ACADEMICS have torn into Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s description of Malaysians as lazy, urging the prime minister to stop labelling and using unhelpful words.
They recognised his intention to spur Malaysians into doing better and being more hardworking, but said the impact of such words might cause unintended effects and perpetuate racial stereotypes.
Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, an analyst with the Institute of Ethnic Studies (Kita), said using the “lazy” label showed how Dr Mahathir was still trapped in a colonial mindset when the British described Malays using the same word.
“That’s his personal stand. He has always been saying Malays are lazy. He has never changed his stand, just that now he is trying to include other Malaysians.
The book was written in 1977 after Dr Mahathir had written “The Malay Dilemma”, and examines Western bias towards the populations of lands that were colonialised.
Another academic Mohd Hazim Shah Abdul Murad of Universiti Utara Malaysia said Dr Mahathir might have good intentions of galvanising Malays by using reverse psychology.
However, using words like “lazy” when talking about Malays can perpetuate ethnic stereotypes.
“We must think about the impact of such words. The intention may be good, but the impact can be negative,” Hazim said.
Dr Mahathir had said Malaysians are lazy and had become dependent on cash aid, like Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) as handed out by the Barisan Nasional government.
Malaysians had also become lazy because they were dependent on foreign workers, the prime minister added.
Dr Mahathir has frequently used such descriptions when expressing his disappointment at Malaysia’s performance in comparison with other countries.
Malay Consultative Council secretary Hasan Mad the continuous use of such labels would affect economic and job opportunities for Malays, as it perpetuated a stereotype and caused others to shun Malays.
Non-elite Malays were already facing a challenging situation finding better private sector jobs as the economy was controlled by others.
“They already know the economic or market situation doesn’t side with them and such words won’t help. They confirm the perception others have of them and perpetuate the reasons why people are reluctant to hire Malays,” Hasan said.
National Professors’ Council deputy president Kamaruddin M. Said urged Dr Mahathir not to rely on stereotypes that were unscientific, adding that more recognition should be given to successful Malays and companies that were built by Malays.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT