how to make ideas acceptable to them – rural folks are often quite conservative and resistant to change – and you have to explain matters to bureaucrats at the ground level, who may be just as conservative and stuck in their ways. I know this because I’ve been in the government for a long time.”
– Chapter 6, A Government of Hope, page 127
“To move forward, we must learn to accept that we should have a single identity – not Malay, Chinese, Indian, and so forth, but Malaysian.”
– Chapter 9, Education & Ethics, page 198