KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 2): Recognising the Chinese independent school's Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) is just a signature away from being formalised, but the government has to consider Malay sentiments as well, according to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In an interview with Sin Chew Daily published today, Dr Mahathir said his administration also has to resolve the issue of unequal wealth distribution in the country before getting into UEC recognition.
"Recognising UEC is easy, just sign. But we need time to bring two to three racial groups, including natives in Sabah and Sarawak, onto a same position of economic development. They (Malays) feel that they are getting lesser, and this kind of imbalance is getting bigger," he said.
"In other countries there were riots and violence, but in Malaysia, the Malays, Chinese, and Indians can work and live together. Some of them even adapted to Chinese culture — I am using chopsticks as well," he quipped.
Dr Mahathir said the non-Malays' grasp of basic Malay is important if the government is to be convinced about recognising the UEC.
"To recognise UEC, I have said many times, we recognise foreign certificates, including Oxford University's, as well as other foreign universities'. When you want the government to recognise certain certificates, we have accepted some, but you must have the grasp of basic Malay, we must have that.
"When the Malays agreed to give citizenship to non-Malays during Independence, they believed that by doing so, somehow we will share one language and one culture in this country, sharing the same common law and respecting each other.
"But they (Malays) realised that not only is their language not supported, there are still many people who cannot speak Malay totally, but we still accept them. I think, what more do you want them (Malay) to accept? We are trying to do it (UEC recognition), not that we don't do it at all… but if we compare Malaysia with other countries, they can't even have Chinese schools, not even the signboard. If you ask people from China, they want to migrate to Malaysia, because they think Malaysia is more open," he said.