Mahathir faces daunting challenges on all fronts

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Is the new retirement age 95? - Photograph: zaid.my

Leading the nation especially at a time when its coffers have been drained and it is saddled with enormous debt is a huge responsibility, writes JD Lovrenciear.

Whatever his critics, past and present, may say about this man, no one in Malaysia, the Asean fraternity and even on the global map can deny that Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a legend.

Why should a man who had spent all his life and times in politics and served the nation for 22 challenging years want to throw himself into the pit of politics at this age? Many leaders would have called it quits and gone on to bask in the sunshine off a well-earned retirement package.

But for Mahathir to take the harness and ride all over again can only mean one thing that his passion and patriotism got the better of him. Anyone who has been in his presence, met him personally and spoken to him can vouch for his sincerity in righting what he believes to be wrong.

Leading the nation especially at a time when its coffers have been drained and it is saddled with enormous debt is a huge responsibility. Driving a nation that has been sullied with the politics of racial and religious discrimination to an almost irreversible degree is not what any normal retired politician would dare dabble with. Committing the last years of one’s life to delivering on a difficult list of pledges is certainly not every leader’s cup of tea.

Putting aside all the suspicions, the poison arrows, the doubts and speculation, one truth emerges: Mahathir is an iconic legend. And for that Malaysians must celebrate this gift that came when almost all hope was lost, when fear was entrenched.

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Asean too has much reason to celebrate as they now have a leadership to benchmark against. Few other leaders can rise despite the raging flames and dare to defy all odds to serve again and again.

Mahathir has set a permanent milestone in the history of nation-building. Those who choose to be blind to this truth should ask themselves what they can do better at 93.

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