PUTRAJAYA, Dec 2 — Malaysia’s celebrated multi-racial composition is also its bane when there’s a large disparity in income and achievements among the different demographic groups, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
The prime minister said racial inequality was a major roadblock to achieving developed nation status for Malaysia compared to other Asian countries like South Korea, Japan and China with a more homogenous population.
“We do have many problems and among them is that our country is a multiracial nation and unfortunately the achievements among races are not equal; as one race moves forward another is left behind.
“Such a situation is unhealthy. If there is disparity between races due to their achievements and developments and if they reflect their achievements, then our country will not be safe because the separation between the rich and poor would be a problem for any country,” he said in his monthly assembly speech to the Prime Minister’s Department staff this morning.
Dr Mahathir said that racial inequality can lead to unlawful civil revolutions if not addressed properly and cited several European countries as example.
He said he was thankful there were no violent attempts within Malaysia to oust the government with its citizens channelling their dissatisfaction through democratic ways.
But the prime minister said the government alone cannot increase everyone’s wealth equally, adding that it was there to provide guidance.
He urged impoverished Malaysians to also be proactive to rise out of the lower income bracket and not rely solely on government aid and handouts.
“They need to put in effort for themselves with some guidance from the government to identify what fields they can venture into to increase their income levels.
“We can see how some of the poor have put in the effort and lifted themselves to become wealthy, some even millionaires, one of which can be seen from those who run businesses such as selling women’s headscarves.
“They have become rich because such businesses had not existed but now, they have reaped the benefits as our local women all use headscarves,” he said.