'Give yourself time, suffer a little': Dr Mahathir to Malaysia's young generation

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
PHOTO: Reuters

When he led Pakatan Harapan to a historic victory in Malaysia's 14th GE in 2018 at the age of 92, ousting his former allies in Barisan National after more than 60 years in power, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad showed the world that age was no impediment to him.

Until March this year, the nonagenarian held the Guinness World Record for being the world's oldest current prime minister at the age of 94.

Now, most people in their twilight years would choose a peaceful retirement, but not Dr Mahathir. He still wants to contribute and his mind is still very active, he told host Natalie Sit in a Creative Community Live Talk on June 3.

Dr Mahathir said with a wry grin: "I am very grateful as I should live beyond the numbers of years I had expected to live. I thought 75 should be enough for me but I am 94 now, this is a bonus."

He also had words of advice for the young generation who are struggling to earn a living during the Covid-19 pandemic. Young people should be willing to work to learn and gain experience first before venturing into their own business, Dr Mahathir said.

"Experience is very important. If you observe things where you're working, you may see some opportunities. It doesn't have to be today or tomorrow. It may take a long time, a year or maybe two, three years or more.

"In the meantime, work. Work hard and deliver the best that you can for the salary that you're being paid.

''But if you go into business without any ideas because so-and-so has done well, you will get into trouble. Give yourself time, suffer a little. You have to expect to be suffering quite a bit.''

Dr Mahathir added that when he was a boy, many of the Chinese and Indian immigrants came to Malaysia as labourers. They worked very hard, saw opportunities and gave their children a better education, and they slowly built up.

"I'm sure many of the Chinese millionaires in Malaysia, their great grandparents were very poor.

"You have to accept challenges. When there are challenges, there are opportunities."

He also encourages the younger generation to use the power of communication for good purposes and to think of creative applications for advancements in science and technology, such as designing products using 3D printing technology.

Known for his fearless aura, Dr Mahathir was asked how he deals with fear and uncertainty. He revealed: "The fear is always there, but if you're going to worry about these things, you're not very positive. You can't contribute anything.

"Whether you like it or not, you are going to die. There comes a time when you will die. But before that, why should you waste your time? Do something.''

Dr Mahathir also advises the older generation to remain active and use their mental faculties and muscles every day — especially their brain muscle — lest they lose it.

"I live a very active life. Old people are very forgetful - I'm forgetful also, but the things that I think of all the time, I don't forget," he shared.

As for social media being used to spread hatred and negativity, he commented: "It is unfortunate. I always tell people, the knife is a very useful thing. You can carve very beautiful objects with the knife but you can also kill people with it. It's not the knife that is bad; it's the person.

''You must teach children good values — what is good, what is bad, what is forbidden — from young.

''My mother taught me and I never forgot her teachings — never to take what doesn't belong to me and things like that — so it is easy later on to reject the desire to wrong things.''

When asked what his dream for Malaysia was like, Dr Mahathir replied wistfully: ''I have always been dreaming about Malaysia. I want this country to become a developed country, a stable country, a peaceful country.''

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melinamoey@asiaone.com