The former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has on Sunday (12 December) officially launched his new book titled “Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia”.
In the book, one of the most noticeable issues that Mahathir has pointed out is the “persistent fault lines” in Malaysia, which is referred to the divide between the Malay and Chinese communities.
He had also warned of the country’s growing racial divisions that could lead to more serious problems.
Mahathir said that as urban areas grew and prospered, Malays found themselves retreating farther away from the centre, breeding resentment. However, there was also contempt among the urban residents and the relatively wealthier Chinese, who look down on the “backward, lazy, useless” Malays.
“This is a recipe for disaster. I am speaking generally of the poor and increasingly marginalised Malay population.” he said in his book.
Meanwhile, he also acknowledges that there were poor non-Malays and wealthy urban Malays.
He also mentioned the few urban Malay centres were often made of people depending on public sector jobs, such as in Putrajaya, which is a city built largely by the government for government employees, who are mostly Malay.
“Most of the shops are operated by Malays and they seem to be doing quite well.”
“Here, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction, the city is too Malay and does not reflect the multiracial population of the country.”
Mahathir then said these “fault lines” exists in the country and we are so often preoccupied with racial differences, including differences in language, culture and religion, but neglected the fact that we are increasingly separated by geography and income too.
He said that while it was natural for urban people to be more prosperous than rural people, due to the advanced level of economic activity and opportunities, this would lead to a divide between the rich and the poor.
“Even within ethnically homogenous communities, there is antagonism between rich and poor that often spills into open violence.”
“But if this divide is amplified by racial differences, the hostility is much stronger and runs much deeper. However, we aren’t really allowed to talk about this in Malaysia.” he said.
Mahathir then pointed out that Malaysians cannot talk about the racial riots of 13 May 1969 without causing an uproar.
The 13 May race riot took place after the 1969 general election after the ruling Alliance coalition suffered heavy losses and almost lost power in Selangor. This is one of the deadliest that happened in the country, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives and the proclamation of a state of emergency that lasted two years.
Mahathir pointed out that Malay politicians often take this topics as some kind of “sabre-rattling” and made it a racial threat.
“Unfortunately, these incidents drown out real, legitimate and honest discussion about May 13 and its impact on Malaysia today.”
“We are told incessantly to forget about this racial violence, which is an irony because we are constantly reminded of it while being afforded absolutely no chance to deal with it and to move forward.” he said.
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