Published on: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad defended Malaysia's practice of accepting people facing misery in other lands because "we are considerate and caring towards people who are less fortunate than us."
"So don't accuse us of accepting them purportedly for their votes.
If we (Malaysians) are chased out of our country, and no other country accepts us wherever we go, how do we feel?
"There will be no more human beings in the world so we must be considerate towards people who are suffering," he said, in his talk on "Malaysia's Future Road, What Choice?".
He said this was reflected in Malaysia's acceptance of people from Arab countries, for example, Iraq. "Many have come to the peninsula for security reasons because of the war in their country, and can't return home for fear of being accused of collaborating with Saddam Hussein.
"Having considered the problems facing them, we are prepared to help them so we have given them the right to live in Malaysia as permanent residents."
Bosnians who fled their country from atrocities were also accepted in Malaysia until their country returned to normalcy.
"However, many of them chose to remain in Malaysia."
Describing Malaysia as a peaceful and progressive nation, Dr Mahathir said millions of people would migrate to the country if Malaysia were to open its doors.
"I am confident that as long as Malaysia adopts a tolerant, considerate, sympathetic and caring stand towards people who are suffering, the country will continue to achieve progress. We will not lose, in fact our country is inhabited by people from other countries for generations.
We don't reject them. We are totally different from other countries which have also achieved independence."
Dr Mahathir singled out the Rohingya Muslims who were attacked and killed on the premise that they were not the people of Myanmar.
"While some other countries rejected boatloads of them, we accepted them on humanitarian grounds, and not because we wanted to secure votes from the Rohingyas.
"This is not Malaysia's way of doing things. And there is the allegation that we give citizenship and I.C to these people because we want to garner votes and win in the election.
"Let there be no allegation such that the Prime Minister before, nama dia Mahathir (named Mahathir) yang keluar arahan supaya diberi kerakyatan kepada siapa saja yang datang ke Sabah ini supaya mereka akan sokong parti kononnya. Ini fitnah, tak baik sama sekali. Kita cuma bertimbangrasa kepada orang lain yang menderita (who issued the directive to give citizenship to anybody who comes to Sabah so that they will support the party, they say. This is slander, not good at all. We are only considerate to other people who face hardship)," he said.
Dr Mahathir also recalled that when Myanmar achieved independence, Indian traders were expelled from the country.
Likewise, in Uganda, traders from India suffered the same fate. In comparison, he said this has never happened in Malaysia although we have different races - Malays, Chinese and Indians.
"We did not expel anybody when Malaysia became independent.
On the contrary, everybody was allowed to live in the country.
In fact, we were willing to accord citizenship status to one million people although they were actually not qualified to become Malaysian citizens because they had not stayed in the country long enough.
"And they could not speak Bahasa Melayu at all until today.
However, we were willing to accept them as citizens, and they even got the right to take part in politics and vote.
"On top of it, they could form parties to fight against those who had given them the rights as citizens. Many of these parties were made up of descendants from those people with citizenship status because of Tunku Abdul Rahman's compassion for them. He gave one million citizenships to people who were not qualified."
Dr Mahathir further said a proportion of those people were now accusing the Barisan Nasional (BN) government and criticising Umno for giving privileges to Bumiputeras, when deliberating on the subject of Malaysian Malaysia such that non-Bumiputeras are second-class citizens.
"Clearly, a segment of these people are descendants of those not qualified to become Malaysian citizens. But they easily forget the bounty from Barisan Nasional leaders or Perikatan as previously known."
The former premier said those allegations were not true because non-Bumiputeras were also given the right to maintain their respective languages, to set up their own schools and even to establish their own universities. "And we have never questioned their lack of proficiency in the national language because we recognise them as citizens and accord them the same rights."
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia's future would be brighter if such people, who were never thankful to the BN Government, were sidelined, and if we retained BN which sympathises with all races in the country, and has a good track record in administration.
Meanwhile, he said the world recognises Malaysia as one of the best developing countries in the world. In this regard, power lies in the hands of the people to determine the type of future for them.
"If we err in choosing the leaders and the government, our future will be gloomy despite the promises made. For example, the Opposition promised that the minimum wage would be RM1,100 if they gained power.
"This is not possible because small traders can't even afford the current RM800 minimum wage for their workers. What more if it is raised to RM1,100.00, which would definitely raise Sabah's cost of living which is already higher than that in the Peninsula," he contended.
Dr Mahathir attributed this trend partly to high freight charges in transporting the goods from the Peninsula to Sabah, thus contributing to higher import costs for merchandise from the Peninsula or other countries.
While conceding that he is powerless in this concern, he, however, pledged to bring the issue of Sabah's high cost of living to the attention of the Prime Minister after the 13th General Election.
"This is to get the new government (to be formed) to take appropriate action to reduce the cost of living for the people of Sabah."
At this juncture, Dr Mahathir called for Sabahans to be trained in the area of competence "because not long from now, Sabah will be the largest oil-producing state in Malaysia."
It would be pointless for Sabah to be the biggest oil producer if the people did not participate in the industry and enjoy its benefits.
"As such, the future of Sabah and Malaysia depends on the rational thinking of Malaysians.
If we are wise and adhere to the concept of sharing as espoused by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, and choose people who are capable of administering our country, God Willing, the future of Malaysia will be brighter than what it is now."