Published: Sunday September 30, 2012 MYT 2:02:00 PM
Updated: Sunday September 30, 2012 MYT 6:29:30 PM
Dr M: I am not qualified for international mediator role
"No, I don't think I am qualified for such a role," he told Bernama, "the world will not listen to me and people will do what they like...so, I would discount such a role."
Dr Mahathir was at an informal meeting with Malaysian students on Saturday at the Malaysian United Nations (UN) mission in New York after he was conferred the Rafik Hariri United Nations Habitat Memorial Award.
He was asked if he would not make a good mediator for resolving international disputes, given his wide-ranging international experience and his elder statesman status.
Dr Mahathir looked relaxed as he fielded questions from the students.
On the political situation in Malaysia, he said:
"You need a strong government to manage a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious country like Malaysia."
He advised the students not to forget the culture and values they brought from home when studying in the West.
"We begin to change in terms of our values and culture after staying in developed countries. Some may even say that we (in Malaysia) are not as progressive as in the countries where you have studied.
"When you compare something good with something better, then your own country doesn't look so good. But when you compare your country with something not so good, then even the bad things begin to look good," he told the students.
Dr Mahathir recalled that at the time of independence from British colonial rule, Malaysia seemed to have been written off, with critics saying that the country would not survive because of its multi-ethnic and multi-racial composition.
"We decided to share our wealth between our communities Malay, Chinese and Indian.
"It's better to have a smaller slice of the cake than the full cake.
"By sharing the cake, we offered opportunities to the other communities as well," he said, explaining that Malaysia had thus ensured economic growth and prosperity.
He said that Malaysia was blessed by nature and, unlike some of its neighbours, had not been at the receiving end of natural disasters.
Dr Mahathir also spoke against corruption, saying that the person giving bribe was as guilty as the person taking it.
On the recent riots in several Muslim countries over an anti-Islam film made by an individual in the US, he said that he favoured freedom of expression but there were limitations to it, particularly when it hurt the feelings of others. - Bernama