Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is of the view that Malaysian Indians and Chinese are not completely loyal to the country as they still want to identify themselves with their respective countries of origin.
During an interview with a Chennai-based Indian satellite television channel Thanthi TV, Dr Mahathir, who had twice served as the country’s prime minister, also stood by his previous remarks that Malaysia belongs to the people who founded the country.
“There are people who consider themselves (as) Indians or Chinese. They do not speak the local language at all.
“They have their own schools, their own language, their own culture.
“So, they are different from the original people who founded this country,” he said during the interview, which was uploaded to Thanthi TV’s YouTube channel on Jan 11.
To another question from the host during the interview who insisted the Malaysian Indians and Chinese are also loyal to the country, Dr Mahathir replied: “Not completely. They want to identify themselves with their countries of origin.”
Later during the interview, the host pointed out that apart from speaking Tamil, Malaysian Indians also speak Malay very well and that they are committed to Malaysia.
When the host asked Dr Mahathir what is the problem with Malaysian Indians who do not speak Malay as their home language, the latter replied that: “The problem is that they cannot be assimilated”
“There are people of many different origins in (the United States of) America who have forgotten their own language, who speak only English, and they do not claim to be citizens except (other than) America.”
During the interview, Dr Mahathir was also asked if Malaysian Indians and Chinese should completely shun their religion and practices to behave like Malays in order to assimilate.
“Yes. Many of them have done that. Many people… Of Indian origin, Arab origin, even European origin, who are now completely Malay, that speak Malay all the time… They practise Malay customs and tradition.”
Mahathir claimed that it is the case in any country, where people who want to say they belong to a particular country, are expected to identify as the indigenous community.
When the host pointed out that some may argue that the Orang Asli have more rights as “sons of the soil”, Mahathir said his view differed from the host’s.
When the host told Dr Mahathir that the Federal Constitution provides that people from other races in their country practise their race and religion, the former responded that: “The Constitution does not say that they should set up their own party confined only to their own people.”
Dr Mahathir was also asked on why he did not raise such an issue when Umno had a political coalition with MIC and MCA when he was the president of the party.
“Yes, under my leadership, I am prepared to work with other people but not prepared to accept them as the owners of this country,” he said.
The interview then moved on to Mahathir’s Indian roots, which the veteran politician completely denied knowledge of.
“No, I’m not an Indian. I’m a Malay because I do not know the Indian language, and that was a long, long time ago,” he said.
He further denied any knowledge about his Indian (particularly Kerala) roots, stressing that he is “100 percent Malay.”
“I’m now 100 percent a Malay, I speak Malay and practise Malay customs and traditions,” he insisted.
Mahathir was then asked what he thought about the contribution of the non-Malays to nation-building and the country’s economy, to which he replied: “They have been ‘fairly compensated’ for it.”
He said that Malaysia was “liberal” enough to make people who don’t fully identify with the Malay ministers – referencing BN, which he once led – end up working with components of MCA and MIC in the federal administration.
Mahathir then trained his guns on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration, which he claimed was riddled with problems.
When the host asked why Mahathir had had issues with each of his successors, the latter claimed that this was because “they did wrong things”, including “stealing money”.
Meanwhile, two former MPs have slammed Dr Mahathir for his “hate-filled rants”.
Former Klang MP Charles Santiago said both the Indian and Chinese communities have contributed to Malaysia’s socio-economic and political development, and that Mahathir should be “ashamed of himself for such venom”.
“Action must be taken against him for such divisive statements that are potentially harmful in this multiracial society,” Santiago said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
He said Mahathir had undone “whatever little good” he had done for Malaysia with his words and accused him of trying to stay relevant.
“He knows this is incitement. He is also encouraging bigotry and hate. But he doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions.
“Is he trying desperately to stay relevant? Especially in his twilight years? Then he must know we are fed up with his hate-filled rants. Malaysia doesn’t belong to a select few, but to all Malaysians.”
Former Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto also castigated Mahathir, saying he should be “the last person to speak about what loyalty means, and especially about roots and heritage”.
PKR deputy secretary-general Sathia Prakash Nadarajah claimed that Dr Mahathir’s statements are an attempt to diver the public’s attention from Daim Zainuddin’s corruption investigation.
“He’s diverting (attention from) the corruption investigation against Daim, because he was afraid of being called after this,” Sathia was quoted as saying.
Sathia said that Mahathir’s statement clearly contradicted the Federal Constitution, which clearly protects the rights of all races who are citizens of this country.
“When he became prime minister for the second time, Mahathir once said that a Malay who speaks English does not mean that he is not Malay enough.
“But, in a recent interview, he said the Indian community needs to fully adopt the Malay language and culture to be considered a Malaysian.
“What does he mean? He used to say that Malays need to master English and are still considered Malaysians, but the Tamil-speaking Indian community is considered disloyal to Malaysia. Clearly, he is contradicting himself,” he said.
“In that interview, Mahathir also rejected the Madani government’s position that Malaysia remains an Islamic country whilst at the same time protecting the rights of all races.
“When the host specifically asked about Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s stance, Mahathir continued to reject (the position, stating) that Malaysia is only for Malays.
“That is the person appointed as an adviser to the state government under the leadership of PN. So, I want to ask what is PN’s position,” he said.