KUALA LUMPUR: All races support the affirmative action for bumiputras and the proof is that Barisan Nasional has been voted back into power in every general election, said Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The Prime Minister said the Malays were far behind other races in economic development and this disparity could cause tension among communities and end up in violence.
We have seen this happen. We have a duty to reduce the disparity which was causing the bad feeling among different communities.
Every race in Malaysia supports this policy. Otherwise why do they keep returning the same government every time, he said in reply to whether the special rights of the Malays was a form of apartheid in disguise on the BBCs Talking Point programme hosted by Lyse Doucet, which would be aired on Astros Channel 93 tonight at 10.05pm.
Talking Point is a show where viewers call in or e-mail their questions on various issues.
Dr Mahathir said the Malays were given millions of opportunities but only a handful seemed to make the effort to use them and succeed.
Despite the Governments help, he said a lot of Malays wasted the money and opportunities.
We give them an AP (approved permit) to import cars and they sell the AP. They sell away everything. Given half a chance, they would sell their land to other people.
We can give them one million and ask them to do business but if they do not know how to do business it would be a waste of time, he said.
He said that if the same subsidies and concessions were given to the Chinese, they would be way ahead by now.
As for the Malays who had done well, Dr Mahathir said it was not right to deny them help just because they were doing well, adding that the Government was ready to help anybody who made the effort.
Would you like to see all Malays fail? If you think any Malay millionaire is a crony of the Government, if you have that kind of attitude of course there will be no Malays and indigenous people who can succeed at all, he said.
Dr Mahathir also responded to a question from a Malaysian Chinese who said that she felt like a second-class citizen in the country due to the special rights for the Malays.
He said the Malays too felt they were second-class citizens because despite all the privileges, they remained poor and worked as drivers for the very rich Chinese.
So both feel they are second-class. There is no first class, he added.
Dr Mahathir also believed there was no likelihood that PAS would rule the country.
As Muslims made up only 60% of the population, political parties needed the support of the non-Muslims to win and form the government, he noted.
There is no likelihood that it (PAS) will gain power and pass laws that are unfair to races in Malaysia. These laws are not even Islamic, he said.
Speaking in defence of the countrys Internal Security Act, Dr Mahathir said it was better to prevent a crime than let it happen and then punish the criminals.
He said the ISA was not used just for fun, and added that the Bar Council, a critic of the ISA, was almost like an opposition party.
He said the Government knew that some of the ISA detainees had bad intentions, adding: They want to explode bombs and kill people and they have not killed yet.
They are just aiming the gun at him and not shot so do we say let him shoot first and then we arrest him. Is that the way to treat situations like this? he said.
Although there were some terrorist cells in Malaysia, Dr Mahathir said the Government was not worried because this was only a small minority.
The Government was very vigilant, had good intelligence, had taken action even before the Sept 11 attack on the United States, and knew what was happening in Malaysia and acted before things could happen, he said.
On Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Mahathir said the only action he took against his former Deputy Prime Minister was to tell Anwar that he was no longer wanted in the Government.
I did not throw him into jail under the ISA, he said, adding that subsequent actions against Anwar followed the laws of the country.
He said the countrys law did not allow someone to get the police to threaten others because this was an abuse of power and one could not go around sodomising people either because it was also against the law.
He pointed out that Anwar was tried in a court of law for nine months, defended by the best lawyers he could find and was found guilty by a judge who took the trouble to write out 380 pages of the judgment.
He said that if Anwar was not tried, people would ask for him to be put on trial, but when he was tried and the court decided on the case, people accused the Government of manipulation.
You cant win, said Dr Mahathir.
In the interview, Dr Mahathir expressed confidence in the ability of his successor, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in dealing with issue of parties twisting Islam for political mileage.
He said it was the Government and Cabinet that handled these issues in the past and when I am gone, the Cabinet will still be there and they can deal with that.
On whether Abdullah would have an easier time dealing with this because he was an Islamic scholar, Dr Mahathir said: Maybe, its possible.
He said one of the main challenges Abdullah would face would be the use of Islam by some people to subvert others and create hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims.