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IPOH: Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi yes­ter­day said he was not both­ered or dis­heart­ened by the crit­i­cism hurled at him over his speech at the re­cent United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly which he had de­liv­ered in English.

Com­ment­ing on the is­sue for the first time, Ah­mad Zahid said al­though he may not have pro­nounced one or two words cor­rectly, he was nev­er­the­less proud to have been given the re­spon­si­bil­ity of rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try.

“Be­ing a grad­u­ate of Seko­lah Me­nen­gah Agama Izud­din Shah in Ipoh, I am proud I was able to speak at the UNGA in New York,” he told about 1,000 del­e­gates at the clos­ing of the Ipoh Barat Umno divi­sion meet­ing here yes­ter­day.

Turn­ing the tables on his crit­ics, Ah­mad Zahid said what is more shame­ful is that there are Malaysians who are not flu­ent in or un­able to speak Ba­hasa Malaysia.

“De­spite be­ing born and bred here, some can­not even speak the lan­guage. What’s more, some of them even carry pres­ti­gious ti­tles,” he

said, adding that there were some for­eign­ers who have been in Malaysia for only a short time, but are al­ready speak­ing Ba­hasa Malaysia more flu­ently than some lo­cals.

Ah­mad Zahid had been ridiculed by ne­ti­zens af­ter he de­liv­ered the coun­try’s na­tional state­ment in English at the UN gen­eral de­bate, say­ing he had spo­ken poorly.

His daugh­ter Nu­rul­hi­dayah went to his de­fence on In­sta­gram last week say­ing al­though her fa­ther did not have “a classy tongue to im­press the classy ‘mat salleh’ Malaysians, he is a classy man who is brave enough to speak and stand up for what he be­lieves in, and does his very best as DPM”.

There were also ne­ti­zens who went to Ah­mad Zahid’s de­fence, say­ing he should not be ridiculed, as he had shown courage by choos­ing to de­liver his speech in English in­stead of Ba­hasa Malaysia at a global plat­form.

On an­other is­sue, Ah­mad Zahid said vot­ing can­di­dates based on race in any gen­eral elec­tion will only make pow­er­shar­ing prac­tised by Barisan Na­sional (BN) dif­fi­cult.

Cit­ing Umno as an ex­am­ple, Ah­mad Zahid said the party, which was set up since 1946 and be­came the back­bone of the gov­ern­ment, had never shunned other races or re­li­gions.

“When can we im­ple­ment power shar­ing if we vote based on race while the Malays have al­ways shared power?” said Ah­mad Zahid, who is also Umno vice-pres­i­dent.

“We must be tol­er­ant. The world has changed, the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion has changed, Chi­nese need Malays and In­di­ans and vicev­ersa be­cause this is a plu­ral coun­try.”

He said al­le­ga­tions that the Chi­nese com­mu­nity, specif­i­cally in towns, are not with BN was due to the ac­tion of cer­tain quar­ters who sowed ha­tred to­wards the party.

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