PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has defended Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik for linking the matriculation quota intake issue with that of language requirements for jobs.
Dr Mahathir said he has no problem with Maszlee since the latter took over the education portfolio last year.
"I don't see any problem with him, except for the controversial ‘black shoes’ ruling for schoolchildren.
"Just because he recently talked about race, it does not mean that he was being racist. He should stay (as minister)," he told a press conference after chairing Bersatu's supreme council meeting on Tuesday.
Dr Mahathir was asked to comment on a recent online petition calling for Maszlee to be removed from the position.
Maszlee had defended the matriculation programme’s preference for Bumiputera students, saying that those calling for the pre-university course to be opened to other races should also address the unfair job market dominated by a particular race.
A petition calling for Maszlee to be replaced as the Education Minister has since garnered more than 110,000 signatories.
Maszlee had been on the receiving end of severe criticism from several quarters, with demands made for him to be removed as Education Minister.
Dr Mahathir said it is normal to talk about one’s own race.
"In our (coalition of Pakatan Harapan), we also talk about the interests of our respective (constituents); the Chinese talk about the Chinese, the Malays talk about the Malays, the same goes for the Indians, Kadazan and Iban.
"But in the end, they are all Malaysians. You cannot question their nationality. Race is different, but we need to make sure that we receive support from all.
"We must try to win the support of the Bumiputera, which is crucial right now as Umno and Pas have been working together using the race and religion cards to get support.
"If we do not explain our stand about race, we will not win in the next general election," he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir, who is also Bersatu chairman, was asked to comment on the new party, Putra, set up by Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who is also president of Malay rights group Perkasa.
Dr Mahathir, in a sarcastic tone, said he ‘welcomed’ Putra’s establishment and even of more Malay and Bumiputera-based parties.
"The more the merrier, as this proves that there is no single Malay party that has the biggest majority.
"If (it were possible to) establish 100 parties, all the better. With that, the Malays will be divided into 100 parties.
"Despite having a 60 per cent majority, the Malays are divided into four (parties). It's fine if that is what the Malays want," he said.
The Registrar of Societies (ROS) had on May 8 approved Putra’s establishment. It was set up in August last year, with the aim of serving as an alternative to the Malays post-GE14 to champion the rights of the Malays and Islam.