Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s greatest regret of his political career is failing to close the wealth gap between the ethnic groups, the nonagenarian prime minister told The Sydney Morning Herald.
In an interview with journalist James Massola, the full transcript of which has been released online, Dr Mahathir, who is prime minister for the second time, said he failed to ensure that “all the different races in Malaysia enjoy the same opportunities”.
He said he failed to ensure that the races “are not too much separated in terms of their wealth”.
“For example, there is a great disparity between the Chinese and the Malays.
“I spent a lot of time trying to bring up the Malays so that they can catch up so at least they’re not too far behind the Chinese.
“But I failed. I failed, I must say, because the Malays themselves did not respond to our efforts,” he said.
Dr Mahathir also shared the transcript on his official Twitter account. The interview was conducted in Bangkok on the sidelines of the Asean summit last week.
Dr Mahathir, who is now Pakatan Harapan chairman, led Malaysia for 22 years before stepping down in 2003. He was the leader of Umno, the ruling Malay party at the time.
He was synonymous with Malaysia’s rapid industrialisation and creation of Bumiputera millionaires and entrepreneurs during his first tenure, which have led to claims of cronyism.
He told the Australian paper that for all the efforts he had put in to uplift the Malays “their response is not right”.
“They don’t use the opportunities given to them in the right way. Even now I am still trying.”
He spoke about the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, which Putrajaya launched last month, aimed at reducing income disparity.
But Dr Mahathir said the vision needed Malays to respond in order to succeed.
“If they don’t respond and they abuse it, then, of course, we will not achieve our target.” – TMI