Mahathir and the man in the mirror

The undertones of the ex-PM's recent 'Indian' comments reveal a lot about himself and his time in power

Mahathir dreaming

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In an online interview with Thanthi TV recently, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad clearly lashed out at the “immigrants”, especially the ethnic Indians.

At the same time, the 98-year-old unashamedly said of himself, “I don’t know anything about my Indian roots” and emphasised “I am 100% Malay”.

This is called lying through the teeth!

During his tenure as PM, a string of wrongful deeds was swept under the carpet. The result is the nation we have become today – broken with a plethora of serious ills plaguing it. 

At the beginning of the interview, Mahathir said, “I want to see my country achieve the same level of development as other developed countries.”

But has he ever asked himself why Malaysia, a leading country in South-East Asia in the 1960s, took a dive, starting with his administration? After 22 years of his ‘longest’ tenure as PM, the nation landed in the rut we are in today.

In contrast, Singapore has made great strides since it left Malaysia and is today among the developed nations of the world.

In the interview, Mahathir asserted that the “immigrants don’t speak the local language at all”.

This is a blatant lie.

Recently, he said the ethnic Malays in Singapore had lost their language, as education and administration in the island republic was in English.

Rightfully, he was hammered by a Malay Singaporean on TikTok, who pointed out that their ethnic Chinese PM spoke much better Malay than some of the Malay ministers in Malaysia. The Singapore national anthem is also sung in Malay. 

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Why doesn’t Mahathir question the ‘loyalty’ of so many well-educated and professional Malays who have left Malaysia after being sick with Malaysian politics and the country’s administration? They are now helping other countries to develop, when they should be in Malaysia doing the same.

Has Mahathir any legitimacy to question the loyalty of so many ethnic minority students who excelled in schools but were denied any government assistance for higher education?

Other countries, including Singapore, then welcomed these students with open arms. They are not going to come back and fulfil Mahathir’s dream of “I want to see my country achieve the same level of development as other developed countries”.

People who can help the nation achieve that dream are being driven out of Malaysia by government policies dating back to Mahathir’s time. 

What may not have been obvious to most listeners of the interview is that there appeared to be a subtle religious undertone to his castigation of the “immigrants” who he said were not loyal to Malaysia.

What is his yardstick for measuring anyone’s ‘loyalty’ to Malaysia? Has no one from the ethnic minorities laid down their lives for Malaysia? Has no one among them done anything to develop Malaysia? Has no one among them brought glory to Malaysia, eg in sports? 

The undertone to Mahathir’s diatribe was that for him to recognise any “immigrants” as Malaysian, they must be “100% Malay” like him. But did he also mean they must first adopt the religion of the majority, deny their roots and discard their culture? 

READ MORE:  Mahathir, loyalty transcends language and culture

Was Mahathir subtly saying, if you are loyal to Malaysia, show it by adopting the official religion of the country? Otherwise, why has he never labelled immigrants whose religion is Islam as “pendatang” or “orang asing”?

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
22 Jan 2024 9.16am

Don’t give the Old Coot any media space. He is retired for good!