FORMER prime minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement claiming that it is unconstitutional to promote Malaysia as a multiracial country is legally groundless, said Law and Institutional Reform Deputy Minister Ramkarpal Singh.
He said the statement by Dr Mahathir, who served as prime minister for 23 years and had never questioned Malaysia’s status as a multiethnic and multiracial country during that period is deeply regrettable, especially when he himself recognised Malaysia as a multiethnic and multiracial nation during the same period.
“As a former PM for over two decades, it is certain that Dr Mahathir had access to legal advice through the attorney-general and therefore, he should be aware of the legal position regarding this matter.
“As an elderly statesman, Dr Mahathir should be aware of the importance of the phrase ‘unity in diversity should be our strength and not our shame’ in Malaysia, as stated by Federal Court Judge Tan Sri Zainun Ali in the Indira Gandhi case, and take heed from the phrase,” he said in a statement today.
On Dr Mahathir’s claim that there was pressure for Malaysia not to be known as an Islamic country, Ramkarpal said that the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation has never been questioned, as stipulated in Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.
In fact, Ramkarpal said the Federal Court in the case of Dhinesh Tanaphll versus Crime Prevention Board & Others in 2022, stated that Article 3 of the Federal Constitution regarding religion is part of the fundamental structure of the Constitution that cannot be amended by Parliament through constitutional amendments.
He added that any such amendment that affects the fundamental structure of the Constitution is unconstitutional.
“Article 3 of the Federal Constitution also provides that religions other than Islam may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.
“This means that the existence of Article 3 of the Federal Constitution proves that Malaysia is a country composed of various races, cultures, and religions,” he noted.
Furthermore, Ramkarpal said Article 8 of the Federal Constitution prohibits any discrimination against any citizen solely on the grounds of religion, race, descent, place of birth, or gender; and Article 11 of the Constitution also grants every person the right to profess and practice their religion.
“All these provisions of the Federal Constitution, when read together, reflect the recognition that Malaysia is a multiethnic, multicultural, and multireligious country.” – July 5, 2023