By Tay Tian Yan
Dr Mahathir Mohamad appears to be hardly impressed by the iconic Forest City project in Johor and has been lashing out at it regularly. Recently, he even made a personal visit to the site, and took pictures of it.
To cut a long story short, Dr M has worried too much about his fellow compatriots that he is afraid the whole project could be snatched up wholesale by the Chinese, and to become a de facto China Town with 700,000 Chinese inhabitants who will later be offered Malaysian citizenships.
He could have worried way too much, or perhaps that is exactly his political agenda.
My perception of Forest City is much simpler, although many have their antagonistic views of this project: a Chinese company as its developer and its largely Chinese buyers.
But, so what? There are no laws in this country that ban Chinese companies from investing in Malaysia’s real estate market nor Chinese nationals from buying our properties.
They are doing business here in good faith, investing with real cash, and are encountering the same business risks. Those in politics should refrain from associating them with politics, less so racism, as in this particular case.
Not long ago we had an established Malaysian developer launching a massive real estate project in London, but the Britons did not accuse Malaysians of flooding into their country in droves.
Forest City is not exclusively built for the Chinese. Anyone with the cash can buy a piece of it regardless of nationality. Sure enough Malaysians can buy their houses there too, if they can afford it.
Purchasing a property and acquiring citizenship are two very different things. You don’t get free Malaysian IC for buying a unit at Forest City.
Whether you are a Chinese or a Singaporean, you will remain a foreigner even though you buy a house at Forest City. Even a freehold property will not automatically make you a Malaysian citizen.
If you think you can get a British or Australian citizenship by buying an apartment in London or Sydney, sorry, you are not going to get it.
As for whether they want to apply for Malaysian citizenship or the MM2H scheme later, that’s another story. To be honest, I doubt whether any well-to-do Chinese buyer will be interested in becoming a Malaysian citizen in the first place.
So, the 700,000 new citizens from China claim by Mahathir is sheer nonsense. And do you think a Malaysian IC can be obtained this easily?
Many foreign spouses who have lived in this country for decades and have their children and grandchildren here have yet to get one. Let alone, the many who were born and raised here and yet, are still waiting desperately for theirs.
Of course, to approve hundreds of thousands of ICs is not impossible. That did happen during Mahathir’s time, under the infamous Project IC or Project M in Sabah during the 1990s.
To beat the PBS state government, Umno moved into Sabah and under the instruction of someone, large numbers of ICs were issued to the illegal migrants from the Philippines and Indonesia, drastically increasing the number of Muslim voters in the state and making Umno the ultimate victor in an altered racial fabric.
Mahathir admitted and defended the existence of Project IC at a seminar two years ago.
Last year, during the Upko general assembly, Mahathir’s confession was played back to a highly-emotional Kadazandusun crowd which called the former prime minister a traitor.
This kind of tactic is a trademark of Mahathir who now instead, clumsily projects the same picture onto the state of Johor.
His Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia wants a slice of the southern state, and Forest City and its Chinese buyers have become convenient excuses ready to be cooked up into a sensational racial issue meant to galvanise the emotions of the Malay community.
Tay Tian Yan writes for Sin Chew Daily. -FMT