The Star, Sunday June 8, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR: Unity among Malays is at its lowest level as there is no concerted participation towards their development, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Lamenting that many “organisations” no longer placed emphasis on issues relevant to the Malays, Ahmad said there was no clear-cut single direction adopted by the Malays.
In the same light, he added that the political prowess of Malays was slowly eroding.
“For example, the notion of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) is no longer relevant to many. The rights of Malays as guaranteed under the Constitution should be defended.
“However, let me make it clear here that when we speak of Ketuanan Melayu, in no way am I implying that other races should be sidelined or rejected. We have to defend our rights, and that’s all I’m saying,” said Ahmad Zahid during a press conference yesterday.
The minister was clarifying a statement made in his speech earlier, when officiating the Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Convocation Ceremony held in conjunction with the association’s 42nd and 43rd anniversary celebrations at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) in Gombak near here.
In his speech, Ahmad Zahid had said, “The rights of Malays in this country should not be questioned by others. If this is so, we too can question their rights.”
He clarified that his statement in no way rejected other races or religion, reiterating that Malays should stand up to defend their rights.
“But when the issue is raised, many regard it as if we (Malays) are trying to confiscate the rights of other races. This is not so,” said Ahmad Zahid.
Asked why he had digressed from his original speech text to raise this issue at the event, he replied, “Takan kamu semua tak tahu” (You all know why), refusing to elaborate further.
On his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Ahmad Zahid said that his purpose there was to discuss several issues relating to the pilgrimage charges for Malaysians performing the Haj in Mecca.
The de facto Islamic Affairs Minister, said he was there to attend an annual international meeting with the Haj Minister of Saudi Arabia together with other ministers of similar capacities.
Among the issues highlighted included accommodation and amenities for Malaysian pilgrims.
“Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) is looking at renting hotels, hostels, houses and other accommodation with closer proximity to ease the burden of travelling for pilgrims.
“However, there has been a 300% increase in accommodation costs and we are in talks with the Saudi government to maintain previous prices,” he said.
He added that the Saudi government also hoped Malaysia could send more general medical practitioners with the pilgrims. Currently, six doctors accompany pilgrims on their journey. Ahmad Zahid said they would comply with this request.
Asked on the quota of Malaysian pilgrims performing the Haj, he said that was no increase (0.1% or 27,000 pilgrims per year).
He added that the Saudi government also lauded Malaysia’s Haj Passport (which is issued by LTH) as it included strict security measures.