KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — The real threat to the survival of the ethnic Malay community and Malaysia as a whole is corruption as well as leaders who steal the country’s wealth, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.
Anwar was countering politicians who harp on race and religion, saying these are irrelevant to good governance.
“People can harp upon issues of race or religion, to me, it's completely irrelevant. It's a way and attempt by political leaders to disguise and hijack the central issues of governance in this country. They are going to appeal to the race, including the Malays, that their position, their power base is challenged.
“Now my answer to that question is, it is not being challenged by Malay businessmen or Chinese businessmen or Indian businessmen or Sabah, Sarawak. The Malay survival is being threatened by a corrupt system, a greedy coterie of leaders who have been stealing public funds from this country, so we will have to continue to work together to make sure we save this country from corruption,” he said in his keynote speech at the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia's (ACCCIM) Chinese New Year open house here.
Anwar did not name the leaders who were said to have stolen public monies.
As someone who went from being the Opposition leader to the prime minister, Anwar said he looks at files and papers, but does not have the power to investigate and prosecute.
“You in the business community know precisely what I'm talking about, every deal, every contract, they will attempt, and of course in the process, huge commissions and bribery.
“It's not for me to conduct investigations or prosecute, but I trust the authorities will not delay this, because we are not talking about the political survival of an individual or party or a government, we are talking about the survival of this great nation of Malaysia for all Malaysians in this country,” he said to applause from the audience.
In his speech, Anwar also alluded to ACCCIM president Tan Sri Low Kian Chuan’s earlier speech on issues of good governance and a firm commitment and determination to wipe out corruption which had become systemic and endemic in Malaysia.
Earlier, Low had pointed out how excessive regulations raise the costs of business transactions and discourage investments while also leading to corruption, and noted that eradication of corruption, regulatory and compliance reforms and enhancement of public delivery services would be necessary to ease the cost of doing business in Malaysia.
Low, who heads the 102-year-old ACCCIM representing over 11,000 members from the local business community, was proposing for priority to be given to the implementation of progressive and moderate policies and the enhancement of a conducive business environment that would help boost both local and foreign investment.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (centre) and his wife Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail poses for a group picture during Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia Chinese New Year open house in Kuala Lumpur January 27, 2023. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
In his speech, Anwar cautioned against any "silly, racist" arguments that would push the idea of him purportedly neglecting Malay businessmen just because he attended the Chinese New Year reception hosted by the Chinese business community.
Noting the need for Malaysia to give space to all races, Anwar said attention will continue to be given to segments in society which are the poorest and marginalised including those from the Malay and Bumiputera community, saying however: "But this is not a zero-sum game."
"I come today, Azizah and the ministers, to honour our friends -- Chinese friends in the business community. This is not a zero-sum game, this does not mean therefore I neglect Malay businessmen. unless some silly racist arguments are being forwarded," he said, referring to his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Cabinet members who also attended the event.
He used his own experience of growing up in a multiethnic Bukit Mertajam in Penang where "we were all like family" to illustrate how different races in Malaysian society show love and tolerance towards each other.
While pointing out he is a Malay and had a strict upbringing by his parents who ensured he fasted and prayed, Anwar said he had childhood friends of Chinese and Indian ethnicity, and noted the "phenomenal" respect by non-Muslims towards Muslims' practise of their faith.
He cited an anecdote such as when his father's non-Muslim friend was very particular and ensured that halal food was served when they ate at his house, noting that there was no need to force non-Muslims as they understand such matters.
"He is very particular, what I eat, what is halal, what is haram, you don't need to force them, they understand, this is what we mean by tolerance, love and affection," Anwar said to applause.
Anwar stressed that he would "never compromise to ensure this country remains a peaceful, just Malaysia for all citizens in this country", with this remark receiving applause from the audience.