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.