Updated: Sep 29
Mahathir's legacy and the future of Malaysia
Malaysiana LCMS is proud to distribute the bold new book by Dennis Ignatius (a former Malaysian ambassador) because he has courageously expressed publicly what many Malaysians only dare to say privately.
Paradise Lost takes a critical look at Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s role in Malaysia’s political evolution and his ultimately destructive legacy of corruption, racism and religious extremism. He inherited a nation pregnant with promise and left it mired in division, uncertainty and instability, a grand kleptopia, a terrible kakistocracy. It also examines the role Mahathir played in Pakatan Harapan’s stunning 2018 electoral victory and his subsequent betrayal of the coalition he was entrusted to lead. The end result is a nation in deep crisis, adrift in a sea of uncertainty, unable to come to terms with its past, unwilling to make the compromises necessary for its future.
Paradise Lost makes for sober reading. Intensely provocative, it challenges long-established shibboleths, spotlights the dangers now confronting the nation and argues that Malaysia’s only hope for redemption lies in embracing and harnessing its unique multicultural identity.
This timely book will engender much needed public dialogue about the future of Malaysia.
* This book will be officially launched on 9 September 2021. Watch this space for details.
“Dennis Ignatius, who retired after an illustrious career as one of Malaysia’s top diplomats with a seat in policymaking councils, has written a deeply informative and disturbing account of how Mahathir Mohamad almost single-handedly destroyed Malaysia’s promise as a multiracial, multiethnic democracy and transformed it into a repository of racial and religious intolerance, condoning venality and corruption in his misguided drive to uplift the Malay race. For a world that has mistakenly viewed the former prime minister as one of Asia’s indispensable strongmen, this is a vital corrective. It should be on every Southeast Asian government specialist’s bookshelf.”
Editor in Chief, Asia Sentinel
“Dennis Ignatius is among the sharpest writers on politics, leadership and diplomacy in Malaysia. This book on Mahathir Mohamad’s role in a paradise lost - two times over - is a distillation of his knowledge and incisive, many-faceted analysis. It is a valuable source of what really happened and offers special insights via his personal knowledge and acquaintance of many of the actors in this seemingly endless saga. Highly recommended.”
Columnist and Author
“Dennis Ignatius has seen it all in his long and distinguished career within the corridors of power and out of it. In Paradise Lost he touches on almost every aspect of our federal political quagmire including Mahathirism, the entrenchment and propagation of “ketuanan Melayu” and political Islam, the miseducation of our society and the political economy. It’s a landscape of surprising breadth and depth that needs to be read. More than ever, we all need to step up to the challenge if we are to take Malaysia back to the paradise we once were.”
Human Rights Lawyer
“Paradise Lost is a look into the conscience of a nation and how its soul would have and should have been developed into its potential crystalline jewel of social, political and religious entity. It is also a unique no-holds-barred insider perspective of one who had worked in the government under the two personalities that had shaped and warped this country for four decades, Anwar and Mahathir.”
Prof. Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
“A searing work that details the hypocrisy, improbity and self-serving agenda that led to a missed juncture. Every page of the book provokes critical thinking and demands intense debate. Essential reading for anyone concerned about the deceived majority, the excluded minority and the possibility of a democracy tempered by Islamic values.”
Dr Shankaran Nambiar
Head of Research, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research
“The book is an intelligent and comprehensive narrative of a man that helmed the nation for quarter of a century. Although much has been written about Mahathir, little of substance has been said. Dennis’ years as a Malaysian diplomat has given him greater analytical depth of the government under Mahathir. His frank opinion covers an important part of history when Mahathir came back as Prime Minister the second time. This is a must-read book for people interested in the political history of Malaysia and its implications for future generations.”
Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin (Joe Samad)
“Paradise Lost is a fascinating study of the Grand Old Man of Malaysian politics. With insightful analysis, Dennis peels away the layers around the man and his policies and shows how it has shaped Malaysia. Anyone with a keen interest in Malaysian politics will find it engrossing.”
Datuk Kenny Ng Bee Ken
Human Rights Lawyer
“In Paradise Lost: Mahathir & The End of Hope, Dennis Ignatius gives a eulogy for a country that could have been. Like he did with the masterful Diplomatically Speaking, the writer provides an insider perspective coupled with a humanistic view of contemporary political events. Unlike many political commentaries, this book while grounded in the banalities of modern Malaysian politics does not resort to Manichean narratives that define the discourse. There are no heroes or villains in this book but rather flawed human beings who wasted opportunities and basked in Pyrrhic victories. Paradise Lost is more than just a lament of a homeland that could have been but rather a heartfelt reminder that nothing is cast in stone yet.”
Commander (Rtd) Royal Malaysian Navy & Columnist
“Ignatius’ devastating portrait of Mahathir is a must-read for every Malaysian. It is a compelling in-depth study of Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister who squandered two chances to propel the nation to greater heights. Mahathir’s narcissistic tendencies, his racist worldview, overwhelming sense of self-righteousness and deflection of blame gave rise to policies which destroyed several generations of Malaysians and crippled a once beautiful country. Paradise Lost doesn’t disappoint.”
“Superbly written, a no-holds-barred account of how Pakatan Harapan lost power so quickly following the upset victory in GE 14. The recounting of Dr Mahathir’s Machiavellian and what many in the public view as treacherous role, and Pakatan’s own ineptitude that dashed the hopes of Malaysians supporting the possibly once in a lifetime opportunity for reform serves as a cautionary reminder of the long haul ahead in the fight for a fair, just and secular nation.”
Dr Lim Teck Ghee
Columnist, Former Professor (University of Malaya)
About the Author
Dennis Ignatius was born in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, and received his basic education infamous May 13 incident, found the love of his life, and graduated in 1972 with an honours degree in International Relations.
After a brief period with the United States Peace Corps, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and got to live his dream as a diplomat. He saw service in London (1974-77), Beijing (1979-81) and Washington (1986-89) before being appointed ambassador to Chile (with concurrent accreditation to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) and subsequently ambassador to Argentina (with concurrent accreditation to Uruguay and Paraguay). He was appointed high commissioner to Canada in 2001 and served in that position until his retirement in 2008. At the Ministry, he was head of the China desk and twice held the position of undersecretary for the Americas.
He was awarded the A.M.N., J.S.D. and the D.S.P.N. as well as the Grand Cross of the Order of Mayo by the Government of Argentina. He is currently on the advisory board of the IMAN Foundation (London), diplomatic adviser to the First Step Forum (Helsinki) and a trustee of the Edunity Foundation (Kuala Lumpur).
He has been a columnist, political affairs commentator and contributor to Al-Jazeera, the Asia Sentinel, The Star, Free Malaysia Today, Malaysia Focus, Malaysiakini and other media portals. His first book – Diplomatically Speaking: Dispatches from the Best Democracy We Never Had – was published in 2018. He maintains a blog on politics, diplomacy, human rights and civil society.
He passionately believes that if the Malaysian experiment is to endure, it must remain committed to Tunku Abdul Rahman’s vision of a secular multicultural nation “inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty – a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world.”