Malaysian Youth Council president Saifuddin Abdullah said Mahathirís statement reflected his confidence in the growing maturity of the rakyat in accepting changes based on democratic practices.
Gerakan was so excited that one of its top leaders suggested yesterday that the Barisan Nasional form a single party to eventually replace all its component parties.
However, the Bahasa Malaysia mainstream media and UMNO leaders sent out a completely different and contradictory message, stressing that Mahathirís statement was part of the traditional UMNO politics of fear and blackmail to try to restore Malay support.
Newly re-elected UMNO Vice President Tan Sri Muhammad Muhamad Taib said Mahathirís speech was a "warning" to the Malays to stay united behind UMNO.
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi was right when he commented that Mahathir was merely stating a fact when he said that a person of any ethnic origin, including a non-Malay, could become Prime Minister as the Malaysian Constitution does not impose any ethnic or religious prohibition for the office.
But Mahathirís speech would have been a most irresponsible act if was intended to be part of a "politics of fear and blackmail" to stampede the Malay voters to restore their support for UMNO as interpreted by some UMNO leaders like Mohamad Taib.
From his Cairo speech as reported in todayís press, it is now confirmed that UMNO leaders like Mohamad Taib was right, that Mahathirís statement at the MCA General Assembly was designed primarily to arouse the fears of insecurity of Malays to drive them back into the UMNO fold.
The Star today, on his talk to some 500 Malaysians studying in
Egypt, under the heading "Dr M: Assert supremacy - 'It's the only way
Malays can keep post of PM'", reported:
"Malay supremacy can only be guaranteed if the Malays are willing to take efforts to be powerful in various fields, including education, knowledge, technology and business.
"If we become beggars in our own country and we call ourselves as 'tuan,' it brings no meaning. The supremacy must come from the strength of the Malays,'' he said at the end of his trip to Egypt after attending the Group of 15 summit here.
The Prime Minister was commenting on his remarks last week that the country will see a non-Malay holding the post one day, saying that the Federal Constitution was silent on the prime minister's ethnic origin.
Dr Mahathir also said a non-Malay can only become a prime minister if the person was accepted by others, including the Malays themselves.
"When the time comes that the Malays themselves are willing to accept a non-Malay as a prime minister, we cannot stop it. That is the choice of the Malays.
"But if the Malays themselves become so weak, poor, begging around and can be bought with money to support non-Malays (to become a prime minister), then at that time, a non-Malay will eventually hold the post.
"It is up to the Malays whether they want this or not. But if they can be bought that even their own race can be sold, then we might as well not have a Constitution.
"The Malays then can become slaves in their own country.''
Dr Mahathir said that when he spoke on the matter, it was based on reality and not sentiment unlike many others who talked based on sentiment only.
"I am not being emotional but if you talk on Malay supremacy but polish other peoples' shoes, what is the point?'' he added.
I take the strongest exception to Mahathirís Cairo explanation for his speech at the MCA General Assembly that a non-Malay can become Prime Minister of Malaysia in future.
Although the Malaysian Constitution provides that any Malaysian, regardless of race or religion, could become Prime Minister, I do not see a non-Malay becoming a Prime Minister during my life-time.
However, while accepting this political reality, non-Malays must feel very disappointed and hurt that the discussion of a hypothetical possibility of a non-Malay becoming a Prime Minister should be framed in the context of the non-Malays "corrupting" the Malays casting aspersions on the integrity, honour and dignity of both the Malay and non-Malay races if they do not continue to support UMNO and Barisan Nasional.
It is also most unworthy on Mahathirís part to imply that if the Malays stop supporting UMNO, they will become "slaves in their own country" with the serious and spurious insinuation that the non-Malays would become the "slave-masters".
These sentiments go against everything noble contained in Vision
2020 and Bangsa Malaysia.
Mahathir has insulted both Malays and non-Malays with his Cairo explanation of his speech at the MCA General Assembly that a non-Malay can become Prime Minister in future and he should unconditionally and unreservedly retract what he had said in Cairo and apologise for his unworthy imputations of both Malays and non-Malays which might have done irreparable harm to Vision 2020 and the concept of Bangsa Malaysia.