KUALA LUMPUR: Since young, he was exposed to diversity and grew up with people of all ethnic groups.
Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said his parents also taught him not to differentiate others based on their ethnicity, religion or creed.
“Throughout my business career, I am surrounded by Indians, Chinese and many others. Even in public office, I am still surrounded by these very same people.
“They are all my friends and I am colour-blind,” the Deputy Prime Minister said in his speech at the 35th anniversary of the Sri Murugan Centre yesterday.
He then named Tan Sri Dr M. Thambirajah, declaring him as his “mentor, guru and lecturer”.
“He was my professor and instrumental to my educational well-being during my days at Universiti Malaya. Through these years, he still has my respect and admiration.
“I do not see him as a Hindu mentor but a great man who brought success to education,” he said.
The centre was founded by Dr Thambirajah on Sept 24, 1982.
It has taught some 23,000 students, allowing them to enter private, government and overseas universities.
Dr Ahmad Zahid also spoke passionately about several of his non-Muslim friends, singling them out from among the audience as a testament of his character.
Among them were lawyers and a two-star army general.
“As the chairman of the National Urban Poverty committee, I work closely with (MIC president) Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, (MCA president) Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and other community leaders to ensure fair decisions are made because poverty transcends race and religion,” he said, adding that there must be “equal distribution of assistance” to all recipients.
Dr Ahmad Zahid also approved a RM3mil allocation to the centre.