Malaysia’s growth could be stunted if Putrajaya sticks to racial narrative, sidelines minorities

Tun Dr Mahathir said the government must accept Malaysia’s multiracial fabric and factor this into its policymaking. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Tun Dr Mahathir said the government must accept Malaysia’s multiracial fabric and factor this into its policymaking. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — Racial considerations in national policies will hamper the country’s growth if these result in the neglect of minority groups, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

In an interview with Free Malaysia Today (FMT) the former two-time prime minister said the government must accept Malaysia’s multiracial fabric and factor this into its policymaking.

“People will leave this country,” he said, if the racial considerations are prioritised.

“Whatever you say about the non-Malays, there is no doubt that they have contributed towards the development of this country. If you remove them, the growth of this country will be hampered, it will even turn negative,” Dr Mahathir added.

He said that much of Malaysia’s economic growth can be attributed to the non-Malays, who were able to succeed economically despite being minorities in the country.

However, Dr Mahathir said this growth had also led to an economic gap.

“There’s a need to balance (the wealth) between the non-Malays and the Malays. Because as you know, even if it’s a mono-ethnic country, if there is too big a disparity between the rich and the poor, there will eventually be violence,” he said, justifying this with global movements to tackle income inequality.

“We have to bring (the Malays) up so that there is a balance in terms of distribution of the national wealth between all the different communities,” he added.

On his failed unity government vision when he had been the interim prime minister, Dr Mahathir blamed this on those he claimed were more interested in personal gain than duty.

He said this led to the formation of too many political parties, especially for the Malays, and unstable coalitions.

He said Umno’s previous success since Merdeka was because it was the only significant Malay party and gained substantial support.

However, Dr Mahathir said that after this, “many people found out that you can make money through politics”.

“When you are elected as an MP or to the state assembly, you get a good income. They see this as a means of earning an income, not as a service to the country. Of course, there is a lot of competition among them, with everybody wanting to become MPs or members of the state assembly, to become ministers, prime minister and the like.

“Everybody wants to become the PM or to form their own government. This has diverted their attention from the interests of the country,” he told FMT.

After he quit as the PM in February last year, Dr Mahathir proposed a non-partisan government to replace the Pakatan Harapan administration that collapsed as a result of his resignation.

He maintains that his resignation was required since his previous party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), withdrew from PH.

Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was then appointed the prime minister as the head of the Perikatan Nasional government.

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