September 14, 2010
Singapore was cause of Malaysia’s racial problems, says Dr M
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today that racism in Malaysia was clearly the result of Singapore’s short membership in the country, and not because the island was “turfed out” as suggested by the republic’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew recently.
“Can we really believe that if Singapore had not been ‘turfed out’ Malaysia would have no racial problem? While Kuan Yew talks about his belief that all ethnic communities should free themselves from the shackles of racial segregation in order to promote fairness and equality among the races, he also said that “once we are by ourselves (out of Malaysia) the Chinese become the majority,” said Dr Mahathir in a posting on his blog.
In an interview with the New York Times, Lee argued that if Malaysia had accepted a multiracial base much of what had been achieved in Singapore would have also been attained in Malaysia.
Lee, Singapore’s longest serving prime minister, claimed that if Singapore had not seceded from Malaysia, the country would have improved inter-racial relations and an improved holistic situation today. “Now we have a very polarised Malaysia — Malays, Chinese and Indians in separate schools, living separate lives and not really getting on with one another. You read them. That’s bad for us as close neighbours,” he had said in the interview according to the transcript made available on the website of the Singapore prime minister’s office.
The remarks by the two retired prime ministers come ahead of Malaysia Day on Thursday. Singapore
joined newly-independent Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia on September 16, 1963, but was subsequently expelled in 1965.
Lee’s and Dr Mahathir’s comments also come amid a heightened race debate in Malaysia, as a result of plans by the Najib administration to roll back some of the country’s affirmative action policies favouring the Malay and Bumiputera communities.
In his blog post, Dr Mahathir pointed out that Singapore’s population was made up of 75 per cent Chinese and that the community owned 95 per cent of the economy.“It is therefore not a truly multi-racial country but a Chinese country with minority racial groups who are additionally much poorer,” he claimed.
Lee had said in his interview that all ethnic communities should free themselves from the shackles of racial segregation in order to promote fairness and equality among the races.
This, he said, had been his greatest satisfaction in helming Singapore.“We made quite sure whatever your race, language or religion, you are an equal citizen and we’ll drum that into the people and I think our Chinese understand and today we have an integrated society.
“We will not as a majority squeeze the minority because once we’re by ourselves, the Chinese become the majority,” he said.
Lee also took a dig at the Malaysian scenario, pointing out that the Singaporean Malays were English-educated and were no longer like the Malaysian Malays.
Dr Mahathir’s stand contrasted sharply with that of Lee’s. He argued in his blog post that Singapore was a country dominated by one race and not really multiracial.
“Whether the PAP admits it or not, the party has always been led and dominated by ethnic Chinese and have won elections principally because of Chinese votes. The others are not even icing on the cake.If Singapore is a part of Malaysia the PAP can certainly reproduce the Singapore kind of non-racial politics because together with the Malaysian Chinese, the PAP will ethnically dominate and control Malaysian politics. No dissent would be allowed and certainly no one would dare say anything about who really runs the country. Amnesia is permissible but trying to claim that it is because Singapore had been ‘turfed out’ for the present racist politics in Malaysia is simply not supported by facts of history,” said Dr Mahathir.
Dr Mahathir also asserted that there was less racial politics in Malaya before Singapore joined the federation.“In 1955, the Malays who made up 80 per cent of the citizens gave a large number of their constituencies to the few Chinese and Indian citizens and ensured they won with strong Malay support. As a result the Alliance won 51 of the 52 seats contested.
“The Tunku then rewarded this willingness of the Chinese and Indian citizens to support the coalition concept by giving them one million unconditional citizenship. This reduced Malay majority to 60 per cent.”
He claimed that it was because Lee had subsequently reneged on a promise that his PAP would not take part in politics outside the island that sparked racial tension.Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first prime minister, was forced to expel Singapore because racism had taken hold, Dr Mahathir claimed. This, Dr Mahathir suggested, led eventually to the 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur.