Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Mahathir encyclopaedia launched

The collection of his views, hopes and fears expressed in speeches over 22 years as PM will soon be available in bookstores

By Reme Ahmad

History buffs, admirers and critics of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad can now find an easy reference to discuss his controversial views.
Six weeks from his retirement as Prime Minister, a job he has held for 22 years, a 10-volume compilation on the thoughts of Asia's longest-serving elected leader has been published by an Egyptian company.
The Encyclopaedia Of Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad runs over 6,500 pages.
Its Malaysian distributors say they already have pre-orders of 30,000 sets.
The price of each hardcover set is RM1,300 (S$600), more than seven times the cost of the most expensive single-book volume about him being sold on Amazon.com.
The encyclopaedia contains his opinions, hopes and fears in speeches made over 22 years as he transformed Malaysia from an agriculture-based economy to the 17th biggest trading nation in the world.
'As a Malaysian leader, I was given a big responsibility to ensure political stability, harmonious race relations and economic growth,' Dr Mahathir, who is overseas, said in a recording aired at the launch of the encyclopaedia on Sunday evening. 'As a Muslim leader, I was given the responsibility to change the perceptions of Muslims towards knowledge.'
The 77-year-old Premier was never one to shy away from making known his views, even though some of them attracted controversy.
His topics were wide-ranging, and included currency speculators (he attacked them), Anwar Ibrahim (he defended his handling of the issue), and Palestinian suicide bombers (he said they went against Islamic teachings by killing Israeli civilians).
The encyclopaedia sets out his opinions on Islamic affairs, the challenges facing Asia as well as Malaysia's stand on globalisation, human rights, democracy and development.
The compilation is available in English, Arabic, as well as a set combining both English and Arabic, said its Malaysian distributor, Darulfikir.
The book is the brainchild of Mr Hassan El-Zein, the owner of Egyptian publishing house Dar Al-Kitab Al-Masri.
Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who launched the set on Sunday, said the brave and provocative views of Dr Mahathir were well known in Asia.
'He developed the spirit of Malaysia Boleh, and we have seen how he became the backbone for the Multimedia Super Corridor, the Petronas Twin Towers and make Kuala Lumpur a modern and clean city,' Datuk Seri Abdullah said.
The 10-volume set was not yet on sale yesterday at some major bookshops.
A manager at the MPH bookstore in the Mid Valley Megamall thinks the set will do well, despite the stiff price, as books on the Prime Minister have a niche market especially among the Arabs, who 'seem to regard him as a role model'.