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Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
The Malaysia Insider
Tun Dr Mahathir admitted today that Malaysia’s growth was slower compared with Singapore’s, but claimed it was because Putrajaya made sure people from all races had a slice of the country’s economic pie.
Dr Mahathir said that in contrast, the island state did not take any steps to ensure that there was a “balance of wealth” between people of all races, leaving minority races such as the Malays trailing behind the Chinese in terms of wealth.
This, according to the former prime minister, guaranteed Singapore’s economic advantage over Malaysia. Singapore helped form Malaysia but separated after two years in 1965.
“Singapore does not have the problem of ensuring everyone gets an equal share of the economy. Over there, whoever is capable makes it. So people of the most capable race there are the Chinese.
“In Malaysia, we have to ensure all races get equal opportunities so that there is a balance . . . to avoid racial riots like what happened in 1969,” he said.
In an interview with Mingguan Malaysia — the Sunday edition of Utusan Malaysia — Dr Mahathir demanded that Singapore furnish details to back up claims that Malays in the island republic were economically better off than their Malaysian counterparts.
He also defended the practice of affirmative-action policies in Malaysia as “necessary”.
“In Malaysia, the wealth of Malays at one point was only one or two per cent. But now it has increased to almost 20 per cent. We also want to know what is the percentage of the wealth of Malays in Singapore, where Malays make up 15 per cent of the country’s population. Only then will we know whether Singapore’s free (economy) benefits all races,” Dr Mahathir said.
He appeared to suggest that policies such as the New Economic Policy (NEP) were needed to balance the wealth distribution among all races in the country, as opposed to Singapore’s economic policies.
According to Dr Mahathir, the Malays in Singapore were “weak”, unlike in Malaysia.
“We want to know how much they are earning over there. The Singaporean government has never given any (proper) treatment to the Malays. How much are the Malays over there earning and what is the percentage like if you were to compare with the Chinese (Singaporeans)?” he said.
The former PM has been highly critical of Singapore over the past recent weeks.
Last week he claimed that Malaysia was a more democratic country than Singapore, and argued that the island republic’s “disciplined” image was at the expense of the freedom of its citizens.
He said the reason why Malaysians were not as disciplined as Singaporeans was because Malaysia was more “democratic” and did not resort to extreme measures in governing the country.
In June last year, Dr Mahathir told a rally of Malay NGOs that Malays in Malaysia risked becoming marginalised like their Singapore counterparts because of political division.
The former prime minister said: “If we do not think deeply about the future of our community then there is a possibility that we can become [like] the Singaporean Malays and have no power.”