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Malaysia demands explanation from Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew over race remarks

Malaysia demands explanation from Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew over race remarks

Malaysia's leader has demanded that Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew explain his claim that Malaysia marginalizes its ethnic Chinese minority, saying such remarks were "mischievous" and could inflame racial sentiments.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi indicated Lee's comments could strain bilateral ties, stressing that Singapore's founding father "should understand that Malaysia's relationship with Singapore is something that needs to be nurtured to preserve each country's stability."
"I will write a letter to him; I want an explanation from him about why he said that," Abdullah told reporters late Saturday after returning from a two-week foreign trip.
Lee was widely quoted to have told a forum in Singapore recently that the ethnic Chinese minority population in the city-state's neighboring countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, "are hardworking and, therefore, they are systematically marginalized."
Abdullah said Lee's comments were "not welcomed," adding that race relations in Singapore _ which has an ethnic Chinese majority _ were also "not 100 percent perfect."
"It is a mischievous statement," Abdullah said. "It is also a statement that can incite Malaysian citizens of Chinese descent. ... If our country is not stable, Singapore will also experience the impact because it has economic interests here."
Ethnic Chinese comprise about a quarter of Malaysia's 26 million people, the second-largest racial group after the Malay majority. Malaysia has a decades-old affirmative action policy that helps Malays, which it says is necessary to maintain social order.
Several top Malaysian politicians have rejected Lee's comments as false and urged him to apologize, but Abdullah did not immediately say whether he believes an apology is necessary. Indonesia's government has made no strong response so far to Lee's remarks.
"How come (Lee) wants to make statements that could provoke the Chinese community in Malaysia and Indonesia, especially when we are always trying to strengthen good relations among countries in this region," Muhyiddin Yassin, vice president of Malaysia's United Malays National Organization ruling party, was quoted as saying by the Berita Minggu newspaper.
Malaysia and Singapore have close cultural and economic ties. But their governments have sparred over various disputes over the years, such as the price of water that Malaysia sells to its southern neighbor, and took a territorial spat over a tiny islet to the World Court.


Updated : 2021-11-30 05:59 GMT+08:00