PETALING JAYA: The gap between the rich and the poor in Malaysia is a socio-economic issue and should not be blamed on a certain race, says Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap (pic).
The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) president said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remark that the Chinese were a “wealthy lot” would only cause misunderstandings which could lead to anti-Chinese sentiments and resenting the rich.
“It does not conform to Malaysia’s multiracial identity and also creates unnecessary misunderstandings and could disrupt the country’s economic recovery and progress.
“It is extremely dangerous to label the rich or poor by skin colour or ethnicity.
“Other communities will only be further misled into believing that the Chinese are in control of the country’s economy, causing them to be biased towards the Chinese and Chinese businessmen, ” he said in a statement yesterday.
In an interview with the Hong Kong-based Asia Times last week, former premier and ousted Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysian Chinese were a “wealthy lot”, with the majority of them living in urban centres, and that it represented an “unhealthy trend”.
As Malaysia is in the recovery movement control order (MCO) period now, Ter said businesses and people of all races were facing the same economic pressure.
“In the face of the new normal and various challenges, businesses of all ethnic groups also share a common understanding and cooperate with each other to develop a larger market, including developing more cooperation in each other’s market.”
He noted that tourism operators in Sabah and Sarawak had joined forces to attract Malaysians in the peninsula to go on vacation there and vice versa.
“This is a true portrayal of the new normal in the market now, ” he said, adding that Dr Mahathir’s untimely remarks were harmful to racial unity.
He said Malaysia’s recovery from the pandemic was only possible through the cooperation and unity of all citizens to work with the Health Ministry towards zero infection before the economy could be fully opened.
“The virus recognises no race or skin colour and the same goes for being rich or poor, regardless of one’s religion or gender.
“Poverty between urban and rural areas in the country should be addressed with specific solutions, ” he said.
Quoting the Statistics Department’s 2016 Household Income and Expenditure survey report, Ter said a majority of Malaysian Chinese were wage earners, accounting for 70% of the Chinese population, while 72% of the Malays were wage earners, with Indians at 83% – which showed that the relative percentages of all ethnic groups were comparable.
“In addition, the data showed that 0.4% of Malaysians live in extreme poverty reach, while the absolute poor Chinese population is 0.1%.
“Therefore, the gap between the rich and the poor is common among all ethnic groups, including between urban and rural areas.
“It is a problem that all citizens must face together. This is no different from the situation in other developed European countries, ” he said.
Ter also noted that the country’s diversity and the integration of multiculturalism had always been the pride of all Malaysians.
“Politicians are like the caretaker of the people, they should build a social protection network that benefits all people regardless of race, so that all people can work together.
“It is only by participating in the country’s development and nation-building can the country advance towards sustainable development, ” he said.
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