Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today fellow Malays were still weak and backward after three decades of preferential treatment and told them to learn from the Chinese.
The veteran premier, who marks 21 years in office next month, warned that Malays were "far from being safe" and would not survive if privileges under the New Economic Policy (NEP) were withdrawn.
"The Malays are still weak, the poorest people and are backward," Mahathir, 76, said when opening a three-day assembly Umno.
"Today their national spirit has weakened and their ability to face challenges has been reduced... when their rights and status are challenged openly, they are not capable of defending themselves."
Under the NEP introduced in 1970 after bloody racial riots, Malays and other indigenous groups jointly known as "bumiputeras" get economic, education and other benefits to narrow the wealth gap with the Chinese.
Mahathir said Malays' political clout had diminished because they were not united and warned "one day this power will disappear altogether".
"This is fine if the Malay individual has become strong... but actually they are not prepared to face any competition at all. They are so afraid of other communities. Without the experience of competing with others, if the protection is suddenly withdrawn, they will not be able to survive."
'I have failed'
The premier, reiterating what he sees as the evils of globalisation, said Malaysia was worried by the emergence of powerful foreign corporations which could dictate national policies.
"Our country, Malaysia, will surely be a target," he said.
"If today they (Malays) are colonised, there is no guarantee they will have the capacity to oppose the colonialists."
The premier said Malays had failed because they were lazy and sought the easy way out by reselling their shares, licences and contracts to non-Malays.
"They cannot be patient, cannot wait a little, They want to be rich this very moment... no work is done other than to be close to people with influence and authority in order to get something," he said.
"After selling and getting the cash, they come back to ask for more."
The premier, whose speech was broadcast live on national television, said he was ashamed to publicly expose Malay weaknesses and sought forgiveness for his failure to change their mindset.
"I have tried my very best... but mostly I feel disappointed because I achieved too little result from my principal task of making my race successful," he said.
"I beg your pardon because I have failed."
Culture of diligence
Mahathir paid tribute to the minority Chinese for their contributions to Malaysia's growth and urged Malays to pick up the Chinese culture of diligence, self-discipline and patience.
"If we take out the Chinese and all that they have built and own, there will be no small or big towns in Malaysia, there will be no business and industry, there will be no funds for the subsidies, support and facilities for the Malays," he said.
"Learn from the Chinese."
Bumiputras make up 65 percent of Malaysia's 23 million population, Chinese 26 percent and Indians seven percent.
Mahathir, dressed in a purple Malay outfit, touched on a wide range of issues in his two-hour speech including the global anti-terrorism war, the Middle East crisis and the role of religion in government.
His speech will be debated by the 2,033 Umno delegates and the premier will wrap-up the assembly Saturday with a closing address.