Mahathir Mohamad’s Election Win makes him the World’s Oldest Head of State

米国翻訳専門職大学院(USA)副学長 堀田都茂樹

Tomoki Hotta
Vice Chancellor
Babel University Professional School of Translation

In May of last year, Malaysia’s underwent a change of administration in which the opposition alliance, headed by former Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamed, defied majority predictions in winning the election.

A sympathizer of Japan, 92-year-old Mahathir promoted a “Look East” policy (a policy that encourages learning from Japan’s economic growth) during his time as prime minister. Mahathir won Malaysia’s election on May 9th, returning to power as Malaysia’s prime minister.

Consider the fact that China is attempting to create a military base by piling up mounds of earth in the South China Sea, or that the former Malaysian prime minister was being manipulated by China. It’s no surprise then that having Mahathir – who’s critical towards China – returning to power is a welcome turn of events.

Although China seems to be aiming to become a sea as well as land power and thus achieve dominance on a global level, what’s interesting is how few people in Japan feel a sense of danger regarding China’s actions. If China occupies the South China Sea, Japan will be forced to find an alternate route for transporting oil and other resources from the Middle East, since its current route via the South China Sea will no longer be available. The resulting cost to the Japanese will be astronomical.

Prime Minister Mahathir is the author of the book Rise up Japan. In this book, Prime Minister describes an account in 2002 when he addressed Japanese foreign exchange students, telling them, “You have the industrious blood characteristic of the Japanese, for which you should be proud of.” Some of the students were moved to tears after hearing Mahathir’s comment.

Mahathir also wrote, “Militarism is not a good thing, but being patriotic isn’t bad. Patriotism is helpful when a country is attempting to overcome adversity. Protecting one’s own country is not synonymous with aggressive militarism.”

“Frankly speaking, what the Japanese people lack is confidence and patriotism. I fully understand why Japan is hypersensitive to the word “patriotic.” Certainly, the Japanese must be prepared and willing to admit their numerous past mistakes. Does that mean though that the Japanese have to be fettered by their actions from over a half century ago, and harbor a permanent sense of guilt?”

Indeed, the Japanese must pause for some sober reflection, since they continue to be plagued with a masochistic view of history.

While there is some unease at having a leader in his 90’s take on the difficult job of running a nation, reading the news I’m convinced Mahathir’s passion will continue to shine forth brightly even after he turns 100.

It’s not just Japan but worldwide that being active into one’s 100’s has become a reality. In order to continue to have things we want to pursue even as we age and have a tenacious mental power and physical strength that enables us to focus our passion, I believe what we ultimately need is to have a sense of mission – a resolute sense of mission.

Mahathir teaches us that by having a sense of mission – or deciding what we are going to use our lives for – we can live lives full of vigor well into our 90’s and 100’s.

Since I’m only 66 years old, this is excellent news indeed!

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