Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran has apologised for the 'pendatang' (immigrants) comment made during a speech in Nilai last week and has withdrawn the remark.
"These remarks have been misconstrued to suggest I have used the word 'pendatang' with reference to people who would resent its application to them.
"I hereby unreservedly apologise for the hurt I may have caused and withdraw the offensive references in that extemporaneous speech.
"I am not and have never been a controversialist on issues of race and religion in our country, and will always abide by what has been enshrined in our Federal Constitution," Kulasegaran said in a statement today.
After a video excerpt of his speech at the Tamil-speaking event appeared online, Utusan Malaysia quoted him as saying that Malays were "pendatang" and that Hindus were the original people of Malaya.
However, Kulasegaran later responded by saying that his speech was intentionally taken out of context to stir racial tensions, and that he never made remarks about the Malay community.
In his statement today, he further clarified that words often take on different meanings in different languages.
"Words are so chameleon-like, they often take on different meanings in different languages, like when I spoke in Tamil.
"To halt that drift in the matter of my remarks at a function in Nilai last week, I have decided to apologise and to withdraw them to prevent the controversy from worsening," he said.