By Emily Ding
KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim has said that his comments reported on Utusan Malaysia’s front page today fiercely criticising the Chinese community for its strong racial sentiment had been taken out of context.
Khoo said the Umno-owned broadsheet had used his words in an article headlined “Suara tokoh Cina” to make it seem as if he was critical only of the Chinese, when in fact he had been broadly discussing ethnic relations in the country and had criticised all races for being too inward-looking.
“I get the impression from what I read in Utusan that what I told them was something very critical of the Chinese, but I didn’t say only the Chinese,” Khoo (picture) told The Malaysian Insider.
“I said that each ethnic group still tends to look at itself and does not understand each other. It’s not just the Chinese but the Malays and Indians too,” he explained.
Utusan Malaysia reported that Khoo had said the Chinese do not understand the importance of unity as their racial sentiments still burn strong since the community first came to Malaya.
“Many among them do not think of Malaysia as their own country; instead they always feel like they are being colonised,” he had been quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Khoo told The Malaysian Insider that the racial problem had not changed since British colonial times, and that the lack of understanding between different races in the country was not simply a legacy of the British’s purported “divide and rule” practice, but due to Malaysians themselves.
“People here somehow never learnt to understand one another,” he said.
“I give you one example. You go to a popular restaurant and you see various ethnic groups there but as you enter you can see — one table, one ethnic group.”
He said the fracture among different ethnic groups in Malaysia was due to their lack of knowledge about their own country, and proposed that the education system must be reformed to change the situation.
“I have suggested many, many times that the only way we can bring about change is through the younger generation, so the education system must address the problem. But our education system does not address the problem, it emphasises scoring high grades in examinations,” he said.
Utusan Malaysia has been running reports that appear to blame the Chinese for Barisan Nasional’s (BN) historic losses in Election 2013 after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak dubbed the May 5 general election a “Chinese tsunami”.
Utusan Malaysia has also attacked the DAP, saying that the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) component party’s alleged campaign to sow hatred against BN justified the newspaper’s incendiary headline on Tuesday, “Apa lagi Cina mahu? (What more do the Chinese want?)”.
Analysts, however, have noted that BN’s lacklustre performance in Election 2013 was not simply the result of a Chinese swing towards PR, but also because of a middle-class and urban exodus from the coalition that further widened the urban-rural rift.
BN took a severe beating this round and bled more seats at both the federal and state levels compared to 2008, leaving it with only 133 federal seats and 275 out of the 505 total state seats, despite wresting back Kedah from PR.
The ruling coalition also lost the popular vote to the opposition.