KUALA LUMPUR • A leader of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) has described former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as a "blackhearted racist" for using a derogatory word to describe ethnic Indians at a rally in Johor, but the elder politician said he saw nothing wrong with what he had said.
Tun Dr Mahathir had used the word "keling" in Johor on Saturday, seen today as derogatory to Indians in Malaysia.
He was reacting to reports that the Pakatan Harapan opposition pact cannot use one common logo, as said by Election Commission (EC) chief Mohd Hashim Abdullah.
Dr Mahathir's response, as reported by Malaysiakini news site: "This morning we heard his (Umno president Najib Razak's) goons, including the EC chief, saying that if we want to use a common symbol, we have to crawl and prostrate in front of this person.
"I want to use a 'keling' word. The keling say 'podah' (get lost). Where is the law? This rule was formed this morning."
The reply from MIC treasurer-general S. Vell Paari on the controversial word: "Why I am not surprised with Mahathir using this word? For being a blackhearted racist is the innate nature of Mahathir."
The word "keling" is considered derogatory today but was quite commonly used by the older generation in the north of Peninsular Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir himself has Indian blood and this issue had sometimes been raised by his political foes in Malay nationalist party Umno.
Dr Mahathir, when asked by reporters yesterday, said he does not see a problem with using the word "keling". "It's our language (in Kedah) and I've used the word 'keling' since I was small, there is no problem.
"My 'keling' friends have never scolded me, so why is MIC angry over this?" he told reporters, as quoted by Malaysiakini.