PETALING JAYA: The Prime Minister continues to respond acerbically to criticism over his proposed third national car project.
In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad quipped, “If you want to be a country of peasants, planting rice and catching fish, okay, we’ll do that for you.
“Don’t have any industries because industries sometimes lose money, you see? Let’s be padi farmers or fishermen. That’s all we can be.
“If you like, if that’s what you voted for, okay, we’ll do that,” the news portal quoted him as saying.
On June 11, Dr Mahathir revealed at the 24th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia the government’s plans to work on a new national car.
However, many Malaysians did not respond positively to the suggestion. When the story was posted on the official Facebook page of The Star Online, there were over 1,000 comments, most of them against the idea.
Many asked that the public transport system be improved instead, while some pointed out that we had to learn the lessons of Proton.
His sarcastic remarks at the Malaysiakini interview were reminiscent of his July 16 blog post, where he also said, “Malaysians prefer to buy imported cars, including those from China.
“Their choice is Japanese cars and those with a lot of money (choose) German cars,” he had written then.
In his Malaysiakini interview, Dr Mahathir made another attempt to justify his proposal, saying his goal had always been to increase the engineering capacity of the country and turn Malaysia into a country of producers instead of consumers.
“Malaysia is a country of consumers, they don’t know how to produce anything,” he said.
“(The) car industry needs 4,000 parts to make a car. If I give you 4,000 parts and ask you to make a car, you cannot do it. You must learn how to produce the parts, how to fit the parts because when you learn that, you are learning engineering.
“When you know how to produce the components, you can produce components for other machines, components for other cars in other countries.
“You learn a whole load of practical engineering from building a car,” he said.
The news portal reported that Dr Mahathir acknowledged that there were alternatives, such as building trains, but believed that cars were the better option.
“All over the whole world, people buy cars more than they buy houses. When you do that, you can achieve volume. When you achieve volume, then the industry will go on,” he told Malaysiakini.