PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s wealth must be distributed equally among all races, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday (Jan 14), while adding that more work needs to be done in terms of racial unity.
Speaking at a monthly staff gathering in the Prime Minister’s Department, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia cannot claim to be successful if some citizens are left behind.
“There is no use being a wealthy country if the wealth is not shared or just given to a certain group of people,” he was quoted as saying in The Malaysian Insight.
“We have to share what we have together as we do not want to be seen as a rich nation but fail to take care of the minorities.”
Dr Mahathir added that nations with clear disparities between the rich and the poor have ended up in riots.
“That’s why we need to focus on tackling social poverty of all races,” he said.
“It has become our duty to determine that we distribute the wealth equally or at least to a level accepted by all the communities in the country,” he added.
Malays and indigenous groups, known as Bumiputeras, or sons of the soil, currently account for about 70 per cent of Malaysia’s total population.
Under the country’s constitution, initiated by United Malays National Organisation leaders in 1971 following the 1969 race riots that left hundreds dead, Bumiputeras benefit in a number of ways, such as cheaper housing, quotas for university scholarships, government contracts and shares of listed companies.
Dr Mahathir was once a strong champion of the Bumiputera policy.
GAPS IN RACIAL UNITY
In his speech on Monday, Dr Mahathir said: “We inherited a situation where our nation is multi-racial. We found that today, these races have not united as we hoped for”.
He said when Malaysia became independent, it was hoped that the country would be a single people speaking a single language, practising a single culture and living in harmony.
“But because some races wanted to maintain ties with their motherland, we accepted the fact that our country would not become a nation where everyone comes from a single race,” he was quoted as saying in the Malay Mail.
He said Malaysia learnt a lot from the 1969 riots.
“Riots don’t benefit anyone. This is our history. We realised how important it is for all races to cooperate.”
He said if the three main races in Malaysia, together with the ethnic groups in Sabah and Sarawak could unite to “work”, “live” and “play” together, the country would be more advanced.
“For as long as we remember, our history and the struggle the country went through, then our country will continue to be peaceful.”
“When it is peaceful, progress can be achieved and wealth can be distributed among all races,” he said.
Concerns about racial divisions have grown following recent riots at a Hindu temple in Selangor, as well as an anti-International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Last Friday, Dr Mahathir said the government will be “very sensitive” towards all religions, following a meeting with members of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.