Why Mahathir’s race matters

(Malaysia Impact) – The social media outrage squads are going after Deputy PM Zahid Hamidi for highlighting Mahathir’s Indian ancestry. Big deal. Anwar also made jibes against Mahathir’s parentage in the past – hardly anyone threw a fit then. (You can watch the video of it here.)

Still, a broader question lurks behind this latest farce: Does Mahathir’s race matter? I think it does for one simple reason – Mahathir spent his entire political career turning race into our national obsession. And to a large extent, he was frighteningly successful.

During Malaysia’s infancy as an independent nation, Mahathir was already a seasoned practitioner of racial politics. He was instrumental in removing our first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman from office, accusing him as being pro-Chinese and insufficiently pro-Malay. Tunku described how it all went down in this heart-wrenching video: