I wasn’t referring to anyone, says Dr M on ‘pariah’ remark

Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the press conference after chairing a PPBM Supreme Council meeting.

PUTRAJAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad tonight defended his use of the word “pariah” in commenting on rare earths miner Lynas Corp, following claims that the prime minister had hurt the feelings of the Indian community.

“I didn’t direct it at anybody.

“Who was I referring to?” the PPBM chairman told reporters after chairing a party Supreme Council meeting at the Perdana Leadership Foundation here.

Present was PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin, vice-president Mukhriz Mahathir, secretary-general Marzuki Yahya and party youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.

Mahathir said earlier this week that Lynas, which has been the subject of contention over its storage of radioactive waste at its plant in Kuantan, Pahang, should not be treated “like a pariah” and asked to leave the country.

He said such treatment could jeopardise the government’s efforts to attract foreign direct investments.

His remark resulted in several members from the Kapar PKR lodging a police report against the prime minister demanding, among others, a public apology.

They said Mahathir should not have used the term as it is considered an insult in the Indian community.

The word, which had its roots in India, is now a well recognised English word that means outcast.

Mahathir also said there is a need for the government to review its poverty line, following a report by UN special rapporteur Philip Alston.

Alston, after an 11-day visit to Malaysia, said the current poverty line does not portray the cost of living in the country and excludes vulnerable populations in its official figures.

“But it is not as bad as what (was) pointed out by these people who come here for one day, stay in big hotels and then pass judgement,” Mahathir said.

The national poverty line is currently set at RM980 per household per month, which would mean a family of four surviving on RM8 for each person per day.

Alston called it a “tragically low line”, adding that the actual poverty rate of the country is much higher than the official numbers stated.

Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali later defended Malaysia’s absolute poverty rate, saying it was based on guidelines in a UN handbook.

Mahathir, meanwhile, said the Pakatan Harapan coalition was not straying from the middle ground, adding that this was an external perception.

He also emphasised that PH needs to put up a united front and work on the promises its four parties made in last year’s general election.

He was asked about a recent statement by Johor DAP chief Liew Chin Tong, who said PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and Mahathir recently met to discuss “bringing all quarters back to the middle” and to “keep a distance from all forms of extreme discussions”.