Lawyer clarifies misconceptions on non-Malay as PM, emphasises legal safeguards

PROMINENT lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla has asserted that the Federal Constitution does not impose any restrictions on the basis of ethnicity or religion concerning the eligibility of a non-Malay individual for the position of Malaysia’s prime minister.

Haniff highlighted that despite misconceptions among some factions, there are no constitutional provisions preventing a non-Malay person from assuming the position of prime minister.

“Based on discussions and ideas given, many are mistaken that a prime minister who is not Muslim and non-Malay (would threaten four main factors). The factors are the position of Islam as the official religion, the position of the Malay language as the official language, the special position of Malays as well as the position of the Malay rulers.

“But the reality is, their concern is unfounded,” he said in a video posted to the YouTube account MalayaDailyCom.

Moreover, Haniff acknowledged that certain concerns have been raised, particularly fearing potential impacts on key aspects such as the status of Islam, the Malay language, the special position of Malays, and the role of Malay rulers.

Addressing these concerns, Haniff clarified that Article 159 of the Federal Constitution safeguards these key factors, making them not easily amenable. According to Article 159(5), any amendment to the law, including federal law, necessitates prior approval from the Conference of Rulers.

This stringent requirement acts as a safeguard, ensuring that any changes that could affect the identified elements must receive consensus from the Conference of Rulers.

“If the Conference of Rulers doesn’t agree to it, then the amendment cannot be made,” he said.

While the Federal Constitution states in Article 43(2)(a) that the primary requirement for a person to be appointed prime minister is majority support in the Dewan Rakyat, Haniff pointed out his opinion that candidates, irrespective of their ethnicity should demonstrate patriotism and proficiency in the Malay language.

“How can we have a prime minister that speaks ‘pasar’ Malay, or one that does not understand the main elements of the position of rulers?” he questioned.

Furthermore, Haniff’s remarks follow recent controversy stirred by DAP adviser Tan Sri Lim Kit Siang, who faced backlash for suggesting the possibility of a non-Malay assuming the prime ministerial role.

Lim has been summoned by the police in connection with this statement. – Dec 14, 2023


Main photo credit: The Star

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