KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — The Malaysian government is always open to foreigners who wish to invest and develop the country, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
However, he said the government has a stricter policy on taking in immigrants who wish to “settle in the country”.
“They can develop, but we will not allow foreigners to come and settle in our country,” he said in a press conference with the Japan National Press Club broadcast “live” from Tokyo where he is attending the Future of Asia conference hosted by Nikkei.
Dr Mahathir was referring to the Forest City project in Iskandar, Johor that was started by a private company from China and said his Pakatan Harapan government “generally don’t believe FDIs includes developing Malaysia to bring foreigners to settle in our country”.
“All countries practise the same thing. Even America is building a wall against Mexico. They want to keep their country to themselves, so does every other country and Malaysia has a right to deny entry of immigrants into Malaysia,” he said.
Dr Mahathir who is also Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) chairman, had before the May 9 general election claimed that over 700,000 Chinese nationals will be brought into the country through the Forest City project.
He further claimed that the new Chinese immigrants will be granted Malaysian identity cards that would enable them to vote in the next general elections.
Dr Mahathirs’s remark earned the ire of Johor monarch, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, who was reportedly “upset and offended”, over what he labelled as baseless fear mongering.
The 1,386-hectare Forest City project encompasses the development of facilities for business, tourism, hotel, residence, services and others, built on four man-made islands in Iskandar Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir was also asked how he would manage the large Chinese FDI into Malaysia as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
“Well in the first place, we are a small country. Whether we object to or not, China will go ahead with its plan. So what we have to do is how to make the best use of the policy of trying to build the Belt and Road, sea route and land route to the West.
“We will try to make sure that it is not exclusive, that other people can use the same route,” he added.