'Baiting for a reaction': Mahathir's comments on Singapore being 'Malay land' draws backlash

PHOTO: Reuters

Former two-time Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's comments that Singapore was once owned by Johor and that state should claim that Singapore be returned to it and Malaysia quickly sparked heated discussions among netizens who took to social media to slam his remarks. 

"We should demand not just that Pedra Branca, or Pulau Batu Puteh, be given back to us, we should also demand Singapore as well as the Riau Islands, as they are Tanah Melayu (Malay land)," said Mahathir at an event in Selangor on Sunday (June 19).

The speech was live-streamed and shared on social media, and that quickly sparked outrage among netizens on forums such as Reddit and Hardware Zone.

Many Reddit users expressed that Mahathir's controversial comments were purposeful, an attempt to get a reaction out of others.

Screengrab/Reddit/Singapore
Screengrab/Reddit/Singapore

"Kicking SGP out is probably Malaysia's best contribution to the world liao [sic]" wrote one Reddit user.

Another Reddit user added: "Between this and flood as tourism which one win? [sic]", poking fun at Mahathir and the Malaysian politician who had drawn flak on Saturday for suggesting that Kelantan's annual floods could become a tourist attraction since it is "like a festival".

Screengrab/Reddit/Singapore

"I still look back at his crooked bridge proposal with fondness", said one Reddit user facetiously.

Mahathir had mooted the idea of building a "crooked bridge" between Malaysia and Singapore back in 2001.

He wanted to build the bridge involving a six-lane S-shaped highway that would allow vessels to pass underneath but that project was dropped by Tun Abdullah Badawi when he took over as prime minister.

Additionally, Singaporean politician Tan Chuan Jin took to Instagram to post about the claim, captioning the post with two emojis: "💪🇸🇬". 

In his speech, the 96-year-old former premier said that Malay land used to be extensive, stretching from the Isthmus of Kra in southern Thailand all the way to the Riau Islands and Singapore, but is currently confined to the Malay Peninsula. 

ALSO READ: Ex-PM Mahathir says Malaysia should demand that Singapore and Riau Islands be given back as they are 'Tanah Melayu'

jaelynchin@asiaone.com