By Invitation

The roots of Mahathir's Tanah Melayu remarks

Beyond the apparent needling of Johor’s royal house, the former prime minister’s comments reflect a cultural nationalism centred on a Malay realm whose reach extends far beyond the peninsula.

Dr Mahathir ventured an explanation himself when he clarified that his comments were not meant to stir controversy. PHOTO: REUTERS
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About a month ago, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the straight-talking former prime minister of Malaysia, was reported to have made remarks implying that his country had a rightful claim on Singapore and the Riau Islands of Indonesia on grounds that both were historically "Tanah Melayu", or Malay lands.

Speaking in Malay at a conference organised by Kongres Survival Melayu, a collection of Malay non-governmental organisations, he said: "We should demand not only Pedra Branca, or Batu Puteh Island, to be returned to us; we should also demand Singapore as well as the Riau Islands, because these are Malay lands."

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