KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — Unlike the ethnic minorities in other countries who have turned into refugees, Malaysia’s Chinese are not forced to leave the country as they have been treated well and feel very comfortable, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.
In a recent interview with Hong Kong’s Phoenix Satellite TV, the retired Malaysian prime minister acknowledged that some Chinese Malaysians have left for countries like Australia, but insisted they chose to leave and were not forced out unlike the Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar and people from Syria.
“Chinese people, people of Chinese origin in Malaysia feel very comfortable in Malaysia, they have never had to run away.
“Of course, some migrated to Australia et cetera, but you don’t see these people running away like you see for example the Rohingya people running away from Myanmar and Syrian people running away from their country because of troubles and all that,” the 90-year-old said in an edited video clip of the interview uploaded on the Hong Kong-based broadcaster’s website yesterday.
Elaborating on his claim, Dr Mahathir said Chinese Malaysians have cordial ties with other ethnic groups here and play key roles in the federal government.
“At any one time, there are Chinese members of the government, and they play a big role in the administration of this country,” he added.
Phoenix Satellite TV said Dr Mahathir’s remarks was in response to China’s concerns of Malaysians with Chinese roots involved in racially-charged clashes at Low Yat Plaza here last Sunday that left at least five people bloodied.
The mob violence last weekend was said to have stemmed from false rumours spread through social media of a Malay allegedly being conned by an ethnic Chinese trader over the sale of a counterfeit smartphone.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has also since said that the Low Yat Plaza incident was not racial in nature, but involved a criminal case.
Police have also maintained the crime was not racial in nature and have classified it a theft case involving an unemployed 22-year-old who was later charged with stealing a RM800 phone from an outlet in Low Yat Saturday.
However, several people have been investigated for sedition and one has also been charged under the controversial law for allegedly inciting racial tensions.