Mahathir's claim that S'porean Malays are marginalised falls flat

Malaysian opposition politician Zaid Ibrahim, a former law minister
Malaysian opposition politician Zaid Ibrahim, a former law minister

KUALA LUMPUR - Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has again resurrected the issue of the supposed "marginalisation" of Malays in Singapore as part of his strident campaign to unseat Prime Minister Najib Razak.

But at least one prominent Malay politician in Malaysia has brushed aside the former premier's remarks, saying Singaporean Malays are not marginalised.

"I can't wait for Malays here to be like Singaporean Malays," said Mr Zaid Ibrahim, a former law minister who left Umno and joined the opposition.


Singaporean Malays, although a minority, are also not marginalised. Many of them are happy with the Singaporean Government and it would be silly for the PAP to even think of discriminating against Malays and risk forfeiting 15 per cent of the vote.

The difference is this: Singaporean Malays reap the benefits of the modern advanced economy that is Singapore and are encouraged by political leaders to develop themselves. In Malaysia, Malays are happy to let their leaders make all the money as long as they promise to "defend" bahasa, bangsa and agama (language, race and religion). I can't wait for Malays here to be like Singaporean Malays.

- Malaysian opposition politician Zaid Ibrahim, a former law minister

In a video released on Sunday, Tun Dr Mahathir said that if Datuk Seri Najib stays in power, the Malays in Malaysia could become marginalised like their Singapore counterparts.

Speaking during a closed-door forum on June 17 with several non-governmental organisations at the Perdana Foundation, Dr Mahathir referred to the controversy surrounding the state investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, repeating that he found it difficult to imagine how it racked up RM42 billion (S$15 billion) in debts.

"But if we don't acknowledge the crime that is happening here, there is a high likelihood that we will lose and we will be divided... And we will suffer the fate of the Malays in Singapore, in southern Thailand and other places," he said.

Mr Zaid responded on Sunday saying he disagreed with Dr Mahathir's claim.

"Sorry Tun if under Najib Malays here will become like Spore Malays; I will give him full support. Malays under Najib will be Talibans," the former minister wrote on Twitter.

On Wednesday, Mr Zaid issued a clarification in his blog, claiming that an online news portal had suggested that his tweet meant that he would not mind Malays in Malaysia being marginalised as long as they do not become extremists like the Taleban.

"Malays are the majority ethnic group in Malaysia and have complete control over government and its apparatus, so to talk of Malay marginalisation is absolute nonsense," he said in the post on his blog, The Zaidgeist.

Mr Zaid reiterated that he did not want to see Malays becoming marginalised and poor.

"Malays should be given the best opportunities to improve and they deserve much more than what they currently have. But not all Malays in Malaysia are marginalised. In fact, they are first-class citizens at least on paper. Unfortunately, they have not been able to reap the benefits of first-class treatment because they do not have a good government with honest leaders," he wrote.

"That's what Malays here need. Good government with good, clean and honest leaders."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'Mahathir's claim that S'porean Malays are marginalised falls flat'. Print Edition | Subscribe