KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Malaysian prime minister and opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad has apologised for using a derogatory word, "keling", to refer to the country's Indian-origin community.
"When I was a small boy, we used to use that word, but now it is considered to be derogatory, so I apologise if I have caused any problems for them," he told a press conference here on Tuesday (April 10).
"Keling" is a word used in parts of South-east Asia to denote a person of South Asian origin, especially from India, but to a lesser extent Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Pakatan Harapan chairman had used the word when criticising the Election Commission at an event in Johor on Saturday.
He was reported to have said: "I want to use a 'keling' word. The 'keling' say podah (get lost)."
On Monday, National Human Rights Society chairman S. Ambiga said while the term might have been commonly used in Kedah and not have been considered derogatory there, the term is unacceptable and hurtful to the Indian Malaysian community today.
The Democratic Action Party's (DAP) Dr P. Ramasamy, who is Penang deputy chief minister, advised Tun Dr Mahathir to go easy on the use of cliches and terms that may be insulting to some ethnic groups.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir also clarified that he had never said the people of Sabah and Sarawak were lazy.
"I would be crazy to say that when I want them to support us during the election. What I did say was that the leaders, especially of Sabah, are very greedy and that's why they have stolen money from the government," he said.