In sharp rebuke, Guan Eng tells Dr Mahathir eating with chopsticks doesn’t make one less Malaysian

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s views on racial assimilation instead of integration are simplistic and offensive, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said.

The former Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman’s remarks yesterday that the Chinese had difficulty assimilating in Malaysia, as seen by the use of chopsticks to eat with instead of their hands, is wrong and divisive, Lim said.

“DAP regrets that former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has used the analogy of the Chinese community using chopsticks to highlight the challenges of the non-Malay population assimilating in the country, and as proof that they identify with the country of their origin.

“He is wrong to focus on assimilation instead of integration and that using chopsticks instead of adopting the Malaysian way of eating with their hands is one of the reasons leading to separation among the people.

“This is not only simplistic but offensive to the Chinese community here,” Lim said in a statement.

Dr Mahathir said yesterday that the use of chopsticks by the Chinese community showed that they preserved their own customs and had not adopted “the Malaysian way of eating food”.

“They retained the chopsticks, which is an identity with China, not with Malaysia, and many other things,” the 96-year-old two-time prime minister was quoted as saying yesterday at a dialogue in conjunction with the launch of his new memoir Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir was speaking about the difficulty in getting the Chinese community to assimilate in Malaysia.

Lim, however, said the focus should be on integration instead of assimilation as there was nothing wrong with ethnic communities retaining their own customs and heritage while also being Malaysians.

“Instead of assimilation, the focus should be on integration of the rakyat, similar to integration of Sabah and Sarawak with Peninsular Malaysia to achieve unity in diversity as a Malaysian nation.

“Eating with chopsticks does not make anyone less a Malaysian. Malaysians of Chinese descent born here are proud of our loyalty to Malaysia and have no wish to return to a China growing with wealth and prosperity, even if given an opportunity to do so.

“The Chinese community in Malaysia has always identified itself with Malaysia and never with China,” Lim said.

He said it was also wrong of Dr Mahathir to equate chopsticks with China, as the utensil is also used in Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam.

And there are Malays here who eat using chopsticks and forks and spoons, instead of their hands, he said.

“Does that mean a Malay using chopsticks or fork and spoon to eat loses his Malayness?” Lim asked.

“The Chinese community see themselves as Malaysians but unfortunately there are those who are unwilling to accept this fact. The time has come to put past prejudices and such divisiveness behind by accepting the Chinese community as Malaysian citizens with full rights, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.” – TMI