Friday, March 30, 2007

Malays Could Be
Enslaved Again
- Mahathir

FORMER premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia will lose sovereignty over parts of Johor and Malays could be ‘enslaved again’ if foreigners are allowed free rein in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR).

Hitting out at the government's plan to open up south Johor to foreigners, he said the Malays are still weak and would not have a chance to compete against foreign developers and companies.

Speaking about the British rule over Malaysia before it gained independence, he said: 'We became slaves in our country because we gave it to others.'

He added that ‘Malays will be enslaved again by foreigners’ if the IDR plan is followed through.

Tun Dr Mahathir was speaking in Kulai, a town 20km north of Johor Baru, in his first public attack on the government in seven weeks.

The event, attended by 300 people, was organised at a small private club by the Kulai Umno branch - the first event that he has been invited to by an Umno grassroots movement in five months.

The government last week announced a slew of measures to entice foreign investors into the IDR.

The carrots include waiving the requirement of having at least 30 per cent bumiputera equity for six project sectors, and doing away with the need to employ a certain number of Malays in their companies.

While the announcement was widely welcomed by the non-Malay business community and foreign investors, there were rumblings of unhappiness from the Malay ground.

Some are concerned about whether bumiputeras can compete in the open market for tenders, even though the pro-Malay New Economic Policy (NEP) has been running for the past 36 years.

Others fretted over whether the IDR signals the dismantling of the NEP.

Tun Dr Mahathir, 81, who has been attacking the Abdullah administration since last year, was merely tapping into the discontent.

“I believe in the ability of the Malays but, as of now, I am not confident they can compete with the people who will come into the IDR,” he said.

Tun Dr Mahathir said that allowing foreigners to develop the IDR would mean that Malaysians would eventually lose their land in the zone, thus losing sovereignty over the area. - Reme Ahmad, The Straits Times.

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