Monday, June 23, 2008

Dr M says it again: Don't question Malay rights

Dr M says it again: Don't question Malay rights

TELUK INTAN, June 15 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has told non-Malays that they should stop questioning the special rights of the Malays and count themselves privileged, having been given citizenship and other rights in this country.

He urged them to understand history and realise that an agreement was reached before independence in 1957 when the Malays were willing to accept other races as people who could "share the wealth of this land". Part of the formula saw Umno allow MCA and MIC to administer the country.

"Finally, with the agreement of all parties, immigrants were accepted as citizens of Tanah Melayu and people of other races accepted the reality that Malays had special rights as indigenous people of this land. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra willingly gave one million citizenships to Chinese and Indians. Which country in the world has given immigrants equal rights?

"If the Malays were willing to accept the immigrants we should not let other people now question our rights," he said, drawing applause from a Malay majority audience, at a resthouse in Teluk Intan on Saturday. The speaking engagement was organised by a non-governmental organisation.

Defending Malay rights and painting a doom's day scenario for Malay political power have been recurring themes in Dr Mahathir's speeches across the country since election 2008. He was criticised heavily for playing the race card in a speech several weeks ago in Johor, with Malaysians accusing him of trying to drive a wedge between different races in the country.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali even wondered whether Dr Mahathir was laying the foundation for racial strife with his incendiary comments.

But in Teluk Intan on Saturday Dr Mahathir hit back.

He noted that every time Malays discuss matters related to their own race, they were accused of being racist or chauvinistic. "There appears to be an attempt to stop Malays from speaking about our rights. If we speak about our rights, we are called racists. If they speak about their rights, then it's alright," said Dr Mahathir.

The former prime minister has come one full circle in his political rhetoric. In the early days of his political career, he was part of a group of young Umno politicians known as the "Ultras".

This group believed that Umno should not share political power and blamed Tunku Abdul Rahman for pandering to other races. Dr Mahathir moderated his views after becoming the prime minister in 1981, realising that anyone who wants to govern Malaysia needs the support of non-Malays.

In 1995 he promoted the concept of Bangsa Malaysia. Today he has adopted his old rhetoric, perhaps acknowledging that his goal of pushing Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi out of office will only be realised if the Malay ground, particularly Umno members are galvanised into action by fear of losing power.

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