Could Malaysians forget about their racial origins and swear allegiance only to Malaysia? (Photo by Hussein Shaharuddin/The Mole)
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is not yet ready to do away with race-based politics, says former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“We all want to remember and be recognised according to our racial origins, the countries of our ancestors came from, the languages we speak, the cultures we belong to,” he said, adding: “We really don’t want to say we are just Malaysians and nothing else,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia is different from countries where there is no racial politics and where people identify with the country they live in rather than the country they or their ancestors came from.
There are examples of this in Malaysia, he said, citing the diverse origins of the country’s Malay population, which includes “people of Indian, Arab, Indonesian and even Turkish and European origins who are accepted as indigenous people by all of us” because they speak Malay, practice Malay culture and are Muslim.
Such people are Malays according to the Federal Constitution and are therefore considered indigenous, he said.
He also gave the example of foreign-born people in Sabah who have lived there for decades, had children there, and speak Malay.
“On the basis of length of stay and mastering of the national language, they qualify to be citizens of this country,” he said. “And so they acquired citizenship.”
Dr Mahathir said there was a time when ideology-based political parties contested in elections, but “they were all rejected in favour of race-based parties”, which will remain until Malaysians are truly prepared to look beyond race.
“If we don’t want our politics to be race-based, then we must forget our racial origins, speak the national language as our mother tongue and swear allegiance only to this country,” he said.
“We can retain our religion, however,” he added.
“Maybe one day this will happen. But for the present our politics will be race-based despite our protestations that we are not,” he said.
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