Non-Malay Prime Minister – Summoning Kit Siang is abuse of power

K. Siladass. – On 20th February 2012, Lim Kit Siang, now Tan Sri Lim Kit Siang, was celebrating his seventieth birthday at Pan Pacific Hotel in Penang. Among the celebrities were Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, now tenth Prime Minister of Malaysia.

At the birthday celebration, Anwar spoke praising Kit Siang and envisaged that he would be the Prime Minister soon and assured all of the well-wishers of Kit Siang that he will be appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister. The announcement was received with thunderous applause. He would have been a perfect Deputy Prime Minister.

What Anwar promised on 20th February 2012 took about ten years for him to become the Prime Minister of the country, but, by then, Kit Siang had decided not to contest in the elections, thus effectively, putting an end to his illustrious career as a legislator. Illustrious in the sense of raising issues, which made the government of the day very uncomfortable.

It has been reported that Lim Kit Siang had been called by the police for his statement to be recorded on his speech to students at Manchester, England. It is reported that he had said  that the Constitution provides that a non- Malay could become a prime minister pursuant to Article 43(2) of the Constitution. Under this Article, the only qualifications that had been spelt out to be a prime minister are that he must be a member of Parliament and command the confidence of the majority.

It is strange that Kit Siang’s statement had prompted the police to summon him as if he had committed an offence. What is the offence he had committed? Not very long ago, Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang, the President of PAS, said that the Constitution should be amended to ensure only a Muslim can become a Prime Minister. He seems not concerned about the ethnicity of the person becoming a prime minister. The only qualification he insists is that he should be a Muslim.

Kit Siang talks about a non-Malay who could become a Prime Minister and that is his view and interpretation on Article 43(2) of the Constitution. It is an interpretation consistent with the intention of the framers as worded in Article 43(2).  The view expressed by Hadi Awang that the Constitution must be amended to ensure only a Muslim can become a prime minister is a political statement.

Looking back, when negotiations began on the formation of Malaysia, the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman assured the people of North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak that a person from the merging territories can become a Prime Minister of Malaysia. Most of the Sabahans and Sarawakians are not Muslims and they have their own ethnicity identity. The framers of the Constitution had the foresight that a Malaysian who has the qualification under Article 43(2) could become the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

In his speech Kit Siang hoped that Malaysians need not wait for 230 years for a non-Malay to become a Prime Minister. He relied on Barrack Obama, who became the first African- American to become the president of the United States of America. Obama was the first to break the race barrier; and Jack Kennedy some 40 years earlier was the first Roman Catholic president in the history of the United States of America.

The PAS Secretary General, Takiyuddin Hassan, says that Kit Siang’s statement is a poisonous propaganda. It is sad that a general interpretation of a Constitutional provision is scandalously politicised. In fact, what his President, Hadi Awang said was actually  dangerous view that could endanger the unity of Malaysia. Summoning Kit Siang to have his statement recorded over an interpretation over a Constitutional provision is a practise unheard of. Hadi Awang’s statement was actually a political statement which had gone unchallenged by the authorities.

If we recall Anwar’s announcement on the 20th February 2012, that he would make Kit Siang his Deputy when he becomes a Prime Minister, are we to assume that he did not know the consequences. A Deputy Prime Minister in every sense standing in the wings to take charge during the absence of the Prime Minister. No one bothered to challenge Anwar on this and why now this issue is being raised and what benefit can be achieved?

Malaysians had indeed seen, albeit for a very short period that Tun Tan Siew Sin, then a Finance Minister was appointed as acting Prime Minister in the absence of Tunku and Tun Razak the then deputy prime minister, respectively.

It was the same when Tunku, Razak and Tun Tan Siew Sin were out of the country, Tun Sambanthan was the acting prime minister. The leaders of a bygone era believed that Malaysia could live up to democratic ideals and never looked back.

Summoning Kit Siang to have his statement recorded is a total abuse of police power. Assuming Kit Siang has offended the law is Hadi’s statement music to the ears? Police should refrain from investigating the interpretation of Constitutional issues.