Home Civil Society Voices Limiting PM’s position to Malays would be ‘textbook racism’

Limiting PM’s position to Malays would be ‘textbook racism’

Perlembagaan Persekutuan

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Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to Machang MP and Bersatu youth wing chief Wan Ahmad Fayshal’s suggestion that the government amend the Federal Constitution so that only those who are ethnic Malay and Muslim can become the prime minister.

In times of heightened global tensions and criticisms on apartheid policies in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is unthinkable and outrageous that a sitting MP suggests introducing something akin to apartheid by attempting to legalise racism into the highest law of our land.

And let’s not split hairs, this proposal is textbook racism.

Any such amendment would be struck down by the courts eventually, as legislating racism into the Constitution would offend its basic structure. The Federal Court in recent decisions has recognised the ‘basic structure doctrine.’ This means that the Constitution cannot be twisted and mutilated to such an extent that it no longer carries the values of democracy and equality that were built into it at independence.

It should also be remembered that Malaysia would have no moral authority left to speak out on the international stage, whether on Palestine or any other matter, if such an amendment is made.

Any such amendment would also clash with Article 8 of the Constitution itself, which enshrines the principle of equality before the law. Introducing such a racist and divisive amendment into the Constitution would ultimately destroy the very meaning of the Constitution and the principles it upholds.

The fearmongering often stoked by the Machang MP and his cohorts has no basis in law. The position of the Malays and Islam cannot be so easily altered as it requires the consent of the Council of Rulers to do so, as required by Article 159 of the Federal Constitution.

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This measure of protection in itself is already enough to dismiss the baseless fears conjured up by the Machang MP.

Ultimately, Article 43(2)(a) stipulates that the prime minister must be a person who commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives. Even though race is not mentioned, by convention the PM has come from the majority race.

The Constitution thus allows flexibility and pragmatism. Tampering with the Constitution now is dangerous, reckless and unnecessary.

Limiting the role of the prime minister along racial and religious lines may fracture the fine balancing achieved by our Constitution as it exists.

As such, LFL entirely condemns the introduction of any amendments to the Constitution that serve to introduce harmful and racist policies into our laws. This abhorrent suggestion by the Bersatu MP must be immediately rejected by the PM and the government and condemned unequivocally. – LFL

Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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