With the 13 new ministers just sworn in today (Jul 2), Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement about unity in a recent interview with Channel NewsAsia rings even louder because the Cabinet now has ministers from all over Malaysia, it has five women holding the highest constitutional portfolios, one youngest minister of all time while the second youngest is a woman, and most importantly it’s racially diverse!
Malaysia who branded itself as “truly Asia” is not an overstatement as there’s no denying that our country is internationally famed for our multiracial, -cultural and -religious society. We have strong identities indeed but what we lack is a collective singular identity called Bangsa Malaysia (Malaysia race), something which Dr Mahathir constituted in Vision 2020 in his former premiership. It looks like Dr Mahathir hasn’t forgotten his dream.
In the exclusive interview with CNA, Dr Mahathir urged young Malaysians to “slowly forget their racial origins and think of themselves as pure Malaysians.” The 92-year-old PM said that when asked about what he could promise Malaysian youths in the years to come. He told the Singapore-based media that the country hasn’t been doing too bad and advised the youths to sway away from traditional racial thinking.
“(Malaysia is) not only multiracial, it is multilingual, multireligious and multicultural.
“Despite our differences, we still live together and are more or less at peace with each other (but) of course, there are little conflicts … and I think this is what they are going to inherit,” said the premier clad in his usual bush jacket, adding that Malaysians have to learn to understand each other.
The report includes that racial tension cross community isn’t unsurprising in the nation every once in awhile but actual altercations have been rare, whereby the last major race riots happened in 1969. Dr Mahathir said, “they (young Malaysians) must also slowly forget about racial origins and think of themselves as pure Malaysians.”
He believed that for the nation to move forward, the elderly like himself has to listen to the youth so that he knows what to give for the future of the country.
“I have this belief that the young have ideals and the old have experience.
“If it’s only the young, they may have ideals which are impractical. For the old people, they may be too negative about new ideas.
“But when there is a combination of the young and the old, I think we can resolve things much more easily due to experience on one hand and idealism on the other hand,” said Dr Mahathir.
In the new Cabinet, Muar MP Syed Saddiq is only 25-year-old and he has just been sworn in as the Youth and Sports Minister today (Jul 2), making him the youngest Malaysian to ever hold a ministerial portfolio. Falling a little bit behind is 35-year-old Yeo Bee Yin who now heads Energy, Green Technology, Science, and Climate Change Ministry. The rest of the ministers and their deputies are easily over 40 to 60-year-old.
When speaking to CNA in April, Saddiq said Dr Mahathir had his ears open when ideas were coming from the young members in the coalition.
“One thing about Dr Mahathir is that he listens well, especially if the ideas come from young people and he knows that the suggestions do not come with any personal or hidden motives,” said the young man who rejected Oxford University study offer − twice.