As Pakatan Harapan (PH) ushers in its first year of governance, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has issued a cautionary warning to Malaysia's majority race to stop expecting handouts and work harder.
"Yes they (Malay) are the majority. But they are weak," said Tun Dr Mahathir in a live interview yesterday with state television station RTM1. "Weak in terms of economy... Weak in political mindset. They are the majority but they divide themselves into four parties which become minority parties and require assistance from other parties."
The Premier was referring to the country's four Malay race-based parties - his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Parti Amanah Negara in the PH coalition, and opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
After a tough year of administering government and trying to appease an increasingly conservative Malay community, Dr Mahathir yesterday urged the Malays to buck up or forever live in the shadows of other ethnic communities like the Chinese and Indians.
"(Their fears) can be overcome if they work hard to strengthen themselves economically, intellectually," the Premier said. "If they can do so and compete with minority races they wouldn't have this fear."
PH came into power in May last year with only one-third of the total Malay vote, with the remainder split between former ruling party Umno and PAS.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's quotes from media interviews yesterday to mark the first year of the Pakatan Harapan government.
There are many leaders in the world, but I don't think I am worse than (US President Donald) Trump.
TUN DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, when asked to rate his performance so far.
I like to be told where I am wrong and weak, so I can correct myself. ''
On media reports about him.
When somebody takes over from me, he's not required to follow my instructions or follow what I've done. He's free to do what he thinks is best as prime minister. So I've no say what happens after. My job is to prepare the country as much as possible so that it can be taken over by my successor. ''
Reiterating that he has promised to step down after two years to give way to his successor, Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim.
The fact is that we are dealing with all the communities; we have to make sure that everybody is more or less satisfied. If Pakatan loses support from the Malays, we will lose. If Pakatan loses support from the Chinese, we will also lose. And even the Indians play a big role in ensuring that Pakatan wins. ''
On managing the interests of all races.
If we continue to ask the government for help for all our problems, eventually we will become crippled. Those who hardly use their body eventually become paralysed. If we don't use our brains, we become stupid. ''
On the culture of depending on the government.
Not many people at the age of 93 can even think, but I think I'm still able to answer your nasty questions. ''
On his being the world's oldest elected leader.
Trinna Leong, with additional reporting from Bernama
They have also exploited issues of race and religion, by claiming PH is not protecting Malay rights. PH has backed out of signing international treaties after protests that these eroded Malay rights and undermined the sovereignty of the country's royal rulers.
In an earlier media interview yesterday, Dr Mahathir defended his administration's track record on race relations.
"Everyone thinks the government is paying attention to the other communities and not them," he said. "But the fact is that we are dealing with all communities. We have to make sure everybody is more or less satisfied," the 93-year-old said.
However, he acknowledged that despite the administration's efforts, "we can't satisfy everybody fully all the time".
He also sought to temper expectations on his government's performance, after a recent survey revealed plunging approval ratings for both him and his ruling coalition, largely due to election pledges that have yet to be fulfilled.
"It's only been a year. Nothing happens overnight," he said. He noted that he himself needed five years to prove his mettle when he was first made PM in 1981.
Dr Mahathir said he did not think he had done so badly in the first year of his comeback after stepping down in 2003.
"There are many leaders in the world, but I don't think I am worse than (US President Donald) Trump. I don't think I am worse than British leaders, French leaders, Spanish leaders, and all those other leaders," he said, according to national news agency Bernama. "Can you tell me which leader has done better than me?" he quipped.
Towards the end of his interview with RTM1 last night, the straight-talking Prime Minister circled back to one of his bugbears, the culture of depending on the government for assistance.
"If we continue to ask the government for help for all our problems, eventually we will become crippled. Those who hardly use their body eventually become paralysed. If we don't use our brains, we become stupid," he said bluntly.