In an exclusive interview, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the affirmative action policies in place to help Malays will continue in order to avoid conflict
He told Channel NewsAsia that, "We have reduced the disparity with the Malays and mainly the Chinese, but there are certain areas where we need to give Malays some kind of push."
According to Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution, the "special position" of Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarak must be safeguarded, through privileges such as entry into the civil service and public scholarships.
Tun Dr Mahathir explained that Malay students need more help with scholarships to study overseas because their parents are largely made up of civil servants and wage earners
"For example, when I was in the United Kingdom, I met a number of Chinese students. They were there because their fathers, their parents were able to pay for their studies there," he said, adding that, "I find that Malay parents, by and large, cannot afford to have university education for their children."
The 92-year-old said that while many Malays could not afford to send their children overseas, the Chinese in Malaysia could because they are largely in business. "In business you can make tons of money," he explained.
The prime minister clarified in the interview that continuing affirmative action policies did not mean that the Pakatan Harapan government "thinks only of the Malays"
"Disparity in any society is bad, even if it’s a single ethnic (group). You have the rich, very rich, and the poor, very poor... you are inviting conflict. But when the rich belong to one race, and the poor to another race, the potential for conflict is much greater," Mahathir told Channel NewsAsia.
"We cannot change Malays into Chinese, Chinese into Malays, but we can change their economic situation. We can help improve the economic well-being of the Malays with certain affirmative action," he added.