Mahathir on Singapore Malays - two sides of the story

Malaysian Malays Might Kowtow To Others If...

By Reme Ahmad, Assistant Foreign Editor (From The Straits Times, Singapore of June 15, 2010)

KUALA TERENGGANU: Malays in Malaysia could end up as a weak minority if they remain politically divided, said former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, comparing them to Malay Singaporeans.
Even though Malay Singaporeans enjoy the benefits of a more developed country, they had to 'kowtow' to others, he claimed yesterday, returning to a rhetoric he often espoused as prime minister.
Dr Mahathir addressed some 1,000 Malay activists at a Malay rights rally in the capital of Terengganu state. This was well below the expected turnout of 5,000, and organisers blamed this on the World Cup, reported The Star newspaper.
Dr Mahathir said: 'The position of the Malays (in Malaysia) is in deep crisis and precarious. If they do not think deeply and act wisely, one day, we could become like Malay Singaporeans, a group without power who have to terbongkok-bongkok (kowtow) before others.
'We do not want others to kowtow before us, but we want a fair distribution of power and wealth.'
Tun Dr Mahathir's speech came amid fears among some in the community that Malays will lose their dominant status in Malaysia, especially with the increasing influence of opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat and its focus on multiracialism.
Yesterday's rally, titled Melayu Bangkit (Malay Awakening), was also significant for its original scheduled date. The organiser, Terengganu rights group Gertak, had originally wanted to hold it on May 13 - the anniversary of bloody race riots in Malaysia in 1969.
But this drew a public outcry, and Gertak was told to cancel it by Prime Minister Najib Razak's office. Gertak, an umbrella group for 45 Malay non-governmental organisations, was formed after a court in January allowed non-Muslims to use the word 'Allah' to refer to God.
In his hour-long speech, Dr Mahathir said the 'black event' of 1969 must be used as a historical lesson to ensure the gap between the haves and have-nots did not get too big.
His comments mirror the angst among many Malays amid the push by non-Malays for more rights, and also the political split that has taken place among Malays, who form 60 per cent of the country's population.
According to Dr Mahathir, the split was along party lines - Umno, Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat - and was the result of fears a weakening Umno would not be able to represent the rights of the Malays.
The resulting vote dilution, warned the influential former premier, not only weakens the Malays, but also strengthens other races.
Comparing the progress of Malays on both sides of the Causeway, he asked whether Malay Singaporeans enjoyed the same successes as other races in the Republic today, and said the sale of the island - once part of Johor - to the British had turned the Malays there into a minority 'who are controlled by another group'.
'This is the fate of minorities - when we are weak, we are controlled by others,' he said.
He also continued to defend Malaysia's pro-Malay policies, which he stood by firmly in his 22 years as premier. He stepped down in 2003.
A system based on pure meritocracy would not work for the Malays in Malaysia, he said, as many still do not have the same educational opportunities to catch up.
He warned Malays against being enticed by the opposition's promises that meritocracy was the best way, saying: 'I am sad to have to accept that if we use meritocracy to distribute wealth for our country, based on who has better ability, the Malays will be left behind.
'And when they are left behind and have no political power, they can't help others from their own race.'
He also defended the policy of handing more scholarships to Malays than to other races, noting it had come up against resistance recently.
If the government had helped fewer Malays in the past, said Dr Mahathir, there would be far fewer able Malays today, and this could have created political instability.
'I am not a racist. I have helped the others too. But the distribution should not be on an equal basis, but on a fairer basis - those weaker ones should be given more opportunities,' he said.
It was a line that was stressed at yesterday's rally, which also drew members of Malay social welfare and rights group Pekida and another Malay group, Pewaris.
In his speech, Gertak leader and local Umno leader Razali Idris warned non-Malays to back off on three issues - Islam, Malay rights and the institution of Malay rulers.

Standing tall as a Malay S'porean

By Mohd Aminudin (From ST Forum of June 18, 2010)

I REFER to former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's claim that even though Malay Singaporeans enjoy the benefits of a more developed country, they have to "terbongkok-bongkok" (kowtow) to others ("Malaysian Malays might kowtow to others if..."; Tuesday).
Tun Dr Mahathir will not find support among Singapore Malays.
In today's socio-economic environment, it is impossible to hold back the ambitions and dreams of anyone. Regardless of race, language or religion, opportunities are aplenty. It is up to the individual to take charge and grab them.
To this end, I am grateful that I was not brought up thinking that I am guaranteed a constitutional right that specially cares for me. Had it been so, I would probably be languishing in the lower rungs of a self-driven Singapore society.
I may not be the world's first Malay space tourist or appointed chairman of a huge conglomerate. But I am a small business owner who can stand as tall as my fellow Singaporeans trying to make a mark on the global economy. I am glad I was taught how to fish, and not spoon-fed all the time.

In Singapore, we don't kowtow

By Mustaffa Othman (From ST Forum of June 17, 2010)

I READ with concern Tuesday's report, 'Malaysian Malays might kowtow to others if...', in which former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad claims that even though Malay Singaporeans enjoy the benefits of a more developed country, they have to 'terbongkok-bongkok' (kowtow) to others.
Tun Dr Mahathir could have been more sensitive towards the feelings of Singapore Malays.
As a Malay Singaporean living and working peacefully with fellow Singaporeans of all races, I cannot agree with what he said.
Singapore's leaders worked hard for many years to achieve racial harmony, tolerance and understanding among Singaporeans. Today, we live and work together as one family; and we have reaped the rewards of being one of the safest and most developed nations in the world.
While Dr Mahathir's opinion on Malay Singaporeans enjoying the benefits of a developed country is spot-on, we have never kowtowed to others. Singaporeans of all races, including Malays, engage in healthy debate and discussions with our Government. The decisions made by the Government, after hearing feedback from its people, are respected as we trust it is in the best interests of all Singaporeans.
Through community support and hard work, Malay students in Singapore have bettered their results in various national examinations. Such achievements are celebrated by all Singaporeans.
With better education, Malay Singaporeans have achieved a better lifestyle for their families compared with a large percentage of Malays in Malaysia. We worked hard to be where we are today and in no way kowtow to anyone to gain success. Meritocracy remains the benchmark of our society. While this works in Singapore, it may not work in Malaysia.
Having many relatives, friends and business associates of all races in Malaysia requires me to travel frequently across the Causeway. Over the years, I have seen and learnt that for the minority to succeed in Malaysia, they need to kowtow to others.
The irony is that many ordinary Malaysian Malays who have no connections, or fail to share their potential success with the 'right' people, will never have it easy to succeed. Perhaps, favouritism, cronyism and bribery are problems Dr Mahathir may want to address in his country.
As for me, a Malay Singaporean, I would like to say thank you to my Singapore leaders. You have made Singapore the best place to live peacefully in for me and my family.

Like others, Malay Singaporeans work hard for the benefits in a meritocratic system

By Ahmad Abu Bakar (From ST Forum of June 17, 2010)

I strongly object to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's remarks. Like others, Malay Singaporeans work hard for the benefits in a meritocratic system. They are not born with a crutch of ethnic rights, quotas and 'unfair' opportunities. When Singapore Malays graduate from universities as doctors, engineers and scientists, they can hold their heads as high as the others, because they have done so by their own hard work and merit.