PUTRAJAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad says race is still a big issue in the country despite talk of unity and being “Malaysian first”.
“Everybody talks about his own race,” he said in an interview with the media ahead of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) one-year anniversary in power.
“The fact remains that we are basically concerned with our race. And ministers wanting to gain support from their own communities must bring up race-related issues to the government,” he added when asked if his administration would come up with a new narrative to unite the people amid accusations that PH has been neglecting the Malay Muslims.
The prime minister said the three main communities in Malaysia – the Malays, Chinese and Indians – each have their own issues.
The Chinese, for example, want their vernacular schools maintained and recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate.
The Malays, on the other hand, would complain that the government is not upholding Islam and organise a protest rally, he said.
“Everybody” thinks that the government is paying attention to the other communities and neglecting theirs, he said, adding that Putrajaya is aware of this.
“If we do not attend to that, we will lose support from the Malays. If PH loses support from the Malays, we will lose. If PH loses support from the Chinese, we will also lose.
“The Indians can also play a big role in ensuring that PH will lose, so we have to be very careful,” he said, adding that there is no way the government can please everybody all the time.
On claims that his government has been rebranding initiatives implemented by Barisan Nasional (BN), Mahathir said BN itself had done the same for initiatives put in place by earlier administrations.
He said his administration would implement such initiatives “the proper way”.
“Not through corruption or through giving contracts to cronies, not by asking for contract prices to be increased in order to make money. Those are the things they do,” he said.
He gave the example of the East Coast Rail Link, which Putrajaya revived after bringing down the construction cost for Phase 1 and 2 to RM44 billion from the original RM65.5 billion.
He said the initial terms were “very bad”, adding that the government would carry out the project the right way, with due diligence.
“So, it is not right to say that we are doing what the previous government did,” he said.
The initiatives rebranded following PH’s victory on May 9 include the 1Malaysia People’s Aid or BR1M, which is now known as Cost of Living Aid, and the Rural Transformation Centres and Mini Rural Transformation Centres, now known as Village Community Centres.
1Malaysia Clinics are now known as Community Clinics, while the early childhood development programme Permata was renamed as Genius last month.