KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia denied on Thursday that it mistreated its ethnic Chinese minority, responding to criticism from former Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew.
"It's a comment that we can do without. It is not appreciated at all," Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said, referring to recent remarks made by Lee.
Lee told a forum in Singapore last Friday that it was vital for Singapore, a predominantly ethnic Chinese state, to stand up to its bigger, mainly Muslim neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia.
"Our neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful. They are hard-working and therefore they are systemically marginalised," Lee said.
Singapore and Malaysia have deep economic ties, but diplomatic relations are often strained. The two countries briefly united as one country in 1963 but separated two years later in a falling out related to racial politics.
Indonesia and Malaysia "want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese -- compliant", said Lee, who was Singapore's prime minister from 1965 to 1990.
Najib said Malaysia did not marginalise ethnic Chinese or Indians in favour of majority ethnic Malays, who are known as bumiputras (sons of the soil).
"Malaysia does not practise a policy of blocking opportunities for non-bumiputras to progress further," he said.
KUALA TERENGGANU, Sept 22 (Bernama) -- Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad Friday slammed Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew for his insulting remarks about Malaysia and Indonesia's treatment of their Chinese minorities, describing him as arrogant and disrespectful of neighbouring countries.
The former premier said Lee was arrogant because he felt he was in a strong position.
"He's not bothered with his neighbours. That is why he deliberately raised something he knew to be sensitive in our country," he told reporters after launching the building fund of the Kemaman branch of the Ex-Servicemen's Association and the district Warriors Day Campaign at Awana Kijal, Beach and Spa Resort in Kijal.
Lee on Friday told a forum held in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund conference in Singapore that Malaysia and Indonesia had problems with their Chinese minorities because they were successful and hardworking and therefore they were systemically marginalised.
He was reported to have said that the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia towards Singapore was shaped by the way they treated their own Chinese minorities.
They "want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese -- compliant", he claimed.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia could question Singapore's marginalisation of its Malay minority.
"We could ask about the status of the Malays in Singapore, why they are not allowed to bear arms in the military or train to handle weapons. Why is it that the Malays in Malaysia are so capable in the military field but the Malays in Singapore cannot hold high posts (in the military)?
"Why is it that the Malays in Singapore are marginalised to the extent that they have no status at all? This is done deliberately by Singapore. There is no other country that does it like them," he said.
Dr Mahathir said Lee's allegation about the Chinese in Malaysia being marginalised was untrue because there are Chinese holding high posts, for example in the armed forces.
"The Chinese in Malaysia can join the military and rise to become general, major general and so on. But what is the per capita income of the Malays in comparison with the Chinese in Singapore?
"We should have an independent investigation on why the Malays are left behind in Singapore. It is not because they are lacking compared to the Malays in Malaysia but because they are pressured, marginalised and oppressed. That is the kind of government founded on the views of Lee Kuan Yew," he said.
In his speech earlier, Dr Mahathir told Lee not to feel smug about what he had said.
"You should just guard your own rice bowl. You are not that clever. In a small group, perhaps you seem clever.
"But when he goes to China, the Chinese there don't want to listen to him. The Chinese in China don't think much of him and it is a fact that he is marginalised by Chinese in the world," he said.