PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today hit out at Chinese education group Dong Zong, labelling them “racists”, amid continued objection to the introduction of khat in the Year 4 Bahasa Melayu syllabus for vernacular schools.
Speaking to reporters afgter an event in Langkawi, Mahathir questioned why Dong Zong, which has been at the forefront of opposing the introduction of khat, did not complain when the previous administration approved the move in 2012.
“Now they want to complain, now we are free, last time if you complain you go in (thrown into jail).
“We have made a decision, if they don’t want to accept it, then don’t,” he said, in response to a question on Dong Zong’s petition against the introduction of khat.
The education ministry has announced that plans to introduce six pages of khat lessons in the Standard 4 Bahasa Malaysia textbook next year had been revised. Only three pages would be introduced, and khat lessons would be optional.
Yesterday, Dong Zong chairman Tan Tai Kim said the petition, which will also be supported by Tamil education groups, is being organised on grounds that “research by some scholars and literary experts” had shown that khat had been used as a medium to spread Islam.
“Dong Zong is racist,” said Mahathir when asked to comment on Dong Zhong’s claim that khat was a medium to spread Islam.
“The government (previously) introduced a single campus, Sekolah Wawasan; where Chinese, Tamil and national schools are placed in a single campus, they did not want it.
“They are scared their children will mix with Malays, so they don’t like Malays, they oppose everything, they never agree with anything,” he said.
Mahathir said the previous administration had approved the introduction of khat to win the hearts of Malays but did not act on it. He accused the leaders then of telling the different communities what they wanted to hear.
But the current administration did not do this, he said, and nearly all matters were brought to the Cabinet to decide on.
FMT is attempting to reach Dong Zong for comment.
Perlis mufti compares Dong Zong to terrorist threat
Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin, in a response this evening to Mahathir’s comments, compared Dong Zong to a terrorist threat and urged Malaysians to fight the extremists.
He said in an online posting: “Such extremist groups should be listed among the subversive elements in the country. They should be considered a threat equal to the threat of terrorism. Malaysians should be mobilised to fight these extremists until they are rehabilitated or leave the country.”
Ramkarpal says Mahathir’s remarks are uncalled-for
In another response to Mahathir’s remarks, Ramkarpal Singh of the DAP said Mahathir’s characterisation of Dong Zong as racist would only distance Dong Zong from any compromise or negotiations.
He said Dong Zong’s concerns “possibly represent a large section of the Chinese community” while it was a fact, he said, that there is dissatisfaction on the ground. It should not be taken lightly, and Dong Zong’s concerns should not be dismissed.
Mahathir answers Santiago with sarcasm
Mahathir had a sarcastic response to another DAP critic, Klang MP Charles Santiago.
Earlier today, Santiago had called for a review of the decision-making process by the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council in the wake of the government’s decision on khat as well as other issues, including controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik. He said there appeared to be too much power in the hands of the prime minister, which should instead be shared equally among the PH component parties.
Asked to comment on Santiago’s remarks, Mahathir said “I will ask for Santiago’s permission” in the future when he wanted to make a decision. “I will get his views, he is the same level as me,” Mahathir said.
This report has been amended to include remarks by Asri and Ramkarpal.