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1Malaysia: Does race still play a part?

Connie Foong

Wed Dec 01 2010

KUAM seminar

IN ORDER to catch up with the Chinese and Indians, Malays “need to be given handicaps to ensure fairness, not discrimination”, says former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

This was what Dr Mahathir would have told the future leaders of Malaysia if he had been able to make the Seminar Pembangunan Insan (Human Development Seminar) held at Melbourne University on October 3.

Dr Mahathir was forced to pull out of the much-anticipated event at the last minute after he was hospitalised in Melbourne with a chest infection, and was replaced by Malaysian Minister of Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed instead.

In an entry published on his personal blog on October 13, Dr Mahathir expressed his regret on the opportunity lost to address students and went on to articulate “what would have been the contents of (his) talk”.

Critical of the 1Malaysia policy, Dr Mahathir said Malays should be afforded special rights as long as the Chinese and Indians continued to identify themselves with their countries of origin and desired to “keep their home languages and their schools”.

He said a fair distribution of economic prosperity between the races was important in helping Malaysia to achieve Vision 2020 and become a fully developed country.

“This prosperity would be fairly shared between the races. There would be less jealousy between them. There would also be less fear of any race being dominated by any other race,” he said.

A supporter of the Malaysian New Economic Policy, Dr Mahathir said he was “not ashamed to admit” that he could not compete with his Chinese and Indian peers as a medical student.

“They had much better results than me and the other six Malay students for entry into the Medical College. Even at that time the British promised to the Rulers to help educate the Malays,” he said in his blog.

“I had my chance because of the affirmative action then. On pure merit I would not be a doctor today, not because I was not qualified, but my qualification was lower than others.”

“To be given handicaps is to ensure fairness, not discrimination. That is why in golf you have handicaps… there must be equality between the contestants,” Dr Mahathir said.

“But when all is said and done, those who are given the benefits of handicaps must make honest efforts to use them properly. If they don’t then they must forfeit the handicaps in the future.”

While the comments left on Dr Mahathir’s blog were generally respectful of his views, the same post republished on a number of websites like the Malaysia Chronicle, provoked a wave of angry comments from outraged netizens in the Malaysian blogosphere.

“This racially charged hate mongering has to stop, it’s stupid and unnecessary,” said one Malaysian blogger.

“I’m 25 years old, my grandparents came from Kerala and I only speak English and Malay. I’ve never been to India.

“The real issue is our country is badly run and yet the government insists on discriminatory policies that seems to ensure its continuity.”

Competent golfers don’t need handicaps, said another commentator.

“Mahathir failed to mention that once golfers become competent, they are ‘scratch players’ and do not need handicaps,” she said.

Are you outraged by Dr Mahathir’s comments? What are your perspectives on the 1Malaysia policy? Does race still play a part? Tell us below.