Mahathir regrets failure to change complacent Malays

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Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed regret over his failure to change the mindset of Malay Muslims, whom he slammed as complacent, incompetent and ungrateful.

Mahathir, who has ruled for more than 20 years, said he had tried everything from pleading to praying, in trying to jolt the community from what he called a "culture" of extravagance and taking the easy way out.

"This is our culture. We do not know what is hardship, we only want things to be easy," he said during an interview with Sunday's Malay-language Mingguan Malaysia .

The premier said despite the "dissapointing" tendency to still depend on other's for their own development, he still had hope that the community would change their attitudes.

"What else (can I do) ... I have tried to be an example, tried to teach, scolded, cried and even prayed.

"(But) I have failed. I have failed to achieve the most important thing - how to change the Malays."

Malays and other indigenous groups make up 65 percent of Malaysia's population of 23 million, ethnic-Chinese 26 percent and Indians seven percent.

'Want to be a normal member'

Mahathir, 76, said he was dissatisfied with the current position of Malays in the country, who despite receving aid from the government, were still unable to compete with the Chinese community in terms of wealth and development.

"If we were to take from (capital) Kuala Lumpur, all that belongs to the Chinese including their homes and buildings, what is there left (that belongs to the Malays)?" he said.

"The Chinese in Malaysia have no special rights, they experience discrimination.

"But they are more successful than us."

Malaysia, which won its independence from Britain in 1957, has in place a system of affirmative action for ethnic Malays because the Chinese minority is seen as wielding disproportionate economic wealth.

When asked if he would change anything if he could go back to 1981, when he first took position as president of Umno, backbone of the governing Barisan Nasional coalition, Mahathir said he would have chosen not to be the party leader.

"I want to be a normal member. Because I cannot do anything (for the Malays)."

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