PUTRAJAYA, Aug 24 ― Promoting affinity to individual states over the country will divide Malaysians, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today regarding the “Bangsa Johor” notion previously raised by the state's crown prince.
The former prime minister said such notions could encourage “unhealthy” feelings of superiority by the residents of one state over another.
“It tends to break up the unity of the federation. Actually, we should promote the idea of Malaysians rather than people of the different states,” he said in a question-and-answer session during a forum on the relations between the federal and state governments.
“Stressing state citizenship is not a very healthy thing. I would not like to see us go beyond that (as) we are all the same. Nobody is superior to another. We are all Malaysians,” said Dr Mahathir who introduced the “Bangsa Malaysia” policy during his time.
He added that Johor owed some of its current prosperity and development to its position in the Federation of Malaysia.
Commenting later on the suggestion that Johor could depart from the federation, he said such a move would be detrimental both to the state and the country.
He explained that Malaysia was only able to achieve its current state through unity and a shared support system that have existed since its independence..
“Well, it is their right to promote the idea. But to me, if he tried to separate, then the federation will collapse. Only in unity then we can prosper,” he said.
Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim on several occasions suggested that his state was entitled to leave Malaysia if it was unhappy with the federal government, most recently in June.
He had then challenged detractors to seek his state's expulsion from the country if they were unhappy with how it was being governed.
The Johor royal also espoused the notion of “Bangsa Johor”, saying the concept united the state's residents without regard to race.