Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was well-known as a champion of Malay rights during his 22-year tenure of premiership.
However, Mahathir has now said that he does not believe in ‘ketuanan Melayu’, despite having been labelled as an ‘ultra Malay’ by Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
“I do not believe in ‘ketuanan Melayu’. I used to tell (Malay rights pressure group Perkasa president) Ibrahim Ali that if you are the driver, it is the guy behind you who is the ‘tuan’ (master).
“We have to accept reality. If you want to be ‘tuan’, you must work hard, you must be competitive, you must get a good education, you must have a good value system,” he said.
He was speaking at a forum titled “China’s Investments: Is It Too Much?” organised by Institut Rakyat at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) last night.
Earlier, he had said that Malaysia had struck upon a good formula for the multiracial and multi-religion society to co-exist peacefully.
Malaysians had decided that each group should retain their identities without assimilating, he said, while still being able to live together.
“Of course, it becomes very difficult to create a truly Malaysian identity, but I think the retention of our ethnic or national identity has benefitted Malaysia.
“We still know that we are Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indian and Malaysian Malay, but we can get along very well. So far we have done that, but we should not disturb the balance.
“Today the balance is just nice,” he said.
He pointed out that the Chinese control the economy while the Malays “do better” in politics, before saying that he does not believe in “ketuanan Melayu”.
The British had said that Malaysia would not succeed as a country when it gained its independence in 1957, he recalled, due to the various races living in Malaysia.
However, he said, Malaysia’s founding fathers were very smart and decided to share the country among the different races.
“If anyone tried to take 100 percent for themselves, this country will never grow, and that 100 percent will be very, very small.
“Whereas, if we share, each slice of cake that we share will grow bigger than the whole cake over time, so the idea of sharing is a great idea,” he said.
Other than Singapore, he said, other countries who gained their independence around the same time as Malaysia are still lagging far behind the development that Malaysia has achieved, he said.
“Malaysia is a model for the rest of the world.
“A lot of people used to come to Malaysia, they asked me, how can your country develop. But I told them that we are willing to share,” he said.
Mahathir is also the author of the controversial 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma” where he posited that the non-confrontational nature of the Malays has kept them subjugated in their own land by the other races in collusion with the British.
He had also argued in the book that affirmative action is required to
correct Chinese dominance in the Malaysian economy.