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Non Malays as PM - AFP/Bernama
By web aNtu

18/6/2000 10:15 pm Sun

Non-Malays can be Malaysian premier in future, says Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (AFP) - 14:53 - Multi-ethnic Malaysia could one
day have a Chinese or Indian prime minister, Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohamad said Saturday, appealing to the country's largest Chinese party
to help close the wealth gap with the Malays.

Mahathir, opening the annual a#sembly of the Malaysian Chinese
a#sociation (MCA), said the constitution did not stipulate that the
premier must be a Malay.

"Anyone from any race has the right to become the prime minister of
Malaysia," he said.

"I am confident that one day, when the Chinese or Indian citizens are
accepted by all the races, the prime minister need not come from among
the Malays alone. The process towards this end has started."

But the premier said racial discrimination must first be abolished and
all the ethnic groups integrated under a common Malaysian identity.

"If we are all sensitive to the needs of Malaysians, the issue of race
and origin will no longer obstruct any Malaysian from holding any post,"
he said.

"Cooperate in the political, economic and social fields and we will all
eradicate racism and accept just any Malaysian to become prime minister
and fill any post."

Malays, or "bumiputera," make-up more than half of Malaysia's 22 million
population, the Chinese account for about one-third and the rest are

Malays have dominated politics, the civil service and the army in the
country since independence in 1957, while the Chinese control a large
part of the economy.

The MCA, with some 850,000 members, is the second largest component in
the 14-party National Front after Mahathir's United Malays National
Organisation (UMNO). UMNO's president and deputy president traditionally
become the country's premier and deputy premier.

Speaking to some 1,000 MCA delegates, Mahathir warned them not to take
the country's racial harmony for granted.

He said the wealth gap dividing the Malays and Chinese was a "time-bomb"
created during the British colonial era that sparked bloody anti-Chinese
riots in 1969, killing some 200 people.

Although the New Economic Policy (NEP) managed to narrow the gap, he
said the Malays' "fragile achievements were eroded" during the 1997/98
financial crisis.

The NEP, an affirmation action program instituted in 1971 to help the
Malays catch up with the Chinese, aims to place 30 percent of corporate
a#sets in Malay hands.

Mahathir urged Chinese businessmen to impart their skills and form
"genuine partnerships" with their Malay counterparts.

He told them to guard against foreign incitement, saying that the
western nations were using non-governmental organisations and the
foreign media to meddle in Malaysian affairs.

"We accept the freedom of the press but they abused this freedom with
constant lies to tarnish our image ... They are totally immoral and have
bad intentions towards us," he said.

"If possible, they want to destroy our country and spark racial riots
and chaos all the time."

Later at a news briefing, Mahathir said he could not tell when a
non-Malay would become premier.

"It depends on the people's acceptance ... it takes time," he said. "It
is possible when people don't think whether a person is Chinese, Indian
or Malay, but think (of him) as a Malaysian."

Earlier, MCA president and Transport Minister Ling Liong Sik said the
National Front's inter-ethnic cooperation based on "moderation,
tolerance, consultation and consensus" would continue to be relevant.

"The MCA will continue to support and strengthen all policies and
projects for the advancement of the people," he said.

Ling, who earlier this month reversed a decision to quit his cabinet
post amid a rift with his party deputy, urged members to close ranks.

"The party must work towards remaining strong and united to be a
relevant and reliable partner in the ruling coalition in the years ahead
.... We need to expand and revitalise our party membership," he added.


June 17 , 2000 15:59PM

A non-Malay can become PM in future: Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad is
confident that one day, when Malaysians of Chinese or Indian descent are
accepted by all the races, the Malaysian prime minister need not come
from the Malays alone.

Non-Malay bumiputeras may also become the prime minister of the country,
he said when opening the MCA's 47th general a#sembly, here.

"The process towards this end has started. Believe me, if we are all
sensitive to the tastes of Malaysians, the issue of race and origin will
no longer obstruct any Malaysian from holding any post," the prime
minister said.

He said the Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties, including the MCA,
should work towards this end with the approach that is unique to

"Cooperate in the political, economic and social fields and we will all
eradicate racialism and accept just any Malaysian to become prime
minister and fill any post," he said.

Dr Mahathir, who is also the BN chairman, said anyone of any race had
the right to become prime minister because Malaysia's constitution did
not mention the origin of the prime minister.

Speaking to reporters later, he said the appointment of a non-Malay as
prime minister would depend on acceptance by the people.

"That is why we (BN) do not want to emphasise too much on differences.
We want to emphasise similiarities," he said.

He said this when asked how soon a non-Malay could become the prime
minister of this country.

Asked further if this could happen during his lifetime, Dr Mahathir
quipped: "It all depends on how long I live."

On whether his remarks would be well-received by Umno members, Dr
Mahathir who is Umno president,said: "I think generally Umno accepts...
they can accept leaders who are dedicated to the country.

"I am not trying to do something that will increase their (Umno's)
dislike for me, I am just stating facts."

Asked whether this means that there would be more allocations for
non-Malays in the Cabinet, Dr Mahathir said it was possible once the
feelings of racism was done away with and a person was not identified by
his race.

In his speech, Dr Mahathir also said that Malaysia belonged to all the
people and that since Independence all the races had succeeded in
closing ranks.

"Actually, sometimes we are so Malaysian that we cannot tell that a
person is from the same race," he said.

In terms of clothing and manners, it is difficult to distinguish the
Malays and bumimputeras from the Chinese or Indians, he added.

On the New Economic Policy (NEP), Dr Mahathir said the policy showed
that improving the economic status of the bumiputeras did not affect the
progress of the other races.

Aware that some Chinese were dissatisfied with the NEP, Dr Mahathir some
bumiputera communities were also dissatisfied with the policy.

"If we share and cooperate, the number of malcontents will drop," he

Asked about allegations that the NEP had caused disunity among the
races, he said that on the contrary, the policy had helped integrate the

"In some countries which have no such policy, they are more divided and
do not recognise races. They claim to be one nation but deep inside they
are different," he said.

In his speech, Dr Mahathir also touched on the benefits if the Chinese
and bumiputeras had more genuine collaboration in business with the
bumiputera partners playing a meaningful role that would give them
experience and efficiency.

"Ali-Baba partnerships whereby the bumiputera is only a "front" do not
help the process of transfer of efficiency in business," he said.

He believed that if the bumiputera partner was given a meaningful role,
he would make valuable contribution to the partnership.

He said that if the bumiputeras progressed and became as rich as the
other races, the country's progress would be enhanced and the average
Malaysian income would improve further.