PETALING JAYA: Reasoning that former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not mean to be racist when he had used a derogatory term to refer to the Indian community, MCA religious harmony bureau head Ti Lian Ker however opined it did not absolve the former from the current state of race relations.
Dr Mahathir came under criticism yesterday after a short video clip of him having uttered the word ‘keling’ had gone viral.
“Tun was actually trying to drive across a point by using another language. His point was missed but his one “K” word became the focus of attention and anger. This is trivial and a typically Malaysian mentality.
“I guess Tun M did not mean to sound racist here,” Ti said.
Elaborating further Ti said he believed Malaysians were getting hyper sensitive as everything from race to religion has been politicised.
“We have a tendency to miss the bigger picture or point by picking on a lesser emotional one. Malaysians are now making the topic of race and religion a “taboo” and will go berserk or show political temper by picking on a single word without looking at the context.
“This is not healthy to promote discussion or discourse to promote racial and religious understanding and harmony. In this case I believe Tun M did not mean to be racist.
“The recent developments of over reactions do not augur well for the nation when we over react on racial or religious lines,” he added saying that Malaysia was founded based on tolerance and understanding.
“Our Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman’s emphasis was on the spirit of tolerance and understanding. We seem to have forgotten that spirit. We have since been drifting away from this very strength and foundation of the nation.”
However, Ti also laid the blame on Dr Mahathir. “He is a practicing ‘racist’ as manifested in his book The Malay Dilemma and his rejection of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s multi-racialism that provides room for multi- culture and multi-lingual growth,” Ti claimed.
Meanwhile, Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh told FMT that Dr Mahathir must understand that his words have impact and regardless of whether he was joking, the word remained inappropriate.
“Furthermore, there’s no doubt Dr Mahathir is of Indian origin. There is absolutely no place for such derogatory references to any community in today’s world and leaders should condemn such incidents. As a responsible leader, he ought to apologise for such behaviour,” Ramkarpal said.
Lawyer and human rights advocate Ambiga Sreenevasan said it was unfortunate that Dr Mahathir had used the word because it was sensitive. “I hope he will address the issue,” she said.
The 25-second long video clip shows Mahathir disparaging Prime Minister Najib Razak’s handling of the Islamic State terrorist network, and has caught many people off guard with the use of the word “keling”, which is now regarded as a derogatory term for Malaysians of Indian descent.
Mahathir is shown sarcastically saying: “On Najib fighting IS, we can see Najib holding a rifle to fight IS. What do the keling say, ‘podah’ (get lost). All lies.”
The video clip was believed to have been recorded at a ‘Save Malaysia’ event in Langkawi which took place in May.