Former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has apologised, after previously defending his use of the derogatory word “keling”.
The 92-year-old was reported by The Star as saying that he did not mean to insult anyone.
“I would like to apologise to the Indian community. I apologise if I had caused any problems,” Mahathir was quoted as saying.
The Pakatan Harapan chairman had used the derogaory term at an event in Johor Bahru on Saturday (Apr 7).
Malaysiakini quoted him as saying: “This morning we heard his (Umno president Najib Razak’s) goons, including the EC chief, saying that if we want to use a common symbol, we have to crawl and prostrate in front of this person.
“I want to use a ‘keling’ word. The keling say ‘podah’ (get lost). Where is the law? This rule was formed this morning.”
When criticised by Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) treasurer-general S. Vell Paari, Mahathir said he had grown up using the word to refer to his Indian friends without any problem.
“That is how I refer to my friends, and they don’t have a problem with that. Why is MIC angry over this?” Free Malaysia Today quoted him as saying.
Mahathir, who himself has Indian ancestry, explained that the word was commonly used during his childhood in Kedah.
Today, the word is deemed offensive to the Indian community.