Dare to dream if Malaysia is ready to have non-Malay PM

AFTER six decades of Malaysian nation-building and half a century of Rukun Negara (Nayional Priciples), we should be talking about the “Malaysian Dilemma” instead of the “Malay Dilemma” or the “Non-Malay Dilemma”.

This thought came to me when I read the news report “Mahathir ramps up race rhetoric after joining Putra”. It quoted Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as saying: “That’s why before I die, I will work for my race. Call me racist but Malays are now left behind after giving way to the foreigners.”

In a talk to senior military officers in Putrajaya two days ago, I said I had been to China few times but I never felt at home. But when the plane returned to Malaysia, I felt I was returning home.

I shared with them a 54-year-old Official Secrets Act (OSA) document which was declassified on Feb 24, 2020 as a result of a defamation suit I instituted against former inspector-general of police (IGP) Tun Hanif Omar to show how loyal and consistent DAP leaders and I had been through the decades in the pursuit of the Malaysian Dream.

This was a statement I made to the police while in police custody at the Kuala Selangor Police Station lock-up under my first Internal Security Act (ISA) detention after I voluntarily flew back to Malaysia on May 18, 1969.

In my over half-a-century of political life, I have been demonised and accused of all sorts of things – that I was the main figure of the May 13, 1969 racial riots; anti-Malay; anti-Indian and even anti-Chinese; that I was a secret agent of CIA, M16, KGB and even Australian Secret Service; that I was a communist; and most lately promoting Islamophobia.

Lim Kit Siang

The nation’s founding fathers, Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Raham, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn, Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun Sambanthan envisaged a nation comprising Malays and non-Malays and that is why there is Article 43 in the Malaysian Constitution which does not limit a Prime Minister (PM) to the Malays.

In other words, non-Malays are not constitutionally barred from holding the office of PM although Article 43() barred a person who is a citizen by naturalisation or by registration under Article 17 from becoming PM.

I do not expect to see a non-Malay to become a PM in my lifetime or even my children’s life-time.

But I posed this question in Parliament during the debate of Budget 2009 debate in Parliament in November 2008. I said it was unthinkable even until very recently for anyone to believe that it was possible for a black who were slaves until some 150 years ago to be able to become a US President.

With Barack Obama’s historic breakthrough, many Malaysians were asking whether it was possible for a Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Dayak to become the PM of Malaysia although the Federal Constitution is very clear that any Malaysian citizen, regardless of race or religion can become PM.

Barack Obama (Pic credit: AP)

I said if such a question was asked 50 years ago, the nation’s founders like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Dr Ismail, Tun Hussein Onn, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tun Tan Siew Sin and Tun V.T. Sambanthan would unhesitatingly answer in the positive as there was no constitutional bar – separate from the question of whether it was likely to happen.

I said in November 2018:

“But if the same question is asked now, there will be strong voices (as heard in Parliament today when this question was posed) who would rise up to say no. Who is going against the Merdeka Constitution and the social contract reached by the forefathers of the major communities to achieve national independence half a century ago?

“Why is the Malaysian race relations and nation-building going backwards in the past 50 years as compared to the historic breakthrough in race relations in the US with Obama’s historic victory in the US presidential elections?”

We seem to be slipped further in the year 2023.

It is not that a non-Malay is to become a PM in this generation or the next, but Dr Mahathir as senior Cabinet Minister for seven years and twice as PM of Malaysia for as long as 24 years seem to have forgotten his ministerial and prime ministerial oath he had taken to “preserve, protect and defend” the Malaysian Constitution?

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the centre (Pic credit: Reuters)

After six decades of nation-building, Malaysia has slipped from a first-rate world-class nation to a second-class mediocre country. We have become a nation in decline.

Are we fated to end up as a divided, failed and kleptocratic state on Malaysia’s Centennial in 2057?

This is the most important question in Malaysia today – not the rhetorical and baseless question why the Malays have lost economic and political power to the non-Malays.

It is about whether Malaysians – regardless of race, religion or region – can reset and return to the original nation-building principles of our nation’s founding fathers to re-unite a very polarised plural society,

The ultimate goal eventually is to make Malaysia a first-rate world-class nation with world-class political, economic, educational and social system instead of hurtling along to become a divided, failed and kleptocratic state on Malaysia’s Centennial in 2057. – March 3, 2023


Retired DAP supremo and former Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang, 82, has a colourful political career spanning 57 years.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.                                         

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