Today is the 96th birthday of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, our 4th & 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia. Tun was born on 10th July, 1925 in Kampung Seberang Perak, Alor Setar, Kedah to Mohamad Iskandar (father), and Wan Tempawan Wan Hanafi (mother). He received his early education in his hometown, at Sekolah Melayu Seberang Perak, an all-boys school for two years, then in a government English school where his father was the headmaster. This school would later be renamed Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid.
In 1947, Tun Mahathir gained admission into the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore as a government scholar. During his college years, he wrote for The Sunday Times (now known as The Straits Times) under his pen name, Che Det. It was here that he met the love of his life, Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali. Fun fact: their birthdays are just two days apart, so look out for an upcoming post on Tun Dr Siti! In 1956, they were married in a ceremony in Jalan Imbi in KL. They have seven children: Marina, Mirzan, Melinda, Mokhzani, Mukhriz, Maizura, and Mazhar.
Fast forward to today, we look back on some of Tun Dr Mahathir’s greatest contributions to Malaysia.
1. Proton as national car. Tun Dr Mahathir realised the creation of Malaysia’s national car, Proton, in the 80s, through a technology-sharing arrangement with Mitsubishi. The birth of Proton created many jobs in the automotive industry, and spawned a sub-sector for auto parts and service. Just last year alone, Proton sold more than 100k units, adding to the millions of affordable cars already sold since its introduction. If you ask the average Malaysian, chances are they have owned a Proton or have memories of riding in one.
2. North – South Expressway (PLUS). Good infrastructure is necessary to fuel growth, and the 772km North-South Expressway connecting Bukit Kayu Hitam to Johor Bharu has become a benchmark for other expressway projects in Malaysia.Thanks to the PLUS Expressway, Malaysians have been able to travel with ease. The expressway spurred a development boom as well along its route.
3. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). When it was clear that the Subang Jaya International Airport would not be able to handle future traffic and passenger loads, Tun Dr Mahathir commissioned for the construction of a new and bigger airport. Groundwork began on KLIA on 1st June 1993, and after five years, KLIA opened to the public in 27th June 1998. Pre-pandemic, KLIA was rated as one of the busiest international airports in the world, so much so that a second KLIA had to be constructed to accommodate budget airlines, aptly named KLIA 2.
4. Putrajaya & Cyberjaya. Putrajaya was developed as the main federal government administration centre, while Cyberjaya was developed as part of the government’s Multimedia Super Corridor initiative. On the surface, the two might not have much similarities. But when you look closely at the two today, they are a lot alike. The two cities now house hundreds of thousands of Malaysians, with complete facilities such as schools, universities and colleges, shopping complexes, housing projects, and public parks.
The above are only some of the projects and achievements of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, with benefits that Malaysians enjoy until today. Tun also modernised the civil service, emphasised good work ethics, promoted a moderate Islam, and championed the cause of developing nations in the international arena. He is also well-known for the brave decision to impose capital controls during the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis, a move which only much later was credited by the international community as the right move to save Malaysia’s economy. We thank you, Tun, for your exemplary and courageous leadership, as well as your fighting spirit.
We wish Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad a very happy birthday. May Allah grant him abundant blessings and good health.