SHAH ALAM (Bernama): Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says only the Malays can restore the dignity of the community and that they must stop expecting others to do it for them.
The Prime Minister said even the government led by a Malay leader could not restore the dignity of the Malays if they refused to strive for the betterment of the community.
"Don’t ask others to do something to restore our dignity. We, the Malays, are the ones who have to restore the dignity of the Malays, ” he said at the Malay Dignity Congress here Sunday (Oct 6).
Dr Mahathir explained that the government could only do as much as providing opportunities for the Malays to participate in various fields in the country in a bid to restore their dignity.
However, he said the efforts would be difficult if the Malays were hesitant to participate and make optimal use of the opportunities made available by the government.
"The (restoration of the) Malay dignity depends on our performance. If we are capable of administering our country well, making optimal use of every opportunity, working very well, producing good consumer products, then nobody can take away our dignity,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said this when addressing the congress attended by thousands including leaders and representatives of Malay political parties; academia and non-governmental organisations.
In politics, Dr Mahathir said although the Malays made up 60% of the country's population (of 32 million), the factionalisation of the Malay community had caused them to lose their political power in their own country.
This is because they cannot afford to secure 50% of the people's support, he said. Due to the factionalisation, he said the Malays now have to depend on others for support.
In economy, the prime minister said the failure of the Malays to make optimal use of the opportunities made available to them had caused others, including foreigners, to grab the opportunities to build a better future for themselves to the extent of being rich in Malaysia.
"We depend so much on others to the extent of being their slaves. They progressed more than us because of the opportunities that we left untouched and because we are not willing to do certain jobs, which are often construed as lowly or demeaning, dangerous and dirty, ” he said.
Dr Mahathir said, for the Malays, it was not the case of not having the ability to move forward, but more of not having the will to build a better future for themselves.
"The things I said may not be nice to hear, but this is what is happening now and this is what the younger generation will inherit.
"As long as we stick to that way of life, as long as we refuse to work and refuse to face the challenges at work, we will continue to be left behind,” he said.
In his speech, Dr Mahathir, who has been striving to change the future of the Malays since he became prime minister for the first time in 1981, also expressed his disappointment when the Malays continued to be looked down upon as they failed to narrow their income gap with other races despite the various opportunities given by the government, including under the New Economic Policy (NEP).
"At one time, when we created opportunities, they transferred the opportunities to others, we gave them AP (import permit), they sold it too, we gave them contracts, they sold the contracts...can we be rich by selling the contracts we get?” he said.
Nevertheless, Dr Mahathir, who returned to power after the 14th General Election last year, said the government had pledged to help the Malays, but they must be willing to work equally hard.
"The willingness to work hard is the key in the efforts to restore Malay dignity," he said.
On the decreasing Malay land ownership in the city, Dr Mahathir called on the Malays not to sell their land as the government would try to help them in that matter.
"I’m asking you, I beg you not to sell your land. We will find a way to get good returns for it. We have ways to help you keep the land so that it can become our assets and so that we will not be chased out of our own place,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the restoration of the Malay dignity was vital for the future generations and it is the responsibility of the current generation to do it.
"So ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to say what’s in my heart today. I know I do not have much time. What is being done today is all for the future generation, even though we may not be there to enjoy it,” he said.
The Malay Dignity Congress was organised by four public universities - Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) - to discuss and find solutions to problems faced by the Malays. - Bernama