Ex-Primier, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad once said that only Malays can restore the dignity of the nation themselves, depending on their willingness to work hard and take every opportunity given by the government. He stressed that although the government is led by the Malays, it cannot restore the dignity of the people, if they themselves do not want to change their fate. He gave an example, when the community is not willing to take up certain jobs because they felt humiliated and do not provide a return, then such jobs would be taken up by the foreigners.
Tun Dr Mahathir made up the hypothesis about economic backwardness of the Malays by stating that they refused to work hard. He urged the Malays to introspect themselves before blaming the government or anyone else.
Tun Dr Mahathir’s stance is not new. It has been said through his writing in The Malay Dilemma since 1969. In this book, Tun Dr Mahathir touches on the elements of the weaknesses of the Malays which he sees as an obstacle to the progress of the nation. In view of Dr Mahathir, as long as these shortcomings are not corrected, then the Malays would not be able to compete with other people like the Chinese.
Among the element of weaknesses mentioned by Mahathir in this book are; First, The Malays are weak in many aspects of life due to the culture within the community itself. For example, marriage between close family members is said to be the cause of the weakness.due to hereditary factor. Mahathir believed that intermarriage between close family members is detrimental because the dominant autosomal and recessive genetic characteristics are mixed thus reducing brain intelligence.
Environmental influences are less helpful in providing disclosure of the true nature of wealth because of the Malays who are living in rural areas are less interested in business. Living in rural areas does not allow them to socialize and mix with the other races. The Malays who live in the city are just interested to be administrators and civil servants.
Mahathir also lamented in his book that the British government’s policy of divide and rule had affected the development of the Malay community.
Prof Dr Syed Hussein Alatas, in his book The Myth of the Lazy Natives analyzes the Malays and makes reality check. He sums up the opposite with the following arguments: Infact, indigenous groups are very economically active since they traded internationally across the Malay archipelago. They made merchant ships and carry out businesses across the ocean, carrying weapons on their own. Then came the European monopoly that close down the multinational trade zone, curbing and eliminating the indigenous traders to the extent that they just stay focused on becoming aristocratic leaders or ordinary people only.
According to him, the criticism regarding Malay indigenous laziness only appears when the Malay archipelago was colonized by European powers. He concluded that laziness was addressed to the Malays because the Malays are not willing to cooperate with the colonial exploitation of their homeland. The Malays are more willing to live and work in the village rather than cooperating with the colonial masters unlike the immigrants who were ‘held hostage’ in plantations and tin mines. Otherwise, they have no choice but to work or else they have to return to countries that are at war.