KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — Ethnic Chinese and even the migrant Myanmar workers are more honest compared to the native Malays where money is concerned, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today as he continued his decades-old belief of inherent racial weaknesses to explain the economic failures of Malaysia’s largest community.
The former prime minister also claimed that many Malays do not pay back their debts, and therefore many companies prefer to award contracts to the Chinese, whom he insisted were more trustworthy.
“Now I have a bakery. I want to say honestly, I am ashamed because among the Malay, Chinese or Burmese or any other workers, the Malay ones sometimes when they see money they forget themselves, they become dishonest,” Dr Mahathir told Umno-controlled Malay paper, Mingguan Malaysia in an exclusive interview published today.
Dr Mahathir is the chairman of The Loaf, a chain of Japanese-inspired bakery which first opened in Langkawi in 2006.
“Whenever the [Malay workers] see money, if they can swipe the money, they will. I have fired a lot of Malays because of this attitude. But the Chinese are not like that,” the veteran Umno politician said.
According to Dr Mahathir, some of his Malay managers have even tried to collude with his workers to cheat the outlets of money.
He also claimed that there are also cases where the managers did not deposit the outlets’ money in the bank, or have swindled the money by not recording the proper amount of sales.
“When we’re trustworthy, when we want to lend money, people will give because they know we will pay it. How many Malays when they borrow money, they don’t pay back?” asked Dr Mahathir.
He singled out as an example, those who received scholarships but refused to pay them back despite having the money to do so.
“We have to be trustworthy so people will give contracts to us. When we want to give contracts, we give to the Chinese instead because we know they will do their work properly. This is our weakness, not trustworthy,” added Dr Mahathir.
Dr Mahathir was widely panned last week after he described Malays as being lazy and dishonest in a speech last Thursday.
The 89-year-old said Malaysia’s largest race group lacks good values, ethics and were not hardworking enough, which he said has caused them to trail behind the other races economically.
In response to criticisms, Dr Mahathir said he was only calling a spade a spade: “I have never wanted to fool myself. If they’re lazy, I call them lazy. If people don’t like it, then be it. When I was Umno president, I used to nag all the time.”
Dr Mahathir is a staunch defender of race-based affirmative action policies as prescribed by the New Economic Policy, an economic model mooted in 1971 to close the socio-economic gap between the largely-urban Chinese and the rural Malays as well as other indigenous Bumiputera.
However, the former prime minister has admitted in the past that the programme has made the Malays more complacent while noting that the system had been abused to enrich only a few elites who were close to the ruling party.
But the man who ran the country from 1983 to 2003 has continued to defend the policy, saying it was still needed to help the Malays compete and bridge the income disparity among the races.