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Mahathir: Malaysia is a racist society - malaysiakini

Malaysiakini's report:

Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has shot down suggestions that the March 8 general election signaled the end of race-based politics.

On the contrary, said Mahathir, if one examines the opposition parties who made big gains in the general election, it would appear that these parties were largely race-based.

mahathir mohamad 06"Like Keadilan (PKR) and DAP. I find it difficult to say they are not race-based. They claim to be. I cannot say the same for Pas. If you say Pas is not race-based, then I am not Mahathir Mohamad," he said.

Mahathir said this in his keynote address on Bangsa Malaysia in the Perdana Discourse Series at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya today. His audience members were mostly university students.

"Some people, foreign observers especially, say that the people of Malaysia are sick of race politics. They want to have a more liberal society and don't want to be identified by race.

"The great proponents of this were all lauded by the foreign observers. They said that Malaysia has now changed. They have rejected racial politics. They should not be identified by race and therefore they should belong to parties that are not race based," he said.

Mahathir then began to dissect PKR and DAP to prove his point. The DAP, he described as a Chinese-based party which had some "window dressing and decorations, just to make it look nice".

"Keadilan consists of all people. Keadilan is Islamic, it is also Hindraf, it is also Chinese educationist. Everything," he said, adding that the party had "many faces".

Race a popular topic

Mahathir's second reason for rejecting the notion that race-based politics were redundant was that racial issues were being discussed far more now than before the March polls.

malaysia people rakyat malaysia"Since that election, people talk about race much more that ever before. The conflict is always about race. Why do they talk about the social contract? It is because of race. Why do they talk about a Chinese deputy prime minister? It is because of race.

"Race has become a central issue after the elections. This is far from the suggestion that people rejected racial politics during the elections," he said.

In summary, Mahathir said race-based parties, over the past 50 years, have been able to reduce debates on race and stabilised and developed the country.

"I think race-based parties are still relevant whether we like it or not," he said in closing.

Earlier in his speech, Mahathir said Bangsa Malaysia - a concept he mooted while still in office - was only attainable in the faraway future.

"Once we are able to reduce the disparities in terms of the economic well-being and also bring people together, over many years, we will have a Bangsa Malaysia. We cannot hurry. We cannot force these things," he said.

'Multiracial parties won't work'

Speaking to reporters later, Mahathir dismissed suggestions that a true multiracial political party can exist in Malaysia.

malaysia people rakyat"It doesn't work. Every multiracial party is dominated by one race. Look what happened to Gerakan and DAP. It is not multiracial. Like PAP in Singapore. Hsien Loong (Singapore premier) said no non-Chinese can become the prime minister. They are very open. Here we say one thing and we do another," he said.

As an example, Mahathir cited the rejection of the Vision School concept as proof that the communities were not ready to put aside racial sentiments for a multiracial party.

"As long as there are such sentiments, there won't be a Bangsa Malaysia," the former premier said.

On whether a non-Malay can become prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir said the law specifies that anyone can be prime minister as long as he is the leader of the party that enjoys majority in the country.

Mahathir's successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had expressed similar views on the matter immediately after Americans voted in their first African-American president, Barack Obama -

How is PKR race based? How is DAP race based?
Just because he doesn't want to change doesn't mean that Malaysia cannot!