KUALA LUMPUR – March 3, 2017: While the Malaysian constitution does not stipulate that the prime minister must be of a certain religion or race, by convention it is highly that this person will be a non-Malay or a non-Muslim.
Or to stretch it further, highly unlikely that it will be a woman or someone not from west Malaysia.
This the opinion of every legal expert spoken to today in response to a remark by former deputy PM and now president of the opposition Pribumi Bersatu Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
At an event in Malacca two days ago Muhyiddin was reported to have said this: “They (Umno) say that if the opposition wins (the next general election), then they will appoint a DAP Chinese to be the PM. So… so what?”
Constitutional law lecturer Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi agrees that Muhyiddin was not wrong.
“There is no provision in the federal Constitution that stipulates that the PM must be a Malay or Muslim or west Malaysian or a male. But the issue is one of political realities, not of law,” he texted.
Lawyer Aidil Khalid says that in all intents and purposes, the PM must be of Malay Muslim descent as it has been the convention since independence in 1957.
He further argues that the PM, at least for now, will always be a Malay Muslim as Article 43(2)(a) of the Constitution states that the king must appoint a member of parliament that commands the confidence of the majority of MPs.
According to last year’s information from the Department of Statistics, the Malays, who are the largest ethnic group along with others categorised as Bumiputera, made up 68.6 per cent the country’s 31.7 million people.
The second largest were the Chinese at 23.4 per cent, followed by Indians (seven per cent) and others (one per cent).
Aidil and another lawyer Zaki Azmi are of the opinion that it would be unproductive to appoint someone who may not thoroughly understand the sentiments and beliefs of the majority.
“He’s (Muhyiddin) just playing to the gallery,” said Zaki, “It is constitutionally possible but let’s be real. Birds of the same feathers flock together. The Malays who are the majority would prefer the PM to be one of them.”