PUTRAJAYA, Jan 14 — Malaysia still has a way to go before its various races are truly and fully united, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
Speaking at his department’s monthly address today, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia had inherited a multiracial nation but despite that, the only time racial tension triggered violence and riots was on May 13, 1969.
“We inherited a situation where our nation is multi-racial. We found that today, these races have not united as we hoped for. During our independence, we hoped we would be a single people speaking a single language, practising a single culture and living in harmony,” he said.
“But because some races wanted to maintain ties with their motherland, we accepted the fact that our country would not become a nation where everyone comes from a single race. Even then, we never saw any riots happening in our country.
“It only happened in 1969 when there were race riots, but we learned a lot from it. Riots don’t benefit anyone. This is our history. We realised how important it is for all races to cooperate.”
The prime minister recalled incidents in other countries such as Tanzania and Myanmar which kicked out non-natives the moment they achieved independence.
However, despite the peaceful conditions among the various races in Malaysia, Dr Mahathir observed that there are still gaps in racial unity, which are not conducive to a safe and harmonious society.
He said it is important that everyone must come together, adding that the nation must follow the example of Sabah and Sarawak where people of different races, faiths and cultures live under one roof.
“We need to unite all races wherever we are. The three races (Malays, Chinese and Indians) together with other tribes in Sabah and Sarawak are capable of living and playing together. If we can achieve that, I am confident our nation will be even more developed,” said Dr Mahathir.
At the same time, the world’s oldest elected leader also reminded his staff that equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth is key to growth and development.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that other single ethnic nations which achieved independence had also faced riots but this time, it was between the rich and the poor.
He said this was the reason why the Pakatan Harapan government plans to alleviate poverty for all and if the focus happened to be on the Bumiputera and the Malays, it was because the majority of the poor come from these communities.
“It is our duty and responsibility to ensure that wealth is equally distributed. If it isn’t fully distributed, it must at least be at an acceptable level for everyone.
“It is pointless to think we are equal only at the polling booth when we are electing a government. If we cannot give equality, comfort and harmony to all Malaysians, we cannot say that we have succeeded in developing Malaysia.
“We don’t want the country to be rich but wealth is not equally distributed,” said Dr Mahathir.