PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the affirmative action policy to help the Malays will continue, in part to avoid conflict between the majority Malays and “richer” ethnic groups like the Chinese.
“We have reduced the disparity with the Malays and mainly the Chinese, but there are certain areas where we need to give Malays some kind of push,” he said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
He said one area where the Malays still needed assistance was in the availability of scholarships to study overseas.
“For example, when I was in the UK, I met a number of Chinese students. They were there because their fathers, their parents were able to pay for their studies there.
“But I find that Malay parents, by and large, cannot afford to have university education for their children.”
Mahathir said the Chinese were largely in business and that “in business, you can make tonnes of money”.
In contrast, he said, the Malays were largely civil servants and wage earners who could not afford to send their children to university.
However, Mahathir told CNA that continuing policies which help Malays did not mean that the government “thinks only of the Malays”.
“Disparity in any society is bad, even if it’s a single ethnic (group). You have the rich, very rich, and the poor, very poor… you are inviting conflict.
“But when the rich belong to one race, and the poor to another race, the potential for conflict is much greater.”
That was why this imbalance needed to be corrected, he said.
“We cannot change Malays into Chinese, Chinese into Malays, but we can change their economic situation. We can help improve the economic well-being of the Malays with certain affirmative action,” Mahathir told CNA.