Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald McConville
McCONVILLE: Politically, a new prime minister had just been elected, and he's still in position. His name is Mahathir. Earlier he had been involved with the riots in 1959 or something like that in Malaysia when there had been these race riots and so forth. He had a reputation at least as being a radical and a rabble-rouser and so forth, and he had been exiled from the major political party there in Malaysia and only recently had been restored, and having been restored to the party, he succeeded in being able to take it over and be elected the prime minister when the previous prime minister either died or was in ill health. I think he had died, or maybe was in ill health and had to step down. So there was a certain degree of apprehension about just how this would work out with this man who had at least been a militant in his younger days. He also had adopted a policy, which he called “Look East.” He had professed to be very unhappy that Asians were looking too much to the west, to England and the United States, for their models and that they should look instead to Asians, and he had identified particularly the Japanese as being very successful Asians. So he had something called a “Look East” policy, and there was apprehension about that. The fact is it turned out that he did hold some of these beliefs but he was also very pragmatic. A number of the people close to him were very conscious of the importance to Malaysia of having good relations with the United States and with the UK, so there was much less to this than appearances. But it was sort of a delicate situation to handle.
Q: Who was the ambassador while you were there?