Meeting Barry Wain

Barry Wain, author of "Malaysian Maverick" was having a book signing session in Kinokuniya, Orchard Road and I had the pleasure and good fortune to be there.

Before the event started at 2pm, I managed to chat a few words with him. I found him to be scholarly, approachable, friendly and able to articulate his thought well. The only down side was the batteries in my digital camera went dead. :-(

A couple of very helpful organisers took some photograhs of him and I. I hope I have given my email address correctly to them. I just want to say a big thank you to the wonderful 2 ladies, regardless if I receive the photos or not. My fault entirely. (service level here seems to be better)

my prized possession!

Barry's talk was very engaging. He started off by saying why he chose Mahathir as his subject. He elaborated that he found Mahathir had a long and interesting political career, together with a generation of prominent leaders in South East Asia like Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong Ferdinand Marcos, Sukarno and Suharto.

Barry rated Mahathir's achievement as only coming behind after Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

Barry also explained that as journalist by training, he approached this piece of work like a longer than usual assignment.

This piece of work is certainly creditable. According to Barry, a professor in Australia noted that the book has about 1,290 footnotes! He is writing the book for Institute of South East Asia, Singapore and that provides some creditable standing. Yeah, pointless for the Dr to take him to court (but might be entertaining to us).

Barry mentioned that he researched for the book by reading through plenty of documents and even had face to face and email interviews with the Dr. himself! "At the time," Barry said, "Badawi was censoring him from the main stream press so he was a bit desperate to speak to anyone" ...these are Barry's words, or the best I can remember them. :-)

Barry said he wrote as a journalist and tried to be as objective as possible. He only wrote about facts that he could substantiate and support, and left out whatever that can only be classified as rumuor and hearsay.

Barry was impressed with the fact that Dr Mahathir can compartmentalise his life well. He never talk about work at home to his wife or children. When Che Det wrote that letter and got the sack from UMNO, he never mentioned about the letter to Dr Siti Hasmah. (that explains how he can say Chinese are the biggest tax payers in the morning and whack them as threatening this and that in the afternoon)

Barry mentioned also that Mahathir would never admit he made a mistake. "So I asked him." I remember Barry's words as follows, "you had 22 years to pick a successor and after you picked him, you started criticising him within a year, surely this qualifies as a mistake?."

I had the chance to pop a question to Barry. "What is the most significant legacy Mahathir left for Malaysia?" in my curt shabby English I asked.

Barry enhanced my respect by saying, "I leave it to the Malaysians to judge. On the credit side, he developed the economy and infrastructure, but on the other hand, he left a corruption culture and the devastation of the judiciary. So it is up to Malaysians to decide."

That's professional journalism for you. I cringed when I think of our own controlled media, Awang Selamat, the few editiors in the MCA paper, Utusan Malaysia's lopsided views, Berita Harian's inability to do simple math etc

Great book, Mr. Wain, an outsider who knows Malaysia better than Malayisans themselves.

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