Dr Mahathir has personal experience in affirmative action as a young man. He benefitted from it when he got a scholarship to study medicine despite not achieving the same grades as his Chinese and Indian counterparts. This was because the British, who ruled Malaysia at the time, understood the importance of having Malay doctors. He talks about the importance of having affirmative action so as to reduce the economic disparity between the Malays and non-Malays but highlights that this should not be regarded as a “permanent privilege”.

He says those who consider affirmative action as a symbol of their superior status should look at how the American Indians need special rights just to survive. So, to Dr M, affirmative action should be considered as temporary crutches to allow a person to walk forward. After a while, lose one of the crutches. Later switch to a walking stick. But in due time, “The tongkat has to go,” he says, adding that eventually there should no longer be any need for affirmative action in this country.