KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has turned down an invitation from the opposition for his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to form a so-called unity government with the Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and other parties in Sarawak and Sabah.
The call was made by Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, deputy president of Umno, the Malay-dominant party which leads BN.
BN governed the country for more than six decades before being defeated by PH in the general election in May last year.
The Prime Minister said PH has no interest in forming a unity government with the opposition, as the existing Cabinet is made up of ministers of various racial backgrounds, in line with Malaysia's diverse cultures.
"Every government formed since Merdeka until today has Cabinet members made up of all races," said Tun Dr Mahathir, referring to the country's independence from colonial rule in 1957.
"This is a fact we cannot dismiss - that the country is made up of various races, and every race has their right in the country," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.
Mr Mohamad's call came after Dr Mahathir attended the Malay Dignity Congress on Sunday, where concerns that Malay-Muslim interests were being sidelined were discussed.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and Umno leaders also attended the event, at which the majority community's demands regarding religion, politics, the economy, education and culture were aired.
In a statement on Monday, Mr Mohamad had said that if Dr Mahathir was sincere about strengthening the position of Malays and Islam, then he should form a new government with BN, PAS and parties in East Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir is chairman of the Malay-based Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, one of the four parties in PH. Its partners in the coalition are Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara.
"I'm confident that Umno and PAS have no problems in accepting Dr Mahathir and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in this grand agenda of Malays and Islam," added Mr Mohamad.
Dr Mahathir yesterday also dismissed criticism of his scathing remarks about the Malay community during the congress.
He had said there would not be much improvement in the livelihood of Malays if the Malays themselves did not want to change for the better.
"I wanted to speak the truth... If we cannot criticise someone, how can we improve them?" he said.
"I'm just saying that Malay dignity can only be restored by the Malays themselves, and they cannot depend on anyone else, not even the government."
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK